Pray…to the Lord (Acts 12)
How is your prayer-life going? Most of us need some encouragement in this area. Our text can help.
In Acts 12, King Herod, a local ruler, is persecuting leaders in the early church to gain favour with the Jews. He has the Apostle James put to death. He then proceeds to seize Peter, placing him in a well-guarded prison to await trial (12:1-4). Many in the church gather to pray earnestly to God for Peter. God miraculously delivers Peter at the 11th hour to the astonishment of both the church and Peter himself (12:5-17). No explicit connection is drawn in the text between the church’s prayers and Peter’s subsequent deliverance although the flow of the text seems to imply this. The text focuses on the details of Peter’s deliverance. In this regard, it is noteworthy that although the church prayed “to God” (12:5), Peter later testifies how “the Lord” [Italics added], rescued him from prison (12:11-12). This detail is important. The “Lord” is a title that signifies God’s presence and faithfulness to His covenant promises – promises to bless His people, and curse their enemies (cf. Gen.12:1-3; Ex. 3:14-15), truths evident in both Peter’s deliverance and Herod’s subsequent death (12:11, 21-23). Peter had experienced God’s presence and faithfulness firsthand, and had now come to recognise and confess this truth (12:17).
In this account, King Herod persecutes the church, and James dies. But lest the reader conclude that the Lord’s power, presence or promises had failed, the Lord goes to great lengths to deliver Peter miraculously despite Herod’s best efforts to secure his imprisonment for trial (12:4). Although the church did pray fervently for Peter, they were totally surprised by his deliverance (12:14-16). So the text makes the point that it is the Lord, rather than the faith of those who prayed, that was responsible for Peter’s deliverance.
But herein lies the encouragement to pray: The Lord hears and answers your prayers because of who He is, and not because of who you are. The Lord is always present with His people to hear their prayers, and faithful to His promises to answer them. So trust Him in all the ups and downs of your life, even where His deliverance is not forthcoming. The Lord can bring deliverance, but in His wisdom and purposes may choose not to. But He is still at work in your circumstances, and will not fail you.