#carmelprays – Acts 12:1-25
Opening Song: Your Name Is Power
Read Scripture: Acts 12:1-25
Today’s passage describes Peter’s miraculous escape from prison after being imprisoned by King Herod. This King Herod was Herod Agrippa I and he came from one of a long family line of wicked rulers under Roman rule. Prior to incarcerating Peter, King Herod had already killed James the Apostle, an act which boosted his own popularity with the Jews in Jerusalem.
King Herod wanted to do the same to Peter for his own selfish political ambition and it was in light of this impending disaster where we read here that the “church was earnestly praying to God for him [Peter]” (v5). “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell” (v7). Peter was confused and sleepy but simply followed the instructions of the angel who led him out of the heavily guarded prison through multiple guards and iron gates. Peter then went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where many had gathered and were praying for him. Somewhat comically, those that were praying for Peter thought it was “madness” and refused to believe when the servant proclaimed Peter’s arrival. It seems that despite their fervent prayers, they did not actually believe that it would be possible for Peter to escape from prison.
The next day, King Herod executed the guards in anger. From v20-23, we read about the subsequent downfall of King Herod. Dressed in his royal robes and in grand style, he delivered a public address to the people but he did not acknowledge God even though he must have known that Peter escaped with the help of God. Because of this, an angel of the Lord struck King Herod down and he was eaten by worms and died. After his death, “the word of God continued to spread and flourish” (v24). In this way, the enduring word of God is contrasted against the fragile and temporal nature of Kings who come and go.
“You are out of your mind,” the disciples said to Rhoda when they heard that Peter was standing at the door. Why did they seem so incredulous when God answered their “earnest prayers” (v5)? Perhaps it was because they thought Herod had already executed the Apostle James, and the disciples didn’t really believe in their heart of hearts that Peter would be saved. But if they didn’t believe that their prayers would be answered, why did they pray so earnestly?
Many of us have shared similar experiences as the early Christians who gathered at Mary’s house on that fateful day. We have been told repeatedly to lift up our worries to God in prayers. We pray for our family, our career, our health, and our walk with God. We also pray for the people and the world around us – climate change, world peace, justice and equality for all, etc. But how often do we truly believe that our prayers could change the lives and the world around us? And how often are we just going through the motion?
When facing a stormy sea and a potentially life-threatening situation, even the faith of those closest to Jesus was shaken and put to test (Mk 4:38). It is in our human nature to doubt and to fear, but when our doubt grows and all hope seems to be gone, that is exactly when we need to pray earnestly like the early Christians did. We pray not only for a favorable outcome, but also to strengthen our relationship with God in times of trouble. As Jesus reminded Peter, James and John at Gethsemane, “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41).
Until the day we return home and see our Heavenly Father face to face, we would never know why the apostle James was slain while the apostle Peter was saved from the hands of Herod. Neither would we know why some of our prayers were not answered in our preferred way. But we can be certain that God is watching over us from above, because “which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:11). His Presence is assured if we are willing to ask Him.
Pray in Response
Gracious Father, You are the Everlasting God, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. I proclaim that You are almighty, able to move mountains, able to walk on water, to heal the blind, the mute and raise the dead, yet Lord how often it is that when I pray pleading and seeking, asking for You to do something and yet, when You do, I can’t see. Where is my faith O God? Search my heart O God and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, cleanse and heal me. Set my ears to listen to Your voice. Open my eyes to see You and know it is You and recognize the work of Your hands. Sweet Holy Spirit, renew a steadfast spirit in me to know deep in my heart that God is able to do far more than all I ask or imagine and if I ask according to His will, He will bring it to pass in Jesus’ name. Amen!
Response Song: Hymn Of The Holy Spirit
By Karen Er & Tommy Leong