Scripture: Acts 12:1-17
Key verse: (5) “While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.”
Reflection: The disciples in the early church put their lives on the line for the gospel. Their faith and courage is humbling. Peter, and so many others, were willing to die. And, many did, including James in our scripture passage today. After his death, Peter was arrested and chained in a prison cell. He must have thought he was next to die. Then, something miraculous happened. An angel of the Lord appeared and the chains fell from his wrists. Thinking he was experiencing a vision, he didn’t realize what was happening to him. The angel led him out of the prison and the next thing he knew he was free and outside. So, Peter made his way to Mary’s (the mother of John Mark) house where the church was praying for him. The maid Rhoda answered the door, recognized Peter, then forgot to let him in. When she hurries to tell everyone that Peter was at the door, they thought she was out of her mind. Peter kept knocking and eventually they let him in and were amazed. They had been praying for Peter and now he was free. As one commentator has said: “Prayer is a defiant act because it recognizes the purpose of a sovereign God will win out in the end.” This is one reason why members of the early church were so willing to die for their faith. They were standing up for what they believed, through their actions and their prayers, because they knew that no matter the outcome, God would win in the end. They were confident in prayer knowing that God heard them. They trusted that God could release anyone who was held captive. This didn’t mean there wouldn’t be suffering or death. Standing up for what they believed in had a cost and their faith gave them the ability to pay it. The early church chose to defy Herod. They didn’t storm the gates of the palace with protests; but they stormed the gates of the palace with prayer. This, and their continued sharing of the gospel with others, was their response to the earthly powers that tried to stop them. The consequences they faced were great, but God was greater. In spite of persecution, the church continued to grow as more and more people chose to answer God’s call to follow Jesus and accept him as their Savior. What might happen if we chose to stand up to the powers that be, willing to pay the price, so that others might know something of Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Mighty God, in the face of all that holds us back or holds us down, give us faith. Make us into disciples willing to make personal sacrifices to proclaim your love, acceptance, forgiveness and justice to a hurting world. Help us to stand up to any powers that oppress – confident in prayer and courageous in protest. Be with us, now and always in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].