“About that time King Herod began to harass some who belonged to the church. He had James, John’s brother, killed with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter as well.” Acts 12:1-2
“While Peter was held in prison, the church offered earnest prayer to God for him…Suddenly an angel from the Lord appeared and a light shone in the prison cell.” V. 5-7
In May of 1978, when Dana and I bought our first home, we were introduced to a number of new terms. One of the most intriguing terms described the concept of “earnest money.” At the end of our search for a home, the realtor explained that the builder would hold the desired property, if we would provide him with earnest money. We discovered that a check of $500.00 would secure our selection of our $47,500.00 dream home. Our investment in what we desired, gave the builder the confidence to take it off the market, while we qualified for our first mortgage. It was a miracle. I didn’t have $47,500.00, but I was earnest to get it. That’s all it took.
Acts records Herod “began to harass some who belonged to the church.” (v.1)
Instead of distancing themselves from “some who belonged to the church”, the Body of Christ, invested in them. When the leader of their movement was arrested, they called a prayer meeting for Peter, and the future of the church. It was a turning point. It always is.
“The church offered earnest prayer to God for him.” v. 5
Satan’s strategy has never changed. He can’t stop what Jesus did on the cross. The Bridge to God is finished. Jesus said so. Those who trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior, have a secure path to God, and a home in Heaven. While believers remain on earth, Satan intends to harass, intimidate, hurt and annihilate what they hold dear.
He is able to steal, kill and destroy things, and people, but he cannot stop God’s redemptive plan. He is able to rob people of their joy, on the way to Heaven, but The Bridge is connected to God, by the way of The Cross. He cannot destroy what Jesus finished, he can only detour people from following Jesus, as “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.”
One of the first things the enemy of Jesus does to destroy any movement of God, is to take out the leaders. This gives followers pause to wonder, and to think what might happen to them, if this is what can happen to their leader. It is efficient, and effective on everything and everyone, except a praying church.
When Satan used people as his willing hand puppets to nail Jesus on the cross, many followers scattered. When Herod arrested Peter, it was by design, not by accident. Cut off the head, and the body will die. This is not hard to comprehend. Herod’s harassment was designed to be efficient, but, again, I say, it proved totally ineffective on a praying church. It always is. Remember…
“The church offered earnest prayer to God for him.” V.5
Earnest is a word that comes from the verb meaning “to stretch out the hand.” Simply put, it means to be stretched out, earnest, fervent, resolute, and tense. When applied to prayer, it doesn’t describe wrapping oneself up in a self-composed, thin-lipped grimace of pain management. Earnest prayer releases the pain and throws out hurting hands to God. With broken hearts, tear-filled eyes, and hurting arms raised to Heaven, earnest prayers invites His Presence to step in and fill the void. Earnest, indeed.
“It is amazing what God can do with a broken heart, if you give Him all the pieces.” Samuel Chadwick
The intensity of this kind of prayer cannot be overstated. This word is used only three times in the New Testament. The most vivid descriptions of its meaning is found in Luke 22:44, when it highlights the prayer life of Jesus. Got the picture?
“And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling on the ground.” Satan proceeds with his strategy. He has no grand plan. He is content with intimidation and annihilation. It is so efficient, and effective, except when it encounters a praying church.
Earnest prayer is almost always preceded by intense harassment. This can take a wide range of forms, from the mild to the wild. The various translations of The Scriptures stumble all over themselves translating Herod’s harassment into just about any act of evil; seizing, imprisoning, killing, mistreating, and generally, doing the church as much harm as possible.
What was the response of the early church? EARNEST PRAYER. Just like Jesus. Good to know. Stop looking for a better role model.
Earnest prayer is in The Spiritual DNA of The Body of Christ. It has been squeezed out, or substituted with word-smithed, pleasant, perfunctory, invocations and benedictions. These pale signposts are inserted at the beginning and the end of a religious gathering. A monotonous, mantra posing as an invocation is almost a foolproof guarantee that absolutely nothing of any importance is going to be done here today. The benediction is usually a pious form of saying, “I told you so.”
Earnest prayer is a cry to God, but it is more like a battle cry. This kind of praying is heard in Heaven, and strikes fear in the enemy camp. This kind of praying sounds like jets flying over the heads of the enemy. If it doesn’t wipe them out, it weakens their knees, and causes them to look up. It reminds them that their days are numbered, and God is watching. Whining warns the enemy, you are afraid. Praying reminds the enemy they are afraid. Stop whining. Start praying.
Dana and I live near Alliance airport in Fort Worth, Texas. It is visited by all kinds of commercial and military aircraft. On occasion, we have had pilots for the aerobatic team, The Blue Angels, fly over our home. There is nothing like it. When they fly over my home, I am forced to duck…EVERY TIME! Even when I am indoors, I can’t resist the urge to lower my head. When I am walking outdoors and over-taken by one of these powerful weapons of warfare, I flinch when I hear the sound overhead. It is an intimidating experience, even though I know they represent my protectors and my country. I have started saying when I hear them, “I love The Sound of Freedom.” It helps!
Earnest prayer is the SOUND OF FREEDOM, and it strikes fear in the very heart of the enemy that is producing the harassment. Earnest prayer gives courage to the intimidated, as the sounds of intercession rise from their throats to the ears of God.
What comes from their pain, gains access to Jesus, by means of The Spirit. Seated at the right hand of the Father, Jesus intercedes for His church. God moves in response to the prayers of His people, the intercession of His Son, and the interpretation of His Spirit.
Earnest prayer moves Heaven. Heaven invades earth, by means of earnest prayer. Pious platitudes may make a great slogan for a throw pillow, but they don’t strike fear in the heart of the enemy. Stop throwing pillows. Start the invasion of The Spirit.
The early church turned harassment into a prayer meeting, not a business meeting. The early church gathered to call on God to step in, and do something that only He could do. God welcomes the lowly and the contrite, into His Presence. Earnest prayer is their access code. Prayer transforms any jailhouse into a house of prayer. At the first sign of incarceration or intimidation, The Body of Christ must invest in intercession. Be earnest! TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!