Maybe you had seen the 1960’s television show Hogan’s Heroes? Colonel Hogan was the leader of a group of POW’s in a German prison during word war II. The show is comic and reveals how many times the POWs are able to spy on the Germans in order to get information to the American and allied forces. As all of you know being a prisoner is never that comic.
In reality Senator John McCain was a Vietnam prisoner for about 10 years. Also, in World War II there were many POWs in German Stalags. In my research, I read of a US Army Air Core pilot who was flying back to England and hit some flack. He crashed in Germany and was placed in a stalag. He was eventually released (probably after the war); however, he was never able to see the men he was on the bomber with again.
In the Bible there is one comic story of Peter, the Apostle, being miraculously released from prison. Let’s read Acts 12:5-19 and then I will show you that God answers prayer and we serve and amazing God who is not limited. We will see the power of communal prayer.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 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. 7 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.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 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. 10 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.
11 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.”
12 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. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.17 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.
18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.19 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.
Let’s talk about this passage:
- First, God hears our prayers (verses 6-19)
- In verse 5 we heard the people were praying.
- In verse 6 we see that Peter was asleep
- Would you be asleep in a prison?
- He is asleep between two soldiers. There were more soldiers guarding the doors and he is asleep. Not to mention that the prisons were probably not that comfortable.
- It was normal back then to have your right hand chained to a soldier’s left hand; however, it appears that Peter was chained on both sides to a soldier.
- Peter could be content because he knew the Scriptures and followed them: Peter was content with the situation. He had faith and knew everything was going to be okay. This could be because he knew that he would die an old man, (John 21:18-19) or he was just not anxious. (Phil. 4:11)
- Peter knew other principles: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for Thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8). Or, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness” (Isa. 41:10).
- Peter wouldn’t be asleep for long:
- In verse 7 a light shines in, Peter is still asleep; however, now the guards are asleep too (ha ha ha). Note, these are Romans guards. These are the best of the best and they are asleep!
- An Angel comes in and knocks him to wake him.
- The chains just fell off. Imagine that. How neat is that? Imagine being in a dark, dirty prison and now it is all lit up by an angel and your chains fall off?
- The angel tells him to put on his sandals and cloak.
- One of my sources suggested that Peter may have always thought of this every time he laced his sandals and put on his cloak.
- Wow! What a thought, but, think about this, this is a life altering, life changing experience. Would you forget it? An angel wakes him up.
- In the next few verses we see that Peter thought this was a dream. He didn’t think it was real. They got up went through some gates including the one that went into the city. The gate opened by itself and then the angel departed. The gate simply opened by itself. Realize that garage door openers and gate openers were not sold at Lowe’s in their day. This was God’s doing and this is amazing. The angel just disappeared. Puff, gone.
- In verse 11 Peter realizes this is real. Peter had been thinking this was a dream the whole time. Peter did not think that this was real.
- I find that somewhat interesting. Peter witnessed the resurrection. He witnessed all the miracles of the resurrection. Remember Acts chapter 10, he witnessed that vision, but he did not think this was real. Now, he could have thought this was simply another vision of what God wanted him to do. But he did not think it was real.
- In verses 12-17 Peter goes to the house of Mary the mother of John Mark. This is the house where they were praying for Peter’s release. I love this part.
- Peter knocks on the door
- A servant girl name Rhoda came to answer, she hears Peters voice and before she lets him in she goes and tells the people he is there. They don’t believe her. However, she insists. They then say it is his angel. Peter keeps knocking and eventually they let him in.
- Peter tells them what happens and to tell James and the rest.
- They were praying for his release and when he shows up they do not believe it is him.
- Do we ever pray for something and not believe God is going to follow through?
- Peter knocks on the door
- The story ends with Peter going to another place and Herod killing the guards.
Unfortunately, all prisoners of war do not get an escape like that. But, wait, was Peter a prisoner of war? Yes! He was. We are all in a spiritual war with the devil. They prayed and God answered that prayer. We need to always pray about all things. We need not be surprised when God answers. Pray for God’s will and expect God’s will to come through. Also, remember there are many Christians right now being martyred for their faith. Pray for them.
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)