Exegetical Notes: Acts 12:5-7

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made” – The context and actions of Herod described in verses 1-4, seem like certain death for Peter. In moments of difficulty (no matter the intensity of the difficulty), believers should turn to God for both hope and answers. 

”casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Pe 5:7.

“earnest prayer” – pertaining to an unceasing activity, normally involving a degree of intensity and/or perseverance—‘without ceasing, continuously, constantly.’
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 655.

“to God” – The focal point of prayer is God Himself. Prayer is made “to God”.

 It’s often said, in moments of tragedy or great need that, “Our thought and prayers go out to you…”. There are some distinctions here between thoughts and prayers which must be noted. First, these two are not the same. Thoughts do not produce divine aid. Prayer alone accomplishes that. Second, thoughts correctly understood, should be understood as compassion, which motivates and leads us to pray. One simply doesn’t meditate over situations and produce change. We are not omnipotent and do not have the ability to accomplish change through thinking. As believers, we should never respond to tragedy or need simply with thoughts. We must be people of prayer.

“by the church” – The responsibility and privilege of prayer belongs to the church. There may be some discussion to be had on whether God hears of listens to the prayers of unregenerate peoples, but there is no doubt He bends his ear to those who are His. Take note of the often quoted: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Ch 7:14.

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.

“on that very night” – The time frame for Peter’s certain doom has run down to the wire.

APP: God answers prayers (12:5) on His schedule, not ours.

“Peter was sleeping” – Peter gives us a great example of faith in a sovereign God, no matter the present circumstances. Peter has no doubt learned to trust God through trial and error. 
See: Matt. 14:22-33 – Peter walks on water; see also Peter’s conversation and restoration with Jesus in John 15:21-25.

APP: Spend less time worrying about circumstances and more time trusting Jesus.

“and sentries” – probably two more soldiers. rounding out the squad of 4 on prisoner detail.

7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.

“He struck Peter on the side” – Evidently, Peter’s is completely unconcerned about his future that he is able to sleep so soundly that he needed a swift kick to the ribs to wake him…as if the angel and bright light weren’t enough.