This past week at Vacation Bible School, our kids learned that God has the power to provide, comfort, heal, forgive, and love us forever.[i] If God has the power to do all that, then we know we have a truly awesome God who loves us! If I could add to the list, I’d say that Acts 12 shows that God has the power to set us free. Verses 5-10[ii] say:
So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
The Bible makes a clear connection for us: Peter was released because of the prayers of the saints. The mystery remains as to why James’ life was ended and why Peter’s was preserved. We won’t try to answer that today. But when God’s people pray, things happen.
The amazing thing is that God doesn’t even require us to fully understand how He works things out, in order to pray for people. After Peter was set free, he went to the place where the church was meeting and knocked at the door. They didn’t even let him in at first, because they didn’t believe it could be him—after all, Peter was in prison, wasn’t he? God takes our prayers and uses them for His purpose—even if our prayers don’t make any sense and even if we only half-believe in them ourselves. Just like He did for Peter, God wants to do the amazing work of setting people free! In 2012, I wrote:
Once I knew a man named Billy who had been in prison. He had served his time, and was ready to be released. During his time in prison, he had repented of his sin, grown close to God, and become an entirely different person. In essence, he had made his prison cell into a monastery cell. On the day before his release, I went to visit him. I told him that I was going to give him a new name. He was no longer Billy, I said, but Will—because he had found God’s will for his life.[iii]
People find themselves in all kinds of prisons. There are some prisons where other people hold the keys. Perhaps you’ve felt controlled or manipulated by someone else, held hostage or controlled by another person’s overwhelming personality. God sent Jesus “to proclaim liberty to the captives…to set free those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18).” He came to give you hope and freedom.
Some prisons are of our own making, like the habits and addictions, predicaments and perils that we put ourselves in. Sometimes our own minds can be the worst kinds of prisons, and we find ourselves in chains of depression, fear, anxiety, doubt, anger, judgmentalism, or unforgiveness. Sin is the worst kind of prison, because it keeps us from experiencing God’s love the way He wants us to. In John 14:18 (KJV), Jesus promises, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” He will save you if you ask Him to. It’s very simple—just trust Him to break your chains and set you free.
[ii] Unless otherwise specified, all scriptures are taken from the NASB.
[iii] Smith, Greg. “What’s in a Name?” July 11, 2012. http://revgregsmith.blogspot.com/search?q=What%27s+In+a+Name? June 27, 2015.