Acts 12:1-11 Prayer Changes Things.
Herod the king soon harassed and persecuted the church, including the killing of John’s brother James, the sons of Zebedee (Cf. Mt. 4:21). Their mother indeed prayed that they might have a prominent place in Christ’s kingdom, but surely she did not imagine through this end (Cf. Mt. 20:20-28). Herod was a political pragmatist. “And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also” (v. 3a). The greatest opposition faced by the early apostolic Church was from apostate Judaism, out of convenience in league with the godless Roman Empire. On the occasion of yet another Passover, Herod has Peter thrown into prison, delivering “him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after the Passover” (vv. 3b-4). Of course, the Passover was one of three feasts when the men were to appear before the LORD in the house of the LORD, for a time of covenant renewal (Cf. Ex. 23:14-19; 34:10-28). It was fitting that this was the time, as Peter represented this time of New Covenant renewal and old covenant lawsuit against an apostate Judaism which crucified the Son of God.
Jesus had told Peter that he would die as a martyr, but that time was not yet to be (Jn. 20:15-19). Peter still had more work to do. Even though he was kept in prison, the church prayed for him constantly, and in the nick of time, he was delivered to them (vv. 6-8). It is so often in the last hour that we see our prayers answered, just when we think we may be doomed to a tragic end. But God has a way of making a way when there seems to be no way. He predestines the means, in this case prayer, as well as the end-Peter’s deliverance. In fact, at the time of the angel’s appearance Peter was sound asleep, but the church was not asleep-they were praying. Like the people of God of old, he followed the angel who lead him (v. 9 Cf. Ex. 23:20ff). We should note that in Peter’s case, the angel only lead him as far as needed, and only then did Peter wake up to the realization that the Lord had indeed delivered him (vv. 10-11). This wasn’t the first time this happened to Peter (Cf. 5:17-32; Ps. 34:7), so when he had finally “come to himself” he knew that the Lord had delivered him and was leading him to a new place.