Now I Lay Me Down

Title: Now I Lay Me Down

Bible Book: Acts 12 : 1-19

Author: Frank Page

Subject: Prayer; Unity in Prayer



“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” That is one of the most familiar prayers of childhood. Children are some of the best prayers I know.

Robert Goodrich writes about an elderly gentleman, ambling through his garden, who overheard his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in an oddly reverent sort of way. "What on earth are you up to?" he asked her. The little girl explained, "I'm praying, Grandpa. I can't think of exactly the right words, so I'm just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me, cause He knows what I am thinking."

We have much we can learn from children about praying. The early church seemed to have the same kind of honesty and openness concerning their prayer life with the Lord. We would do well to follow the example of the early church. Acts 2:42 tells us that the church devoted themselves to prayer. In Acts 2:47 we read that they also spent time "praising God." The early church was a church of joy, expectancy, but most of all a church who knew how to get in contact with God. Like many children, they were open in their relationship to God and knew His power and strength intimately.

Turn with me to Acts 12:1-19 as we read of a specific incident in the life of the early church in which prayer played a major part. Remember that prayer is how spiritual weapons are energized for spiritual victory.

There is no more dramatic story in the New Testament concerning partnership and power in prayer than this record given us in the twelfth chapter of Acts of the Apostles. In this story King Herod represents the subtle, fearful, and overwhelming power of the devil against the work of God. Over against this opposition, however, God puts a church or a fellowship at prayer. The enemy's single purpose in every age is to silence the voice of the gospel, but God's answer is always the mighty, working power of prayer. This is why this miraculous intervention is preserved for us. We can read it, study it, and learn the principles that determine victory over every attempt of Satan to thwart the redemptive purposes of God. Notice three important features about this particular prayer meeting.

I. See the Partners in Prayer (v. 12).

This verse is a simple statement of fact with eternal significance. As we have already seen, Satan had done his best to incarcerate Peter and to silence the message of life in the city of Jerusalem, but God responded by drawing together a group of men and women to pray. Three types of people were present at that prayer meeting.

A. The “Marys”

It was the house of Mary the mother of John whose surname was Mark; where many gathered together praying (v. 12).

Mary represented the influential people, for it appears that she was a woman of comparative wealth and influence. She had a large home, which was used as a meeting place for members of the church in Jerusalem. Thank God for the Marys of church history! Thank God for the Marys of today who make their homes available for Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship. No one can read the New Testament without observing the central place the home has had in the growth of the Christian church.

B. The “Maids”

As Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda" (v. 13). Rhoda, whose names means "rose," represents the less significant people. Without question, she was but a familiar slave who kept the door. But what a fragrance her name and life have given the Christian church throughout the centuries. While God certainly uses the influential people, He never despises the less significant people. The prayers of Rhoda were just as effective and acceptable as the prayers of Mary.

C. The "Many"

We read that "many were gathered together praying" (v. 12). The "many" represent the inconspicuous people. These are the unnamed, common people who hear Jesus gladly, who respond to His message, and who become the members of His church, which is His body. Since the beginning of the church and down through the centuries, the preponderance of people in the church of Jesus Christ have been part of the "many" class, and this is how it will be until the church is complete and Christ comes back to receive His own.

II. See the Characteristics of Partnership Prayer

We cannot read Luke's account here without being impressed with two aspects of prayer which constitute partnership prayer.

A. Unity in Prayer

"Many were gathered together" (v. 12). Whatever differences might have separated the people involved were now completely lost in the unity of the purpose in prayer. This undoubtedly, is the first secret of prevailing prayer. The psalmist reminds us that it is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1).

While virtually everyone within the family of Christianity would agree with this principle, it is one of the most abused and ignored of all. Christian groups, churches, and even subgroups are splintered everywhere with such serious disunity that they cannot work together and especially pray together. It is the height of hypocrisy to see many people continuing to pray together when there is no unity at the core of their hearts.

In other words, we are in spiritual mess! Many churches that I know are like a bank robber that I read about who was simply not doing his job very well.

"He felt like a failure! Everything he attempted seemed to turn out wrong. He began to fantasize about being rich. He would do the one thing he could do to make the most money in the briefest period of time. He would take up the occupation of bank robbing.

The would-be bank robber began to plan his strategy. He sat up late at night working on detailed plans, drawing sketches and going over steps he would take in robbing the bank. But he could never seem to get around to robbing the bank. He would plan each night, but when morning came, his anxiety paralyzed him again.

One night he determined that his mind was made up. Regardless of his feelings he would force himself to rob the bank the next morning. The next morning an anxiety attack paralyzed him again. Finally he came through it and forced himself to get into his car and go to the bank.

The reluctant bank robber sat in the car in the parking lot from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. trying to force himself out of the car. Finally, he got out of the car and went into the bank. At the teller’s window he handed the teller his pistol. He stuck his brown paper bag in her face and said, 'Don’t stick with me. This is a mess-up!'"

How about that? This fellow was simply not cut out for that kind of work. Everything he attempted turned out wrong. I know many people in many churches like that. Spiritually, they hobble along simply trying to maintain status quo because of a lack of unity in their fellowship and a serious lack of unity within their prayer lives.

B. Urgency in Prayer

"Prayer was made without ceasing" (v. 5). The phrase "without ceasing" means that prayer was fervent and intense. This is the second secret of prevailing prayer. It is prayer of self-denial. It is the prayer that spells failure to all who would interfere with the finding and fulfilling of God's purpose. When people are gathered to pray with this sense of urgency, they are also prepared to go through with God at any cost. This is "Calvary praying." Therefore, it is victorious praying. When people pray like this, something is bound to happen.

In another article I read recently, I heard of a group of children who went to a famous Cathedral.

"Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral on a tour of New York City, my daughter and her children were awed by the sight. The kids were especially curious about the votive candles, so my daughter asked if they’d each like to light one. She explained that it is customary to say a prayer of petition or thanks, and she was careful to tell them that these are not like birthday candles. 'Do you have any questions?' she asked. 'No,' said the five year-old. 'But if there’s a pony on the steps outside, it’s mine.'"

That child was serious about her prayers. Why are we not serious? Why do we pray wondering if God is going to answer and then expect him to answer? God’s people need to remember that He said, “This house shall be called a house of prayer.” We need victorious praying, Calvary praying, urgent praying.

III. See the Power of Partnership Prayer

Peter had been cast into prison. Previous to this, James had been beheaded with the sword. The Christians were apprehensive, so they prayed and they prayed and they prayed. God has so ordered it that the miracles that happen on earth are always channeled through the medium of prayer and this case was no exception. The power of God was revealed.

A. There was an Unusual Demonstration of Power

When Rhoda reported that Peter was alive and was standing outside the door, the participants in prayer claimed she was crazy (v. 15). Without doubt, everyone imagined that Peter would be arraigned before the magistrate the next day, and then cautioned and released--all in answer to their prevailing prayers. But God always works far above that we could ever ask or think. Therefore, the divine demonstration of power transcended the preconceived ideas of those faithful prayer warriors. Are you going to be shocked?

B. There was an Undeniable Demonstration of Power

"Peter stood before the gate" (v. 14). However unusual was the answer, it was undeniable. Everyone in that fellowship knew that God had answered prayer and that prayer was a force, miraculous in its outworking.

C. There is the Unlimited Power of Prayer

R. G. Lee said, "Prayer can do anything God can do." When God hears prayer, the answer is both unusual and undeniable.

Are you involved in this partnership of prayer? God is looking for the Marys, the Rhodas, and the many who will learn the purpose of prayer and experience the unusual and undeniable power of prayer. Will you be such a person today? Do you not see the great need of the hour to unlock iron gates that hold prisoner those of our own generation? Will you now enlist in this great partnership of prayer today?

Would you commit to pray this week like never before?

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