Acts 12:1-3,5; "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also....Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him."
Luke 18:1; "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
Prayer is a command and calling of God. The Lord Jesus Christ specifically mentioned that His house is to be the house of prayer: “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer...” (Matthew 21:13). The word "house" in Greek is the word "oikos", and it also means “family”. In essence, the Lord was stating that His family was to be a family of prayer. If you are born again, then you form part of the family of God, and prayer is your calling. It is not just for the professional intercessors but everybody has a calling to pray.
So what exactly is prayer?
▪ First and foremost, prayer is communion with God. It is the spirit of man communing and fellowshipping with God, who is the Father of all spirits.
▪ Essentially, prayer is spirit to Spirit communion, and there is tremendous power in it.
Acts 12:1-5: "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter there- fore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him."
The word 'vex' means “to hurt and harm”. According to the apostle Paul, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, and wicked spirits (see Eph. 6:12). In Acts 12, satan was behind the scene; he was the puppet master, and Herod was the puppet on a string. This act of violence was more than just Herod doing a popular thing against believers and more than just a haphazard attack of the enemy. This was a calculated and pre-meditated act of satan to destroy the Church. Notice that three specific names are mentioned in this event—Peter, James, and John. There is nothing in the Word by accident! Every word and name has a purpose and meaning. Why are their names mentioned? Of what significance is it that these three names are mentioned?
Galatians 2:9; "And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars…"
This was Paul’s testimony of the three mentioned names. Paul saw them as pillars in the church, and pillars hold up the building. If you remove the pillars, then the building collapses. This is an even clearer picture of the attack that came against the early Church.
PLAN, PURPOSE, AND PROCEDURE
In killing James, Herod removed one pillar; and in going after Peter, he was endeavoring to remove another pillar. Satan was after the destruction of the Church. He had a devious plan with the purpose of destroying the very existence of the Church and had a procedure to get it done. Now, we know the James who is mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Galatians was the brother of our Lord, and the one beheaded was the brother of John. Nonetheless, we could agree that the son of Zebedee was also a pillar—as his brother John before his decapitation. Remove the pillars and I can destroy the church, satan thought. However, look at the way the early Church responded to an onslaught against them:
Acts 12:5; "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him."
Through unceasing prayer, the church stopped the assignment of the devil and his onslaught of attacks. Prayer raised the wall of defense against future attacks of satan. Prayer means “to make an intervention”
To pray means to intervene. What does it mean to intervene?
- To come in between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.
- Act of stepping in the middle to stop an oncoming attack.
Prayer is divine intervention
My Younger Brother Bruno
I have two younger brothers—Bruno and James. Today, all three of us are in the ministry and all three of us are pastors. However, there was a time when we were heathens, and then there was a time when we got saved but were still carnal believers. With three boys in the house, there were some major fights while we were growing up. James is five years younger than I, so he was easy to handle and slap around when we were kids, but Bruno was a little more complicated and a lit- tle more than I could handle. He is only one year younger and bigger than I am. With a name like Bruno, I had problems on my hands.
I will never forget the time during our teen years when Bruno bought new Puma sneakers with money he earned at his part-time job. I did not have a job, but I wanted new sneakers—his new sneakers. He had hidden them under his bed, but on a Saturday while he was at work, I decided to take his new Puma sneakers and go out, thinking that I would put them back under the bed before he returned home. Well! That didn’t go quite as I planned, as he got home before I did. When I walked into the kitchen, there he was. Now, there is one interesting fact to note about my brother. When he was younger, when he got angry or tired, one of his eyes went cockeyed. As I opened the kitchen door, Bruno stood and his eye caught what I was wearing.
I am so busted, I thought. His one cockeye was working overtime, zooming left and right like the red light on Kitt the Knight Rider car. He started to interrogate me, and before I could answer he punched me. Having quick reflex, I swerved. Nonetheless, he caught my left ear, and as I swerved, my right ear hit the kitchen door that was ajar. I ducked down and held both ears as I didn’t know which ears to hold. They both hurt at the same time. Then I felt heat pass by my face. I was angry.
I thought to myself, Today one of us is going to die; this kitchen is not big enough for us. I mustered all my strength and focused it in my left fist, as I am left handed. I was thinking to myself, I’m going to lay hands on you and you will not recover! I was ready to launch my attack, and just when I was about to make contact with my brother’s eye, my mother intervened. She stepped in the middle of us two. As quickly as my fist was heading toward his face, I pulled back. I knew if I had hit my mother, then my father would have killed me. My mother stepped in the middle to stop an oncoming attack. She stepped in the middle to alter the course of events.That is intervention! That is what happens when you pray. Satan may be advancing against you ready to knock you out, but if you pray, God will step in the middle, stop the attack, and alter the course of events. Are you willing to pay the price to pray? Are you willing to raise the pillar of prayer? Are you willing to stop the attacks of the devil? Pray and God will intervene.
The choice is yours. If you are praying already, pray more. When William Seymour met with John G. Lake in a Chicago hotel room prior to the Azusa outpouring, he told him he had been praying for five hours a day. Seymour told John G. Lake what the Spirit told him when he asked, “What else must I do to experience revival?” The Holy Spirit replied, “Pray more!” God had led this man into a deep life of prayer, assigning five hours every day for prayer. This prayer life continued for over three years. As he was praying one day, the Holy Ghost said to him, “There are better things to be had in the spiritual life, but they must be sought out with faith and prayer.” After this instruction, William Seymour increased his hours of prayer to seven hours and continued to pray in the same vein for two years. And the rest is his- tory. John Wesley also said, “It seems God doesn’t do anything unless we pray.”
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).
The excuses for lacking spiritual growth are many, but the reason is simply that lack of prayer equals lack of power.
Learn more about how to travail and win in prayer. Order the dvd series, 'Travailing Prayer'