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This topic is collecting lesson ideas and resources for the story of Peter escaping prison in Acts 12.

Acts 12 tells the story of Peter being arrested in Jerusalem and thrown in prison by King Herod (Antipas), only to be rescued by the angel.

If you're looking for the story of Paul and Silas in the Phillip jail ~ earthquake and jailer story, go to our Acts 16 forum

Let's get this topic started with these three lessons from our friends at State St UMC in Virginia!

Peter Escapes from Prison, Acts 12

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Summary of Jaymie's four Acts 12 lesson resources:

  1. Bible Background on Peter in Acts 12 (scroll down in this post)
  2. Drama Workshop: Children will act out the story. "Still photographs" will be taken and printed out to create a photo storybook.
  3. Prayer Workshop: Children will learn about the different types of prayer, then go on an "Intercessory Prayer Walk" around the church.
  4. Video Idea: We added a video suggestion: "Paul & Silas" (Superbook Series). See post for video summary.

A Bible Background with Discussion Questions/Life Application

What's in a Name?
When Peter first appears in the gospels, his name is Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah). Jesus changes Simon's name to Cephas (Aramaic) or Petros (Peter - Greek). Jona means dove, while Cephas and Peter mean rock. Jesus is essentially saying to Peter, "Once you were just a flitting, fluttering dove. If you will trust me as your Lord, I will make you into a rock." As we have seen in our last two rotations (Peter's Denial and Peter's Restoration), Peter has not always acted "rock-like." Peter's name change is a reflection of who he would become, not who he already was. Each of us has a "next step" in our discipleship. As with Peter, God sees our potential and yearns for us to fulfill it.

What name would you like to be known by that would reflect your hopes and dreams and faith?

Who is Peter?
We know a great deal about Peter the disciple from Mark and Luke, two early converts. The Gospel of Mark and Luke feature Peter as Jesus' most important disciple, and Luke's Book of Acts features Peter until Paul's conversion,

Peter was a man of action, with a quick temper and impulsive nature, typical of Galileans so it was said. To Peter's credit, he does not hold back even though he makes mistakes or puts himself in harm's way. Peter wants everyone to experience, as he has, the forgiveness and grace of Jesus and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. And as with all of us, God can use what's strong or weak about us for Godly purposes!

Peter was a fisherman, in partnership with James and John. He was married and lived in Capernaum in Galilee. As one of the first disciples to be called by Jesus, Peter quickly became a leader during Jesus' lifetime, and in the days of the early church.

Acts 12 represents the "zenith" of Peter's story. His story will soon be eclipsed by Paul who is introduced in Acts 9 and 11. While Peter still maintains a position of authority in Jerusalem and will be instrumental in welcoming and approving of Paul's teaching and mission, Peter is older now and a new generation of Christians is rising. They include Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Lydia, and many others across the Greek world.

How would people describe your strengths and weaknesses?

Who is leading you/your church now that are hoping you will be the next great disciples and leaders?

Peter's Arrest on Pentecost
The Jewish Feast Day of Unleavened Bread is essentially a springtime early harvest festival that takes place 50 days after Passover. Known as Pentecost ("50"), this festival featured the arrival in Jerusalem of many pilgrims from different regions, which meant it could also be a flashpoint for unrest and rebellion. King Herod Antipas, the same one whom Jesus had been tried before, was charged with keeping the peace or face further oppression by the Roman army. Peter was thus likely "swept up" with other potential troublemakers. He put James the brother of John to the sword (Acts 12:2) and threw Peter in jail -- most likely to await his own EXECUTION.

How is the message of Christ "trouble" for those powers who wish to oppress others?

Peter Escape Prison with Heavenly Help and Prayer
Acts 12:5 makes a point to say that the church was praying for a miracle when Peter was thrown in prison. Early Christians believed they could move God to act through prayer. Today, we might say that prayers is God moving us to action!

And sure enough, it happened. An angel appeared, Peter's chains dropped off, guards fell alseep, a door miraculously opens by itself, and Peter escaped and hid at Mary's house, the mother of John-Mark. Soon thereafter, Herod died "eaten by worms." Peter's story then recedes into the background of Acts, reappearing briefly chapter 15 to approve of Paul's ministry, and then he disappears from Acts (there is no mention of him going to Rome in the Bible, that is only a tradition).

Who are the "angels" in your life keeping you safe, and helping you when you are trouble?  How can YOU be an angel to someone in trouble?

Why then was Peter saved from prison only to diminish in importance (according to Acts)? Many Christians die without ever being rescued from their fate, and James the Brother of Jesus was already a key leader in the early Church. Could it be that "God was not done with him yet?"  God needed Peter to do one more great task -- approve and support Paul's mission to the Gentiles. Without it, Paul may have been rejected.

God usually moves silently through the world he created, and sometimes, like Peter said, his presence and power moving through us "feels like a dream" (v9).  And like Peter, we don't always understand God's plans, but we pray to become part of his story, his creation, his plans. We pray that God would break the chains that hold back our faith and our desire to serve him. That God would replace fear with trust -- trust that we are part of a greater plan.

Imagine what great task might God have in store for your life some day.   Who does God see that needs you to be their friend, to help them serve others?   

What chains are holding you back that we should pray "be broken!"

A Bible Background by members Jaymie and Neil MacQueen

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
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Acts 12: Peter Escapes from Prison in Jerusalem

Drama Workshop


  • Write the names of the characters on individual slips of paper.
  • lace in a basket.
  • Camera
  • Copies of script for older students (the teacher will serve as narrator for younger kids)
  • Signs for each scene
  • Bibles or a Bible storybook with this story in it
  • Materials to build Peter's prison cell (see below)

Advanced Preparation:

  • Create a "prison cell" area in your classroom for this drama and where will begin your Bible study.
  • Copy the script for the older age group.
  • Make signs for each scene (The Church is persecuted, Peter is thrown into prison, Escape, Mary's House, The Next Morning)

Ideas for Creating Peter's Prison Cell

Place a canvas painter's tarp on the floor in the corner of a classroom. Lay some folding tables on their side to form low walls (to give the feeling of an enclosure). You may also use paper painter's dropcloths tacked to the walls or covering the tables.

In the photo on the right, the Sunday School class used painter's paper dropcloths and some plastic pipe. The paper is covering the walls and two tables at the entrance. A canvas tarp is on the floor.

For Peter's chains (and those of your students), a long piece of decorative black lamp chain will do. Instead of wrapping it around their wrist, you can tie it with string. Alternatively, cut loops of twine and make a "rope chain." The kids' imaginations will take over from there!

Lesson Plan

Directions Upon Arrival:

As children arrive, have them choose a slip of paper for their role in the skit. Next, have them select costumes and props and go "sit in prison."  Have a "jailer" in the prison loosely wrapping chains around their wrists. (Use lamp swag chain or loops of twine you've prepared. This will get them in the mood and anticipating your lesson!)


Welcome the children to their "Jail Cell in Jerusalem" for today's lesson.  Tell what they'll be doing and what you hope they will learn.


Have students find Acts 12 in their Bibles, then have someone dramatically read the story of Peter's escape, Acts 12:1-19. If you have several older students who can read this dramatically, assign certain paragraphs of the story to them.


  1. Why was Peter arrested?
  2. What do you think was going through his mind?
  3. Would you have been able to sleep that night like Peter did (bound and guarded)?
  4. Do you think Peter KNEW he was going to be rescued?
  5. What did Peter think was happening to him when the angel appeared and his chains fell off?  Would you have believed what was happening to you?
  6. God did not rescue every Christian who was arrested. In verse 2 we learn that James the brother of John was executed.  Why do you think God sent an angel to rescue PETER?

    (This is an interesting question that is answered in the Bible Background. In brief, God needed Peter's reputation and authority to eventually welcome Paul and approve of what Paul was doing to spread the Gospel. Those praying for Peter's release probably had no idea what was coming in Acts 15 when Paul would come to Jerusalem seeking the disciple's approval of his ministry beyond Jews to the Gentiles.  Note: We are all Gentiles!)

  7. What "chains" hold people back from believing in Jesus and serving others?
  8. What great things do you think God wants you to BE FREEand UNAFRAID to DO?

Drama: Peter's Prison Break!

The script follows the text of Acts 12 very closely. The goal is deeper memory and understanding of the story, not a polished performance. You can "stage" it as simply or as elaborately as your kids are able. Initially, you'll probably need to prompt them to pose and speak dramatically. Your "rehearsal" is a major opportunity to help them remember and get into the story, it's also an opportunity to share and reinforce insights.

Narrator, Peter, King Herod, Rhoda, Believers, Prison Guards.

Costumes: basic biblical costumes, angel costume and soldier's costumes
Peter - chains
King Herod - crown
Guards - swords, helmets
Black foam core board cut to resemble prison bars


  1. Quickly assign parts and get into costume.
  2. Children who do not wish to have speaking parts can move props and hold signs.
  3. Read through the script -- pausing to allow children to act it out.
  4. Have a volunteer take several photographs of each scene as the drama progresses.

Option for Younger Children:
"Salt" the drama with teens and helpers for your younger children to imitate. Narrate the entire script with pauses and prompts that allow the children to act out. For key moments and verses, say things like, "Let's say that together."


View the photos of the drama by connecting your camera or cellphone to a large screen. This will not only be fun, it will be a good opportunity to reinforce key moments and insights.

Take some of the chain you used and open some of the links to give each student a piece of chain about 3 links long as a reminder of today's lesson and God's desire that we "not hold back" our believing and serving.

Script: Peter's Prison Break!

Scene 1: The Church is Persecuted, Death of James

Narrator: It was about this time that the church and followers of Jesus began to be persecuted. The Jewish leaders hated the believers and did everything they could to stop them. Now there was also at this time an evil king, called Herod Agrippa. He wanted the Jewish leaders to like him. What better way to become popular with the Jewish leaders than to arrest and persecute the Christians!

King Herod: Arrest and kill the apostle James with your sword.

Narrator: And just as Herod ordered, it was done. James, the brother of John, was killed. The believers felt terrible as you can imagine. How could something so terrible happen to James? But through their sadness, they continued to meet together, to worship God and to pray.

Not everyone was sad about James' death. The Jewish leaders were happy to see him gone. And King Herod was happy that the Jewish leaders were happy. He was getting more popular by the minute! If killing James made him popular, what would happen if he had Peter killed? After all, Peter was the leader of the church! Killing Peter would definitely make King Herod VERY popular with the Jewish leaders. But he also knew that it was Passover, the time of a very special feast for the Jews. The Jewish leaders would be angry if a killing took place at Passover. He would have to wait until after Passover.

Scene 2: Peter is Thrown into Prison

King Herod: Arrest Peter! Put him in prison!

Soldiers: Yes Sir! (walk off stage and drag Peter onto stage and into "prison")

Narrator: King Herod assigned four sets of guards to Peter. Two guards stayed inside the cell with him, chained on either side of him. Two were outside. The sets of guards rotated their watch. King Herod wanted to make sure Peter didn't escape!

(Soldiers chained to Peter and sitting on stage floor)

Narrator: Now the church was very upset about the news. They began praying very hard to God for Peter. They continued to pray….

The night before Peter's trial, while Peter was sleeping between the two guards suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a bright light shone in the darkness.

(Angel stands beside Peter and guards. Turn on spotlight.)
The angel touched Peter on the side and woke him up.

Angel: Peter, quick! Get up!

Narrator: Peter obeyed the angel. He stood up and the chains fell away.

(Peter stands up and the chains fall away. Rubs eyes as if trying to wake up.)

Angel: Quick! Get dressed and follow me.

(Peter puts cloak on himself and follows angel out of prison)

Scene 3: Escape!

Narrator: Amazingly, the two guards who were chained to Peter didn't wake up. The guards outside the cell didn't notice anything either. Peter and the angel walked right past them! Peter did not know what was really happening. He thought he must be dreaming.

Peter: This must be a dream… like the dream I had of the sheet with animals before.

(Peter and angel link arms and pretend to walk away)

Narrator: Peter and the angel walked out of the prison past the guards. They came to the iron gate that led to the city. It opened up for them and they passed through. They walked down one more street and suddenly the angel was gone.

Then Peter realized that he was not dreaming after all! God had sent the angel to save him!

Peter: Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel to rescue me! Praise God!

(Peter looks around for angel, then raises his hands to praise God)

Narrator: Peter hurried to Mary's house, where he knew the people would be gathered praying.

Scene 4: Mary's House

Narrator: Peter arrived at the house and knocked at the outer door. A girl named Rhoda heard the knock and came to answer the door.

(Believers kneeling on stage praying hard. Peter knocks on side of prop box and calls out in a loud voice)

Peter: It's me, Peter. Let me in.

Narrator: Rhoda recognized Peter's voice and she was overjoyed to hear him….but instead of opening the door to let him in, she ran back to the group.

(Rhoda moves to side of stage by prop box, holds hand to ear as if listening, then acts excited and runs back to church people who are still praying)

Rhoda: Peter is at the door!

Narrator: But the people did not believe Rhoda. They thought she was crazy!

Believers: What! You must be out of your mind!

Rhoda: No, really! It's true! Peter is at the door! I heard him. I would know his voice anywhere!

Believers: It must be his angel.

Narrator: But Peter kept knocking. Finally they opened the door and saw him. They were astonished!

(People act surprised, hugging Peter and bring him in to the center stage)

Peter: God sent an angel to rescue me. He filled my prison cell with bright light and the chains fell right off me. Then we walked right out of the prison and no one stopped us!

Scene 5: The next morning…

Narrator: Now the next morning, there was a huge commotion! The soldiers could not believe that Peter was gone!

Soldiers: How can this be? We were chained to him! It's impossible that he escaped.

Narrator: Herod was furious. He ordered a search for Peter but no one could find him. He was so angry, he ordered all the guards to be executed!

But the believers rejoiced that God had saved Peter. And they continued to worship God and to pray prayers of thanksgiving and praise!

The End….

A lesson from State Street UMC,
Bristol, VA,

A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability.


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Acts 12: Peter Escapes from Prison

"Prayer Walk" "Hand Prayer" Workshop


After "unbinding" from chains like Peter, students will be "free" to engage in a "prayer walk" that leaves encouraging notes at various locations around the church. Prior to the walk, they will create a "Hand Prayer" reminder on cardstock to take home.


  • Gather supplies
  • Determine the stops for the Prayer Walk. Make note of any specific prayer requests at each stop.
  • Write out the six types of prayer on the board: Praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession (for others), petition (for me), listening.

Supplies List:

  • Index cards
  • Markers
  • Cardstock
  • Colored Markers
  • Post-it notes

Lesson Plan


Welcome the children and tell them what they'll be doing and learning about today.

Following these opening questions about prayer, you'll do a brief demonstration using a student who you've asked ahead of time.

Ask: What is prayer? (accept all answers)

Draw a giant hand on the board and then ask...

Ask: What "types" of prayers can you pray?    Accept all answers and help them refine a list of ideas. generally getting it down to five or six categories:

  1. Praise: prayers that say great things about God, who he is, what he has done
  2. Thanksgiving: prayers that thank God for his blessings, especially things in our lives we are grateful for.
  3. Intercession: Things and problems we ask God to help others with.
  4. Confession: Admitting our sins and asking for forgiveness.
  5. Petitions:  Personal things we ask God to help us with.
  6. Listening: Quiet time contemplating God's world and word and feeling God's comfort.

"Unbound" Prayer

As you say the following, gently WRAP the student's arms/chest/head with rope or decorative lamp chain to symbolize being locked up -- kind of like Peter was in the story.

We are taught that God understands even our mutters and mumbles, and "things too deep for words." God knows what's on our heart even before we say it, but God wants us to SHARE IT with him. But praying is hard for some people because they are BOUND UP with too many other things on their mind.

As you say the following, begin to BREAK FREE the chains/binds around the student:

To be an effective pray-er, you need to find the time, a quiet spot, and learn to open your heart, and mind, and words to God.  One way I do that is by breathing deeply and closing my eyes. And then when my spirit and body feels quiet, I ask God to be with me.


Say: In today's story, we're going to hear about the Apostle Peter getting ARRESTED and thrown in jail. It takes place several years after the resurrection of Jesus when his followers were trying to stay together and get organized.  King Herod Antipas, the son of the first King Herod who was alive when Jesus was a baby, is angry with the Christians and is afraid they are going to start a rebellion.

Ask: When Peter was thrown in jail, what do you think the church of Jerusalem did FIRST?  Did they try to bail him out? Try to break him out?  No... they prayed to God for his deliverance. Which of the kinds of prayer WAS THAT?

Say and Ask: The early followers of Jesus prayed all the time, "without ceasing" said the Apostle Paul (1 Thess 5). How can someone pray "without ceasing" ??   

Ask: Can you pray with your eyes open? When you are at school?  During TV commercials? During a football game? Yes, you can pray anytime.

Ask: Does God answer EVERY prayer? What if you prayed to "pass a test." God might answer that IF you are listening!  And the answer would probably be:  "II will love you pass or fail,  but it would be unfair for me to give you the correct answers."

Let's Read Peter's Story Together in Acts 12:1-22

You may choose to assign part, or read it all yourself, or have everyone read along, or use a Bible storybook

Questions after the reading:

  1. Did Peter ask to be set free in his prayers?  Who did?
    This story is a great example of God answer a prayer you may not have even prayed! But needed!

  2. What did Peter DO with his "answer to prayer"?  He went to the home of a disciple and later resumed his leadership of the Jerusalem church. It was very important for him to do that, because very soon, the Apostle Paul would come to Jerusalem and ask for Peter's blessing to go preach to the Gentiles far and wide.

  3. Do we have any Gentiles in the room today?  (We are all Gentiles! -- People descended from the ones Paul preached too. Thank God Peter was there to approve of Paul's mission!

    Thank God that THE CHURCH -- Peter's friends prayed to God to help Peter.

Hand Prayers

As a reminder of the importance of prayer and the many different ways we can pray, you're going to make a Hand Prayer to take home.


  1. Have each child trace their hand on a piece of cardstock. Have them spread their fingers before tracing. If needed, have them help each other.
  2. Let students color in the line to make it heavier and complete.
  3. Have them write the following key words on the fingers, starting with "Praise" on the thumb and so on.
    • Thumb - Praise
    • Index finger - Thanks
    • Middle finger - Confession
    • Ring finger - Intercession (for others)
    • Pinkie - Petition (for ourselves)

  4. Now have them draw a heart in the palm of their hand drawing and label it "Listening."
    • Heart - Listening

  5. Finally, let them decorate the area outside their traced hand, and include the words

    "The church was earnestly praying to God." Acts 12:5

Prayer Walk Activity

For our closing activity, we're going to go pray for some people and things around the church and leave behind our prayers. When we get to those locations, I'm going to give you a post it note to write a prayer on with your marker. We'll discuss some possible prayers at each location when we get there.

Possible Prayer Walk Locations to Leave a Post-It Prayer:

  1. Church Office  (thanksgiving, intercession)
  2. Choir room (praise God for their praising voices, thanksgiving for sharing)
  3. Nursery (Intercession for the parents and caregivers)
  4. Pastor's Office (thanksgiving, intercession for strength, leadership)
  5. Window by the front door where people come in (Confession, Asking God to forgive our sins so that we can enter his gates with a pure heart)
  6. Outside by a tree (Praise God for Creation)
  7. Wall outside our classroom (Petition for things we ourselves need)  *Student may hold these privately and put them in a pocket if they wish.

Close with a prayer asking God to unbind our time and spirit, so that we can praise and thank him, pray for others and our world, and lastly prayer for ourselves, and listen with our heart to God's answers.

A lesson by Jaymie Derden with updates from the Content Team


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Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

I'm adding this video suggestion here under Jaymie's lessons as it ties nicely to her prayer focus for this story.

DVD - “Peter's Escape” (Superbook Series)petersescape

Chris and Gizmo send Joy on a round-the-world Holo-9 Virtual tour to 'help' her with her school geography project. As Joy sees scenes of hardship, she is overwhelmed by the state of the human condition. Joy wonders how anyone can help and make a difference.

In response, Superbook transports her, Chris and Gizmo back in time to meet Peter, Rhoda, Mary and other followers of Jesus, so that they may witness how the power of prayer can lead to miraculous changes. Acts 12:5. Theme: Prayer can have amazing power.

  • Peter Heals a lame beggar
  • King Herod Agrippa Decides To Arrest Peter
  • Believers Pray For Peter
  • Peter Escapes From Prison

See reviews of the "Superbook" DVD Series for more details on this series link.


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Illustrations for Peter's escape from prison, from the Annie Vallotton Bible Illustrations Collection

Acts12 - Peter in Jail illustration by Annie Vallotton
An angel of the Lord came to Peter in jail and woke him up and helped him escape. (Acts 12)

Acts12 - Peter escapes from jail illustration by Annie Vallotton
Peter safely escapes from jail.

Acts12 - Peter attempts to enter the house illustration by Annie Vallotton
Peter goes to Mary's house. Rhoda is so excited to hear him at the door she forgets to let him in!

Acts12 - guards search for Peter illustration by Annie Vallotton
The guards search for Peter.

The word of the Lord continues to spread illustration by Annie Vallotton
But the word of God continued to spread and flourish. (Acts 12:24)

a right pointing orange arrow Link to larger and higher resolution versions of the Vallotton illustrations as well as color background options that are in our Vallotton Bible Images Forum. (A Supporting Membership is required to view. Become one today). Copyright and usage information here.


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  • An angel frees Peter from jail
  • Peter escapes
  • Peter is at the door!
  • Guards search for Peter
  • But the word of God continued to spread and flourish (Acts 12:24)
Last edited by CreativeCarol

The Acts 4 story of Peter Escaping Prison is one of the terrific presentations found in the SunScool Bible App for Kids.

SunScool Bible App for Kids

The App is free, ecumenical, and can be downloaded for use on tablets, smartphones, Windows, and Mac!    Get the download link and look up the story you need in our Outline of all 170+ stories in SunScool. That page also includes app helps.

Note: Level 3 is for readers, grades 2/3 thru 5.

To find the stories in the app...

Select either level 1 or 2 then look in the app's menu under "Apostle" Peter for this story option:

  • A7-3: Peter in prison
    Acts 4:1-22
  • A7-4: Peter is set free
    Acts 4:23-31

Select either level 3 or 4 then look in the app's menu under Apostle Peter for these two entries:

  • A5-3 : Peter Witnessing (L3) Before the Sanhedrin (L4), prison
    Acts 4:1-31; Luke 12:11-12; 2 Timothy 1:8-9, 4:2
  • A5-4: Peter in Prison (L3, L4), escape from prison
    Acts 12:1-19; Psalm 4:8; Luke 11:9-10;
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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