Introduction: We had a great time last quarter when all of our
lessons were on the topic of prayer! This week our lesson turns again
to this topic. Since studying prayer is such a blessing, we will
assume our lesson authors are looking for more blessings for us and
not suffering from forgetfulness! With that mind-set let’s dive into
our study!

  1. The Arrest

    1. Read Acts 12:1-3. What kind of time was this for the
      early church?

      1. Why was Peter arrested? Because he had violated the
        law? (It seems Herod was a politician who decided
        what to do not based on the law, but what was popular
        at the moment.)
      2. Who is this James who was killed? (He
        is one of the
        twelve disciples, one of the “sons of thunder.” (Mark
        3:17) One who was involved with Peter and James in
        Jesus’ transfiguration. ( Mark 9:1-8) He was one of
        Jesus’ closest associates on earth.)

      3. We know why Herod would want to kill
        James, why would
        the Jews care about killing James? (This shows that
        Christianity had not died with Jesus. Rather, it was
        still considered a serious threat to Jewish

        1. There are lots of religions in the world. Why
          would the Jews care about this new one? (This
          was not just “any” religion. It was one which
          proclaimed the Jewish Messiah had come and the
          Jews failed to recognize Him. Worse, the leaders
          considered Him an enemy and killed Him.)

      4. If you were Peter, what would you be thinking as you
        were arrested? (Jesus, James … Peter?)

    2. Read Acts 12:4. Why were so many men guarding Peter?
      (Herod must have thought that he was in danger of getting
      away. One commentary explained that they had four shifts
      of four soldiers guarding him.)

      1. Was Herod afraid of the supernatural?

      2. Why would Herod want a public trial?
        (This whole
        thing was to boost his popularity.)

  2. The Prayers

    1. Read Acts 12:5. Why were so many people praying for Peter?
      (They were no doubt afraid he would be killed.)

      1. The text says they were “earnestly” praying to God.
        Would you say your prayers are earnest? Or, are they

        pretty much the same every time — said without much

      2. Have you ever had a conversation with
        someone who did
        not seem to be paying attention to you? How did you
        like that? Is that the way you treat God in the
        majority of your prayers?

  3. The Rescue

    1. Read Acts 12:6-7. We see that Peter is not only in prison,
      but he is also chained to his captors! Notice two things
      about the timing in these verses. First, Peter is sleeping
      the night before his trial. What does this tell you about
      Peter’s faith?

      1. Why wasn’t Peter up earnestly praying? Or, worrying?
        Or, doing something during the last hours of his

      2. Second, the angel rescued Peter the
        night before the
        trial? Why wait so long? Is God a procrastinator?
        What is going on?

      3. What do you think about the “bed side”
        manner of this
        angel? He comes at the last minute, hits you on the
        side to wake you up (whatever happened to soft
        singing?) and then tells you “Quick, get up?” Sounds
        like the army, right? Since the angel was there, why
        did they have to be quick?

    2. Read Acts 12:8-9. Consider what the angel is saying to
      Peter and what he said in verse 7. What would you guess is
      Peter’s state of mind? (It seems obvious he is very
      sleepy. Hitting him on the side seems to show he was hard
      to awaken. Telling him “Quick, get up” sounds like he was
      moving slowing. Telling him to put on his clothes and his
      shoes and fasten his coat all sound like instructions to a
      child. Peter must have been “out of it.”)

      1. Verse 9 tells us that Peter thought he was dreaming.
        Does this reflect the state of his mind or the state
        of his faith? (I do not think Peter questioned God’s
        ability to rescue him. This reflects his state of

    3. Read Acts 12:10. When you get to heaven, what kind of
      power will you have? Will you need electric garage door
      openers? Will you need a garage?

      1. Consider the angel’s actions. He came late and left
        early (after one street). Why? Does this prove God is
        our Father and not our Mother? (This is the way I
        think of a father – helps you out of the tough spots
        and then puts you back on your feet until the next
        time you get in trouble.)

    4. Read Acts 12:11-12. Here is the proof that Peter was “out
      of it.” It says he “came to his senses” outside the
      prison. Since the guards never “came to their senses”
      while the angel and Peter were leaving, do you think the
      angel had some sort of “stunning” presence (see Matthew
      28:4)rather than Peter just being a sleepy head?

      1. What does this text reveal that Peter thought might
        be his future? (It doesn’t tell us Peter’s view, but
        it suggests Peter thought that the Jewish leaders
        were anticipating his death.)

      2. When it dawns on Peter that he is
        free, and he has
        escaped being killed, he goes to the house of John
        Mark. We were told earlier that the people were
        “earnestly” praying. Does this prove it? (They are at
        least putting in the hours — they are praying late
        at night!)

  4. The “Pray-ers”

    1. Read Acts 12:13-16. There are three reactions here of
      those who are praying. The girl’s reaction of belief and
      joy, the “earnest pray-ers” reaction that it is nuts to
      believe their prayers have been answered and the reaction
      that this must be Peter’s angel. Which reaction is the

      1. The last time I was with you I preached the Mothers’
        Day sermon. In it I mentioned Zechariah and the visit
        from Gabriel. ( Luke 1:8-17) Do you remember what
        Zechariah had been praying about? (He was praying for
        a son. ( Luke 1:13)) Do you recall that when Gabriel
        told him his prayer had been answered he exclaimed,
        “How do I now you aren’t lying?” ( Luke 1:18) Why do
        you think people react like this to answered earnest

        1. How much faith did the pray-ers have who
          declared Rhoda (the young girl) nuts?

      2. Why would they think the “person” at the door was
        Peter’s angel? ( Matthew 18:10 records a statement by
        Jesus about children that suggests they have a
        specific guardian angel. Barnes says the Jews had a
        common belief that each individual had assigned to
        him at birth an angel whose job it was to guard and
        defend him through life. Barnes suggests that
        apparently this group thought that Peter’s guardian
        angel had assumed Peter’s voice and manner!)

    2. Read Acts 12:17. Was there a commotion among those who had
      been praying for Peter? (Yes!)

      1. Why do you think Peter told them to be quiet? (He
        wanted to speak to them. However, I think the main
        reason was he did not want them to attract attention
        to him. He left that home right away which suggests
        that he thought it was better to stay on the move.)

      2. Notice that Peter gives them a message
        for “James and
        the brothers.” Why? (This James is the brother of
        Jesus and one of the leaders ( Galatians 2:9), if not
        the leader, of the early church. (See Acts 21:18)
        Peter thus shows a concern for the church
        organization. He wants the leaders to know he is OK.)

    1. Read Acts 12:18-19. How do you explain that the prayers
      for Peter’s life got 16 other men killed? (God saved
      Peter. Herod killed the 16.)

      1. It says Herod cross-examined these soldiers. What
        believable story would you tell if you were one of

    2. Let’s consider the irony of this story for just a moment.
      The fellow who is scheduled to die the next day is not
      praying, he is sleeping. The people who are praying do not
      believe their prayers have been answered.

      1. Since our lesson is about prayer, what lesson do we
        draw about prayer from this?

      2. Does this show that those who pray
        have less faith?
        (Peter is sleeping because he is comfortable with his
        life being in God’s hands. The believers are not
        comfortable with the idea that Peter might be

      3. Read James 4:2. James says we don’t
        have because we
        don’t ask. How do you fit this into our story? (The
        believers got what they asked for. Peter also got
        what he asked for (God’s will).)

    3. Friend, do you find it hard to believe that God will
      answer your prayers? God reveals that He answers prayers
      even when those praying are surprised to get what they
      requested! Why not experiment with prayer and let God
      surprise you?

  1. Next Week: Martyrs and Their Murderers