But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
- Acts 12:5
I want to tell you a story about a sleepless church that was involved in desperate and deep prayer. They were coming under intense persecution, and they were facing what appeared to be a hopeless situation.
It had been some time since the last attack, which resulted in the martyrdom of Stephen. But God used that for His glory. The problem was that the church tended to hang back a little in Jerusalem and stay in their little holy huddle of sorts. Jesus had told them to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but they weren't really doing that. But when persecution came, the church spread out. It ultimately resulted in good. They remembered their objective was not to isolate from the culture but to infiltrate the culture.
As Acts chapter 12 opens, Herod is leading a new wave of persecution, and he murders James, the brother of John. Being the consummate politician, Herod saw this pleased his constituents. So he arrested the undisputed leader of the church, Simon Peter. Pretty much everyone looked up to Peter. He was the spiritual leader. And it looked as though Peter would be executed next.
So what did the church do? They unleashed their secret weapon: "While Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him" (Acts 12:5). All other doors may have been closed, but one door remained open: the door of prayer-the door into the presence of God. The church prayed, and everything changed.
Prayer is our secret weapon too, and we don't use it enough. We will try everything else, but how often do we seriously pray? Prayer is frequently the last resort, the only thing left to do after we have exhausted all other options. But the first thing we should do is pray.