Many people today are trapped in spiritual, mental and emotional prisons. But just as Peter found freedom from his physical prison through passionate prayer, people today can be set free, too. Let’s look at the story of Peter in prison and glean some principles from his experience to help us find freedom in our lives.
“And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.” (Acts 12:6-11).
I find it amazing that Peter was able to sleep while he was in prison. James had just been executed, and Peter was next. He knew that it was game over, sayonara, hasta la vista baby. This was the end of the line for Peter, and what was he doing? He wasn’t sitting up worrying and fretting. No, he was sleeping! How could he do that, literally chained between two soldiers in the prison? How was he able to maintain his peace? Maybe Peter knew something that we often forget. He knew that even though he was in prison, God was still seated on the throne, and God was still in control. Because of that, he was able to rest peacefully. Lord, may we all have the same faith and confidence in You that Peter had!
1. Passionate prayer can bring light into the darkest situations.
“A light shone in the prison… and he said, Arise quickly!” (Acts 12:7).
Peter was in a dark prison, bound not just to one guard, but to two guards. A total of four squadrons were watching over him, and with four soldiers in a squadron, that meant there were a total of sixteen solders on the watch that night. The prison was locked and the iron gates were locked. Peter wasn’t going anywhere. But passionate prayer can bring light into the darkest situations. In the midst of Peter’s prison experience, a bright light penetrated the darkness, and an angel said, “Arise!”
Life gets hard sometimes. We go through dark valleys, difficult trials, and terrible storms in our lives, but there is always hope. When we’re in the pit of despair; we’re trapped, and we can’t go anywhere, God steps in and says, “Are you sick of being stuck in that rut? Are you tired of being bound by those negative habits? Do you want to be set free?” That’s the heart of our Father God.
See how the prophet Micah declared his confidence in God’s prayer-answering, delivering power: “Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:7-8).
King David also had an unshakeable confidence in His God: “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth– Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3).
2. Passionate prayer can set you free from bondages, worries and fears.
“Peter was bound with two chains between two soldiers… And his chains fell off his hands.” (Acts 12:6-7).
Many people in the world today are bound in prisons of worries, fears, anxieties, despair, hopelessness, addictions and compulsions. The Lord wants to set them free. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36). If you are caught in a trap that you can’t get free of, call out to Jesus to set you free. Here is the story of a man who did just that, and found freedom in Jesus:
“So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the land of the Gerasenes.Just as Jesus was climbing from the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit ran out from a cemetery to meet him. This man lived among the tombs and could not be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles – as he often was – he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to control him. All day long and throughout the night, he would wander among the tombs and in the hills, screaming and hitting himself with stones. When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him. He ran to meet Jesus and fell down before him.” (Mark 5:1-6, nlt).
This man was in a terrible condition, and yet it wasn’t too difficult for Jesus the Deliverer to handle! After Jesus set this man free, He said, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” (Mark 5:19, nlt).
3. Passionate prayer will give you joy.
“So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.” (Acts 12:12-15).
No joy compares to when God suddenly turns a dark, difficult and hopeless situation around. When God steps in and does what only God can do, there is joy – not just because our needs have been met – but we are reminded once again that there is a God who loves us and cares for us. See the connection that Jesus makes between answered prayer and joy: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you willask what you desire, and it shall be done for you… These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:7,11).
4. Passionate prayer brings results even when we sometimes doubt.
“Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.” (Acts 12:16).
The story of Peter’s deliverance is an amazing but sad commentary on this supernatural church. They had experienced signs and wonders, healings and miracles, but they didn’t believe it when God answered their prayers. They had been constantly praying passionate prayers for the Lord to deliver Peter, and when Peter showed up on their doorstep, they were amazed. Let this story encourage us today when we may struggle with doubt in our own lives.
Sometimes people don’t pray because they think that they don’t have enough faith. However, when Jesus taught about faith, His emphasis wasn’t on the size of your faith, but on the bigness of the Lord. Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20). Jesus says that even if our faith is small, if we pray, we will move mountains. So pray! Little faith + big God = astonishing miracles!
Jesus’ Keys to Answered Prayer:
“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.” (Matthew 7:7-8, nlt). Jesus has promised to answer our prayers if we would simply ask.
“Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.” (Mark 10:46-47, 51-52). Bartimaeus was praying a general prayer, “Have mercy on me,” and Jesus asked him to be specific. When Bartimaeus asked Jesus specifically to heal his blindness, Jesus healed him.
Ask in Faith:
“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24). We need to ask in faith if we want God to answer our prayers.
Walk in Love and Forgiveness:
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25). If we refuse to walk in love and forgiveness towards others, God won’t answer our prayers.
Pray Together with Other Christians:
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20). There is power in the prayer of agreement.
Pray in Jesus’ Name:
“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24).
Abide in Jesus and in His Word:
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7).
Walk in Obedience:
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16).
Pray According to God’s Will – His Word:
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1John 5:14-15).
Pray with Fasting:
“Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” “You didn’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. But this kind of demon won‘t leave unless you‘ve prayed and fasted.” (Matthew 17:19-21, nlt).
May the words to this familiar old hymn inspire you to always pray passionate prayers.
What a Friend we Have in Jesus:
(Written by Joseph M. Scriven)
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, You have promised You will all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to You in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.
Pastor Chris Jordan