Acts 12 records a distressing time for the church. Herod had killed James, the brother of John, and had imprisoned Peter, intending to kill him. Notice the response of the church. They prayed. Acts 12:5 says, “prayer was made.” Look at that word “made.” They did it. They accomplished it. They followed through with it. We can learn much about prayer by studying how their prayer was made.
Prayer was made without ceasing – they kept praying till God answered what they were praying for. They didn’t talk about praying. They prayed. They didn’t pray for a minute so they could say they had prayed. They prayed. And they prayed without ceasing. They stayed with it around the clock. Did you ever notice how Jesus prayed before he chose his twelve disciples? Lk 6:12 says, “he went into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” And then, after that, he called his disciples.
When was the last time you spent an hour straight in prayer? Have you ever spent a solid hour in prayer? I spoke recently with a pastor who said that it took something like this current situation with the virus to convince him to spend all night in prayer. He said that he was ashamed that this was the first time in his entire life that he had prayed all night. I wonder what would happen in our church, in our families, among our missionaries, and to the lost souls for whom we have prayed, if we were to literally pray without ceasing through the night? I’d be shocked and awed if we didn’t see a definite response from God in our church, in our homes, and in our witness.
Prayer was made of the church – it doesn’t appear that the church had to do a whole lot of contacting and organizing to get this group together for prayer. They were used to praying together already, I’m sure. Praying for them was a common thing. Many were gathered together praying at Mary’s house, Acts 12:12.
One of the worst decisions the modern churches made was to cancel the Wednesday night prayer meeting. I realize that this mid-week service in most churches crawled to a slow death. Nevertheless, part of that was the fault of the pastors who let it die. Pastor G. V. Clark once told me, “I give ‘em somethin’ good on Sunday morning, and on Sunday evening I give them somethin’ special. But on Wednesday night, I give “em somethin’ extra special. They’re the ones carrying the load through prayer.”
Our Wednesday prayer meetings are good at church. Praying, for some of us, is probably shorter than it should be. But thank God that we still come together as a church for prayer. I love praying together with you. And it encourages me to pray more through the week than if we weren’t meeting together for prayer. I’m encouraged that we’ll be praying tonight as a church even though we are in our own homes and not in our church building together.
Prayer was made unto God – They got ahold of God so God would intervene and do something to stop Herod before Herod stopped Peter. In Gen 32:24-30 Jacob wrested with a man. It turns out, this man was the Lord. This wrestling match is one of the best types of “getting ahold of God in prayer.” Hos 12:3-5 clarifies that Jacob had power with God and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him. His prayers weren’t just going up in the air. He was dealing with God Almighty. He wasn’t going to let go until he got what he was fighting for. Have you ever been that close to God in prayer that you sensed you were in his presence?
John Hyde was a missionary to India. He spent so much time in prayer and had such power with God through prayer that he was known as praying Hyde. In the Punjab region of India, where he worked, there was an annual conference of pastors and leaders to encourage revival in the church in India. At this conference, there was a prayer tent where people were encouraged to go and pray during the conference. John Hyde spent hours in the prayer tent daily. One missionary said of these prayer meetings, “Hours alone with God with no one to see or hear but God. At once you knew that you were in the holy presence of God.”
Prayer was made for him – the church prayed for one man and one situation concerning that man. They were praying for Peter. They were praying because he was in prison and slated for execution. One preacher suggested that they were praying that Peter wouldn’t deny the Lord this time. I don’t know about that. But you can be sure that they were praying for God to do something big and God did something big. Peter had been delivered to four quaternions of soldiers, Acts 12:4. That’s sixteen armed men. He was asleep between two soldiers, bound with two chains, Acts 12:6. The angel of the Lord came in there and woke Peter up at which point his chains fell off. He got dressed and passed through the first and second ward. When he got to the iron gate, it opened of his own accord. Do you see anything miraculous going on here? God answered their prayers in a big way. He answered in a way that exceeded even their own expectation [Acts 12:13-16]. They were astonished when they saw him.
When someone asks our church to pray for them, we need to pray for them, just like this church prayed for Peter. And we need to expect that God can and will do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think [Eph 3:20]. God can do mighty things. I believe he is looking for his church to do some mighty praying.
Conclusion: when we come through this distressing time in our lives, will God say about us like he did about the church in Peter’s day, “Prayer was made?” I hope so. I hope that we learn some things about old fashioned praying that will change our prayer lives and prayer meetings forever. We’re talking to Almighty God. Let’s not cease praying till God does what God wants to do among us.