I have to tell you, I’m inspired by the Book of Acts. I’ve been doing a pretty in-depth study of it lately, and it’s inspiring. It’s a history book. These are things that actually happened. We can see those events that happened in that day and apply them to our lives. Why shouldn’t we be able to experience God’s power in the same way that they did?
Today I want to turn to Acts Chapter 12 and look at an event, a historical event to see what God did there, so we can apply it to our lives and circumstances:
Acts 12:5-16 (NKJV)
12:5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!" And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and tie on your sandals"; and so he did. And he said to him, "Put on your garment and follow me." 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people." 12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. 13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. 15 But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!" Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, "It is his angel." 16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
What do you do When There’s a Need?
Here’s the back story on what’s happening. Herod – This is King Herod’s son Antipater, also known as Antipas, in trying to impress the Jews killed James, John’s brother. The sons of Zebedee.
When Herod saw how happy that made the Jews, he reached out and arrested Peter. This was done during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. He did that because there were so many Jews present for the festival; he was looking for maximum benefit. Hi intention was to execute Peter, and gain even more favor with the Jews.
So you can see there is great need here. Peter was the leader of the early church in
at the time. The church was
fearful; hiding themselves away to avoid the persecution. Most of the church had scattered. This is taking place after Paul went to Jerusalem with the
intention of bringing people back to prison in Damascus . So, this is an extremely difficult time for
the church. The people need a leader
right now and their leader is in prison awaiting execution. Jerusalem
They were powerless to cause a change on their own. They were too weak. They were persecuted. There was nothing they could do to get Peter released, well, there WAS one thing – They could pray...and they did. The Bible says “constant prayer was offered for him.”
I wonder how often we feel like the early Christians. Do you ever feel that events are moving on their own and that you’re powerless to change them? For example, you get diagnosed with a terminal disease: You’re company is struggling financially and may lay you off: You’ve had a car accident and you can afford the expenses. All of these things look like impossible situations, just like what the church faced in our text.
What’s your response to this kind of pressure? I watch people; I know that the first response of a lot of people is to panic; a fear response. “What shall I do to fix this?” “How can I make this better?” Fear, worry, depression – these are our first responses. Look at what the early church did, they prayed. The problem is thjat when we do pray, we pray a few times and then we back off. “I guess this is God’s will,” or, “God must be angry at me to let this happen.” What does it say about how the early church prayed? “Constant prayer was offered to God for him.”
James 5:16 (NKJV)
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
This scripture says that effective is fervent prayer. That word fervent in one sense means glowing hot, or with great intensity or feeling. At our church, I’ve been opening and closing in prayer lately, because I’m trying to teach them to pray. Sometimes, people are so calm when they pray. “Oh, heavenly Father, we ask you today…” This isn’t fervent prayer – Remember fervent prayer is effective prayer. This isn’t fervent prayer so it’s not effective prayer. The Bible says come BOLDLY before the throne of Grace, to find mercy and HELP in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Bold prayer initiates a move of God. Bold (fervent) prayer can cause a change in circumstances; A supernatural move of God. In Acts, chapter 12, God caused an earthquake and sent an angel to release Peter from the prison.
We need a supernatural move of God. Supernatural means something outside of the natural: Something greater than a natural turn of events; a literal showing of God’s power. That’s what's necessary to change circumstances. What seems impossible to us, God is able to do.
To the early church Peter’s release from jail seemed impossible. He’s sleeping between two soldiers, he’s chained up, there are guards at the gate, no one’s getting out of that, but Peter was released – The impossible was done, by God through the power of prayer. What do you do when there’s a need? Pray!
God Responds to Prayer
Job, in the midst of his suffering, asks this question:
Job 21:15 (NKJV)
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?'
What do we profit if we pray to God? God is moved by our prayers, sometimes it seems like He doesn’t hear us, but I believe that when we pray without a load of hidden sin in our lives that He always hears us. Then we say if He hears us, why doesn’t he respond?
First, we don’t know what God has to move in order to answer our prayer. You pray for finances – Maybe God has to create a new job for you, or put someone in place that will give you a chance. Sometimes, God isn’t the hold up…we are. We may lack the confidence to apply and follow through.
Second, there can be demonic interference. Daniel had a vision (Daniel 10). He prayed and fasted for God to show him what the vision meant, but for three weeks there was no response. He heard nothing from God. He continued in prayer. Finally, the angel came to him and what did the angel say?
Daniel 10:11-13 (NKJV)
And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. 12 Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the
withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of kingdomof Persia . Persia
The answer was delayed by the Prince of Persia. This isn’t a person, this is a spiritual being, a demonic force that was resisting the answer of God.
Third, the answer may be to wait. We always want God’s response when we want it. “Hey God, I don’t want to wait. If I wanted it later I would have waited to demand…uh… I mean ask. God knows our needs much better than we do. God knows best when the answer to our prayer will be the best response for us. “I want a husband or wife, right now God,” but God says, “You’re too selfish and immature. It would be bad for you and him/her. If you wait I’ll make every dream come true for you both.” That’s how God thinks. All good things come from God – Be patient.
Fourth, sometimes the answer is No! Sometimes it’s even No Way! If you’re asking for something outside of God’s will, God’s not going to give it to you. “God, I know you have a calling on my life, but I want to do something else instead. Please make it happen, God.”
Guess what, it isn’t going to happen unless you do it yourself, like Jonah did, but look how that turned out. If you do that I hope you like seafood, because that’s what you could become…just like Jonah did. There is a bright side, though. Jonah got right with God, and the fish spit him up – right on the shores of God’s will.
Looking for the Answer
There’s one final thought I want to show you from our text. The church prayed, God moved and Peter is miraculously released. God takes him safely through the streets to the place where the church is gathered together, praying for him. He knocks on the door. A child answers, recognizes Peter’s voice and runs to get the leaders, “Peter’s here! Peter’s here!”, but NO ONE believes her. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that.
People come to me in pain. I pray for them and God miraculously heals them. I ask them, “How does it feel?” Here’s the answer, “It doesn’t hurt…right now.” God moved but they didn’t recognize God’s deliverance. I think this is a pretty common experience for people. God moves on their behalf and they don’t see it as an answer to prayer.
The little girl tells everyone Peter’s here and what do they say? “You’re a nut! You’re out of your mind! You’re crackers!” They couldn’t see it. They didn’t expect God to answer. They prayed but they didn’t expect God to answer. Oh, how many times have I seen that?
People pray for the Holy Spirit but they don’t get filled – because they don’t expect to. I wonder what they’re expecting. What kind of experience are they looking for?
The only one in our text that really got what God was doing was a little girl. She’s the only one who saw the miracle that God did for what it was; a supernatural answer to their prayers.
God can move in any way He wants:
He can use another person;
He can use an angel or a bunch of angels;
He can just change circumstances
Matthew 17:20b (NKJV)
So Jesus said to them, "... if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
God moved the mountain,; He brought Peter out, but the adults didn’t think it could really happen, so they missed the move of God. It takes faith like a child to expect God to move.
Matthew 18:2-3 (NKJV)
18:2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Children trust God. One of the women in our church found a parking place at the hospital after driving around a while. She said, “Oh good, Grandma blessed us.” Her two-year old son immediately said, “No! Jesus blesses.” That’s child-like faith. He knows where blessing comes from. It’s adults who forget and I want to warn you. Your lack of faith will destroy your children’s. You have to be careful, they take their lead from you.
When you pray, pray with an expectation of God moving. When He does you’ll be able to recognize His answer. Pray fervently; pray boldly; pray with expectation. Praying with expectation is praying with faith. God created the universe with a word – I think He can meet your needs – If YOU can believe He can. When the answer comes don’t be surprised – Be thankful.