Summary: Through the early chruch’s example we can learn how to encounter the presence of God in a fresh and powerful way. Are you hungry for an encounter with God?
Todd Coget a minister in Indiana tells a story of growing up on a pig farm. They raised about a thousand pigs a year; there would be two or three hundred little oinkers running around in one field. Long before the sun would rise each morning Todd would walk into the field to feed the pigs and they would scatter in all directions. One morning a brave little pig came up and began to chew on his foot, so he picked the pig up to pet him. All to soon the little oinker wanted down. He told the pig, “No, I’’ll let you down when I’’m ready.” At that moment, the pig let out a squeal such as he had never heard.
In about two seconds, thirty mama pigs weighing five to six hundred pounds each were headed that way. Todd put the pig down and ran for the fence. He barely made it over in time; all the mama pigs were snorting and walking back and forth, daring him to come back over and bother one of their babies. That little pig knew he wasn’t alone; with one squeal a little oinker had more help than he needed.
We are not alone this morning. With one squeal, or should I say prayer, we can discover that all of God’s resources are at our disposal. God lovingly answers our prayers. Turn with me again to Acts 4:23-31 as we again look at “Prayerfully Encountering the Living God.”
+ Acts 4:23-31 23On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "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? 26The 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. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." 31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (NIV)
The church of Jesus Christ, you and I, can experience the manifold presence of God. Do you remember what “manifold presence of God” means? Manifold is having many and various forms or features; it is multifaceted. Put simply the “manifold presence of God” means that God’s presence can be experienced in many different and unique ways.
We saw last week through the example of the early church that there are two prerequisites to powerfully encountering the living God:
1. Believers must have a Divine Expectancy, or God Responds to our Faith.
That little pig had an expectancy that when it called mamma would come running with help. Likewise, we saw last week that the New Testament believers took Jesus at His word; they had no doubt but that Jesus would do what He said He would. We too must have a divine expectancy–faith that will earnestly seek God. We will encounter God when we hold on to the assurance that He hears our prayer.
2. A habit of prayer brings God’s response, or a consistent pattern of joining together with other believers will bring the manifold presence of God.
Remember we saw that the early church was not just having a crisis prayer meeting. This was not an “O God we’re in trouble” kind of prayer. Throughout the book of Acts, the church gathered together regularly for prayer; it was their habit. The little pig knew mamma would come in response to its squeal because it had nuzzled up close to its mother everyday. When we choose to consistently meet with one another and acknowledge Jesus with us, then we too will discover the powerful manifold presence of God in our midst.
So what else can we learn from the early church to bring us into God’s presence? Let’s look now at their prayer in Acts 4. Keep in mind that this is not a verbatim record of their prayer, but rather a summary of how they prayed with one another (this was not just a five minute prayer meeting). I believe that in each of the areas we will discuss the church spent considerable time praying together in that way.