by Andrew Palau
When the church prays, prisoners can be set free. Nowhere in scripture could it be more evident than in Acts 12. On the eve of desperation for their beloved friend and apostle, Peter, the early church had gathered for a concert of prayer.
The Apostle Peter was in chains for the gospel, likely awaiting execution. Herod had even assigned four squadrons of soldiers to keep watch over him. Yet, the iron chains on his wrists, the iron gates to the prison, and the iron gates to the city were no match for the angel that God assigned to his release in response to the earnest prayers of the church.
To be sure, the church had been praying earnestly. And God moved mightily on Peter’s behalf. But the story tells us one small shortcoming: it seems the church prayed less-than-expectantly. They were so shocked to find Peter knocking at their door that they thought Rhoda was “out of her mind,” or that she had seen his ghost. They nearly left Peter, the very object of their prayer meeting, out in the cold.
To me, Acts 12 is a great reminder of God’s delight in answering the praying church. And it’s a great reminder to add expectancy to our earnest prayers and open the door to God’s mighty answers.
After I got saved and began to work in ministry, the first challenge I received from my mentors, my dad, and my father-in-law was to place prayer as the highest priority in any evangelistic work. Especially the prayers of the local church.
Since day one of my dad’s evangelistic ministry, and in every evangelistic outreach in cities and nations all over the world, the first committee to be formed is the prayer committee. The praying church is the foundation that supports every other strategy. We also established the prayer card as a critical component, a one-on-one tool for individual church members to pray in faith for their unsaved loved ones.
At this very moment, our evangelistic team is living in New York City in the final weeks of a year-long evangelistic campaign that involves 1,600 churches. This is by far the largest U.S. campaign in the history of the Luis Palau Association–and quite possibly the most far-reaching evangelistic initiative that greater New York City has seen in this generation. Here in the final few weeks of NY CityServe & City Fest, over 100 outreach events are blanketing the region, in every borough and island of New York City, plus locations in Connecticut and New Jersey.
Also at this very moment, and for the past two years, we have had hundreds of churches and thousands of believers in New York earnestly praying for revival and a harvest in New York City. Add to that the 2,300 believers who have joined our National Women’s Prayer Team and…well, you get the picture. God is at work through the praying church!
We are seeing many victories and spiritual breakthroughs, week after week. In every outreach and ministry, people are being set free and experiencing new life in Christ. In April, I spent a full week of ministry in the Riker’s Island prison system and I could literally feel the prayers of the church at work as nearly 50% of the men, women, and juveniles in our prison audience came to faith in Christ! Often, those who came forward had started as the hecklers. How phenomenal to see the prayers of the church setting prisoners free in Christ.
And it’s just a sliver of what God is doing. We’ve seen entire communities, such as Rockland, New York, triple their attendance for the National Day Prayer and literally transform their neighborhoods or public schools with the love of Christ.
It’s not unlike what Paul and God’s people experienced in Acts 12. The church is praying earnestly. But the best part is that the church is praying expectantly. We’re praying for a revival in New York that spreads throughout our nation, and we are expecting God to answer. Let’s pray expectantly and let’s receive the miraculous things that are happening. Let’s keep the door open! Prayer doesn’t just change things, prayer changes everything. Let us never forget that Jesus came to set the captives free, and the way he will do it is through the praying church.
Andrew Palau (@andrew_palau) is an evangelist with the Luis Palau Association. He has shared the gospel with millions of people, and at every opportunity he demonstrates his father’s same passion and love for Christ and for evangelism.