“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5)
“And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.” (Acts 12:13)
God gave something beautiful to the body of believers. It’s called ‘intercessory prayer’. The Holy Ghost speaks to us of this kind of prayer in James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Sometimes I have issues praying for myself- for healing, for wisdom, or whatever it may be. (I think this is common to more Christians.) This can be for various reasons, one of the big ones being ‘baggage’ that we carry- things (past or present) which come up in our minds as a hindrance to prayer. But it’s interesting that when I pray for others, the baggage doesn’t seem to be there. And my prayers for others I notice are more effective!
Well, this has its negative side. But the positive side is: the Body of Christ has members which are powerful in working together for the overall good of the Body. No man is an island. Especially not a Christian man/woman. I love to think of Peter sleeping calmly in prison that night before he was to be killed. Well, why not? Jesus is in heaven and maybe he’ll get to go to Him tomorrow! And if not, that’s okay, there’s a lot of work to be done on the earth yet. Let God choose what’s best…
With the church, however, it was a different story. They’d just lost James, and now Peter’s going to be taken too? No, Lord, that’s not going to be good. We love Peter! We need him here! The church is just rising, and Peter is one of our main leaders. No, Lord, let this not be. “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.”
Not every member of the church had faith that God would release Peter, but some did. We know this from what happened after the angel led Peter out of the prison. He knocked on Mary’s door in the middle of that night. There were many people in the house praying, it’s true; but only one had her ears wide open. She was listening for a knock at the door. She knew it was coming. She KNEW. And it came, and it was Peter. No surprise to he, though the others refused to believe it. Now that’s intercessory prayer: praying while listening for that knock at the door.
Five or six years ago I had a cousin, aged about 40, lying at the point of death. He was diabetic, and had fallen into a coma (he stayed in the coma for about two weeks.) His leg was full of gangrene, and had to be removed. The doctors did not expect him to live. But his life was not dependent on what the doctors thought. Earnestly I went into prayer for him. First of all, for the surgery. Now, doctors and nurses are human. They get tired, they make mistakes, they give up too soon, etc. etc. So one of my main prayers was that God would strengthen the doctors and nurses, and give them courage and wisdom. Len got through the first lengthy surgery, but when the surgeon saw the results, he wasn’t satisfied. A second surgery followed, and after this surgery the surgeon felt there was hope.
Later on I heard the ‘behind the scenes’ story: by the end of the first surgery, the surgeon had worked 18 hours, and was exhausted. He checked the wound, and became very discouraged. A second surgery was needed, but how would he be able to do it? He had no strength to start another four- to six-hour surgery. But if he didn’t, Len would die. Now the surgeon didn’t tell this part, but God stepped in here. He gave the courage, He gave the strength, in Jesus’ name. And Len lived. But I want to tell one more thing. As Len was lying there for two weeks, I was in intercession for his soul also. And once, I was singing a song: “Needy and sorrowful, to Thee I cry…” And then God came in my heart, and assured me that not only was I crying for Len, but Len was at that very moment crying for his own salvation. Oh, thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Len never told us that part. But he did tell us that while everyone thought he was in a coma, unconscious, he was actually wide awake the whole time. He heard them talking about removing his leg. He heard everything. His family couldn’t believe that afterward, but it was no surprise to me. He had to be awake, to call on the Lord.
This incident is a testimony to the power of intercessory prayer. A little girl in the Bible named Rhoda could teach us more. She knew all about the power of it, while the adults in the room did not. One day soon we can chat with her about it, and hear all the beautiful details.