But the church was earnestly praying for him, (Acts 12:5).
It was one of the great moments in the narrative of the early church contained in the Book of Acts. Herod Agrippa I has had James, the brother of John, put to death. Seeing that it pleased the Jews (who hated Herod!) he had Peter arrested with the intention of killing him.
Peter is put in jail with a Roman soldier chained to his right wrist, a Roman soldier chained to his left wrist, and fourteen other soldiers guarding various parts of the jail. Things look bleak for Peter! Then come the words of today’s text: “but the church was earnestly praying for him.”
When was the last time you prayed “earnestly”? The word in the Greek text implies intensity, focus, constancy, and great emotion. This was no quick “God bless Peter.” It was pleading with God to spare Peter’s life. The result was some serious divine intervention.
While Peter is sleeping, God sends an angel. He taps Peter on the side with a sword to wake him up. The chains fall off Peter’s wrists. The guards keep sleeping. The angel tells Peter to get up, get dressed, and follow him. Peter thinks he is dreaming. Then the angel leads him out of the cell, and out of the jail without the other soldiers even noticing. The gate of the city, which was locked for the night, opens on its own and Peter and the angel walk out of the Antonia Fortress.
What do you want God to do for you? What do you want God to do for others? What do you want God to do in the world? I’m challenged by the passage that too much of my prayer life is not in “earnest”. God has decided to be influenced by the prayers of his people. I’m not sure how it all works. But I’ve only been thinking about it for forty years. Sometimes God says “No”. Sometimes God says “Yes”. Sometimes God says, “Wait”. And every once in a while… he intervenes miraculously and blows the doors off the place! Put an “E” on your hand to remind you to pray earnestly today.