Someone wisely said, "When your knees are knocking, kneel on them." That is always a good thing to do.

Maybe you find yourself in troubling circumstances right now. Maybe you have received some bad news recently, and you're beginning to wonder if there is anything you can do.

In Acts 12, we find a story about how powerful prayer can be. It is a story of how, when things were looking bleak, prayer turned the entire situation around. This story not only encourages us with a wonderful example of answered prayer, but also provides us with a number of principles we can apply in our own lives to help us see our prayers answered in the affirmative.

Let's look at some of these principles together.

Principle one: We need to offer our prayers to God. Verse 5 tells us, "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church" (NKJV).

Did you know that not all prayer is offered to God? A number of studies in recent years have found that people who pray seem to have fewer problems in life, less stress, and lower blood pressure. It was even found in hospital situations that a person who was being prayed for seemed to have a more rapid recovery than people who had not been the recipients of prayer.

The question I have is, "Who were these people praying to?" Prayer is not the answer. God is the answer. Prayer is the vehicle by which we reach God.

We don't need to be looking to prayer. We need to be looking to God through prayer. We need to offer our prayers to God.

Principle two: We need to pray with passion. The phrase, "constant prayer" could be translated, "earnest prayer or stretched outwardly."

Have you ever dropped your car keys in that little spot between the seat and the center console? They are just beyond your reach, and you strain to try and get them. This is the idea here. They reached out to God. They put everything into it.

Another way to translate this phrase is, "they prayed with agony." This was not a flippant kind of prayer. This was a storm-the-throne-of-God kind of prayer.

God promises that we will find Him when we search for Him with all of our heart (see Jeremiah 29:13). That is how we need to pray.

Principle 3: We need to pray with persistence. Jesus said, " 'Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you' " (Luke 11:9 NKJV). A better way to translate that would be, "Keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking."

Is Jesus saying here that God is really busy, so we had better bug Him until He answers our prayers? Nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes, when God doesn't give us what we want, we say that God didn't answer our prayer. I would say that He did, because "no" is as much an answer to prayer as "yes" is.

Sometimes God says, "Go." Sometimes God says, "Slow." Sometimes God says, "Grow." So we need to keep praying and not give up.

Principle 4: We need to pray together. Remember, "Constant prayer was offered to God for him [Peter] by the church" (verse 5). There is power in united prayer. Jesus said, " 'If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven' " (Matthew 18:19 NKJV).

Does this mean if two people agree on something - like a Rolls Royce, for example — that God will just give it? Not necessarily. The idea here is of two people praying with the same, God-given burden, sure of His will, and in agreement with the Spirit of God and with each other. So we need to pray with other believers.

I wonder what is waiting for you that is not yet yours because you haven't brought it before God and said, "Lord, I have been thinking about this. I have been worrying about it. I have been stressing out about it. But I haven't prayed about it. Now I am bringing it before you."

What situation are you facing? Is it a loved one who isn't a believer? Is it an opportunity that you want to pursue? Is it provision you need?

Bring it before the Lord and ask God to work.