The year is AD 44. The apostle Peter lies sleeping in a dark Jerusalem prison cell under heavy guard. Passover has just ended and his trial is set for the next day. King Herod is taking no chances and has Peter held under maximum security. Chained to two soldiers, with sentries standing guard, it appears impossible for him to escape. Yet God is God of the impossible.

King Herod Agrippa, ruler of Judea and grandson of Herod the Great, is seeking to ingratiate himself to the Jews. The Jewish leaders see the growing number of Christians in the region as a threat to their leadership. So Herod has taken action, setting out to persecute the Church. He has James, the brother of John, put to death by sword. When the Jews applaud his action, he imprisons Peter, one of the pillars of the early Church, with plans to do away with him as well.

Yet Herod does not take into account Peter’s risen Lord and Savior, the Almighty One, Jesus Christ… nor does he consider the power of the prayers of the Church.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” – Acts 12:5

The Church is meeting at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, fervently praying for Peter. Not a quick prayer session, these believers are committed to spending time in extended prayer and worship. They understand the power of ardent, persevering, heartfelt prayer to a God who listens and answers. They believe the promise of Jesus to be in the midst of their prayerful gathering (Matthew 18:20).

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

†   Pray with dedication

What can we learn from these prayer warriors? Prayer is our spiritual weapon when we battle in intercession for others. When we devote ourselves to prayer, we persevere even when we do not see an answer. That is why dedication is key. We direct our prayers in faith to the One who reigns supreme… the One who is able to work the impossible.

“Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.” – Acts 12:7

Peter awakens from slumber to what he, in his drowsiness, believes to be a vision. His heavy chains have fallen off! The angel commands him to quickly arise, get dressed and follow after him. Sleepily, Peter complies. Soon they are passing the first guards, then the second guards. The iron gates leading out to the city open before them. As they walk along the street together, the angel disappears. It all seems quite unbelievable to this apostle.

“Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent His angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches.’” – Acts 12:11

God works the unbelievable for Peter. The Sovereign One has heard the dedicated prayers of His Church. Now fully awake and aware, this apostle realizes the miraculous deliverance His Lord has worked for him.

Peter proceeds to the home where he remembers the Church is meeting and praying. A servant girl, Rhoda, answers his knock and dashes away to tell the others… leaving Peter standing at the door. The believers are incredulous… refusing to believe.

“In the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.” – Psalm 5:3

†   Pray with expectation

Why were these believers disbelieving? Had they not been faithfully praying? Perhaps they were praying for answers they wanted or expected… not considering answers from the God who does the unexpected.

The power of prayer lies in the sovereignty of God and the faith of the ones praying. When we pray, we must pray in faith, believing that God hears and answers our prayers. We place our utmost trust and hope in His providence. We expect the unexpected.

“Peter is at the door!”

“You’re out of your mind… It must be his angel.”

But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. – Acts 12:14-16

Peter’s appearance catches his friends by surprise. He motions for them to stay quiet as he tells the story of his miraculous escape from prison at the hand of the Lord. Peter asks that they share his story with the brothers and sisters in the Church. Then he sets out stealthily for a safer haven.

“Stay alert with all perseverance and petition, interceding in prayer for all God’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18

†   Pray with watchfulness

Why were the believers surprised to see the one for whom they had been praying standing at the door? Their first assumption was that Peter must have been killed by Herod and an angel had come to give them the news.

Perhaps the Church had been so busy praying for Peter that they had not been on the alert to any answers God would bring. They were astonished when the best possible answer to their prayers happened… Peter’s escape to freedom.

We are to closely watch for God’s answers to our prayers. We need to be on the lookout for the miracles God may do as a result of our devoted, unwavering petitions to Him. Our faith keeps us ever alert, ever mindful, ever hopeful.

Answers to prayer may not come quickly. Our faithful prayers continue even without seeing answers. Our Lord may be working out His plan in the lives of others. Or He may be orchestrating events behind the scenes. We yield to His wisdom, His timing and His will. For only He knows the full story.

As you pray in faith with dedication, expectation and watchfulness, trust that your prayers will have impact upon people, circumstances and events… even when you may not see any results. Wait in faith for God’s holy intervention and engagement in your world. For He is always for you… forever working out His supreme and flawless will.