Downtown Montpelier, Vermont
Monday, 21 November 2022
Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. Acts 12:5
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
The previous verse referred to the arrest and incarceration of Peter, noting that it was intended that he should be brought forth before the people after the Passover. With that noted, it now says, “Peter was therefore kept in prison.”
An important conjunction is missing from the translation. Also, there is a necessary article before prison. It more appropriately reads, “Peter, therefore, indeed, was kept in the prison” (YLT).
As this was noted to be “during the Days of Unleavened Bread” (Acts 12:3), it could be that he was actually seized before the Passover, and the inserted word “during” would mean that it is that general timeframe, or it could be that it was on some day during the feast. As such, it could be from a couple of days to more than a week that Peter was held. Luke does not provide the specifics on this. Regardless of the duration, Luke next notes the attention of those in the church concerning his situation, saying, “but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.”
The words are very poorly translated. The word translated as “constant prayer” is an adverb that means “fervently.” The idea of continuance comes from an imperfect verb and a present participle. Thus, the entire thought should read, “and fervent prayer was being made by the assembly unto God for him” (YLT).
The sense is that the church was literally pouring out its heart in a continuous fashion for Peter. There were probably shifts of people that came together and wholeheartedly sought the face of the Lord for his deliverance. It is a beautiful note of the unity of the assembly and of the love they possessed for Peter. It also reveals that the church had no design to go in and bust Peter out of the pokey.
Rather, they prayed for the Lord’s hand to intercede in whatever fashion He determined, be it a miraculous release as had occurred in the past or to soften the heart of Herod and bring about a change in his designs. This fits well with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:9-11 –
“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, 11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.”
Life application: The Bible always exalts the power of prayer, even if not all prayers are answered in the manner of the one who is praying. It is certain that God already knows exactly what is going to happen regarding whatever matter is lifted up to Him, but it still asks us to pray. Further, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1 (above) clearly indicate that he believed that prayers change the outcome of events.
How can this be if God already knows the outcome? The answer is that He factors in the prayers of His people. Even if He already knows who will pray and who will not. This is not contradictory at all. He knows, we do not. An unspoken prayer is a prayer that will not be responded to. A spoken prayer will be responded to according to His will. And the outcome will be as God designed by taking the entire process according to His eternal counsel.
And this is the same thing as the salvation of an individual. Despite the Calvinist doctrine that God must regenerate a person in order to believe (which is nonsense) a person who does not have faith in God’s provision will not be saved. A person who does will be. Just as there is nothing contradictory in praying in order to affect God’s will, there is nothing contradictory in believing and being saved.
And yet, the same people who deny free will in salvation will pray for the lost, they will pray for healing, they will pray for blessing and favor, and they will pray for the other desires of their hearts. That… that is contradictory thinking.
We must act, both in believing God unto salvation and in praying to God for what we desire. And so, act!
O God, we are grateful to You for hearing our prayers and for responding according to Your infinite wisdom. How unimaginable it is that You would hear our prayers and respond to the faith we possess! You have all power and all knowledge. You are infinitely glorious. And yet You would look upon us and care for what we desire and attend to our faith. How truly great You are, O God. Amen.