A Praying Church
Luke speaks much in Acts about two things: martyrdom and prayer. We see both in this short passage. This Herod is Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, who was king over Judea and later all of Palestine. We see here that he was no better than his butchering grandfather, taking the life of a disciple, indeed, an apostle, for no reason but to please the Jews; that is, for political expediency. And when he saw that his political aims bore fruit, he then laid hands on Peter and cast him into prison. No doubt, he would have made short work of Peter as well had it not been the days of Passover and Unleavened Bread when executions were frowned upon, unless your name happened to be Jesus of Nazareth, that is. James is the first apostle we know of that was martyred. I must believe that he had come a long way from that presumptuous disciple who, when asked by Jesus if he could drink the cup which he would drink and be baptized as he would be baptized, had the cheek to say to Jesus that he was able (Matthew 20:20-23; Mark 10:35-40). Like the other disciples, he ran away on that horrible night. But now, he is able and dies manfully, trusting in his Lord and Savior. James was the first of the apostles to be baptized in blood, and as we know especially in our own day, was certainly not the last disciple to be so baptized. He did drink from that cup, as Jesus said he would.
So Peter was in prison awaiting his turn. But something was happening while he was there. The Scripture says that “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” With those words, the curtain falls and we await the next scene with great anticipation. We know something is going to happen. Why? Because the church is praying. We already witnessed the house shaking the last time the church gathered for prayer over the threat of persecution (4:24-31); we know the power that resided in that New Testament church when they met for prayer. And why should it be any different for us? He is the same God; believers are still persecuted; and we can still pray. I do not say that every time a church prays that a believer will be spared the sword; God sometimes wills that the blood of the martyrs become seed for the Church. Perhaps God answers those prayers by giving that believer courage in the hour of trial or alleviating the pain of torture. But there is no reason that we cannot have the same power as those early Christians if we will only make “earnest prayer,” prayer that sweats drops of blood, that weeps bitter tears, that prays as if we were there with them (Hebrews 13:3). One day, we might be, and we shall want the Church of Jesus Christ making earnest prayer for us to God.