Although it may not seem like it on the surface, a careful examination of ACTS 12, reveals to us a very interesting crossroads for the early Christians. Up until this point, the church has just exploded in size and popularity with the only casualty being Stephen. However, now it seems like the tables have turned on the disciples. Herod had begun to exercise some of his power and might in being violent towards the early Christians and had killed James with the sword. This was a huge hit to the Apostles. James was part of the inner circle with Peter and John and had been a part of the Jesus movement from the beginning. Not only was the death of James disturbing news, but that the news of his death had pleased the Jews. If that isn’t enough bad news for the early church, Peter has also been arrested and Herod had planned to have him executed after Passover. The future of the Disciples and the early church now seems to be in question. Considering these recent events, the disciples gather at the home of Mary (John Mark’s Mother) and continued to have “earnest prayer” to God for him. Not only does this passage provide for us a Scriptural example of an organized “Special Prayer Service”, it also gives us an example of God continuing to work even during the worst of the worst of times.
We all know that the Bible teaches us that we should “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5.17), yet when everything seems to be going our way, it is easier for us to forget pray. Prayer is something that we seem to focus on only after we have exhausted all other options. Yet in this passage, prayer seems to be the first thing that they do. It is also interesting to note the speed in which God answers their prayer; God answers their prayers while they are still praying. After the angel of the Lord breaks Peter out of the prison, he tries to attend his own prayer service. Maybe there is a lesson in that for us. By making prayer a priority instead of a last resort, God might be more likely to answer our prayers.