prayer

Prayer Overcomes Bondage

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 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 12:1-17.

John’s brother, James , is killed, but Peter is miraculously delivered. The only thing that we know is different is that the church had time to pray for Peter. He could have been killed right away, but Herod wanted to make a show of it and took some extra time to prepare a presentation. This gave the believers time to intercede with earnest corporate prayer. And their prayers were answered! And it happened so effectively that when Peter showed up, recently sprung from prison by an angel, they did not believe it.

This was a church that was used to seeing the miraculous, seeing the lame walk and the dead rise. And even though that was so, there were obviously some who did not believe when the answer came. Or maybe they just didn’t believe that silly servant girl, Rhoda. Nevertheless, there were obviously some among them who were able to move mountains in the heavenly realm and send angels on assignments.

Our God is not the god of “way back then.” He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. And we are the Body of Christ, who died for the sin of the world, was raised on the third day, and who said we can ask whatever we will, and it will be done if we believe and do not doubt.

The Great Turnaround

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Acts 9:1-9.

It doesn’t usually happen this way, but it’s good to know that it can. And it might happen more often if we obeyed Christ’s commands to love our enemies and to pray for them. He did not tell us that to make us more pious, but to bring the power of God on our persecutors for their good. And that is what happened to Saul, who would go from venomous persecutor of the church to one of the central figures of world history, and writer of a large portion of the New Testament, which would transform whole nations. We now know him as the Apostle Paul.

Our nation is not lacking for villains at this time. In fact, the villains are in charge. Rather than merely lamenting their foul deeds, we must intercede on their behalf, making war with the demonic forces that oppress them. As Paul would later write, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

It’s not enough to criticize and complain about the wicked. We must win them to Christ, and that will require the hard work of prayer, after we get our own hearts right.

Applying Boldness

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:23-31.

Boldness is an important thing to have in your toolbox if you are going to challenge the kingdom of darkness. But it is something we are reticent about employing. A look at the thesaurus shows us that synonyms for Boldness are audacity, brashness, impoliteness, incivility, rudeness, and other things that denote bad manners. This has caused us to recoil from doing our duty, like casting out devils and rebuking heretics.

Jesus told us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against us. Gates, we should remind ourselves, are defensive positions. And we are called to be gate crashers. Not only that, but we are told, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4). We are called to destroy strongholds. And we are certainly going to be doing that without someone’s permission.

Let us pray for the Boldness to oppose the devil and advance God’s kingdom. You have rights as a child of God, but they are not enacted automatically. You must insist on them. After all, we live in a sin cursed world, where demons and their hosts are the home team, and many of the referees are crooked. But we have been given power, if we are bold enough to use it. So, in the words of Miracle Max, “Have fun storming the castle!”

Praying Like a Boss

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” John 17:1-12.

What we often call The Lord’s Prayer is not really His prayer at all. He was teaching His disciples to pray, and gave them that famous outline that begins, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” (Matthew 6:9). As a boy growing up in the Catholic church, I was usually sentenced to a number of “Our Fathers” to recite, along with some “Hail Mary’s,” an Act of Contrition, and at least one lap around the Stations of the Cross by the priest who heard my equally perfunctory litany of sins since my last confession.

The time of actual prayer, detailed and intimate, contains a number of declarations. There are no questions or requests. It is Jesus speaking the will of God. He already knows the will of God, but He speaks it to invoke it, to make it happen. His prayers are not, “Would you please?” They are more like “Make it so.”

This “High Priestly Prayer,” as it is called, is an example to us. After all, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (1 Peter 2:9). We are here to declare God’s word, to make it so. Let us seek to know how the kingdom works in heaven, so we can invoke it here.