It was a pretty bleak scenario. King Herod had James beheaded. Then he arrested Peter and put him in prison, and it looked as though Peter was facing the same fate.
What did the church do? We read that "constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church" (Acts 12:5 NKJV). In the original language of the New Testament, the term "constant prayer" means they prayed with earnestness or with agony.
The same word for prayer describes Jesus in the Garden Gethsemane, where "being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44 NKJV).
In other words, this wasn't a flippant prayer. Rather, it was a storm-the-gates-of-Heaven prayer. The church prayed, and then God answered their prayer and supernaturally delivered Peter from prison.
Jesus talked about the persistence of prayer in a story he told the disciples. It was a situation they would have been familiar with in their first-century culture, where families typically had a common sleeping area in the home. Once everyone had gone to bed for the night, you didn't want to get up again for fear that you'd step on your son or daughter or trip over your wife.
In Jesus's story, everyone was nestled in, and a friend started banging on the door. The father didn't want to get up and wake everyone else. But his friend wouldn't take no for an answer. He kept banging, and finally the father got up and answered the door. Persistence finally paid off for the man who was beating on the door.
Jesus concluded by saying, "And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened" (Luke 11:9–10 NLT).
We see an interesting progression in the words ask, seek and knock. Ask speaks of requesting assistance. You realize your need and then ask for help.
Seek denotes asking, but it involves action as well. It is not only expressing your need, but it's also getting up and looking around for help. Seeking involves effort.
Knock includes asking plus acting plus persevering. There's almost an act of desperation in it.
Jesus was saying that if persistence finally paid off for the man who was beating on the door of his reluctant friend, then how much more will persistence bring blessing as we pray to a loving heavenly Father?
Let's not misunderstand what Jesus is saying. He isn't comparing God to a grouchy neighbor who wants to sleep. It's God's joy to bless us and give us the things that he knows we need in our lives. In fact, the Bible says, "Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps" (Psalm 121:4 NLT). God is never asleep on the job. He always gives a listening ear to the cries of his children.
Jesus taught the disciples to pray, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name" (Luke 11:2 NKJV). We can call God our Father because our access to him is built on sonship, not on our personal worthiness. After Jesus rose from the dead, he said to Mary Magdalene, "Go find my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17 NLT).
Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead for our sins, the Bible says that "He made us accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). If you've put your faith in Christ, then because of your relationship to him, you have access into the presence of the throne room of God.
Jesus is calling us to passionate, persistent prayer. I think many of our prayer have no power in them because there's no heart in them. And if we put so little heart into our prayers, then we can't expect God to put much heart into answering them.
Yet God promises that he will be found by those who seek him with all their hearts. Many times our prayers are not answered because we give up too easily. We'll pray for something once and then forget about. So keep praying. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. Don't give up.
Maybe you're in a situation right now that you think is hopeless. You don't know what to do. Pray. Pray with fervor. Pray with energy. Pray continually. You don't know what the Lord will do.
Or maybe you're saying, "I tried praying, but it seems as though my prayers don't go any higher than the ceiling. It seems like God isn't really listening."
Consider this: Prayer is a privilege that God has given to his children. Only a person who has put his or her faith in Christ can have a prayer life.
However, if you're a nonbeliever and call out to the Lord to save you and forgive you of your sins, then he will hear your prayer.
But if you're a nonbeliever living outside of God's plan and purpose for your life, then you won't have a prayer life to speak of. You won't have a relationship and communion with God because you're separated from him.
So if your prayers are not answered, it could be that you don't yet know God. There's a barrier between you and God called sin. We are all born with a natural tendency to do the wrong thing.
The good news is that God came to this earth and walked among us as a man named Jesus. He went to the cross and died there for the sins of all humanity. He paid the price for your sins and mine.
You can have a relationship with God in which he will hear and answer your prayers. You don't have to walk through life filled with fear and terror and dread.
God wants to be involved in your life. He wants to be the one who leads and guides you. But you need to ask him to forgive you of every sin you have committed, turn from that sin, and follow Jesus Christ.
Chapter 12 of the book of Acts opens with James dead, Peter in prison, and Herod triumphing. But it closes with Herod dead, Peter free, and the word of God triumphing. In the end, God will always have His way. Just watch what God can do.