God’s Power for God’s Purpose
Wake Up to a Miracle!
Dr. Jim Denison
This is the weekend following Easter. Jesus has risen from the dead, and we have celebrated his resurrection with hymns and words of triumph. Now our culture has returned to “normal.” What difference will it make in your life this week, that we remembered Jesus’ resurrection last week? Today we’ll focus on a practical, personal, daily answer to that question.
Archimedes, who died in 212 B.C., was the first scientist to recognize the power of the lever. He once famously said, “Give me a place to stand and rest my lever, and I can move the Earth.” We will learn this week how to use that lever.
Larry Dossey, chief of staff of a Dallas hospital, published a few years ago his findings that prayer lowers blood pressure, helps heal wounds, heart ailments and headaches, and even influences the action of bacteria and medications.
Ian MacPherson tells the true story of an atheistic scientist who attempted to find the wavelength of the human brain during different experiences. A woman who was dying of a brain disease consented to his test. Wires were connected to her brain, and a meter attached. Previously, this instrument had measured the power used by a fifty kilowatt broadcasting station in sending a message around the world—the needle had registered nine points.
As the last moments of this woman’s earthly life arrived, she began to pray aloud and praise God. She told the Lord how much she loved him, and how she was looking forward to seeing him face to face. The scientist was so engrossed in her prayer that he forgot his experiment. Suddenly he heard a clicking sound, and found that the meter on his gauge was registering 500 points.
Prayer is the lever which can move the world. Here’s how the lever works.
Hold a prayer meeting (vs. 1-4)
As Acts 12 opens, it is the early part of A.D. 44 and we find the infant Christian church in yet another crisis. King Herod, grandson of the Herod of Jesus’ birth, is ruler of the Jews. And he wants to placate and please them. Thus he beheads James, one of their leaders. Then he arrests Peter, the chief of the apostles, intending to kill him as soon as the Feast of Unleavened Bread passes. Jews by the tens of thousands will be in Jerusalem. Herod won’t miss this chance to impress his subjects.
So he seizes Peter and turns him over to four squads of four guards each (v. 4). He’s heard of Peter’s earlier escape at the hands of the angel (Acts 5:18-21) and wants to avoid a repeat fiasco. The apostle was probably imprisoned in the fortress Antonia, northwest of the temple area, where Paul would later be confined as well (Acts 21:31—23:32).
Four soldiers are with him at all times—two chained to his body, and two to guard the door. Not to mention the soldiers stationed at the main door to the fortress, or others patrolling the area. This is the highest security Rome can muster.
What does the church do? Organize a mob and storm the prison? Circulate a petition to get the names of leading Christians in Jerusalem to request Peter’s release? Take a collection to bribe Herod for his freedom? They hold a prayer meeting.
Could anything be more ridiculous and fruitless? Imagine praying for a man so securely incarcerated, so near execution. Suppose a family and friends kept vigil outside Huntsville, while their loved one was being readied for execution, praying for him to escape. How would we view their prayers? Here’s a better question: how would God?
Where are you in jail this week? Where is someone you love? Have you prayed yet? Have you asked others to join you in intercession? Have you held a prayer meeting? Will you?
Pray as they prayed (v. 5)
What now? Let’s make the example of our text the model we follow: “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (v. 5). R. A. Torrey’s classic The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power contains an investigation of this verse which we will follow in our study.
Luke notes that “the church” was earnestly praying for Peter. By now the followers of Jesus number more than 5,000 men, not counting women and children (Acts 4:4). They were scattered across the larger area (Acts 8:1), but news of Peter’s impending execution would travel quickly across the region. Luke is careful to note that the house to which Peter would go following his release was “where many people had gathered and were praying” (v. 12). But this was not “the church” in total. All who knew Jesus were calling on him, together.
Imagine having 5,000 families praying for you. Jesus promised great power in response to such unity: “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
Two horses working alone can do the work of two. But two horses pulling together can do the work of 40 working alone. There is more power in praying together than the world knows. With this lever we can indeed move the earth.
With whom will you pray this week?
Pray with intensity
They were “earnestly praying” for Peter, as should we. The Greek is in the continuous tense; they were still praying in the morning when Peter escaped and came to them. Thus they prayed all night. “Earnestly” pictures a runner straining for the finish line. There is work in intercessory prayer, hard labor.
Paul informed the Colossians of one who was engaged in such work on their behalf: “Epaphras . . . is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you” (Colossians 4:12-13). Jesus himself furnishes our best example: “Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).