Summary: When Peter was in prison, awaiting what appeared to be a sure execution, the church prayed without ceasing for him and Peter was set free by an angel of the Lord. Powerful things happen the church prays.
In the text, we find something taking place that seems to be missing in many churches today – that is church folk praying for church folk. In this particular case, a church member in trouble.
The Apostle Peter is on death roll and all petitions to commute his sentence have been exhausted. But I’ve come to tell you that prayer changes things. When all else fails. . . pray.
In the early church, corporate prayer was the standard. The early church is a model for the church of today. In Acts 5 & 42, the record is that church members met day after day, in the Temple courts and from house to house. In other words, they had old fashioned house prayer meetings.
I remember, as a child, going with my mother on Tuesday nights from house to house, right here in Belvedere. Those old saints would come together (not for chattin’ and chewin’) – but for the purpose of getting down on their knees in prayer for one another, their churches and their communities.
So often today, we find that many church people are only concerned about themselves and their own problems – and when they do visit each other’s houses the conversation is more about everybody’s business than it is about petitioning God. But here in Act 12 & 5, we find a church praying “without ceasing” for one of their own. The Bible says that, “the prayers of the righteous availeth much.”
My brothers and sisters, I want you to know that there is great power and great deliverance (possible) through prayer. You can check the record on that for yourself. The pages of the good book are laced and lined with accounts of prayer.
– Moses prayed and God spared Israel from judgment.
– Joshua prayed and God caused the sun to stand still.
– Hannah prayed and God gave her a baby boy.
– Solomon prayed and God gave him wisdom.
– Elijah prayed and God sent fire down from Heaven.
– Jonah prayed and God brought him out of the belly of the whale.
– The thief on the cross prayed and God gave him eternal life. I tell ya’, the saints of old know how to get in touch with God!
And because they knew how to get in touch with God – and because many people were being healed (through prayer) of sickness and disease, and because many were being delivered from the bondages of sin, the early church grew! Let me pull-up to the curb for a second and drop a quarter in the meter to tell you that: If you want your church grow... pray more! If the church would just pray... we’d see many great and wonderful things! But now... I have to warn you (if you’re thinking about becoming a more prayerful church) that whenever the church starts to grow, the devil gets busy!
Yes... though the record is that the disciples (or the followers of Christ) increased... so did “the rumblings of the discontented.” There’s always somebody in the church who’s discontented. I don’t care how smooth things are running, there is always somebody mad or upset about something. I’ve learned after almost 18-years of Pastoring... that when things are going well in the church, I need to pray more, because satan is scheming and plotting to stir up some junk!
In the early church, after the praying got started good, problems arose! Problems from without and problems from within.
First, let’s look at the problems from without:
Understand that the church was started in the most unlikely place in the world. Jesus had said begin at Jerusalem, but Jerusalem was hardened! They wouldn’t even hear the prophets, much less these Christians! That’s why Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He said in Matthew 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" In other words, Jesus was saying to them: “You all killed the preachers who were sent to you. I really wanted to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” And so, the problems from without were that:
– They were hard-headed and hard-hearted...
– They either killed or stoned the preachers... in fact, they killed Jesus!
– And now.. the disciples were supposed to go there and start a church? It was a hard field to work!
And then, there were problems from within:
– The treasurer of the church had been stealing money out of the receipts and had finally committed suicide.
– The most prominent leader of the church had denied the faith and denied that he had ever known the Lord.