One of my favorite passages of scripture to read and to teach on is Acts 12. Here we have the familiar story of Peter’s miraculous “escape” from prison. We love the story of the angel coming to Peter while he is asleep, chained between two guards, and he tells Peter to get up, the chains fall off and they walk outside. But I wonder if we don’t miss some of the important aspects of this story other than the “yeah God” feel good miracle.
As the story opens, King Herod is beginning to seriously persecute the Church. He arrests and executes James—a huge blow to the church, which must have delivered a strong statement to believers. He then goes after Peter and has him arrested. The assumption of the Church had to be that Peter was to be executed too. What do they do? Get a lawyer and take Herod to court? Whine on Facebook about how bad it is getting for believers in Jerusalem and the government should be more fair? Storm the prison? Nope. Verse 5 tells us that “the church was earnestly praying to God for [Peter].” That verse hints at two things: 1) This was strong, desperate, corporate prayer—people weren’t allowed to take the request sheet home and hopefully remember Peter. They came together, realizing they needed a supernatural solution. 2) I suspect the prayer meeting was focused only on Peter and the growing problem of persecution. It was a vertically focused prayer time, not horizontally focused. By that I mean it was not focused on the needs of the people in attendance, as most of our western church prayer times are. It was focused upward–on God and His purposes.