St Peter's Chains
“While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him” (NRSV, Acts 12:5)
The New Testament reading for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul is the account in the Acts of the Apostles of St Peter’s miraculous release from the dungeon into which King Herod Agrippa had had him flung. The incident itself has also its own feast day, that of St Peter’s Chains on 01 August. A number of Anglican churches are dedicated to St Peter ad Vincula – St Peter in Chains.
The Apostle James, the brother of John, had already been beheaded and now St Peter’s turn had come. He was lying in prison in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish world, manacled to two soldiers, with two more outside the cell door – well-guarded indeed, for his execution was fixed for the following morning.
But “the church prayed fervently to God for him” and, in speedy answer to that stream of prayer, God’s holy angel released him from his chains and escorted him out of the prison into the city street. After calling briefly at the house where the Christians were holding vigil for him, he left Jerusalem and by dawn was well on his way to safety.