A Praying Church

Learning to Pray Without Ceasing

Acts 12

June 19, 2022 – Father’s Day, and 28th Church Anniversary

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland



I.     Welcome! We have quite a few things on today


A.   First, Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen!


1.    To be a dad, a father, a man with children, is a great privilege

2.    It is a God-given honour to be a father

3.    It is not something the world values anymore


a.     Women are told, they can do everything without a man

b.    And children are told there is nothing special about fatherhood

c.     Movies, music, cartoon mock THE most important person in any home – the father

d.    And I am not ashamed to say it

e.     Dad is not an evil word, dads are not evil people


4.    Dads, listen to me for just a few moments


a.     Hebrews 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

b.    Be Dad – not just a dad, or a man, or just a worker, or just a bill-payer – be THE Dad

c.     Your wife, and your children NEED YOU to LEAD, to LOVE, to LISTEN TO, and to LEAN ON as this world spins in darkness

d.    Gentlemen, YOU are the hero of your home! Your kids want so desperately to believe in heroes… So, Save your family – they need YOU to show them how to love God, and walk with Him, obey Him when it is hard, and how to depend upon Him for everything! Teach them to trust Jesus!

e.     I want to pray for our Dads here today!!


B.   And Happy Anniversary, Church!


1.    28 years ago, Nita and I, along with the four children we had at the time, scrubbed and cleaned an old building called the T.A. Hall, on Station Road in Blarney, and held our first church service on June 4, 1994. I talkd 50 people into coming to church for that first service.

2.    And TWO people came out that morning and we sang, and I preached - and it was heaven!

3.    That evening, two different people came to church, and we sang, and I preached the Gospel some more, and it felt like heaven!

4.    Twenty Eight years… 1,456 Sundays later, all the Bible Studies, Prayer Meetings, Saturday Soul-Winning, Bible Institute Classes, baptisms, Bible Clubs, Youth Camps, Men’s Camps, Ladies meetings, church fellowships … we keep going!

5.    I love every memory, every minute of it - I wish you all enjoyed it as much as I did

6.    Well, let’s make some new memories today!

7.    Following the service this morning, we are staying around for some pot-luck dinner and everyone is welcome to stay!


C.   Let’s turn in our Bibles to the Book of Acts and pick up where we left off last week. Acts 12


II.   Message


A.   Having Fun Vexing Christians (Acts 12:1-4)


1.    Acts 12:1-4  Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex [AGGRAVATE] certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.


2.    People by nature are bullies – they LOVE abusing other people for their own fun

3.    Herod Murdered the apostle James on a whim – for no good reason


a.     James was one of the top three apostles (Peter, James and John)

b.    King Herod had a lot of power, and so he was a big bully

c.     Could have made up any reason to have him executed

d.    Killed him simply because he didn’t like him

e.     There are many people who would be delighted to rid the earth of born again Christians


4.    Herod noticed that killing James please the Jews, the religious power in Jerusalem – politics hasn’t changed in 2,000 years!

5.    So, Herod arrested Peter – again, for no good reason


a.     Herod was going to publicly execute Peter

b.    It was the Feast of unleavened bread – the time of the Passover – that means it has been ONE YEAR since Jesus was crucified, and the Jews were looking forward to the new leader of Christ-followers to be put to death!


6.    16 Roman soldiers guarded Peter from escaping – SIXTEEN!!!


a.     4 sets of 4 soldiers took turns guarding a lone fisherman named Peter

b.    Peter was “so” dangerous that Herod chained him to 2 of the four soldiers

c.     Constant rotation of a watch over him to make sure he was locked-away in prison


B.   But Prayer was Made Without Ceasing (Acts 12:5)


1.    Acts 12:5  Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.


3.    Remember our main memory verse of Scripture in Acts 5:42,  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.


a.     The Christians of the First Century ceased not to TEACH, PREACH, and TESTIFY of Jesus being alive – they were constantly ACTIVE doing what Christians do!

b.    And there was one other thing they kept doing… they PRAYED without ceasing!

c.     1Thessalonians 5:17  Pray without ceasing. THAT is how to pray!
Without quitting. Without boredom. Without distraction. Without hesitation!


4.    Prayer was, and is PRIORITY


a.     The whole church made PRAYER a priority – DID YOU NOTICE THAT?

b.    These Christians were not just going through the motions

c.     There were thousands of people praying in homes across the city of Jerusalem

d.    One voice asking God for the impossible – the whole church

e.     If you are going to learn to pray, you have to believe it is important enough to make it priority – nobody learns to pray until they have to


1)    Well, guess what… WE HAVE TO PRAY!

2)    Christians HAVE to get back to making prayer a part of their daily life – not rare, or flippant, or apathetic – or this generation is lost for good!

3)    Making time when you FIRST wake up, ASK God for help, THANK GOD for His kindnesses


5.    Prayer is only to GOD


a.     They prayed “UNTO GOD” - not to Mary, or saints, or fairies, or Gaia, or the great spirit

b.    Whatever you were taught in school, dump, and just talk to the God who Created you, and wants to hear from you, all day, every day! Jehovah God Almighty!

c.     It is not complicated – JUST TALK TO HIM! He loves to listen to our heart!


6.    They Prayed FOR Peter – for a specific need!


a.     They were not fatalists, just letting things be – out of our control – que-sera-sera

b.    Not, “Hail Mary, Full of grace”, or “Our Father who art in heaven…”

c.     They specifically asked for Peter to be:


1)    Protected from Herod’s sword

2)    Delivered/freed from Herod’s power

3)    That Peter would NOT die like James had


d.    You probably have about 3 dozen big reasons to pray, every day, all day long! So PRAY

e.     There will never be a day that you won’t need to pray! So pray


7.    They Couldn’t Quit! No ceasing, stopping, quitting, giving up!

8.    They prayed… Because Prayer accesses GOD’S Power


a.     Praying, real praying is hard work – read the Psalms – the struggle IN the praying

b.    But WOW! We can access a power beyond all other powers, if only we would!

c.     James 5:16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

d.    A praying man, a praying Mom, a praying teenager, a praying child is a powerful force in this sin-sick world! NO WONDER THE DEVIL HINDERS PRAYER THE MOST!


C.   What was Peter Doing? (Acts 12:6)


1.    Acts 12:6  And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

2.    It is the night before his execution


a.     He is surrounded by 16 soldiers - Chained to two of the soldiers remember?

b.    Locked in an inner prison behind iron doors

c.     With TWO layers of wards surrounding him

d.    The moans and crying of the men sounded in the cells around him

e.     What would YOU be doing?


3.    Peter was sleeping like a baby!


a.     Totally at rest, quiet, no fear… NOT like most people would be – anxious! Why?

b.    Because he was SAVED – on his way to heaven when he died


1)    That may not mean much to you, but it will one day

2)    Those of us who are born again have already passed from death unto life


c.     In the will of God – doing nothing wrong

d.    He was looking forward to being with Jesus


1)    Paul said in Philippians 1:21  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

2)    2Corinthians 5:6  Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

3)    2Corinthians 5:8  We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.


e.     He was Comforted


1)    Very encouraged that the entire church in Jerusalem was praying for him

2)    That comfort enabled him to get some sleep – he probably needed the rest

3)    Prayer is a greater force than all the darkness the devil can throw at you!

4)    There is so much comfort in the presence of God, casting all your cares upon Him

5)    There is so much repair, and refreshing, and help in a time of prayer

6)    Why do we spend all the time complaining and fault finding when we could pray?


D.   God’s Intervention (Acts 12:7-10)


1.    Acts 12:7  And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

2.    Acts 12:8  And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.

3.    Acts 12:9  And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.

4.    Acts 12:10  When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.

5.    The angel of the Lord shows up!


a.     Prayer had stirred the mighty Angel of the Lord to deliver Peter

b.    Not just any angel entered that prison cell…

c.     THE Angel of the Lord – one of the top angels walked right into Peter’s cell

d.    Memorise this Scripture… Psalm 34:7,8  The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.


6.    Shined a light in a very dark place – that prison cell was dark!

7.    Woke Peter up and put the 16 soldiers to sleep

8.    Pulled him to his feet

9.    Peter’s chains fell off – God loves doing this (Acts 16:23-26)

10. Must be a Dream! Peter thought it was all just a dream – probably smiling stupidly


a.     Put on his cloak and his sandals

b.    Walks right out of the Roman prison


1)    He kind of glidingly followed the angel out of the prison cell

2)    Past the soldiers, past the two wardens, through an iron front gate that opened right up for him, out onto the street


c.     And then the angel just left him – job done!


E.    God’s Deliverance is Real (Acts 12:11)


1.    Acts 12:11  And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

2.    It was only then that Peter realised all that had happened was real – it was not a dream

3.    Peter just stood there and Pondered what just happened


a.     He realised that God had sent His angel to deliver him from death. Just like God did for Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6:22) My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

b.    He realised he was free from the power of Herod’s mighty grasp!

c.     Free from the sentence of death

d.    Free from the expectation of the Jews

e.     That is a lot to ponder and enjoy!

f.     It was kind of like getting saved all over again!


4.    He had to tell the church! PRAYER WORKED!


F.    Let the Church Know! (Acts 12:12-17)


1.    Acts 12:12-14  And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.


2.    He walks in the middle of the night to the home of Mary


a.     Not the mother of Jesus

b.    There were many Mary’s

c.     This was the mother of a young man named Mark, John Mark

d.    He will become very important to the Gospel ministry later!


3.    The house is packed with people – past midnight

4.    They were PRAYING! Not being entertained, fed, but PRAYING!


a.     Oh that OUR homes were places of PRAYER as much as they are of entertainment! Places where God’s people gathered together to PRAY for the impossible to happen

b.    Oh that this church was a PLACE OF PRAYER (Matthew 21:12,13)  And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.


5.    Peter knocked, and Rhoda came and knew it was Peter, but ran back inside – so excited!


a.     “Peter is FREE! Peter is HERE! Peter is Okay!”

b.    “God has answered our prayer!”


6.    But NO ONE in that packed house believed it could be Peter (Acts 12:15) – NOT ONE


a.     Acts 12:15  And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.

b.    They were praying, but with very imperfect, very little faith


1)    They called her crazy. Said That couldn’t happen

2)    Joked that they had seen his ghost – superstition

3)    And then they went back to praying… Oh lord, please deliver and protect Peter!!!

4)    They were praying, passionately praying, but they were not BELIEVING!


c.     SHAME


1)    Why pray if we won’t believe?

2)    Jesus said in Matthew 21:22  And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.


d.    Thank God that imperfect faith still moves the heart of God, and gets answers to prayer!

e.     Many people say, “But God didn’t answer my prayer!”


1)    The truth is, He did.

2)    He just said NO to you, and you didn’t like that! You don’t like it that God’s ways are different than YOURS!


7.    Acts 12:16,17  But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

8.    So, Peter kept knocking!


a.     He HAD to let the church know that PRAYER works!

b.    Amen! Didn’t give up on the faithless Christians

c.     Everyone was shocked to see him, out of prison!

d.    Peter told them to let James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem know he was escaped


9.    And then Peter went and hid for a while! Smart thing to do!


G.   Trouble Back in the Prison (Acts 12:18,19)


1.    Acts 12:18,19  Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death…

2.    No small stir – there was PANIC by the soldiers


a.     They woke up from a good long restful sleep! Stretching, rubbing their eyes…

b.    And then, they couldn’t find Peter. They realised they had fallen asleep on the job

c.     They knew they were in the most serious of trouble for losing Peter


3.    And so, They were executed for their failure!


H.   Herod’s Comeuppance (Acts 12:19-24) – Herod gets what HE deserves…


1.    What a contrast to the “feeble” life of Peter


a.     Herod is surrounded by legions of Roman soldiers

b.    Almost absolute power to do as he pleased

c.     But Herod is going to reap what HE has sowed very soon!

d.    And so will all who mock and bully and hurt God’s people


2.    Threatened war against Tyre and Sidon – didn’t like them – bullied them


a.     Acts 12:19,20  …And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode. And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.

b.    They feared him – for good reason

c.     They needed his benevolence – his money and permission to allow ships to come and go through their ports – without his approval their economy would collapse


3.    He decided to make a show of his power – he loved showing-off


a.     Acts 12:21  And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.

b.    Sat on his royal throne (carried it with him everywhere)

c.     Made a long fancy oration – political speech – loved the sound of his voice, thinking his words would be long remembered and cherished


4.    The people praised him, saying he has the voice of a god – FLATTERY


a.     Act 12:22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

b.    It will be the same when the antichrist comes (Revelation 13:4,8) …and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? …  And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.


5.    Then the very same Angel of the Lord that delivered Peter, killed Herod on the spot


a.     Acts 12:23  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.

b.    He was filled with WORMS - throughout his body, eating him from the inside out!

c.     He was WORM FOOD!

d.    Why?

e.     Because he did not give God the glory for anything


1)    He thought HE really was like a god

2)    He believed HE was the centre of the universe

3)    He thought he could live without God, and was smarter than God


f.     THIS is THE root sin of all mankind! (Romans 1:21)  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.


6.    Did you know… No one remembers what Herod said

7.    But the word of God Grew and Multiplied – you are reading it today!


a.     Acts 12:24  But the word of God grew and multiplied.

b.    It GREW – in influence

c.     And MULTIPLIED – copies were made and spread out throughout the empire

d.    It always will!


I.     Barnabas and Saul Retuned to Jerusalem (Acts 12:25)


1.    Acts 12:25  And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

2.    The church in Antioch was strong and growing and had its own pastor and leadership

3.    So Barnabas and Saul were able to leave it as an independent church, and go to Jerusalem


a.     Saul had proven himself faithful – no longer a threat to anybody but the devil

b.    They took John Mark along to mentor him and prepare him for the Gospel ministry

c.     Young men need to seek the will of God for their lives today

d.    THIS is the same John Mark who will end up writing the Gospel of … MARK!


III.         Conclusion


A.   God’s people are supposed to pray, and believe that God answers prayer


1.    Our highest need is to gather together again and again and PRAY

2.    Ladies, pray for your husbands

3.    Young men, young ladies, pray for your Daddy

4.    Church, pray for your pastor, and for all the men in your church

5.    The WORLD has plans for their ruin - And their ruin is YOUR ruin!


B.   Thank God that imperfect faith still moves the heart of God, and gets answers to prayer!


1.    Stop worrying about praying perfectly, and just start talking to God

2.    Ask Him for everything you need

3.    And start humbling yourself and repenting of not doing what He said do

4.    And thank Him for absolutely everything in your life – good and bad

5.    THAT is praying


C.   We are ALL worm-food on the outside! On the inside, you and I are souls that will spend eternity somewhere!

D.   Check your heart


1.    If prayer, the Bible, heaven, hell, holiness has none of your interest, then be very worried

2.    You are not okay – you are still in your sins, and will face the wrath of the Almighty God who loves you and died on a cruel cross for your soul

3.    It could be tonight, or it could be 25 years from now

4.    The only thing that will make the difference is humbling yourself and crying out to Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, and decide to follow Him

5.    42 years ago this past week, I did – absolutely changed my life!