A MAJOR AWARD: When we looked at Jesus' instructions on prayer a few weeks ago, we learned that the hypocrites who pray in order to win approval from others have already received their reward in full (Matt. 6:5). In Acts 12, Herod seeks the approval of people by executing Christians (v3), but by the end of the chapter, as he's basking in his earthly glory, Herod gets his reward in full: he is eaten by worms and dies (v23).
DIVINE HUMOR: Immediately after telling of Herod's gruesome death, Luke somewhat nonchalantly states, 'But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.' Take that, Herod.
DIVINE HUMOR, PART II: We read that 'there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter' (v18). I'll bet. The humor of that statement is somewhat tempered by the fact that Herod lost it and had all of the guards executed for losing Peter. The words we read last week of the Pharisee Gamaliel are coming back to haunt the opponents of Christianity: 'If this is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God' (5:39).
THE POWER OF PRAYER: Certainly Peter being freed from a squadron of 16 soldiers was a miraculous act of God, but God acted in response to the ernest prayers of the church. Certainly God was not rewarding the faith of this church, because they refused to believe God had answered their prayers even when Peter was standing at their door (divine humor, part III). The point is, you don't need to have perfect faith in order to pray effectively. Just know there is power in prayer and pray often.
PRETTY COOL FACT: The word 'earnestly,' as in 'the church was praying earnestly' is only used three other times in the Bible: Jonah calls all people to mightily repent to God (Jonah 3:8); Peter commands Christians to love one another deeply (1 Pt. 1:22); and Jesus prayed so earnestly that He sweat became like drops of blood. God wants us to pray hard!
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God has the power to break every chain (v7).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will not 'fight against God' like the guards and Herod did, but that you will work hard to further God's Kingdom.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Pray earnestly like the early church did for Peter, but have more confidence than they did that if you have aligned your life with God's will, He will give you what you ask for.
Worthington CRC members are preparing to celebrate communion this coming Sunday.
MONDAY: Examine your faith. Are you fully trusting in Christ for your salvation? By this faith we take to ourselves Christ and all his benefits, so that for us to live is Christ.
TUESDAY: Examine your hope. God's children rely wholly upon the merits of Christ, find in him their strength and victory, and confidently expect his return in glory.
WEDNESDAY: Examine your love, both for God and your neighbors. Consciously determine to live a life of loving service to him, through Christ our Lord.
THURSDAY: If these marks of spiritual life are not evident in us, we may not presume to approach his table. Yet we should not be deterred by any sin lingering within against our will. As we find faith, hope, and love within us, we ought gladly to obey our Lord's command and come with full expectation to God's open house of mercy.
FRIDAY: Pray - Gracious God, we love and adore you in Christ our Lord. We thank you for reconciling us to yourself in him. We rejoice in being received as your children.Prepare us by your Holy Spirit for the sacrament. Help us to come in the assurance that by it we shall be spiritually revived, and strengthened in faith, hope, and love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.