ACTS 12:4-5: “After capturing Peter, Herod had him thrown into prison with sixteen soldiers in squads of four to guard him. Herod wanted to bring Peter to trial in front of the people after Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was praying very hard to God for him.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: What is the most amazing thing about prayer? Is it that the Creator of all the universe invites His creation to a dialogue through prayer? Is it that mountains that seem insurmountable can be moved through prayer? Is it that a Holy God hears the prayers of a humble sinner? All of these truths are amazing!
However, what I find the most amazing about prayer is the fact that the results do not depend upon me – they always flow from the heart and throne of God!
This account in Acts chapter 12 illustrates this wonderful truth. Herod had thrown Peter into prison for preaching the Gospel, and was planning to have him tried and executed following the Passover. Leaving nothing to chance, Herod put sixteen soldiers on duty to guard Peter in a rotation of four guards at a time. The church in Jerusalem learned of this and began to pray “very hard” to God on Peter’s behalf.
The results that follow show that it was not Peter, nor the church that really had anything to do with the miracle that took place. It was a Sovereign God working in spite of the human weakness of His children.
First, Peter was taken by surprise by the turn of events. He was not expecting a miraculous release from prison, even though he, no doubt, knew that the church was praying for him. When an angel appeared to Peter, unlocked the prison doors, ushered Peter right past the guards – Peter thought he was merely dreaming!
- “Peter followed the angel out of the cell. He didn’t realize that what the angel was doing was actually happening. He thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guardposts and came to the iron gate that led into the city. This gate opened by itself for them, so they went outside and up the street. The angel suddenly left Peter.”. (Acts 12:9-10 GW)
It was only after the fact that Peter realized that the Lord had miraculously delivered him from the prison. It was not Peter’s faith that unlocked the door and ushered him to safety. It was the Sovereign Grace and Mercy of God!
- “When Peter came to his senses, he said, “Now I’m sure that the Lord sent his angel to rescue me from Herod and from everything the Jewish people are expecting to happen to me.” (Acts 12:11 GW)
Second, while all this was happening, the church was continuing in a prayer meeting. They were “praying very hard” to God for Peter. Yet, in all honesty, they were not really praying in complete faith. How do we know this? When Peter arrived at the door, and when Rhoda knew it was him, she left him at the door, ran to the assembly, and told them – “Peter is free!” What was their response?
- “The people told her, “You’re crazy!” But she insisted that Peter was at the door. They said, “It has to be his angel.” But Peter kept knocking. When they opened the door, they were shocked to see him.” (Acts 12:15-16 GW)
Think about their response. They told Rhoda she was “crazy”. Now, that is not the statement of expectant faith. Next, when they actually saw Peter standing before him – “they were shocked to see him.” They had no expectation of his miraculous release. It was not Peter’s faith, nor the faith of the church that ushered in this miracle. It was the Sovereign hand of God in answer to the humble and at times feeble prayers of His people!
This is the amazing thing about prayer! It does not depend on me. It is an invitation to partner with God in His amazing Power and Grace by simply asking. And when we do ask, even though our prayer lacks faith at times, God hears and answers according to His grace and mercy.
Prayer is not a “work” that produces results, it is a “relationship” that releases God’s Grace!
This is why Paul proclaims,
- “Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory belongs to God in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time and eternity! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 GW)
As we come to the Lord in prayer, His power can do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine. And when it does – it is ok to be surprised! It is ok to be amazed! It is ok to lift up our hands and give all the glory to Him, for –
- “Glory belongs to God in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time and eternity!”
In Jesus Name! AMEN!!