Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Acts 12:5
Put yourself in Peter's position. Things appeared desperate. James his friend and fellow fisherman had been killed by Herod, and the Jews were pleased. Now Herod had got him. Four squads of soldiers guarded him, and at night he was chained to two of them. Why should he expect a better fate than James? Did he, even for a moment, regret his bold witness in those heady days after Pentecost? This must be the end.
The church was in an impossible situation too. They had lost James, now they were going to lose Peter. There seemed no end to it. Who would be the next? One by one their leaders were being taken away, how could the defenceless infant church survive? Their high hopes were being dashed. They must have felt very low.
But there was one significant thing: 'earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church'. I wonder what they prayed for. If it was for courage and peace of heart for Peter, their prayer was certainly answered -- he was so fast asleep on the night before his execution, in spite of his physical discomfort, that the angel had to strike him to wake him up, and even then he was so dazed that subsequent events seemed unreal. (Have you ever felt like that when called for an emergency at night?).
If their prayer was for Peter's release from prison, their faith did not stretch to that, especially as time had all but run out. The reader cannot help smiling at the humour of vv14-15; one can almost hear a church member rebuking Rhoda for interrupting their prayer for Peter with a joke in such bade taste. But God answered that prayer too, although they never expected it.
At times we find ourselves in an impossible position. How important do we find prayer -- ours and that of others? And do we really pray for Christian friends facing similar problems? If our prayer is only from habit, God graciously honours it and sometimes with big surprises.
Lord, thank you for the times when prayer seems easy and
natural, but help me to persevere when the heavens feel
like brass, I feel like lead, and I can see no way out -
even for you.
Further reading: Acts 12:1-17.