Acts 12:1-7 “1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. 6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. 7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” (KJV).
King Herod mentioned in the first verse is the grandson of Herod the Great, he is known as Herod Agrippa I. Herod, in an effort to please the religious high priests, begins to attack the believers that remained in Jerusalem. Here we see a clear picture of what the prophet Jeremiah preached “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9, KJV). Herod was seeking popularity in order to achieve favoritism in Jerusalem and he was willing to do anything to gain it. What began as pride in the heart quickly turned into hate, and finally became an outward display of wickedness.
“Vex certain the church”, to afflict against the church, specifically anyone who claims the name of Christ. The affliction would have begun as physical beatings, imprisonments, high taxes, or fines. But this did not satisfy the king’s hunger for fame and quickly turned into a death penalty for James brother of John. Once the king saw how pleased the Jews were about the death of James, he ordered Peter to be placed into prison.
Sixteen guards were assigned to watch over Peter in prison. Herod probably heard about Peter’s prison escape from Acts 5:19, which would explain the amount of guards placed. It was also Roman custom to have two guards on the outside with two guards on the inside, the inside guards would be chained to the prisoner. Each set of four guards would stand watch in six-hour shifts.
As Peter sat in prison, we see the church praying continuously and with a purpose for Peter. The church was in trouble, with the death of James and now Peter held in prison, awaiting his death sentence, there was a need for such prayer. Through their prayers, the Lord sent an angel to set Peter free.
If only Christians would seek prayer like the early church. Prayer is something we could all do more of, as individuals and as a church. What fascinated me with this text is how the angel smote or knocked Peter to wake him up. This leads me to one application for this text: it was through faith and believing that allowed the prayers of the church to be answered. Remember that despite the hardship and conditions that Peter was facing, his faith was so strong that he slept while being in prison, chained to two guards, and knowing he was facing a death sentence. Do we pray with the same faith? Or do we pray in desperate times only seeking quick relief? Do we pray with the same faith as Peter? As a church are we praying with this type of faith? Are we gathered together in one accord, praying fervently? Something to consider and reflect on…
Matthew 21:22 “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (KJV).
Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (KJV).
Acts 1:14 “These all continue with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (KJV).
The Silent Preacher