The Partnership of Prayer

Bible Book: Acts  12
Subject: Prayer; Church, Prayer in the


There is no more dramatic story in the New Testament concerning partnership and power in prayer than this record given us in the 12th chapter of the 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. In other words, whenever Satan comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against him (Isa.

59:19). 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.

I want you to notice three important features about this prayer meeting:

I. The People at Prayer

"The house of Mary, the mother of John...where many were gathered together praying" (v. 12).

Here is a simple statement of fact with eternal significance. As we have seen already, Satan had done his best to incarcerate Peter the evangelist and to silence the message of life in the city of Jerusalem. But God responded by drawing together a simple group of men and women to pray. As the world would see it, there were three classes of people present at that prayer meeting:

A. There was the Mary Class

It was "the house of Mary, the mother of John ... where many were gathered together praying" (v. 12).

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

I have been to countries where the absence of religious liberty restricts all Christian gatherings to private homes. People are simply not allowed to rent or utilize a public building for religious purposes.

But look again at the story:

B. There was the Rhoda Class

"As Peter knocked on the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer" (v. 3).

Rhoda, which means "rose," represents the "insignificant" people. Without question, she was but a familiar slave who guarded the door. But what a fragrance her name and life has given the Christian church down through the centuries! While God certainly uses the influential people, He never despises the insignificant people. The prayers of Rhoda were just as effective and acceptable as the prayers of Mary.

Then observe once again:

C. There was the Many Class

We read, “Many were gathered together praying” (v. 12).

The “many” represent the “inconspicuous” people. These are just the people who are unnamed because they are the common people who hear Jesus gladly and respond to His message and become the members of His church, which is His Body. Since the beginning of the church and down through the rolling 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.

This, then, is how the world sees them: the Mary Class, the Rhoda Class, the Many class, but with God “there is no partiality” (Rom. 2:11). He sees them as one Body without distinction of class, race, or sex; indeed, God sees them as people at prayer. And thank God, anyone can pray who knows the cleansing of the precious blood, the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and the inspiration of the Holy Word.

Tell me, do you know anything of this partnership in prayer? The next thought I want you to notice in this story is:

II. The Purpose in Prayer

"Many were gathered together praying" (v. 12).

We cannot read Luke's account here without being impressed with two aspects of prayer which constitute the elements of true purpose:

A. There was Unity in Prayer

"Many were gathered together" (v. 12).

Whatever differences might have separated them, the people involved were not completely lost in the unity of the purpose of prayer. This, undoubtedly, is the first secret of prevailing prayer. This is why Jesus declared, "If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matt. 18:19).

And the psalmist reminds us "how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (133:1), for there God pours out the precious ointment of His Spirit and distills the dew of His blessing.

It is not without significance that when the disciples gathered together to pray for the pouring out of the Spirit before the Day of Pentecost, it is recorded again and again that they were of "one

accord" (Acts 2:1).

B. There was Urgency in Prayer

"Constant prayer was offered" (v. 5).

The phrase here constant prayer means that prayer was fervent and intense. This is the second secret of prevailing prayer. It is the prayer of self-denial. It is the prayer that spells death to all that 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" and, therefore, it is victorious praying. When people pray like this something is bound to happen.

This brings us to our third point:

III. The Power of Prayer

"The iron gate...opened...of its own accord" (v. 10).

You will remember that Peter had been cast into prison. Previous to this, James had been beheaded with the sword. And needless to say, the Christians were apprehensive as to what would happen to Peter and, even more importantly, what would happen to the gospel witness in Jerusalem and beyond. 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.

I want you to notice two aspects of this power:

A. It was an Unusual Demonstration of Power

When Rhoda reported that Peter was alive and was standing outside the door, the participants in prayer replied, "You are beside yourself" (v. 15). This feature in the story makes the record not only thoroughly real, but also thoroughly human! Without doubt, everyone in that room imagined that Peter would be arraigned before the magistrate the next day, then cautioned and released, in answer to their prevailing prayers. But God always works far above all that we could ever ask or think.

Therefore, the divine demonstration of power transcended the preconceived ideas of those faithful prayer warriors. God does much more than we expect, so that men may wonder and worship.

B. It 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.

History is replete with illustrations of how God has demonstrated His power in answer to prayer. Let me share with you one modern parallel of the miracle-working power of prayer.

Sadhur Sundar Singh was a missionary on the Tibetan border. On one occasion, by order of the chief lama of a certain Tibetan community, Singh was thrown into a dry well, the lid of which was securely locked. His crime for such treatment was simply preaching the gospel in the marketplace. Here he was left to die, like many others before him, whose bones and rotting flesh lay at the bottom of the well. On the third night, when he had been crying to God in prayer, he heard someone unlock the lid of the well and remove it, and then a voice spoke, telling him to take hold of the rope which was being lowered. He did so, and was glad to find a loop at the bottom of the rope in which he could place his foot, for his right arm had been injured before he was thrown down. He was then drawn up, the lid was replaced and locked, and when he looked around to thank his rescuer he could find no trace of him. The fresh air revived him, and his injured arm felt whole again.

When morning came he returned to the city where he had been arrested and resumed preaching. News was brought to the lama that the man who had been thrown into the execution well for preaching had been liberated and was preaching again. Sadhu Sundar Singh was brought before him and questioned, and told the story of his release. The lama had declared that someone must have gotten hold of the key and let him out, but when the search was made for the key, it was found attached to the lama's own belt (Told by F.F. Bruce, The Books of the Acts, p. 250).

When God hears prayer the answer is both unusual and undeniable.


So we have seen what we mean by The Partnership in Prayer. There must be people at prayer, purpose in prayer, and then comes the power of prayer.

Tell me, are you involved in this glorious partnership? God is looking for recruits. Will you look up into His face and say, "Here am I, Lord, use me?"

Stephen F. Olford (Deceased), Founder and Senior Lecturer
The Stephen F. Olford Center for Biblical Preaching Memphis, Tennessee