Lesson 9

Powerful Pray-ers

(Acts 12)
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Introduction: We had a great time last quarter when all of our lessons were on the topic of prayer! This week our lesson turns again to this topic. Since studying prayer is such a blessing, we will assume our lesson authors are looking for more blessings for us and not suffering from forgetfulness! With that mind-set let's dive into our study!



  1. The Arrest


    1. Read Acts 12:1-3. What kind of time was this for the early church?


      1. Why was Peter arrested? Because he had violated the law? (It seems Herod was a politician who decided what to do not based on the law, but what was popular at the moment.)
      2. Who is this James who was killed? (He is one of the twelve disciples, one of the "sons of thunder." (Mark 3:17) One who was involved with Peter and James in Jesus' transfiguration. ( Mark 9:1-8) He was one of Jesus' closest associates on earth.)


      3. We know why Herod would want to kill James, why would the Jews care about killing James? (This shows that Christianity had not died with Jesus. Rather, it was still considered a serious threat to Jewish authority.)


        1. There are lots of religions in the world. Why would the Jews care about this new one? (This was not just "any" religion. It was one which proclaimed the Jewish Messiah had come and the Jews failed to recognize Him. Worse, the leaders considered Him an enemy and killed Him.)


      4. If you were Peter, what would you be thinking as you were arrested? (Jesus, James ... Peter?)




    2. Read Acts 12:4. Why were so many men guarding Peter? (Herod must have thought that he was in danger of getting away. One commentary explained that they had four shifts of four soldiers guarding him.)


      1. Was Herod afraid of the supernatural?


      2. Why would Herod want a public trial? (This whole thing was to boost his popularity.)


  2. The Prayers


    1. Read Acts 12:5. Why were so many people praying for Peter? (They were no doubt afraid he would be killed.)


      1. The text says they were "earnestly" praying to God. Would you say your prayers are earnest? Or, are they pretty much the same every time -- said without much thought?


      2. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who did not seem to be paying attention to you? How did you like that? Is that the way you treat God in the majority of your prayers?


  3. The Rescue


    1. Read Acts 12:6-7. We see that Peter is not only in prison, but he is also chained to his captors! Notice two things about the timing in these verses. First, Peter is sleeping the night before his trial. What does this tell you about Peter's faith?


      1. Why wasn't Peter up earnestly praying? Or, worrying? Or, doing something during the last hours of his life?


      2. Second, the angel rescued Peter the night before the trial? Why wait so long? Is God a procrastinator? What is going on?


      3. What do you think about the "bed side" manner of this angel? He comes at the last minute, hits you on the side to wake you up (whatever happened to soft singing?) and then tells you "Quick, get up?" Sounds like the army, right? Since the angel was there, why did they have to be quick?


    2. Read Acts 12:8-9. Consider what the angel is saying to Peter and what he said in verse 7. What would you guess is Peter's state of mind? (It seems obvious he is very sleepy. Hitting him on the side seems to show he was hard to awaken. Telling him "Quick, get up" sounds like he was moving slowing. Telling him to put on his clothes and his shoes and fasten his coat all sound like instructions to a child. Peter must have been "out of it.")


      1. Verse 9 tells us that Peter thought he was dreaming. Does this reflect the state of his mind or the state of his faith? (I do not think Peter questioned God's ability to rescue him. This reflects his state of mind.)


    3. Read Acts 12:10. When you get to heaven, what kind of power will you have? Will you need electric garage door openers? Will you need a garage?


      1. Consider the angel's actions. He came late and left early (after one street). Why? Does this prove God is our Father and not our Mother? (This is the way I think of a father - helps you out of the tough spots and then puts you back on your feet until the next time you get in trouble.)


    4. Read Acts 12:11-12. Here is the proof that Peter was "out of it." It says he "came to his senses" outside the prison. Since the guards never "came to their senses" while the angel and Peter were leaving, do you think the angel had some sort of "stunning" presence (see Matthew 28:4)rather than Peter just being a sleepy head?


      1. What does this text reveal that Peter thought might be his future? (It doesn't tell us Peter's view, but it suggests Peter thought that the Jewish leaders were anticipating his death.)


      2. When it dawns on Peter that he is free, and he has escaped being killed, he goes to the house of John Mark. We were told earlier that the people were "earnestly" praying. Does this prove it? (They are at least putting in the hours -- they are praying late at night!)


  4. The "Pray-ers"


    1. Read Acts 12:13-16. There are three reactions here of those who are praying. The girl's reaction of belief and joy, the "earnest pray-ers" reaction that it is nuts to believe their prayers have been answered and the reaction that this must be Peter's angel. Which reaction is the best?


      1. The last time I was with you I preached the Mothers' Day sermon. In it I mentioned Zechariah and the visit from Gabriel. ( Luke 1:8-17) Do you remember what Zechariah had been praying about? (He was praying for a son. ( Luke 1:13)) Do you recall that when Gabriel told him his prayer had been answered he exclaimed, "How do I now you aren't lying?" ( Luke 1:18) Why do you think people react like this to answered earnest prayer?


        1. How much faith did the pray-ers have who declared Rhoda (the young girl) nuts?


      2. Why would they think the "person" at the door was Peter's angel? ( Matthew 18:10 records a statement by Jesus about children that suggests they have a specific guardian angel. Barnes says the Jews had a common belief that each individual had assigned to him at birth an angel whose job it was to guard and defend him through life. Barnes suggests that apparently this group thought that Peter's guardian angel had assumed Peter's voice and manner!)


    2. Read Acts 12:17. Was there a commotion among those who had been praying for Peter? (Yes!)


      1. Why do you think Peter told them to be quiet? (He wanted to speak to them. However, I think the main reason was he did not want them to attract attention to him. He left that home right away which suggests that he thought it was better to stay on the move.)


      2. Notice that Peter gives them a message for "James and the brothers." Why? (This James is the brother of Jesus and one of the leaders ( Galatians 2:9), if not the leader, of the early church. (See Acts 21:18) Peter thus shows a concern for the church organization. He wants the leaders to know he is OK.)


    1. Read Acts 12:18-19. How do you explain that the prayers for Peter's life got 16 other men killed? (God saved Peter. Herod killed the 16.)


      1. It says Herod cross-examined these soldiers. What believable story would you tell if you were one of them?


    2. Let's consider the irony of this story for just a moment. The fellow who is scheduled to die the next day is not praying, he is sleeping. The people who are praying do not believe their prayers have been answered.


      1. Since our lesson is about prayer, what lesson do we draw about prayer from this?


      2. Does this show that those who pray have less faith? (Peter is sleeping because he is comfortable with his life being in God's hands. The believers are not comfortable with the idea that Peter might be killed.)


      3. Read James 4:2. James says we don't have because we don't ask. How do you fit this into our story? (The believers got what they asked for. Peter also got what he asked for (God's will).)


    3. Friend, do you find it hard to believe that God will answer your prayers? God reveals that He answers prayers even when those praying are surprised to get what they requested! Why not experiment with prayer and let God surprise you?


  1. Next Week: Martyrs and Their Murderers

Discussion

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