We live in a sophisticated time. We are living in a time of advancement never enjoyed before in human history. Thinks about all the different advancements of our time. I never cease to be amazed at the advancement in medicine. We take heart surgery for granted and think nothing of traveling to space. Yet in our great advancements it is easy for forget the power of prayer.
This week in my Bible readings I was reminded of why the local congregation needs to gather for prayer. This true at any time but especially during those times when culture is less accepting of the absolute claims of Jesus. We gain a glimpse of this in Acts 12 when the government, King Herod, arrests two of Jesus Disciples, James the brother of John and a short time later Peter. The account reminds us that he was acting to appease the cultural voices of that time. We learn that James lost his life by the King’s sword. Peter was imprisoned to be later publicly tried for political gain. He was guarded by four squads of soldiers! This 24-hour watch would have been 4-6 hour shifts of 4 soldiers each. The accounts reveals that two would have been chained to Peter while two more stood outside guarding the cell. Peter’s situation does not look very good!
The rest of the account details that Peter was delivered by “an angel of the Lord.” The angel woke Peter and lead him out of the cell and onto freedom. What a great account of God’s miraculous working in this situation. It should encourage us to trust the Lord with our impossible situations. There is however a second application for a professing follower of Jesus today. It is related to the title and found in verse 5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” (Acts 12:5) Here we are reminded of the importance the church praying. It is a reminder that we must pray but there are more insights for us from this account.
The first mistake of many followers of Jesus is that they limit their understanding and practice to individual prayer. Individual prayer is a necessity for us who have been transformed by Jesus, we are reminded again and again to be people of prayer. Our mistake is when we overlook and excuse the need to participate in corporate prayer. The prayer of Acts 12:5 could include those praying individually, but the account provides a clear statement on the necessity for believers to gather for corporate prayer!
We learn that after his release Peter went to the house of Mary who was the mother of John Mark. We read this “When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” (Acts 12:12) It is here that we see the church gathered corporately for prayer. It is not coincidental that in the introduction we learn that when things got tough the groups of believers gathered for prayer. And I would not be surprised that it was their prayer that resulted in Peter’s deliverance. Now I cannot explain to you how prayers moves the Sovereign Hand of God to action. But I do know that we are called, no, commanded, to pray. Jesus reminded his disciples “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1) The word translated ought means “out of necessity.” We are reminded that difficult times require us to pray. It is prayer that moved the hand of God! This is only one example of why church Prayer Meetings matter!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson