#773. BATTLE FOR THE SUFFERING (17/3/23)
This week we continue in our 9-week series entitled ’Praying Together’; this series is loosely based upon the book and course, ‘The Prayers of many’ by Mike Betts. During this series, we want to learn about the importance of corporate prayer.
‘It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.’ When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognised Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’ ‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, ‘It must be his angel.’ But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. ‘Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,’ he said, and then he left for another place. In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.’ (Acts 12:1-19)
Summary: Praying together for those who are suffering brings real help and can bring release.
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Peter’s release from prison is a remarkable testament to the power of collective prayer. Peter was in deep trouble: ‘Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.’ There was no hope humanly speaking. Escape was impossible. Perhaps he was going to share the same fate as James, the brother of John who, as our text records, was ‘put to death with the sword!
However, the church has hope in God! We read, ‘But the church was earnestly praying to God for him…Many people had gathered and were praying’. Their reaction to persecution was to lovingly gather to pray earnestly.
Why is this event recorded? It’s included in scripture in order to teach us that united, earnest prayer can bring about great victories. On his release we read, surprisingly that the church does not believe that this miracle has indeed happened! They respond to the servant girl who answered the door: ‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her’; their reaction was: ‘when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.’ They didn’t have some kind of perfect faith. They knew God was Saviour and protector but they didn’t know that He would do this miracle. They knew He could but they didn’t know that He would, and most of the time this is all that we’ve got!
It’s so important that we pray together for the challenges that we and others are facing; if we don’t, we can end up carrying the burden and feeling like we are the Saviour rather than Jesus. We participate in the battle through prayer, but it’s God and not our prayers that open the prison doors. Prayer is faith in God and not faith in prayer! The battle is the Lord’s and that’s why we pray as we read in 2 Chronicles:
‘He said: ‘Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’ (2 Chronicles 20:15)
RESPONSE - LET’S BE FAITHFUL AND PRAY FOR THE SUFFERING
We are encouraged:
‘Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.’ (Hebrews 13:3)
What would have happened if the church hadn’t gathered to fight for Peter? What could happen if we will gather to fight battles in prayer for those who are suffering? What might we and those who are under distress miss out on if we fail to do so?
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
What has God been speaking to you about from His Word this week?
3. STUDY AND PRAY TOGETHER
During this series, we will be using the 'Prayers of Many' course by Mike Betts.
I encourage you to buy a copy of the book from: https://prayersofmany.org/book#buybook
If you need assistance in buying a book please send an email to the church office and we will happily purchase you a copy.
Please download the course handbook from: