Summary: This sermon looks at six aspects of the power of prayer as seen in the passage.
Here Peter is waiting for whatever Herod may have in store for him. Escape by his own means is not an option. He is being guarded by 16 soldiers that work 6 hour shifts in fours. One soldier is chained to each side of him and the other two are standing outside the cell to make sure he can’t get out. Not only that but there are multiple guard posts and locked gates that must be passed in order to get out of this prison facility. Fortunately Peter didn’t have to rely on his own means. There was a group of believers fervently praying for Peter’s release. Let’s look at six aspects of the power of prayer as we find them in this passage.
1. Prayer breaks the bonds that hold us. V. 7
Peter was bound under incredible circumstances. Two guards chained to him 24 hours a day. Yet God broke those bonds and allowed Peter the opportunity to be free of them. God has done something even greater for us in that He has broken the bonds of sin and death. We as believers no longer have to be bound by our sin and its eternal consequence.
2. Prayer gives guidance when we don’t know the way. V. 8-10
It might be a fair guess to assume that Peter did not know his way around this particular prison. He needed guidance to get away from the place he was bound. We too need guidance in our lives as we grow and mature in the Lord. If we do not follow the guidance the Lord provides we will likely continue to linger in the very bonds that have already been broken for us and remain under the influence of the enemy.
3. Prayer conquers the captivity of the enemy. V. 11
Peter could have had his bonds broken and even had guidance out of the prison but unless he grasped the reality of his deliverance he might still live as though it were only an illusion or dream. Sometimes we go through life not realizing the reality that we have been delivered from the enemy. We no longer have to be subject to the captivity we were once held in. We must move forward in freedom towards the prize.
4. Prayer grants gladness in times of distress. V. 14
Here Peter is not the recipient of this benefit of prayer but rather a girl named Rhoda. She was so overjoyed that Peter was at the door and was free that she forgot to open the door. Even when she reported the news they said “she was beside herself”. She must have been extremely exuberant. You know, there are times in our lives when the Lord can and does bring real gladness out of distress. This is not to say that all feelings of sorrow or distress will be eradicated because we ask but it should give us hope to know that it is possible.
5. Prayer responds with results even when we don’t expect them. V. 16
Those who had been engaged in “constant prayer” were certainly praying for Peter. They also certainly knew that God was able to deliver him even from the direst circumstances. But for some reason when God responded to their prayers they didn’t anticipate the result He brought. The passage even goes as far as to say that they were “astonished” when they saw him. Notice it doesn’t record them rejoicing. I am sure that likely came after reality had hit home but their initial response was nothing like Rhoda’s. We should not be surprised when God does what it is we have asked Him to do. Too often we ask things of God that we know He can do but don’t really believe He will.
6. Prayer delivers defeat to the enemy. V. 18-19
Even though the early Church was growing in number and power there was no possibility for them to overthrow the earthly powers and avenge the wrongs that had been committed against them. It wasn’t even a desire of theirs. However God is in control and He made clear to Herod and those involved that their power was not enough to keep Him from accomplishing what He purposed. We should live life understanding that the battle is not ours to fight, it is the Lord’s and the victory has already been won.