A lot was going on in the early church, and life was never dull! Acts 12 begins with the martyrdom of the apostle James, the brother of John; Jesus had called these brothers “Sons of Thunder.” But James would thunder no more. Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, had had James ignominiously beheaded.
Furthermore, enjoying the favor of the people, Herod had yet another apostle, Peter, imprisoned and closely guarded. No doubt, he intended for Peter to meet a fate similar to that of James. What was this small group of believers to do? Twelve apostles had been commissioned to change the world with the good news of Jesus Christ—and now the number of apostles was down to 11.
Those events make the words recorded in verse five tremendously exciting: “…but the church was earnestly praying…” (NIV). Peter was miraculously released from prison and restored to the group of believers in Jerusalem—and you know the rest of the story.
Herod’s fate was not a happy one: an angel struck him down, and worms ate him (v. 23). This may have been a condition that ancient people called morbus pedicularis (taken from Barnes’ notes on the Bible), an intestinal disease that probably killed Herod Agrippa’s grandfather, Herod the Great—another tyrant who thought he could thwart God’s plan.
“But the word of God continued to spread and flourish” (Acts 12:24). A praying church will withstand all the attacks of the enemy. A praying church will see the fulfillment of Tertullian’s words, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” A praying church will experience miracles when it seems that disaster looms. A praying church will not be stopped by any hindrance that is placed in its way. A praying church is a triumphant church.
Will you join me in making a commitment to pray—whatever comes our way? As we follow the pattern of the early church and pray earnestly, we become part of an unstoppable force that God will use to bring salvation to the world.
By: Sterling Brackett, Chief Operating Officer of The Foursquare Church
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