Bible Study: Stronger Together

By joining each other in prayer, we participate in Christ’s work of building His church.

Marble. Cinder block. Granite. Brick. You might find any or all of them lying around a construction site, but someone’s got to stack it up, right? Jesus gave us responsibility in building His church, so it helps to know all the materials available to us. Here’s one: praying together. It’s like sandstone—made of lots of little particles, but fused together, it makes a great wall.

 

Read

To get the most out of this study, read Acts 12:1-25. But first, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in this passage. Give yourself permission to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Above all, trust the Lord. He’s the best teacher.

Key Passage: Acts 12:5

 

Background

The early church is under persecution. But as believers are growing in number, the Holy Spirit is working to protect them and help build the kingdom. God’s power is evident, so the Christians gain in confidence, further strengthening the church. Jesus promised He would build His church and hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18), and now the disciples are discovering what He meant and what their role would be.

 

Reflect

The disciples may have been praying for Peter because they loved him and were concerned about his fate. But their prayers were important for the church, too.

  • Think of a time you and others were equally concerned about a prayer need. How did you handle this? Acts 12:5 says that ongoing prayers were being offered to God for Peter “by the church.” How would you organize such a thing?

  • Remember the popular saying, “the family that prays together stays together”? The Christian family—the body of Christ—is said to be “held together by the joints and ligaments” (Col. 2:19). Considering that Paul said we are each a part of the body, like an eye, a foot, or a hand (1 Corinthians 12:14-26), what do you think the joints and ligaments might be?

  • The disciples were praying together “with one accord” when the Holy Spirit was given to the church (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1 ESV). It’s hard to pray with someone you’re angry or uncomfortable with. Why do you think that is? If it’s happened to you, was there a change in your relationship after praying?

  • Why do you suppose the disciples didn’t stay home and pray individually? Do you think God hears group prayer better than personal prayer?

 

Continuing the Story

On being freed, Peter immediately visits his friends, who are astonished to see him. He asks that they tell the other believers what happened.

Jesus promised He would build His church and hell would not prevail against it.

  • Prayer works—and “fervent” prayer works in a breathtaking way! What do you think fervent prayer looks like? What was going on in Mary’s house that night?

  • A servant girl answered Peter’s knock, and Acts 12:14 says she was so overjoyed to hear his voice that she forgot to open the door. Yet she may not even have been a disciple. Consider how overhearing prayer might open an outsider’s heart. How do you feel when unbelievers are listening while your group prays?

  • The Israelites often sang to each other about God’s goodness and miracles. Think about a time when you were overwhelmed by His gracious answer to your prayers. Whom did you want to tell? What did you hope to accomplish by telling them?

  • Modern life can make meeting as a group pretty inconvenient. Is your faith in the Lord—and prayer—so strong that you would gather with other believers during a crisis, late at night in someone’s home, to pray as the church did for Peter? Is there a promise in the Word of God that you could memorize to encourage yourself and others to have this kind of faith?

 

Reflect

Jesus is the head of His church and its builder. He calls us to assist by serving—usually in cooperation with each other.

Though many Christians have a heart for evangelism, spreading the good news takes teamwork.

  • In John 15:7, Jesus promises, “If you abide in Me ... ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” How might gathering as the disciples did in Acts 12:12 help us to abide in Christ? Is there anything in your life today that gives you confidence you are abiding in Him?

  • Though many Christians have a heart for evangelism, spreading the good news takes teamwork. How might praying together be a key?

  • Our heavenly Father wants us to pray not just as a church, but for the church (“all the saints”—Eph. 6:18). It’s easy enough to pray for someone’s personal prayer request, but how would you pray for the entire body of Christ? This requires a deep love for our fellow Christians around the globe. To better identify with them, it helps to remember that we are all fighting the fight of faith (1 Peter 5:9).

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

The story of the disciples successfully praying for Peter’s release is one of astonishment and delight. We at times may picture God as a purely practical and austere King, but think about the gifts He gives. It seems clear that our Father loves to delight us with amazement and wonder. As recipients of God’s sweet surprises, we long to share with each other about His goodness. This dynamic reveals that in some ways, love is a group matter. And prayer is one way that love plays out.

Our Father loves to delight us with amazement and wonder.

  • When we’re privileged to be around two people who care for and respect each other, we’re always better for it. And witnessing extravagant love and honest gratitude can open our hearts in unexpected ways. Think about a loving relationship in your life. How do you think people around you benefit from the warmth of that relationship? Next time you’re praying with friends or family, could you ask God to help you experience a greater measure of His love through your fellow believers?

  • Many cultures have a proverb echoing this sentiment: Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow. Far from being a cliché, that’s a great recipe for fellowship. 1 Corinthians 12:26 goes further: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” How do you think that was true during the disciples’ experience of shared prayer in Acts 12? Can you share someone’s joy or sorrow by praying with him or her today?

  • We often think of prayer as something we do alone. But petitioning our Father and celebrating His victories together will bring us closer to each other and to Him. And when we’re praying for the needs of the entire body of Christ, such as Peter’s release or the courage of persecuted believers, we do even more to help Jesus build His church.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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What happens to my notes

1 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.

2 And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.

3 When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.

4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.

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

6 On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.

7 And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, Get up quickly." And his chains fell off his hands.

8 And the angel said to him, Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."

9 And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.

10 When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11 When Peter came to himself, he said, Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."

12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

13 When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer.

14 When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.

15 They said to her, You are out of your mind!" But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, It is his angel."

16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.

17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, Report these things to James and the brethren." Then he left and went to another place.

18 Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter.

19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.

20 Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king's chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king's country.

21 On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them.

22 The people kept crying out, The voice of a god and not of a man!"

23 And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.

24 But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.

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

18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

14 For the body is not one member, but many.

15 If the foot says, Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.

16 And if the ear says, Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?

20 But now there are many members, but one body.

21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."

22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;

23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,

24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,

25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

14 When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

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