In Acts 12, Herod goes on a killing spree. Well, he tries to go on a killing spree. He kills James, and the people are so excited that (being the good politician that he is) Herod decides to please the people even more by killing Peter, too. So, he threw Peter into prison to await execution in the morning.
Meanwhile, the church prayed. We don’t know exactly what the church prayed, but we know that they prayed earnestly.
How do we know? Well, Luke tells us:
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5 ESV)
We find out later that God miraculously frees Peter from prison by sending an angel to open the gates and remove the chains.
Peter immediately goes to Mary’s house. (Mary is the mother of John Mark.) When the servant tells the people (who are praying for Peter) that Peter is at the door, they don’t believe her! They would easier believe that Peter’s ghost (or angel or messenger?) is at the door than that Peter himself was at the door.
And when he [Peter] knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. (Acts 12:13-16 ESV)
I love these honest pictures of the early church. (Much like we saw in Acts 5.) These people were earnestly praying, but really didn’t think Peter was going to get out of this mess. They really didn’t believe that God was going to answer their prayer.
We find out something else interesting at the end of this chapter:
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark. (Acts 12:25 ESV)
You see, while all this was going on, Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were in Jerusalem. They had come down from Antioch earlier in order to help the church there during a time of famine. (See Acts 11:28-30.)
Apparently, Barnabas and Saul became acquainted with John Mark while they were in Jerusalem. I wonder if they were at John Mark’s house that night… praying for Peter…