Online Bible Commentary
Many Were Gathered Together Praying
Acts 12:12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. 13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. 15 But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!" Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, "It is his angel." 16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, "Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren." And he departed and went to another place. (NKJV)
King Herod Agrippa I ruled from A.D. 37 to 44, with Judea and Galilee added to his territory in A.D. 41. Herod, a Jewish sympathizer, took it upon himself to persecute the church as a favor to the Jews. Herod executed James, the older brother of John, by the sword in A.D. 44.
When Herod saw that the Jews were pleased with James’ execution he later also arrested Peter. However, it was now the religious holidays so, when he had arrested Peter, Herod put him in prison instead of executing him immediately. He planned to execute him after Passover. However, an angel helped Peter to escape the prison and then departed from Peter once he was out on the street.
Now, Peter, having “considered” that the Lord had sent him an angel to rescue him from execution, went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark (aka Mark), where he knew that “many” of his fellow Christians were praying for him (v. 12). When he knocked on the door, “a girl named Rhoda” answered (v. 13). Recognizing “Peter’s voice” she was filled with excitement and ran to tell the others that Peter was at the door, while, in her excitement, forgetting to open the gate for Peter (v. 14).
But Mary and the others praying did not believe Rhoda, telling her that she was crazy and that “It is his angel” (v. 15). It was a common Jewish belief that sometimes the deceased’s guardian angel would appear shortly after death. They obviously feared that their prayers had not been answered.
Peter continued knocking on the door until they came to the door themselves and saw him, in astonishment (v. 16). He motioned to them to be quiet, still fearing that the prison guards might be in pursuit (v. 17a).
Peter then explained how the Lord had freed him from prison and asked them to go and tell James (Jesus' half brother) and the other Christians (v. 17b). Peter then departed to an unnamed location fearing that the guards were on his trail (v. 17c).
Mary and the other Christians gathered in her home likely had been praying all night, because Peter had escaped during the night. Surely they had been praying for James before, until Herod executed him. But not having that prayer answered did not deter them from praying for Peter even though they did not think he would survive, as was evidenced by their reception of Rhoda’s news.
The prayer warriors were obviously crushed by the news of James’ execution just a few days earlier, but this did not keep them from praying for Peter. Additionally, they were not hopeful for Peter’s life but this also did not keep them from being faithful in prayer.
This passage represents an example for all of us to follow. We can’t give up on God. Just because some prayers are not answered does not mean that others won’t be. We must remain persistent in our prayer life. God’s ways are not always our ways and God’s timing is not always our timing. This being said, we must continue to pray.