When Herod realized how much this pleased the Jewish leaders, he had Peter arrested and thrown into prison during the Feast of Passover. Sixteen soldiers were assigned to guard him until Herod could bring him to public trial, immediately after the Passover celebrations were over. The church went into a season of intense intercession, asking God to free him. (Acts 12:3-5 TPT)
What do we do, when we feel that a Government is oppressive towards us? What do we do when we feel that a particular administration has an agenda to withstand the preaching of the Gospel, and to overrun God’s purpose on the face of the earth? Ask this question in a gathering of Christians and you will get varied opinions.
I remember being in a particular Church one day during the Sunday school, in the early days of the Buhari administration in Nigeria, Western Africa. During the Sunday school teaching, our teacher geared the teaching towards politics, and joined forces with a notable opposition political critic to attack notable Nigerian clerics who he believed were not speaking out against the administration and their lopsided appointments, and perceived agenda of islamization. Normally, as a lover of the Church, and of the fathers of faith in my country, I was not very comfortable with his arguments, but I sat still. During the summary, when they gave room for questions and answers, I referenced this particular incidence in Acts 12 and simply asked, “What does the attitude of the early Church teach us about how to handle issues of Government and politics?” Of course, I was glad with the way the General Sunday school leader answered me.
This is still the question before us- today, tomorrow, or forever. Herod Agrippa (who ascended the throne through the influence of Emperor Caligula) had taken James, the brother of John, and killed him. James became the first Apostle of the Lamb to die. When Herod saw how pleased the Jews were concerning the matter, he arrested Peter and put him in a maximum security prison with the intention of publicly executing him after Passover. What did the Church do? Write protest letters? Organize prayer walks or protest rallies? Lobby Government officials for his release? All these are privileges accruing to a democratic era which we are in. In their days, such things were not allowed, and their kings ruled without question, unless there was a rebellion. So, speaking out on National TV, organizing rallies, etc. was never an option. They simply did what the Lord had taught them how to do- they prayed.
Now, prayer is seen as opium- a means of avoiding taking the bull by the horns. It is normal to hear people say that the Church has ‘prayed enough’, that it is now time to arise and do this or that. But for the early Church, it was not merely opium; it was indeed a cure for all ills. No matter the threat from the Government, no matter the news they heard, no matter the amount of wickedness being orchestrated against them; they had only one answer – PRAYER.
They knew that their God is alive. They knew that their God can handle all things and all men, and that nothing was too difficult for Him to do. This they believed, and so, they prayed!
The reason why the Chirch turned to prayer at every point was now what Paul echoed in Eph. 6 vs. 12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Hence, they did not really see Herod as their problem, they saw a contention from the powers of Darkness orchestrated to cripple the Church; so, they prayed without ceasing for Peter.
Because of their prayers, an angelic being was sent and he delivered Peter miraculously from the prison. Not only that, but after some time, the Lord took the initiative to end Herod’s reign of terror and wickedness by slaying him. The account of his death was thus, “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” (Acts 12:23 KJV) Despite all his efforts to frustrate the praying Church, not only did he die, but the Church grew in power. “But the word of God grew and multiplied.” (Acts 12:24 KJV)
AND SO? It’s never an irresponsibility to pray about any and every matter. There is no better way to answer an oppressive Government than to pray. Our God is not only a specialist in spiritual matters; He can also handle physical matters with equal precision. He not only frees men from spiritual prisons; He can also free men from physical prisons. Like then, and now also, He simply looks forward to a Church that will trust Him enough to pray about every matter.
You do not have to give a public opinion on every issue. You do not have to move about protesting or running from one campaign to another. All you need to do, and the most responsible thing you can do is to pray. So much happens, when we pray.