Summary: #9 in the series "Patterns for Prayer." Uses the call of Saul and Barnabas as an example of how prayer makes us available to the Lord.
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. "Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."
"I understand," said Henry. "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."
Today we are looking at the story of the calling of Paul and Barnabas to do God’s work in spreading the good news about Jesus around the world. Specifically we are looking at the role of Prayer in their calling. And as we’ve been doing each week we are going to look at prayer in this story as a pattern for prayer in our own lives.
The central lesson I think is simply this: In prayer we make ourselves accessible and available to the Lord for His use.
Transition: As we look at the prayer in this story I’d like to concentrate on how prayer makes us available to God. In the first mention of prayer in the passage I think it’s pretty clear that prayer fosters.
Communication (with God)
v. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Now while this verse doesn’t specifically mention prayer, the very next verse does link prayer and fasting, as does the following chapter. I think it’s a good guess that prayer was a central feature of the worship that led to this direct message from God.
It only makes sense that Prayer, along with Scripture as our only means of communication with God, is one of the primary ways that God can break through the background noise of our lives to communicate His call to us
I believe that God still speaks to us and that He speaks to our specific, individual need. In 1924, Dr. Leila McConnell, having just received a degree from Asbury College, felt God’s call to start a work for God in Eastern Kentucky. Fearing the reputation of "Bloody Breathitt" County, and having no means of support, she sought long and hard, praying for answers. Finally, her promise came, sure and true from God’s Word, "The mountain shall be yours" (Joshua 17:18).
With that promise, she founded Mt. Carmel High School, followed six years later by the founding of Kentucky Mountain Bible College. God provided all she needed for her work, and has continued to bless the work there after eighty years have passed. Today Kentucky Mountain Bible College graduates are reaching out all over the world, touching over 50 countries and crisscrossing the United States. They serve in inner-city missions, denominational leadership, Native American outreach and international ministry, making a worldwide difference.
This is not an isolated case of one special individual hearing from God simply because He wants to do a special work. God’s call is for each of our lives--He has a plan for you. For you to be obedient to his call you need to hear it, to hear it you need to make yourself available to communicate with Him; you do that in prayer.
Next, I believe that Prayer makes us available to God through...
v. 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Consecration means being set apart for a special purpose. In the OT the tools that were used in the worship at the temple were consecrated. You couldn’t take those bowls home and use them.
I used to like to listen to a guy on the radio named Jerry Baker, he had a show called "On the Garden Line." It was kind of like Dr. Laura but instead of people it was plants that had the problems. People called in with their garden questions. I remember he often talked about setting apart a Garden sprayer to use with weed killer and marking it with a big red X so you knew never to use that sprayer on your garden. He was talking about consecrating a garden sprayer.
In this passage, through prayer and fasting, Paul and Barnabas were marked with a big Red X they were set apart for God’s use.
Paul later wrote to the church at Rome that we should "present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God which is our reasonable act of worship." He’s saying we should set ourselves apart for serving the Lord.
Implied here is certainly an expectation that we keep ourselves morally clean, in addition to being available for God’s service whenever and wherever He might call. Both of these, the positive and the negative, what we should do and what we shouldn’t do to make ourselves available to God, I think are founded upon a life of prayer. It is in prayer that we offer ourselves as sacrifices and it is in prayer that we gain the spiritual strength to live it out. Which bring us to the final point. Prayer makes us available to God through...