Summary: Have you ever done a comparison between the way the apostles approached Christ in the Gospels and the way they approached Him in the book of Acts? In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, their requests included calling fire down from heaven to consume those who
Principle 1 for God-focused prayer:
Tune to God's agenda
Have you ever done a comparison between the way the apostles approached Christ in the Gospels and the way they approached Him in the book of Acts? In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, their requests included calling fire down from heaven to consume those who rejected Christ, sending people away hungry, and sitting on the right and left hand of the throne when they got to heaven. Their actions were also telling. They constantly demonstrated a lack of faith, prohibited children from coming to Christ, and tried stopped someone from casting out demons. On occasion they would get it right, but most of the time they were way off when it came to being in sync with Jesus and His mission. Consequently, our Lord rarely ever did what they asked, and indeed, on some occasions rebuked them.
But when you turn to the book of Acts, you find a completely different focus in their lives and in their asking. Acts records no account that they ever failed in their faith again. When God responded to their prayer on one occasion 3000 were converted in a single day, the place where they prayed was shaken, and on another occasion prison doors swung open. Obviously, some tremendous transformation, some radical change had occurred. What could have made such a huge difference?
Very simply, they went from being on their own agenda to being on God's agenda. They quit seeking place and position, a seat on Jesus' right and left. They stopped thinking about their own comfort and their own ideas about what constituted appropriate worship, and began focusing on serving our Lord. They began praying for boldness to testify, and stand strong in the face of persecution. They stopped playing around with the idea of returning to fishing, their comfort zone, instead they focused on shepherding the Lord’s sheep, they stopped getting hung up on their circumstances, and started seeking God’s power from on high to preach the Gospel. They changed from being self-centered to being God-centered.
In Acts 4:24-25, Peter and John were released from jail with threats of what would happen to them if they spoke in the name of Jesus again. They reported this to their friends who immediately, went to prayer:
24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.y “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.z 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:a
“ ‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.b’c b
Why are they praying these things, quoting Scripture back to God, why are they taking time remembering the history of God's purposes? They spend five verses telling God who He is and two verses asking Him for boldness. Why didn't they pray, "Thank you Lord for getting our friends out of this mess. And Lord we want to be honest and tell you we're scared. Please protect us"?
Their concern was not their protection, but God's purposes being secured above and beyond and through their suffering; not for their reputation to be vindicated but for His Son's; not for shelter, but for boldness.
And the result was the place where they were praying was shaken as a physical sign of the power of God falling on them and they were all empowered by the Holy Spirit for Gospel purposes
We spend a whole lot more time praying "God heal and help us," we spend more time praying for our material needs, “Lord, help my team win” is prayed far more often than "save and sanctify."
It is true, God is our Healer and we are commanded about praying for sickness, healing and provision. But that's just one of many, many Kingdom issues about which we are to pray. When most of our praying is about our wants, our needs, and our concerns, we will see the working of God in trace amounts. And does our culture need to see His mighty power manifest through His church!
Follow God's lead
Have you ever wondered about this like I have: How is it that Elijah could believe that God would actually respond to His prayer to send fire from heaven and consume the water-soaked sacrifice? How could Moses actually think that God would split open the Red Sea when the Egyptian army was bearing down on the people of Israel? How could Joshua have the audacity to ask the sun to stand still? What made Jesus think a four-day-old corpse could live again?
They asked for the impossible because they were so God-oriented that they knew what He was doing and what it meant. Elijah knew, and explained before the fire fell that God was turning Israel's heart back to Himself through the answer to prayer. Moses had spent private time in prayer before the Lord, until God told Him what He was going to do. Joshua recognized that God was fighting for them, so he asked for more daylight to finish the job. And Jesus declared, prior to raising Lazarus from the dead that God was going to save those who were watching.