The Church Prays
Wednesday, January 9, 2019 - Devotional for Day 3
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Acts 12:5 (ESV)
The early church is often lauded (and rightly so!) for their faithfulness, while the contemporary church is often reviled (unfairly?) for our lack of faithfulness. And yet even a cursory glance through Scripture will show that the early church struggled with the same issues as the contemporary people of God. From sexual sin at the church in Corinth to legalism in the Galatian church, it seems that the church’s struggles have been consistent throughout the ages.
When we read Acts 12:5, our hearts are encouraged: the church prayed! The early church prayed as the community was formed (Acts 2:42), when they were threatened by persecution (4:29), and when confronted with death (9:40 and our passage today). But here is what I find fascinating about the prayer that preceded Peter’s deliverance from prison: when God answered that prayer, those who had been praying for him had a hard time believing in Peter’s deliverance! In verse 15, we read that they were incredulous when told that Peter stood at their front door. They expected a spiritual salvation, but a physical one? That led to amazement (verse 16).
The church is called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5), but do we believe today that God answers our prayers? And how often have our prayers been offered with only a tepid confidence in God’s intervention? We stand in good company - with the saints of the early church who prayed earnestly for God’s deliverance and were amazed when He answered.
This is not meant to be a discouragement to you, but a great encouragement: Church, let us pray! Even when our faith is tepid, even when we would be shocked if God actually came through, even if what He does in response to prayer is more than we could have asked or imagined. O, that the church would throw off the shackles of paralyzing introspection and uncertainty, and simply pray. Earnestly. Hopefully. Confident not in ourselves or a particular formula for prayer - sometimes we don’t even know what to pray for - but confident in God’s grace and goodness and power.
Today, would you pray:
- That God’s Spirit would manifest in us, not in fear, but in power, love, and self-control (1 Timothy 1:7).
- For the persecuted church, and those who are imprisoned for their faith (Hebrews 13:3).
- For friends and family who are held captive by the ruler of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31); that God would free them and deliver them to the Kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13).
- For Christ’s church: that the bride of Christ would pray collectively with deep expectation.
And may the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of His Holy Spirit you would abound in hope (Romans 15:13).
Ministry Director, Christian Union at Penn