Praying for the Good of Others

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Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Note Acts 1:14 demonstrates that it is important to pray together and be praying for the same things, in the same way. That is to be of one accord, or in agreement.

Read Acts 12:1-18 This is the story of Peter’s rescue by the angel of the Lord from prison.  A good illustration of the power of group prayer in one accord.  This is an amazing story.  Peter is rescued, and then he goes to the door of the house of his fellow Christians and the woman is so shocked and happy that she doesn’t even open  the door!  She leaves him standing there so that she can go and tell everyone else who had been praying for him! They actually suggest it is his ghost! You can just see this in your minds eye, can’t you?!

This group of people were praying for him and God answer their prayer promptly…so promptly that they could hardly believe it.  Peter went to let them know he was safe and make sure they passed the information on to others, but then he left.  We go a bit further down and see that Herod was very unhappy about this situation and was probably looking for Peter.  He really wanted to execute him.

You can contrast this story to the one of Paul and Silas being in prison and having an earthquake hit.  (Acts 16:16-40) They didn’t leave, but Peter actually thought he was having a dream, but was in fact being rescued by an angel.  Similar situations, but God handled them differently.  In the case of Paul, he and his companion were there to facilitate the salvation of the Jailer and his family, and their fellow prisoners.  Also they were not being held by King Herod and not under threat of death, God did not have to effect a miraculous rescue for them.  Now that jailer was going to kill himself if Paul and Silas and the other prisoners had escaped, but it wasn’t necessary. The Roman penalty for a jailer who let their prisoners escape was that they had to suffer the harshest penalty of the prisoners they were holding…for ex. if someone in their group of prisoners was sentenced to death, then they would be taking the place of that person if the prisoner escaped.

Peter’s death was eminent if he had not been rescued by the angel.  God was not done with Peter, and there were a lot of people praying for Peter’s well being.  In Paul’s case his and Silas’ arrest was less serious, and Paul had a way out because of his Roman citizenship (though it was not known at the time of the decision to release them).  Paul and Silas also went to visit someone before they left town…people who were probably concerned and praying for Paul and Silas also.

One thing you can bet on in both of these situations is that God knew what situation his people were in, and was keeping and eye on it.  Things went the way that God planned.  Peter escaped and went on about the Lord’s work, and Paul and Silas did the Lord’s work while in jail, and when they were released they also went on about the Lord’s work continuously….preaching the Kingdom is here to everyone they met!  The power of group prayer cannot be underrated.  Many times when we pray for someone we tend to pray in a very specific and limiting way.  Recently, it was brought to my attention through study in a group that we should actually be praying for God’s blessings to shower down into their life..that they have the fullness of all of God’s blessings!

If you think about it…having the fullness of all of God’s blessings is that they have the most “life” in their life…they would be in line with God’s plan for them, and would be a disciple of Christ who is busy making other disciples of Christ…that is what Peter and Paul and Silas and all of the other Disciples of the Lord did for the remainder of their lives….they preached the Kingdom and made Disciples who preached the Kingdom and made more Disciples…isn’t that the greatest blessing…to know that you have been an able participant in the Kingdom of Heaven and bringing others into the Kingdom also?

IMG_0089Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison

Acts Chapter 12:1-16 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”

12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”

15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.

18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

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God knows you where ever you are

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This is a prison cell in the Doge’s Palace in Venice Italy.  I imagine that it is similar to the type of cell that Paul and Silas would have been imprisoned in, but without the electric lighting.  Probably without even torches to light it.  Truthfully, this cell is probably nicer as it wasn’t built until the 1400’s.

 

Revelation 2:13 I know where you live – where Satan has his throne.  Yet you remain true to my name.  You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.

God will recognize you by faith even when your surroundings are evil. 

Read Acts 16:25-40 This is the story of Paul and Silas’ in prison.

Paul and Silas were in prison when an earthquake struck and rather than leave, they stayed and witnessed to the jailer and the other prisoners, converting many; the next day, God arranged their release.  God knew them even in jail.   They remembered their Godly purpose even in their unpleasant surroundings.

Sometimes when bad things happen to us we will feel alone.  It is easy to think that there is no one who understands us, and that the world is against us.  At times like that it is more important than ever to remember that God is with you, and he can pick you out of a crowd, or find you lost in a forest, or on a lonely mountain top.  God is expecting you to remember him, and continue to act in faith even when you are unsure of it doing any visible good.  That is why it is called an “act” of faith because you don’t always “feel” faithful.  Steadfast faith is a decision to continue in your faith no matter how you feel.  In the story above we all ask, “Why didn’t Paul and Silas leave when they could?”  Most of us would have run as soon as the door opened.  Apparently, they believed that the jailer and the prisoners were an opportunity to share God’s word and they didn’t want to pass it up.  They were so in connection to the Holy Spirit through their faith that they knew that this was what they were supposed to do.  By this “act” of faith on the part of Paul and Silas the jailer and many prisoners were able to hear the message of salvation and embrace it to become true believers.  God for his part knew Paul and Silas’ situation, and also knew the situation of the jailer and the other prisoners.  It was all part of God’s plan for their salvation. He let Paul and Silas’ experience the joy that God himself feels when a sinner is saved, by letting them participate in the salvation of those people.  Once his plan was fulfilled he arranged for Paul and Silas’ release from the prison.

Sometimes in the midst of bad things that happen in life, there is an opportunity to serve God, but it requires an “act” of faith to recognize that opportunity.

Ephesians 6:16 (KJV) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.