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Summary: 2 of 4 messages on prayer in the church. This message is based on Peter’s experience in jail and his miraculous release. Acts 12:1-10

Confronted by Extreme Challenges

Experiencing Release

Sunday, September 3

Last week we talked about Peter and John’s arrest and the pressure put on them to stop talking about Jesus. We saw how the church gathered and prayed for boldness to speak the truth’s of God and the message of Jesus – and how their prayer was granted. The whole church was shaken and all gathered were filled with the Spirit of God as the spoke boldly the word of God.

What we learned is a very simple lesson – When we pray for the strength to do what God has called us to do – God’s response is swift and powerful. This is a lesson we should never forget.

Still, the pressure on the church did not relent. The church spoke boldly the things of God in the face of extreme challenges… The likes of which have occurred wherever and whenever faith in Jesus is proclaimed.

For example, when Caligula was Caesar, he took Emperor Worship seriously, putting a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple. This resulted in Jewish struggles and Roman persecutions. And Christians suffered greatly.

When Claudius became Caesar in 41 A.D., he backed down on “Emperor Worship,” made peace with the Jews, and both Rome and the Jews turned against the church which suffered even greater than before.

The Challenge was Staggering

1 During that same time King Herod began to mistreat some who belonged to the church.

Acts 12:1-5

The Challenge was Staggering

2 He ordered James, the brother of John, to be killed by the sword.

Acts 12:1-5

The Challenge was Staggering

3 Herod saw that some of the people liked this, so he decided to arrest Peter, too…

Acts 12:1-5

The Challenge was Staggering

4 After Herod arrested Peter, he put him in jail and handed him over to be guarded by sixteen soldiers...

Acts 12:1-5

Herod killed James and when he saw that this was popular move with the leaders of the city he moved to take Peter and held him in jail.

The Response was Overwhelming

5 So Peter was kept in jail, but the church prayed earnestly to God for him.

Acts 12:1-5

The church prayed for him. But they didn’t just say a quick “bullet” prayer and go on with their activities. No – this prayer was a lot more substantial. The word translated as “earnestly” here means to pray fervently, deeply, and continuously. Ektenos means, “stretched out.” In this meaning we can see a person stretched out before the Lord in prayer – flat out on the ground.

We pray like this only when the stakes are high and the costs are higher.

Think about it. James, the brother of John has been beheaded with a sword. If they didn’t witness it as a public execution – which it most certainly was – then they had definitely heard about it. And then word spread quickly that Peter had been arrested and taken.

The church responded instantly and overwhelmingly – not in panic – but in prayer. In fact, as we follow the text to the high point of the story we see that many had gathered at one of their homes and were praying all night.

The Release was Astonishing

7 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood there, and a light shined in the cell.

Acts 12:6-10

When you pray for God’s strength in the face of extreme challenges the first sign of God’s answer is often a “light.”

There is something so incredibly powerful in light – especially in a place of darkness. A candle in daylight has little effect. A candle in a cave gives hope.

God always starts to work in us with hope. It stirs first deeply inside of us and it comes through his presence.

The Release was Astonishing

The angel struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Hurry! Get up!” the angel said. And the chains fell off Peter’s hands.

Acts 12:6-10

But the light of God is only the beginning – we must respond to God. Peter was asleep and the angel had to thump him once on the side and get his attention. It was then the chains were released and Peter stood free in the presence of men and God.

And listen – I rather imagine that the thumping that Peter received caused him some level of discomfort. When we fall asleep in the middle of his will – God will thump you to get your attention as necessary! Remember that!

The Release was Astonishing

8 Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And Peter did. Then the angel said, “Put on your coat and follow me.”

Acts 12:6-10

The Release was Astonishing

9 So Peter followed him out, but he did not know if what the angel was doing was real; he thought he might be seeing a vision.

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