Telephones have changed a lot over the years. You may not recognize it, but the image on the left is a phone receiver. It was what we used to talk into and was how we were able to hear each other. While the devices themselves may have changed often, one game that continues to be played is “broken telephone”. That game is played with a group of people in a circle, where one person privately whispers a message to the person next to them, and then that person whispers the message to the next person, and so on, until, at the end, the last person says out loud the message they heard. The fun of the game is seeing just how the message changed, from person to person, and is hardly recognizable at the end. But sometimes the message is received perfectly and remains unchanged.
When we pray to God, we are having a conversation with Him. We are not supposed to just talk to God; we should be taking time to listen to Him as well. And when we pray, we need to praise Him; give to Him our needs and concerns, and trust that God has heard them. All the way back, beginning with the first family devotional, I talked about some of the reasons why we may not receive exactly what we pray for. But for today, I want you, as a family, to discuss this:
Have you ever prayed for something and then received what you prayed for? If yes, how did that make you feel?
Today’s Bible Passage: Acts 12:4-18
Materials needed for activity: Access to a printer (1 page)
Today, we are going to look at a situation where Christians gathered to pray for a very specific request, and then struggled to believe that God answered it.
Since we are not starting at verse 1, I want to help you understand what was going on before we read.
Back in Acts chapter 2, we read that the early Christians had enjoyed the people’s favour (Acts 2:47). The section we are about to read is approximately10 years later, and similar to how Saul had been sent out to arrest Christians in Acts 9:1-2. In the passage we are about to read, Christians are suffering for their faith.
We also read that King Herod, who had already started persecuting the apostles, arrested Peter because he saw that it pleased the religious leaders in Jerusalem. We are now going to read the section where Peter has just been arrested.
A Good Question: Is this the same king Herod that was ruling during Jesus’ birth?
No, it is not the same Herod, but was, in fact, the grandson of that Herod. There was a whole family that ruled Jerusalem at that time. This Herod was known as Herod Agrippa I, and like his grandfather, he was more interested in keeping power for himself than being a good ruler.
As a family, read Acts 12:4-11
We read in verse 4 that a lot of soldiers were guarding Peter. It is important to know that this is not the first time that Peter was arrested for sharing the gospel message. Another time, the angel of the Lord had released him and the other apostles in the night. (Acts 5:18-25). That’s why so many soldiers were guarding Peter this time. But while he was in prison, the Church was praying for Peter (verse 5).
In verses 6-10, there are a lot of details about how he was guarded, how he was bound in chains and how there were other soldiers watching the entrance while he was in prison. Even with all of this, nothing stops God. An angel came and woke up Peter. The chains fell off Peter’s wrists and he was then able to get dressed, and was guided out of the prison by the angel. God answered the prayer of the Church through a miracle!
It was so incredible that even Peter at first thought that this was a vision (verse 9). But by the time he was out of jail and walking down the street, Peter recognized that it was God who had saved him (verse 11)!
As a family discuss this question, “If you had experienced a miracle like this one, how do you think you would feel?”
Now, read Acts 12:12-18
A Good Question, “Who is this Mary and who is this John? Have we already seen them in the Bible previously?”
There are several people named Mary and John in the Bible, but this Mary and John have not been mentioned before in the gospel accounts. However, while this John is not the apostle, he is the one who writes the gospel according to Mark, and we know that he had been taught by Peter.
After his release from prison, Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John. John was also known as John Mark. A group of people were praying there. Most likely they were praying for Peter.
As Peter arrived at the door, the servant was so amazed to see him and did not even open the door but ran to tell the others (verse 14). They also could not believe that it was actually Peter (verse 15)! Eventually, they went to the door to check and found that Peter really was free (verse 16).
Peter told them how God had freed him and then, since he probably recognized that it was dangerous to remain there, he left for another place (verse 17). As a result of his miraculous escape, a big commotion took place at the prison (verse 18).
One of the most incredible things about this story is how honest it is. We see that Peter, the servant, Rhoda, and even the people praying for Peter were amazed at the miracle God had done. This miracle reminds us that God is in control, even in situations where it seems impossible, and that we must put all of our faith in Him. Never forget, as the angel told Mary about the coming of Jesus’ birth:
“…nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)
Activity: Prayer Labyrinth
Materials needed for activity: Access to a printer (1 page)
There are many different ways and styles of praying, and it can be good to try new ones as a way to ensure the growth of our prayer life. One way that I learned years ago, is using a prayer labyrinth. This is not a new practice, but a way Christians have prayed for centuries. It is like a maze, but instead of trying to just find your way out, the point is quite different. The point of a prayer labyrinth is to follow the path, not trying to figure out where you will turn next, but instead focusing on giving everything – all your fears and concerns - over to God, as you reach the centre. Then, after spending time in the centre, as you prepare to go back from the centre to the beginning, you can think about the experience and be ready to serve God in your daily life.
An example of what a large prayer labyrinth can look like:
Prayer labyrinths come in many sizes, and since we must keep ourselves and others safe during this time of isolation, I am not going to give you any links to the large ones. Instead, I encourage you to go to the link from the American Bible Society. It provides a free version that you can print and follow with your finger, and it provides instructions right on the page.