The church of the Lord Jesus Christ has always been marked by suffering, unpopularity, and struggles. Yet, the Lord Jesus Christ, as Head of the Church, preserves His Church through it all. Throughout church history, one can read of many accounts when the enemies of the Gospel tried to extinguish the light of the Gospel through ridicule, government legislation, and even by physical harm. And though the servants of Christ have often been bound and silenced by men, it is important for believers to remember that no man can bind the free access we have to God through prayer.
In the book of Acts, we see the church in its infancy. Yet at the very beginning, the church was hounded by wolves on the inside and on the outside. False teachers arose from within while persecution arose from without. In Acts 12, we find Herod the king stretching “…forth his hands to vex certain of the church” (v. 1). Herod found that persecuting this new band of believers was politically expedient to his rule and, therefore, went out of his way to persecute Christians. We find that it was under Herod, that the first of the 12 who followed Christ, was martyred. Verse 2 says that Herod “…killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Yet his murder of James only fanned his desire and bloodthirstiness to eliminate more of the church leaders. Herod saw that his actions pleased the apostate Jews, so he targeted Peter next by apprehending him and putting him in prison. Peter was imprisoned and was “…delivered…to four quaternions of soldiers…” (v. 4). Peter was a high-risk prisoner in the eyes of Herod. Therefore, Herod made sure to place a high level of security with extra guards watching his every move. Yet in verse 5 of this account, the preposition “but” changes everything. Peter was kept in prison and was heavily guarded. “…BUT prayer was being made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (v. 5). Though the guards surrounded Peter and his hands and feet were tightly bound, Herod and all the forces of Hell could not stop the church from freely praying to the God of miracles. Though Peter’s prison gate was shut, the gate of prayer was wide open. While Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, with two chains on him, and with keepers at the prison door, God answered the church’s prayer and miraculously delivered Peter from the prison cell.
Charles Spurgeon said of this praying group of believers: “It looked as if they could do nothing, but they felt that they could do everything by prayer…. They believed in prayer, that it had an influence with God and that the Lord did listen to the believing petitions of His servants.”
Though servants of Christ and churches may be bound at times by men, there is one thing that no man or even Satan himself can take away from believers- that is, the freedom to prayer!