Summary: The prayer the Jerusalem Christians prayed when Peter and John were released from the inquisition of the Jerusalem religious leaders teaches some important truths about prayer, which is the subject of this sermon.
Prayer Meeting in the Jerusalem Church
November 30, 2014
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation of this sermon is available upon request by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 4 (TO BE READ LATER)
The first church in Jerusalem understood the importance of prayer. We see this earlier in the book of Acts:
• Acts 1:14 – “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” – In the very beginning the Jerusalem disciples are in prayer.
• As they tarried for the anointing Spirit Acts 1:24 starts like this, “And they prayed…”
• After Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost we read, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
• Acts 3:1 says, “Now Peter and John went up togeter into the temple at the hour of prayer…”
In today’s text, we have a biblical prayer that teaches us several valuable lessons about prayer. As we just saw, prayer played a normal part in the regular activity of the Jerusalem church.
But in Acts 4, it was borne of necessity. In Acts 3:1, Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Jesus. That was what got the Jewish leaders all riled up—they healed him in the name of Jesus. They thought they had put the matter of Jesus to rest when they had had Him crucified. Now, suddenly Jerusalem is astir with rumors of Jesus’ resurrection; then of strange happenings on the day of Pentecost, followed by a rousing sermon by Peter and 3,000 people converted to the risen Jesus; then rumors of house churches springing up; and now this miracle by Peter and John—strangely reminiscent of the miracles that rabble-rouser Jesus did when He was still alive.
The Jerusalem religious leaders acted quickly by calling for an inquisition of Peter and John. But they were between a rock and a hard place. They could not deny that a notable miracle had taken place, but neither, in their perverted minds, could they let these men go around preaching about Jesus. So they brought Peter and John back before them and threatened them with punishment if they continued to preach and teach in the name of Jesus.
Well, Peter and John were not in the least intimidated. Infused with Holy Spirit power, Peter boldly proclaimed, “…We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20) With no actual crime to punish them for, they had to let them go.
We pick up the narrative now in Acts 4:23-31 – “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. 24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
When they heard the good news of Peter and John’s release, they had an instantaneous prayer meeting, and in examining this time of prayer, we learn some important things about prayer.
I. NOTICE FIRST THAT THEIR PRAYER WAS SPECIFIC. – Verse 29 – “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.”
Do you see it?—They prayed SPECIFICALLY for boldness. They didn’t pray a generic prayer, like: “Lord, help us through these trials.” They asked for something specific—for boldness in the face of persecution.
Most of our prayers go like this, “Lord bless the CHURCH, bless THE PASTOR, bless THE MISSIONARIES and bless ME…Amen” We pray generic, general, indefinite prayers for God to bless this and bless that and bless this and bless that until sometimes I wonder if God just doesn’t feel “blessed out”!