“Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5).
God works through our prayer. This truth should transform us. If we truly lived our theology, we would walk differently in light of the fact that God works through our prayers. Consider this story in the book of Acts.
In Acts 12, Herod the king sought to put an end to the spread of the Christian church, so he killed James, the brother of John, and he arrested Peter. This would be similar to the U.S. capturing and killing Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri as a way of ending al Qaeda. Herod took down two of the most important leaders of the early church. It says he killed James with the sword, and he arrested Peter. Needless to say, this was a big deal. The church was most likely terrified about what this meant for them, so they did what any of us would do. They panicked, ran around screaming, and they turned to the dark side. No they didn’t. In the face of both tragedy and terror, they turned to the Lord, and they fervently prayed.
The word in the Greek for “fervent” could also be translated to say that they prayed without ceasing. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in a prayer meeting that was marked by prayer without ceasing. I’ve been to long prayer meetings, but I’ve never been to one that I would say was without ceasing. They prayed fervently, without ceasing because they were trusting in God.
You might be thinking, “Well, of course they prayed without ceasing; their very lives were at risk. Prayer is the natural response to someone who feels threatened.” You are right if that is what you are thinking. But think hard about what that says about your commitment and trust in the Lord. You are only willing to pray fervently when things are not going well. That’s a pretty shallow faith. This is actually a very common situation. If your prayer life is only alive when things are not going well, you may in fact have more of an understanding of God as a genie, than you do of God as God Himself. Yes, God is to be leaned on in the difficult times. Yes, God is to be trusted when all else fails. But if those are the only times you see yourselves praying fervently, then we have a problem.
What happened after the church prayed earnestly for Peter? God heard their prayer; he answered their prayer, and he delivered Peter from the prison in a miraculous way. When was the last time you, in faith, prayed for the miraculous? When was the last time you prayed in faith that God would work supernaturally in and around you? When was the last time you interceded in prayer on behalf of a dear friend in Christ? To intercede in prayer on behalf of someone is to pray for them like we are experiencing the hardship they are experiencing.
To live our theology would be to pray diligently throughout our day, forsaking a fatalistic view of how God works. May we pray without ceasing!