Herod the king who is featured in this chapter of Acts is not the same Herod – Herod the Great – who killed the baby boys of Bethlehem at Jesus’ birth. Herod the Great also greatly beautified the Temple in Jerusalem. Nor was it the Herod who ordered the death of John the Baptist. That was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who ruled Galilee as a client state of the Roman Empire. He eventually fell into disfavor with Rome, and with his brother’s wife Herodias, was sent into exile to Gaul, where it is assumed they died, for they were never heard of again. The Herod of Acts 12 was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great by another son (not Antipas). He had become a personal friend of Caligula before he was emperor, and when Caligula became emperor of Rome, he gave Herod Agrippa more territory in Judea and Samaria and the surrounding area to rule over for Rome than his grandfather Herod the Great ever held.
Josephus records this Herod zealous for Judaism, unlike his uncle Antipater or his grandfather Herod. That explains why he had James the brother of John beheaded and Peter arrested. Now Peter as well as the Church, I assume, had every expectation that Herod intended to execute him, as James had been, and it was only the fact that Passover was upon them that kept Peter in prison for a time, because during the feast days no one was executed.
So what jumped out at me in this chapter, was the constant prayer of the Church, on Peter’s behalf. The account is written in such a way as to suggest that the miraculous intervention of the angel was in response to the constant prayers of the Church for Peter. Angels are sent on our behalf in response to prayer, and this is not the first place in the Scripture that contains this scenario. An angel was sent to Daniel in response to his fervent prayer as recorded in Dan 9.
“Constant” in Greek is ektenes, and it means, intent, earnest, or assiduous. The prayer the Church offered up for Peter was intent, earnest, and assiduous prayer. So then I had to look up the word assiduous: it means, marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application.
“Ask [and keep on asking], and it will be given to you; seek [and keep on seeking], and you will find; knock [and keep on knocking], and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Mat 7:7-8
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Luk 18:1-8
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Jam 5:16
That we would develop the habit of intent, earnest, and assiduous prayer in our lives and our homes and our churches, and then we will see what God will do!