King Herod became popular when he started persecuting Christians. James, the brother of John, had been martyred under his command, and the local population heralded him as a hero. Now it was time to deal with the apostle Peter, who was promptly arrested: “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.” (Acts 12:4, NIV2)
There was no way Peter could escape. He was watched at all times, and just for security, “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.” (Acts 12:6, NIV2)
Amazingly, Peter was sleeping amidst all his adversity. “He may have been tired,” you might say. However, imagine facing certain death. Would we be sleeping in such circumstances? And prisons in those days didn’t exactly have comfortable beds . . . But the self-reliant Peter had changed quite a bit, especially when he realized that Jesus, the one he had betrayed, had completely forgiven him. He could now sleep like a baby, for he fully trusted in God. Whatever would happen, he had nothing to fear.
In the meantime, “The church was earnestly praying to God for him.” (Acts 12:5b, NIV2) Too often we don’t take the power of prayer seriously. If we only realized how attentively our Heavenly Father listens to our concerns, our demeanor would be radically changed. Watch the power of prayer at work: “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.” (Acts 12:7, NIV2)
Amazingly, Peter thought he was dreaming: “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.” (Acts 12:9, NIV2)
However, “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. 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.” (Acts 12:11, NIV2)
Too often our reality is completely out of line. If we would focus on the reality of our Heavenly Father, our perception about our dire circumstances would change dramatically. Nothing would be impossible! Peter was condemned to die, but our Father had other plans. Even though Peter was under close surveillance in prison, shackled between two soldiers, the impossible occurred. Prayer is powerful, my friends, and thankfully, this is still the case…
When Pastor Shepherd was sixteen, a baseball hit him directly on his forehead. Soon a goose egg appeared. It didn’t help that a few days later a soccer ball hit him in this very same spot. The consequences were frightening. His cranium began to swell, so much that he was brought directly to ER, and he was diagnosed as having hydrocephalus (water building up on the brain). This deformed his cranium, big time, making him look very much like the artists’ renditions of space aliens! The doctors were perplexed. As there did not appear to be any medical solution to this dilemma, they just waited it out, expecting him to die at any moment. His parents didn’t like the odds, so they approached heaven in tears with a simple request: “Please Father, save our son!” A few days later, the swelling abated without any consequences. He was healed. The doctors were completely confused.
Later, Pastor’s Shepherd’s brother was diagnosed with leukemia. Again, the doctors expected him to die, as leukemia is quite deadly for young adults. Again, the family came together and brought their plight to heaven with the same request: “Please Father, save our son!” Amazingly, he, too, was completely healed. Again the doctors were confused. No wonder both of these boys became pastors!
Years later, when Pastor Shepherd was married, they rejoiced over the birth of their second son. Unfortunately he was born with a huge defect in his heart. He had only two heart chambers instead of four. Another dilemma for the doctors. This time it was Pastor Shepherd and his wife who approached heaven with the same plight: “Please Father, save our son!” This time, their son’s heart didn’t expand to four chambers, but against the grim odds of the medical profession, their precious child survived. Eleven years later, he is still alive and is as active as any 11 year old should be, with nothing stopping him from playing sports.
Prayer does work, my friends. Faith in our Father is an indispensable ingredient in our lives. Why not approach your Heavenly Father and experience the impossible through Him? What do you have to lose?
(To access the entire “Facing Unimaginable Odds” devotional series, please click here.)