Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit in a cold dungeon? Not just any dungeon but a Roman dungeon. The kind that was built with discomfort and pain in mind. Most people wouldn’t want to think about such a horrible thing let alone ponder what it would feel like?
And yet for many of the disciples of Jesus, a cold, damp, Roman dungeon was a grim reality they lived with day in and day out. Not long after Jesus’ time on earth, the early Christians, numbering in the thousands, began to experience persecution.
First they were hunted by Saul of Tarsus who acted as an agent for the leaders in Jerusalem. But then Saul was miraculously touched by Jesus on the road to Damascus.
But Saul’s conversion to be a follower of Jesus didn’t stop the rising tide of hatred against the new Christians. The persecution that swept over the church forced many of the young Christians to flee Jerusalem in search of safety in other parts of the Roman empire.
But the apostles chose to remain in Jerusalem, caring for the considerably large church that had been established there. Being so close to the heart of Judaism the apostles experienced their fair share of persecution.
First James, one of the twelve disciples who walked and talked with Jesus, and the brother of the beloved disciple John, was beheaded by Herod. It was a terrible blow for the church. Just as they were absorbing the trauma something even more disastrous happened.
Peter was arrested by Herod and thrown into prison, surrounded by a group of four soldiers who were stationed to keep watch over him around the clock. Peter found himself in a dank, cold, Roman dungeon, shackled to a wall, sleeping upright, crammed between two grim-looking Roman soldiers.
The church was devastated by the news. They had already suffered so much and were still reeling from the recent, violent death of James. To lose Peter would be a blow that could bring the church to its knees.
Helpless to stop the mighty power of Rome or the concentrated hatred of the Jewish leaders, the disciples resorted to the only source of help and comfort they had available. They turned to God in prayer.
Gathering together they prayed, almost ceaselessly, for God to spare Peter’s life and deliver him from the shackles that bound him. God answered their prayers. One night while Peter was dozing between two soldiers, an angel came into the prison.
Peter’s chains were miraculously removed, and the doors of the prison were flung open and he was led out to safety. He ended up at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where a group of believers were praying earnestly for him.
It was a moment of undiluted joy and triumph. God had miraculously answered the prayers of his faithful people and set Peter free from the chains that bound him. He was safe and whole, facing a future bright with possibility.
Peter’s story is relevant to us in many ways. Especially when we find ourselves reeling in a crisis. So many people in the world today find themselves shackled in a dungeon.
It might not be a physical dungeon, damp and cold, filled with rats, but it can very well be a different kind of mental or emotional dungeon. A prison of fear, anxiety, or depression. Chains of addiction or abuse.
The chains that bind us may be invisible but they are there nonetheless. Just as palpable as if they were binding our hands and feet like fetters.
If you or someone close to you is struggling then there are three things you can do to help. First, you should reach out to them. Pick up the phone, call them, ask them how they’re going, let them know you care.
Second encourage them to reach across the chasm of their mental and emotional struggles to find help. Whether it be talking to a counsellor, talking to the police in the case of abuse or just talking to a friend about their fears. It’s important for us to be proactive in finding solutions to the problems we grapple with.
Thirdly you need to reach up to God and pray on their behalf. There is power in earnest intercessory prayer. It was prayer that brought Peter divine help and set him free from prison. Prayer can work miracles even in the midst of the most hopeless situation.
If you know someone who is shackled in a dungeon of hopelessness and despair, then remember the three things that you can do to help them. Reach out to them, encourage them to reach across for help and then reach up to God in prayer.
If you would like to know more about how to pray, then I’d like to recommend the free Bible Study guide we have to share with you today. It’s called, The Secret of Answered Prayer.