Summary: An inductive message using biblical narrative to encourage Christians to turn to God in prayer because he will answer them.
Purpose: to be the Holy Spirit’s second witness calling God’s people in my care to cooperate with God in order to receive answers to their prayers.
Response: Individuals will ponder Jesus’ question to the man by the pool of Bethesda – "Do you want to get well?" If they do they can come to the altar rail as we sing.
Pattern: An inductive message using biblical narrative to encourage Christians to turn to God in prayer because he will answer them.
Intro: Let’s travel back in time to the early first century in the city of Jerusalem – to a time when the political leaders joined the religious leaders in persecuting the church.
Story context and initial problem (12:1-4)
King Herod was a Jew raised in Rome and appointed by Caesar to rule Israel. He used his command of the Roman army to arrest some that belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. (James, John and Peter were Jesus’ best friends while he walked on earth.) When King Herod saw that killing James pleased the Jews, he went on to capture Peter too. Herod put Peter in prison, entrusting him to four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Feast of Passover was finished.
There was no way for Peter to escape. There was no way for the church to rescue him either. I’m sure the other Christians were very discouraged by the picture they saw.
Have you ever been DISCOURAGED by the picture of your circumstances? Are you facing situations that seem impossible to escape from? Are you wondering if anyone can rescue you?
1. Are you confronted with relationship problems?
2. Are you bound up with financial difficulties?
3. Has a bad habit or addiction locked you into a painful spiral of despair?
4. Could it be that someone you love deeply refuses to even talk about Jesus let alone consider receiving him as Lord and Savior?
If the picture of your circumstances discourages you then you know exactly what those Christians felt like.
Story of prayer meeting (12:5)
So Peter was kept in prison, but what did the church do? I can imagine they called an emergency meeting to discuss the options. All kinds of ides were suggested. “Let’s run before the army comes for us.” “Let’s get a lawyer and sue the government for infringing on our freedom of worship.” “Let’s form a protest march on Main Street and hold a sit-in on the jail house steps.” Finally, some dear old saint says, “Folks, we can’t do anything but pray.” And so the church decided to pray started earnestly pleading with God for Peter.
When was the last time you DECIDED to pray about your situation? Have you caught yourself thinking, “All I can do is pray”?
1. Do you feel like prayer isn’t much but that it’s better than nothing is?
2. As you gaze on the discouraging picture of your circumstances, is praying all that you can do?
3. Do you believe it is enough simply to pray?
If the picture of your circumstances discourages you and all you can do is pray, then you know exactly what those Christians felt like.
Story of God’s answer & the church’s response (12:6-19)
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Peter was sleeping – it sounds like something Jesus would do! Instead of staying awake all night worrying about what might happen to him, Peter trusted God enough to sleep. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side (that’s how sound asleep he was) to wake him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was having a dream. They passed the first set of guards and then the second set. Finally they came to the prison gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter really woke up and said, "Wow! The Lord sent his angel and rescued me from King Herod’s clutches. He saved my life!"
Once he realized what had happened, Peter went to the house of Mary the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered to pray for him. Peter knocked at the entrance to the courtyard in front of the house. A servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!"