"So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God." (Acts 12:5)
It is tragic that we rarely understand and utilize the power of united prayer. We fail to realize that prayer can do anything that God can do, for prayer connects us to God and all His resources. And, God delights to answer prayer that is offered in His name. He is particularly moved by UNITED prayer!
Acts, Chapter 12, records the amazing story of Peter's capture and imprisonment by Herod. Herod was so paranoid and proud that he seized Peter with four squads of soldiers to guard him (16 men). This would seem to be a little overkill, but, if you know what prayer can do, it was not enough. In fact, 10,000 soldiers could not have stopped what was about to happen.
Peter's escape was seemingly impossible ... except for one fact: "But prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God."
FERVENT, UNITED PRAYER
"But prayer" ... this is the means by which we are connected to the God who is above every prison and commands the hosts of heaven's armies.
"for him" ... their prayers were personal, by name, for the imprisoned one, Peter.
"was being made" ... they did not talk about prayer. They didn't nod their heads and say, "We're praying for you, Peter!" and then ignore the need. They actually prayed.
"fervently" ... this was no mild, single request. This word is often used to describe intense prayer, prayer that accomplishes things. It literally means "stretched out." It could be translated "eagerly, continuously, intensely."
"by the church" ... this was united prayer. A single prayer from a single intercessor can accomplish much. But all through history we notice that God is uniquely moved by the united prayer of His children.
"to God" ... These last two words determine everything! They were not crying out to a stone Buddha or Baal. They were making their request to the One-Above-All, the One who came to set the captives free and has the power to release anyone from prison.
It is God's great joy to answer this kind of prayer. In Peter's case, God had merely to dispatch one angel to do the job. He appeared in Peter's cell, dropped his chains off his hands and feet, opened every locked door, passed by 16 Roman guards, and took him straight to the prayer meeting. God's intent in taking him to where they were praying was to show them (and us) the power of God and the absolute effectiveness of united prayer.
It is tragic to think of the thousands that we may have left in prison, simply because we have not believed in God through united, fervent prayer. People are needy, and God is waiting for fervent prayer to be offered to Him by the church. Prayer that believes. Prayer that sets the captives free.