And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.
— Acts 12:4-17
I have a confession to make: I have never felt like a gifted pray-er. It isn’t that I don’t want to pray — it isn’t even that I devalue prayer — I just often neglect to pray. My mind runs at about Mach 3. I would love to tell you that it’s filled with weighty issues that could ultimately change the course of human history, but in truth, it is usually the daily minutia of a slammed daily schedule and some amazingly useless trivia.
Until recently, I did not make any strides towards really meditating on the things of God, and as a result, my communion with God suffered. Additionally, I saw very little growth in my faith. This became a troubling reality for me, because I know that prayer is the one thing that directly connects us to the supernatural world.
Unlike most of the other spiritual disciplines, you cannot practice the discipline of prayer without including God. You can try, but without God listening you are actually displaying the characteristics of a multiple personality disorder. Even if it is of little value, it is possible to study the Bible academically, to give out of compulsion, meditate on The Secret, and journal about your secular activities without ever really connecting with the Spirit. With prayer, however, that’s not the case.
Prayer is important. Prayer is the medium by which we connect to God. Prayer was the hallmark of every early Christian meeting. So why is it not more central in our Western lives? I am not sure that I know the answer, but I can tell you that we talk about it all the time but seldom practice it. Sure, we bless our meals and pray with our kids, but how often would you say that earnest prayer is part of our daily interaction with others? When is the last time you paused to prayed with a co-worker? A close friend? How about this: when is the last time that you were really able to bask in the goodness of God as you conversed in prayer? Most of us don’t like to answer those questions.
The more I pray, the less I worry. Worry tends to take the trivial and small and make it bigger — even bigger than God. Prayer, however, seemingly expands the size of God in my mind’s eye, while simultaneously reducing the size of my struggles. Prayer mysteriously reminds me that God knows about my problem, is powerful enough to fix it, and is good enough to do what is best.
Perhaps we don’t see God’s power displayed more often because we aren’t looking for God’s answers in earnest prayer. You have heard it said, “Prayer changes things.” While that is certainly true, more than anything else, prayer changes us! Why? Because when we are looking for him to come through, we are looking with our spiritual eyes. We are occupying ourselves with the eternal things, rather than the things of earth.
The early church had the audacity to gather and pray through the night about a seemingly hopeless situation. The result? You can clearly see an amazing result.
I encourage you to take a few moments and pray. Your emails, your to-do lists and your cell phone will still be waiting for you when you are done. Nothing will change while you pray. Well, maybe one thing will.