Prayer I love the definition of prayer found in the Devils Dictionary, written by Ambrose Bierce around the turn of the century, you ready? To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. I have no problem with that. We all believe in the power of prayer, don’t we? I mean each one of us knows not only the need for prayer but also recognize the power that is unleashed when God’s servants are on their knees.
The New Testament Church can be described many ways, but probably the key to all they were was prayer. Even before the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers the disciples not only acknowledged the necessity of prayer but they put it into power. In the book of Acts 1:14 Jesus has ascended into heaven leaving the eleven remaining disciples behind and what did they do, the bible says They all met together continually for prayer,
When the early church is described after Pentecost in Acts: 2:42-47 the description begins with these words, They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.
In Acts 4 the church faces it’s first major crisis. The two major leaders of the church, Peter and John have been thrown into Jail for preaching the gospel, they are released after being ordered not to preach again. Although they didn’t quite promise to follow the order instead they asked a question, a question which we should each memorize and ask on a regular basis and it was found in Acts 4:19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? As soon as our two heroes are released they high tail it back to the other believers and called a prayer meeting. When Bonnie read this morning she read an account of that prayer meeting. This morning we are going to take a look at how the early church became a powerful church in bold prayer.
1) They Were Agreed in Prayer
24 Then all the believers were united as they lifted their voices in prayer: The key word here of course is the word “United” When they started to pray they had obviously thought back to that incredibly powerful promise that Jesus had made to them in Matthew 18:19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. Now John & Peter must have figured that if two was good then a whole bunch must be better so they rushed back to the entire group and said hey guys and girls this is something that we need to pray about together.
It is critical that we are not only a church that prays but that we are a church that prays with unity. You think how confusing it must be for God when some churches pray. Like this group is praying for one thing and group “B” is praying for something that is diametrically opposed to group “A”. Meanwhile the group in the back is praying for something that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the situation..
One of the major criteria if a church is going to go somewhere is that they go there together. In reality a church is like a bunch of people who get together and charter a plane. If the people in the front want to go to Vancouver but the people in the back want to go to Dublin and the people over the wings want to go to Orlando who does the pilot listen to. The people who yell the loudest? The people who pay the most? The people who plead the most earnestly? It’s only when all the passengers get together and decide on a common destination that the plane can take off.
I am convinced that one of the major reasons that churches don’t grow is that they can’t figure out what they want God to do. If we are to succeed and become everything that God wants us to become then we are going to need some common goals and some common dreams and we are going to have to pray together, and not just physically. In the years ahead we need to make sure that whatever we do as a congregation, members and adherents, young and old, new comers and old timers that we have an God given goal and that we all pull together in that direction. It’s like being in a row boat, cause it’s really tough to row and rock at the same time. And we will need to pay in that direction as well. A powerful church will pray together.
2) Not Only Did the Church Pray Together But it was under the sovereignty of God
Acts 4:24 Then all the believers were united as they lifted their voices in prayer: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them
Regardless of how precise our goals are, regardless of how well honed the focus of the church is, regardless of how carefully we have defined our purpose if they are not God’s goals, if it isn’t God’s focus, if it isn’t god’s purpose that we’re serving then we are going to be way out in left field. The biggest mistake that we will make as a church will be to follow the temptation to “Do it ourselves” I’m sure that there was someone in that early church who said “Let’s just get together and present a petition to the Sanhedrin and they’ll leave us alone.”
It doesn’t matter if we think God can’t or won’t answer our prayers both are blasphemous because through them we limit the power of God. These believers started by stating right up front “You are God and you can do anything.” Do you believe that this morning? Can you say that in your life and in the life of the church. “I believe that God can do anything?”
When Martin Luther stood before one of the Papal Delegations who came to him they asked “Where will you be when all of your supporters desert you?” His reply, “Where I’ve always been, in the hands of the sovereign God.” Don’t use God as a last resort but instead realize that he is all that you can really depend on.
So, not only does a powerful church pray with one voice but it also recognizes the sovereignty and power of almighty God.
Acts 4:25-26 you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor King David, your servant, saying, ‘Why did the nations rage? Why did the people waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
The early church knew enough not to just stand on experience but to stand on the word of God.
Experiences differ. Yours may or may not be the same as mine. The neat thing about Christianity is that Christ approaches each one of us as individuals and deals with us as individuals and so our experiences with Christ will be as distinct and individual as we are. But as different as our experiences might be the word of God is unchanging. Don’t forget what the Prophet Malachi wrote in
Malachi 3:6 6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is echoed by King David in
4 The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: Our directions need to be guided by Biblical precedent. And our prayers have to recognize the validity of the scriptures for today July 2 2000.
This is not simply an antiquated volume of cute stories and witty sayings. This is the living breathing word of God. And it is absolutely worthless to you if you never open it. If I was to ask how many of you had read your Bible more then twice this past week there would be a few embarrassed Christians in this congregation. The worst part is that some of those would be quote unquote “Mature Christians” and if I asked you to look up the Book of Hezikiah a too many people would tear their Bibles apart before they realize it existed only in my mind. If you are a Christian then you need to get into this book. I don’t care how you do it but you need to read and feed from the word of god.
You need to get a Bible that you’re comfortable with and read it. And a Bible that you’re comfortable with is one that you can easily read. Read it, mark in it, devour it. Some people have picked up the Bible on tape and listen to it in their cars, do whatever you have to do but feed on the word of God. It’s only as you know the word of God that you can find out what he wants from you, because you can be assured that God won’t want anything from you or for you, from this church or for this church that is contrary to His word.
So a Powerful Church in bold prayer prays with one voice, under the sovereignty of God relying on the truth of the word of God.
Acts 4:29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. The Church Offered Specific Requests. These people new what they wanted and they weren’t afraid to verbalize it. They didn’t beat around the bush with maybes, ifs and perhaps. Instead they stated what they wanted.
I like the fact that they did it different then I would have done it. My prayer would have been “Now, Lord, consider their threats and shut them up” I might have embellished it a bit more, “May their vocal cords dry up and their tongues fall out” but you get the picture. But that wasn’t the approach that the early church took. They didn’t ask that the mountain be removed instead they asked for the courage to climb it. We need to step out in faith and claim the promises of God and that is that we serve a prayer answering God.
We deny the power of prayer not because we don’t believe it but because we don’t practice it. I love the story of a small town in Kentucky whose only distinction was that they had two churches and one distillery which was owned by an avowed atheist. This is supposed to be a true story, stories like this are too good to be made up. It seems that one night the people from the two churches called a special prayer meeting and spent the night praying that the distillery would close down. Well you can guess the rest of the story shortly after midnight a storm blew in, lightning struck the distillery and it burnt to the ground.
Well the churches were elated; the atheist wasn’t and imagine how he felt when his insurance company informed him they couldn’t pay the claim because it was “an act of God”. Well the out come of the story is that the owner took the two churches to court to sue them for damages, which they claimed they weren’t responsible for.
The presiding judge said and I quote “This is the most perplexing case I have ever sat on because on one hand I have an atheist who claims to believe in the power of prayer and on the other hand I have two churches that deny it”
Let’s not be afraid to ask for specific things and when we receive them let’s not be afraid to give credit where credit is due.
A Powerful Church in Bold Prayer, prayed with one voice, under the sovereignty of God, relying on the truth of the word and offered specific requests.
Acts 4:31 After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness.
They were visited by the supernatural Power of God When was the last time you gathered in prayer and the building you were meeting in started to shake. “Well Pastor, God used signs and wonders in a different way in the New Testament Church then he does today” OK, but what do you do with scriptures like Malachi 3:6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. Is the absence of the visible supernatural in our churches today because God has stopped doing that kind of thing or because we have stopped expecting that king of thing? Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that we need to have our building shake when we pray, I’m not even sure if that’s in the lease. But I am suggesting that when we pray we pray for results.
Do you remember what they prayed for in Acts 4:29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Now do you remember the last part of Acts 4:31 After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness.The miracle wasn’t the building shaking the miracle was that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. We don’t get results because we don’t pray as we should.
If we want to see BCC fulfill all the great things that God has in store for us then we not only need to be praying as individuals but corporately, that is as a group, whether it’s the pre-service prayer time, or the power hour on Friday’s or the Saturday prayer time at the office we need to be praying together for our church and for our pastoral staff. We need to pray with one voice, under the sovereignty of God, relying on the truth of his word with specific requests expecting a supernatural response.
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