Summary: The church ought to pray with great expectation because (1) God sees our trials, (2) God hears our prayers (3) and God will take care of our enemies.
Acts 12:5 “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” The graphic scene of Acts 12 is not strange to the Church. The church has always faced opposition. Since its inception, the devil has been trying to stop the church and even to destroy the church. But each persecution has caused the church to grow and become stronger. The New Testament believers learned how to face persecutions and overcome them by fervent prayer. The early church lived with the conviction that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” So in our lesson, after hearing the news concerning James, they prayed intensely and steadily over Peter’s situation. Their prayers were soon answered. In the early church, the power and presence of God and prayer meeting went together. No amount of preaching, teaching, singing, music, or activity will bring forth the genuine power and presence of the Holy Spirit like the fervent prayers of the righteous. Prayer changes thing! It has been said that, “prayer changes people and people change things. One of the most awesome privileges of a believer is his access to God through prayer. We all face trials and tribulations but praying will help us overcome. Why? Because a praying saint can lay down in trouble and wake up to a miracle. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. The church of God is commanded to pray:
Lu 18:1 ¶ And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Lu 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. The House of God is to be called the house of prayer.
Mr 11:17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Here in this lesson, fervent, sincere and continual prayer was made to God by the church on Peter's behalf. Peter was trapped in the hands of Herod, and the church united in prayer was determined to wrestle Peter out of his hand. The several lesson we can learn from this scripture (1) that when the church is plunged into deep perplexities, the only help she can hope for must come unto her in the way of prayer. (2) That when God suffers any of the ministers of the church to fall into the hand of persecutors, it is the church's duty to wrestle with God by prayer in an extraordinary manner on their behalf; "prayer was made without ceasing of the church." (3) That when God intends to bestow any extraordinary mercy upon his church, he stirs up the hearts of his people to pray for it in a very extraordinary manner.
Let’s look at then text again. In acts 12, Luke brings our attention back to the Church of Jerusalem. The gentile church at Antioch was now well established and accepted by the church at Jerusalem. Now the persecution intensifies again. Herod Aggrippa was the grand son of Herod the Great who tried Jesus before sending him to Pontius Pilate. Herod Aggrippa’s uncle was Herod Antipas who had John the Baptist beheaded and his head presented on a charger. The Roman Emperor, Caligula made Herod Aggrippa king over Judea, Perea, Samaria, and the territories of Galilee. One of Herod’s biggest challenges was to restore law and order to the region. Herod had a lot of enemies. Herod’s family was hated and despised by the Jews. One of Herod’s goals was to win the favor of the Jewish leadership, the Pharisees and Sadducees. He was partly Jewish and had a good understanding and a deep respect for Jewish law. It is said that Herod attended all the Jewish feasts, rituals and honor their worship services. Herod move against the Christians in order to please the Jewish leaders who opposed him. He thought his action would solidify his position as king and maybe Caesar would hear a favorable report about him.
Sometimes we all get caught up in pleasing men more that pleasing God. James and John were two of the original twelve who follow Jesus and had sought positions to sit on his right and his left. Jesus asked if they were able to drink of the cup of suffering and they replied, Lord, we are able. James and John did indeed suffer! Here James is beheaded, executed by Herod Aggrippa as soon as he was arrested and later John would suffer greatly on the Isle of Patmos. We must be careful of what we ask for!