Acts 12 is the story of the great escape. Peter lands in prison as King Herod has become irritated with the growth of the church and “laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church”. He killed James, John’s brother, and grabbed Peter and threw him into jail. He put “four squads of soldiers to guard him….sleeping between two soldiers bound with two chains…..sentries before the door were guarding the prision”. After what happened with Jesus they weren’t about to let another body get away. So Peter is locked up and basically things were on hold due to the Passover but Herod intends to make an example out of him just like he had others that were leaders of the church. Then it happened. God heard the “earnest prayer for him….by the church”. The plan for his escape – prayer. There was no prison break planned. There was no escape route created. The church went to prayer. Note that it doesn’t say that a few emails went out and a prayer phone chain was put in effect. THE CHURCH went to prayer. Now there is nothing wrong with individuals praying for things – and sharing prayer requests is a good plan – but there is power of a community of prayer. And the early church understood that. They were together in the same place praying for the same things and the result – God moved. We see it all over the history of the early church. Do we see that today? Sometimes. But do we see it daily like they did in Acts? Some probably do – but not the church in general in America I’m afraid. And I believe a big part of our problem is that we miss this very important thing – the early church was together and they prayed together daily. Face to face, on their knees, in the same place – praying together. So what happens?
“And the chains fell off…..the iron gate…..opened for them of its own accord” and Peter walks out of prison with the angel. He thought he was having a vision but once he was outside in the streets he realized this was for real and heads to the place he knows the church is meeting and praying. Peter didn’t have to wonder where everyone was. He knew they were together and in prayer for him. That wasn’t part of what God revealed to him. It was the habit of the church then. They were gathered together and were praying. A servant girl goes to the door when Peter knocks and “in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate”. So he manages to escape the prison but he is locked out of the church. Hmmmm – probably a lesson there somewhere too. But they finally become convinced on the inside that it was him and they open the doors and he comes into the fellowship. What does he do? “He described to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison”. Immediate testimony to God’s faithfulness – immediately giving God the glory. No story of how he managed to escape and how he overpowered the guards and worked with God to get away. It was all God and He made sure everyone knew that. Sometimes when God moves in our lives we tend to want to take some of the credit for what He did. That is a bad plan. We need to give God the glory whenever He moves. Herod is really irritated and kills the guards and looks all over for Peter but can’t find him. So he continues ruling until the day he allows the people to call him a god. That doesn’t sit well with the One True God. “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last”. Catch the order there – eaten by worms and then breathed his last. That sounds like a slimy way to go. God is King. We must never forget that. The result to the church: “the Word of God increased and multiplied”. Things kept growing because people were walking closely with God. That is the key to seeing the church grow. That is the key for growing our own walk with God. Be with Him!