Summary: Prayer works and God wants you to know that.
April 26, 2009
Text: Acts 4:23-31
Title: Driven to Prayer
Have you ever stopped and thought about what it is that drives people to prayer? You can answer that question for yourselves, but when I stop and look at it I see that there may be many things that push people to the point of prayer. #1 is desperation. When you come up against something in your life that you don’t know what else to do people pray. #2, worship. When you begin to see God for who He really is and understand His nature a little better, then you know you can trust Him to answer prayer. #3, a religious practice. I suppose there are a lot of people who pray just because that is what they were taught to do. Not a bad thing, but I could never understand why people pray when they don’t expect anything to happen i.e. the people who pray for a healing miracle in their life but don’t believe that God answer those kinds of prayer. #4. People pray because they know that if there is ever going to be anything good come out of the church or out of their ministry or out of their lives, it will be because they have entered into God’s presence through prayer and have covered themselves in prayer.
Last week I called the church to a period of prayer and fasting in order to draw closer to the Lord in your relationship with Him. How many of you have done that? My desire is that during your fasting you become so dependant upon God that you begin to see Him like you never have before.
On Thursday I was at a lunch meeting with the other section 6 pastors and Pastor Robert Stephens from Edina shared testimony that began with a prayer request at last month’s lunch. A young lady in his congregation had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and had been given 13 months to live. He had asked all the other pastors in attendance to pray. Thursday he told us that he had received a letter from this young lady who had gone to Houston, Texas for surgery. She had been prepped for surgery. Her head had been shaved. She was ready to go. The doctors had just ordered another C/T scan to once again see what they were going to be dealing with. While she was waiting she sat on the edge of her bed and just prayed, “God, this would be a good time for You to do something.” Then before she was to begin the final prep for surgery the doctor came in and said he wanted to talk to her. Could she walk with him to his office? That didn’t make her feel too good about the surgery. She thought that she was going to get bad news. The doctor brought up two images on the screen – one was from the original scan and the second from the scan done that morning. The doctor said, “I don’t know how to tell you this but there isn’t going to be any surgery, because there aren’t any tumors to remove. They are all gone.” Then he added, “My associate and I have looked this over to try to figure out what was going on and we agreed that we have never seen anything like it before. The only word that we can use to describe it is that it is a miracle.”
Now I want to ask you a question. Why are we so surprised when God does what He said He would do?
At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson, former New York Yankee second baseman, offered a prayer that is a classic: "Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen."
As we look at the Word of God concerning prayer today would you open your hearts to receive revelation so that you walk away changed?
Lord, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
I. PRAYER BEGINS WITH PRAISE. As we begin today we need to go back just a few verse to see what has led up to this prayer meeting. 1) Peter and John had prayed for a man who had been crippled from birth to be healed and he was. They went to the temple to pray at the same time every day. 2) Everybody looked at Peter and John like they were something special but Peter gave God the glory. 3) The miracle produced an opportunity for the gospel to be shared. Because of the miracle another 2,000 men were added to the 3,000 who were saved on the Day of Pentecost. 4) The healing power of God working among Spirit filled believers aroused the anger of the “religious” leaders. 5) Peter saw this as an open door to share the gospel with these leaders. Acts 4:8-12, 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. 12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” 6) They were commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus any more. There were emotions of every kind that came from this whole story – joy, fear, anger, jealousy… The first thing that Peter and John did after this is seen in verse 23, On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. Now here is what I want you to see. Do you remember that last week I told you about how you need to enter into God’s presence when you pray God’s word, because it is in God’s presence that His word comes alive in your life. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. When you have a personal encounter with God through prayer you can only come to one conclusion – that He is able to do all things and that His word is true. We are nothing in our selves. We are earthen vessels. He gives living water. We are weak, but in our weakness He is shown to be strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9, my power is made perfect in weakness… You know, I am still amazed that God took two people who were really good at what they did for a living and called them to be the pastors of one of His churches. But that is what He did with Charlotte and I. We definitely were not qualified. We were not greatly educated. We were not prepared in the way that the world would consider preparation. The only things that we had were willing spirits and the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us. I have been blessed by comments from some of you. Some have told me that my preaching stirs them up. Some have told me that I am a good teacher. Others have told me that they believe that there is something special that happens when I lay hands on a people and pray for them – that there is something in me that I myself don’t recognize. The fact is, I do recognize what is in me. It is the Holy Spirit of God who is in me doing these things. It is not me. I want to give God the glory that when I preach something may be stirred in you. I want to give God the glory that when I teach the Holy Spirit is opening your eyes and revealing scriptural truth to you. I give God the glory that when I lay hands on someone and pray that the power of the Holy Spirit is imparted and something happens. God is doing in the church what He had intended from the very beginning. Mark 16:17-18 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues… they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” That is affirmed by verse 28, They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Praise God right now and give Him all the glory for what He is doing in the church.