Review of Acts 12

Review of Acts 12

by Pastor Ola Joseph Kolawole

Peter and ‘The Aladuras’ (‘The Praying People’)

As I read Acts 12, I could not resist some emotions, not only because of the fresh discoveries God led me into as I dug deeper into the chapter standing on the shoulders of sound Bible Scholars who had wrestled with the text for much longer and more rigorously than me, but also because of the special place this chapter of the scripture holds in my journey in ministry.

Acts 12 was the passage I was given to minister from on the very first occasion that I will go and ‘minister’ as a ‘guest minister’ in a Christian gathering. I was 16 or 17. It was not long after my ‘final’ surrendering-my-life-to-Christ experience. A senior colleague had been invited to speak to students at a Higher Institution in Ile-Ife, Nigeria but the date of the event was not favourable for the man to honour the invitation so he asked me if I will be willing to fill in for him. (It was more like an instruction than a request, actually.)

I yielded. For the next few days, I will read Acts 12 countless times. I read it from every translation I could find at the time. I remember hoping that someday, my sermon note for that event will eventually become a book. (Well, I can’t even find the note again let alone fulfil that desire.) I remember going to my dad’s room to pray for me as my best friend and I were about to set out for the event. I remember the prophetic words he uttered as I knelt beside his bed that evening. And those words are still being fulfilled till date.

All that to say this: Acts 12 holds a special spot in my heart. (LOL) So if I should get into unpacking the chapter the way I’m feeling, this post will be (unnecessarily) long. Rather, I will just state a few thoughts from it as succinctly as I could.


Wait. Let’s be honest; how logical was it that in Peter’s situation as the context of this chapter portrayed, he was so deeply asleep that the angel had to rouse him from sleep? He’s been scheduled to die. The clock is ticking and counting down to his execution. Herod had just finished assassinating James — so there is every reason to believe he will make good on this intention to kill Peter. Yet, hours away from dying, Big Brother Peter was sleeping and, you can almost be sure, snoring. Why?

The answer is multifactorial, but two seem readily obvious one of which was mentioned in the passage: the church was praying fervently for him. Good stuff! We’ll get to that bunch of praying people and what God may be saying to our generation in the context of COVID-19 in light of this, but let me quickly highlight the second possible reason why Peter could afford to sleep as he did.

Here: Peter was 110% confident that Herod could not kill him. How could I be so certain of that? In fact, isn’t the opposite more plausible? Could it not be that Peter was sleeping because he had resigned to fate and believed that this is the end so he might as well spend his last night peacefully?

Well, there is ample reason from God’s Word to think otherwise. You will find it in John 21:18-19. From The Passion Translation, it reads:

“Peter, listen, when you were younger you made your own choices and you went where you pleased. But one day when you are old [“grayheaded”], others will tie you up and escort you where you would not choose to go—and you will spread out your arms.” (Jesus said this to Peter as a prophecy of what kind of death he would die, for the glory of God.) And then he said, “Peter, follow me!”

Of course, two things are clear from these words of Jesus to Peter: (1) he will live to an old age — grayheaded-kind-of-old. (2) He will die by Crucifixion.

The Peter of Acts 12 was not yet an old man in that sense. And the means of execution Herod was employing to kill (as he did for James) was to behead. It seems apparent, therefore, that Peter simply laid hold of the promise in what Jesus has said concerning him and left the entire situation to the Lord, and God gave him peace and rest. Surely, he was clueless about how or when God would deliver him, but he was doubtless about the fact that deliverance was coming.

So two questions for you:

a. What has God said concerning you? (The more you sit down with God’s Word, the more you will discover these things.)

b. Will you believe Him? Will you stand unwaveringly upon God’s Word and instructions like this?

One of the dramatic events in my life where I stood unwaveringly on the sure (and seemingly foolish) Word I received from God happened when I was studying at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. And guess what? It also had everything to do with SLEEPING in the face of imminent danger. I wrote a 2-part post about it titled “GO AND SLEEP”. You can find a link to it on my link tree here:  — and, yes, you will find even many other links to many other resources on there.


I mentioned already the fact that the fervent prayers of the church for Peter’s deliverance — which went on night and day probably for a week — was instrumental to the angelic deliverance Peter enjoyed. Of course, the fact that they doubted when Peter eventually stood at the door of the venue of their Prayer Meeting is an interesting phenomenon which is worthy of a comment, but I’ll pass on that to focus on another bit. The main reason I am highlighting this bunch of ‘praying people’ is because of another group of ‘Praying People’ that arose in Nigeria in the early 1900s. Specifically in the context of what seemed to be the last major pandemic the world encountered post-1st World War. I’m talking about the Influenza pandemic of 1918.

The story of my denominational affiliation (The Apostolic Church Nigeria) actually began in this context when a group of about 8 people came together and began to pray — because churches were shut down (so the lockdown measures of COVID-19 in 2020 is actually not new). As these people prayed, miracles started happening and the prayer group began to expand. There were other pockets of ‘praying people’ in different cities and villages and before long they started networking together. They formed a group called “Precious Stone Society” in 1918. The interesting thing about this group was the fact that many of them were young people. There was an 18-year-old lady in their midst — Sophia Odunlami by name — who was endued with great healing power in that context. By 1923, that group affiliated themselves with a church in the United States called ‘Faith Tabernacle’ and that became their new name. By 1930, the group had spread across the country but their leaders faced serious persecution. You probably would have heard of the great 1930 revival in South Western Nigeria in which God tremendously used Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola. The man was only 26 years old in 1930! In 1931 after the group was facing immense persecution and no help was forthcoming from the USA ‘Faith Tabernacle’ to which they were affiliated, they sought new affiliation and by prophetic guidance, sent a Macedonian call to ‘The Apostolic Church of Great Britain.’ The UK-based thriving Pentecostal church happily heeded the call and sent down delegates (including their pioneer) to come to Nigeria and assess the situation. Over the next few decades, they had missionaries from that UK church come to work in Nigeria in this new classical Pentecostal church that is now known as ‘The Apostolic Church Nigeria.’ It was out of this movement that Christ Apostolic Church will eventually arise. In fact, if you will trace the roots of most Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria today faithfully, one way or the other, you will trace it back to some ‘Aladuras’ (‘praying people’) who lived long ago. God used a pandemic to inaugurate, as it way, a ‘praying people’ that will go on to shape the face of Christianity in Nigeria.

I gave that slice of history to make two points in light of COVID-19:

a. Could it be that God is calling us in this COVID-19 context to, more than ever, be a ‘praying people’?

b. And could it be that God is especially interested in YOUNG PEOPLE taking the lead on this? (My definition of ‘young people’ basically includes anyone who believes that s/he has more years to live than s/he has already lived, God-willing.)

In a Chapter contribution to a soon-to-be-published book of African Theology and Missiology, I made this argument and I will leave it with us as a challenge to glean from it whatever God may be saying to us from it (as young people):

The key figures of the Aladura movement that evolved into Nigeria’s Classical Pentecostalism were markedly young men and women. Garrick Braide started his journey into notorious leadership in indigenous Christianity in the 1890s while he was still a teenager.

[1] Samuel Adegboyega, who is reputed to be one of the founding fathers of Pentecostalism in Africa, was first ordained as a pastor at the age of 28.

[2] Joseph Ayo Babalola, a key figure in the Aladura movement received his call into ministry at the age of 24 and led the great revival of 1930 in south-western Nigeria when he was just 26.

[3] Sophia Odunlami was a founding member of the Aladura prayer group that was later called ‘Precious Stone Society’—and she was just 19 at the time.;

[4] Her contemporary, Christiana Abiodun Akinsowon, became a co-founder of the Cherubim and Seraphim Society at 17.

[5] The explosion of neo-Pentecostal churches in the 1970s and ‘‘80s have been attributed largely to revivals among the youth in universities and secondary schools.

[6] Benson Idahosa, [7] Enoch Adejare Adeboye,[8] W.F. Kumuyi,[9] and David Oyedepo[10]—to mention but a few— while they were between the ages of 27 and 32 pioneered churches that have played a significant role in Nigerian Pentecostalism with the exception of Adeboye who, as opposed to pioneering, took over the leadership of RCCG at the age of 39.

[11] The same trend of God calling and using young people tremendously in missio DeiGod’s mission in the world is visible in the wider global church history. It has been argued to a reasonable extent that the majority of Jesus’ twelve disciples were teenagers and young adults.

 [12] Origen was 18 years old when he was called by Bishop Demetrius to direct the catechetical school of Alexandria. [

13] Philip Melanchthon, John Calvin, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards were ‘religious geniuses . . . who as children were precocious and early manifested a special interest in religion

.’[14] Martin Luther was ordained as a priest at the age of 24[15] and was 34 when he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle.

[16] John Paul II was ordained as a priest at 26.

[17] Billy Graham was 16 when he became a Christian, 26 when he hosted his first radio show and 31 when he ran the Greater Los Angeles revival which lasted for 8 weeks.

[18] The mission of God has always been championed by young people.

Today, can God count on you as one of His ‘praying people’ on earth?

Sources Cited

[1] Nimi Wariboko, Nigerian Pentecostalism (Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press, 2014), p. 19.

[2] This ordination was by proxy from the authorities of ‘Faith Tabernacle’ in US. He was re-ordained by missionaries from the British Apostolic Church in 1931 at the age of 32. Samson Adetunji Fatokun and others, A Pentecost from Africa to Europe, from Europe to Africa : History and Distinctiveness of the Apostolic Church Nigeria, 1918-2017 (First Classical Pentecostal Denomination and Mother of Apostolic Churches in Nigeria) – (Ibadan, Nigeria: Global Estida Publishers, 2017), p. 526.

[3] David O. Olayiwola, “Babalola, Joseph Ayodele,” Dictionary of African Christian Biography, accessed January 2, 2019,

[4] Fatokun and others, pp. 14-15.

[5] O Olofinjana, Israel, 20 Pentecostal Pioneers in Nigeria (Xlibris, 2011), pp. 43-47.

[6] Nimi Wariboko, Nigerian Pentecostalism, – p. 26.

[7] Benson Idahosa was a leading figure in Nigerian Pentecostalism. He left Assemblies of God church to plant his own church—which became instrumental to nurturing many other neo-Pentecostal preachers in the continent—at the age of 30. See Wariboko, p. 20.

[8] He is the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God—arguably the African denomination with the largest network of churches around the globe. He gave his life to Christ at the age of 31, was ordained as a pastor at the age of 35 and became the General Overseer at the age of 39. See Adedamola Osinulu, ‘A Transnational History of Pentecostalism in West Africa’, _History Compass, – 15.6 (2017), p. 7.

[9] He founded Deeper Life Bible Church (with the headquarters reputed to be the largest church congregation in Africa) at 32. See Wariboko, pp. 20-21.

[10] He is the founder of the denomination once reckoned as the church with the world’s largest church auditorium. He received the vision that birthed Living Faith Ministries (also known as Winners’ Chapel) at age 27. See “About Us – Winners Chapel International, Dartford,” Winners Chapel International, Dartford, accessed January 2, 2019,

[11] It should be emphasised, however, that this was 8 years after he became a Christian.

[12] Otis Cary and Frank Cary, ‘How Old Were Christ’s Disciples?’ _The Biblical World, – 50.1 (1917), 3–12 <> [accessed 3 January 2019].

[13] Thomas C. Oden, _How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity_ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 164.

[14] Otis Cary and Frank Cary, ‘How Old Were Christ’s Disciples?’ The Biblical World, 50.1 (1917), 3–12, p. 8.

[15] Scott H Hendrix, Martin Luther (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), p. 38.

[16] Hendrix, p. 61

[17] “Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) Timeline”, – The Christian Broadcasting Network – <> [Accessed 27 December 2018].

[18] David Aikman, Billy Graham (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2010), pp. 55, 48 and 65.

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