Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: 8th in the series "Patterns for Prayer." Looks at the Church’s payers for Peter in prison as a pattern of intercessory prayer.

Introduction: "Somebody’s Praying Me Through--with military testimonies" (Available at http://doxologyrecords.com/news/article.asp?intNewsItemKey=16)

At it’s best prayer is not simply a list of things I want from God but also a time of intercession for others. Intercession is when we pray for the needs of other people. To intercede is to go between, to intercede in prayer is to go before God on behalf of someone else.

In our Scripture this morning the church has gathered to pray for Peter as he faces near certain execution at the hand of the ruthless King Herod. They’ve gathered to intercede. As we saw God answered their prayer on his behalf.

Interrogative: The question I’d like to consider this morning is exactly what kinds of prayer that was, or to apply it to our lives and our prayers as we’ve been doing each week, "what kind of prayers does God answer?"

Transition: Well let’s find some answers to that question in this story. The first thing I’d like to note is that God answers prayers that are...

I. Earnest

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The adjective that describes their prayer here is the same one that the Bible uses to describe the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before he died on the cross, where the Scripture tells us that he prayed so fervently that he sweat drops of blood.

Two key leaders in the early church had been arrested. James was executed and it seemed certain that Peter was soon to follow. His friends and followers got together and got serious in prayer.

The Bible says that the effective fervent prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effect. God answers fervent prayer. Why does it matter? Well my guess is that fervent--shall I say desperate?--prayer is prayer of great faith.

AJ Gossip remarked that we often say "We can do nothing, ’we can only pray’. That, we feel, is a terribly precarious second-best. So long as we can fuss and work and rush about, so long as we can lend a hand, we have some hope; but if we have to fall back upon God -- ah, then things must be critical indeed!"

Does it sound familiar? Unfortunately yes, it does. Nevertheless in our desperation we pray the prayer of faith and we find that God answers our earnest prayer.

The next thing I note about this prayer is that it is...

II. Unselfish

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

They’re not praying for themselves--at least not primarily but for Peter, for the church. This is the heart of intercession, unselfish prayer. Prayer for the needs of someone else. Certainly, those needs may intersect with our own. But I believe that God honors a prayer that seeks first His glory.

In 1540 Luther’s good friend, Frederick Myconius, became deathly sick. He himself and others expected that he would die within a short time. One night he wrote with trembling hand a fond farewell to Luther, whom he loved very much.

When Luther received the letter, he sent back the following reply immediately, "I command you in the name of God to live because I still have need of you in the work of reforming the church. . .The Lord will never let me hear that you are dead, but will permit you to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God."

Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther’s letter came. But in a short time he was well again. And, true enough, he lived six more years and survived Luther by two months!

O. Hallesby in his powerful little book called simply "Prayer" notes that nothing makes us so effective in prayer as when we can look into the eye of God and say to Him, "You know that I am not praying for personal advantage, nor to avoid hardship, nor that my own will in any way should be done, but only for this, that Your name might be glorified." (O. Hallesby, "Prayer" pg. 130-131)

God honors unselfish prayers. The next one may seem out of place--it’s not a direction but a description, not a positive example but an encouragement that God honors prayers that are...

III. Imperfect

12When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!"

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