URC Daily Devotion 10 September 2022

10 September 2022
Acts 12: 1 – 5

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.  He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.  After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)  When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.  While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.


This King Herod, Agrippa 1, while not as infamous as his uncle Herod Antipas, who had John the Baptist beheaded, or his grandfather Herod the Great who reputedly ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem, was still determined to hold on to power. Seeking popularity, he used internal divisions within the community for his own purposes. His known piety and apparent sincerity in adherence to Jewish law may have given him additional motivation to attack the Church. He knew who to please and how to be decisive.

What power could the Church extend on behalf of Peter, guarded excessively? A single squad of four soldiers was normally enough to watch over a prisoner in three hour rotations. Herod was taking no chances, and perhaps like many apparently powerful leaders he was fearful on the inside. So the Church drew on the only power it had – constant prayer so that Peter would know that he was not alone.

A cartoon from many years ago shows generals having taken charge of a country cowering behind the throne, while the doorkeeper announces an elderly diminutive female figure who “wants to know if you got her Amnesty International letter”. The organisation started in 1961 as a movement to release prisoners of conscience and their main way of doing this was to write letters to the prisoners and the authorities who had jailed them – constantly, again and again. It is an action that has been taken up by fresh generations. Peter was not forgotten – his name was held in prayer by his extended family of faith. Tyrants don’t generally retire, and neither do people of faith. We keep on Walking the Way for the sake of those who the powerful would seek to silence. 


God of freedom, God of justice,
God whose love is strong as death.
God who saw the dark of prison,
God who knew the price of faith:
touch our world of sad oppression
with your Spirit’s healing breath.

Shirley Erena Murray,
first verse of 625 in Rejoice and Sing


Today’s writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas, freelance facilitator, and transitional minister with Bellingham/Catford/Lee Green pastorate.


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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