Summary: The prayer of Antioch got God’s attention in a big way, but we’re not told what they prayed. What can this unique prayer teach us?
OPEN: A 5-yr-old said grace at family dinner one night. "Dear God, thank you for these pancakes."
When he finished his prayer, his parents looked curiously at him and asked him why he thanked God for pancakes when they were having chicken.
He smiled and said, "I thought I’d see if He was paying attention tonight."
APPLY: There are many prayers recorded in Scripture. From Moses to David to Jehoshaphat to Daniel - we’re exposed to powerful, earth shaking prayers, and prayers that show us that God DOES pay attention.
But here, in Acts 13 (quickview) , we have a unique situation. We have several leaders fasting and praying and worshipping God, and they have unquestionably gotten God’s attention. But, look closely at Acts 13:1-3 (quickview) . What did these men pray? (Give them time to look, expect some confusion). It doesn’t tell us what they said, does it? All we’re told is - that in response to their prayer - the Holy Spirit told them to set aside Barnabas & Paul to set out on an adventure – an adventure that would change the face of the world forever.
We don’t know what they prayed, but they got God’s attention. (… pause) I want to pray like that.
I. But we’re not told what they prayed.
The only thing we’re told about their prayer was: they fasted when they prayed. Usually people fasted for one of several reasons:
People fasted when they were grieving over the death of a loved one
People fasted when they were repenting of their sin or the sin of their nation.
People fasted when they sought protection from forces they couldn’t contend with.
BUT MOST OFTEN people fasted when they were seeking insight.
Now, Antioch was a relatively new congregation, but it had experienced enormous growth. When the leaders at Jerusalem heard of this situation, they sent Barnabas and Paul to the church to teach these new converts about Christianity. For a whole year, Paul & Barnabas taught a great number of people. AND… they were so successful that they made a name for the church in area. Acts 11:26 (quickview)  tells us believers were called Christians 1st at Antioch.
SO – Antioch is a growing church with powerful teachers & all kinds of potential. What could they be fasting and praying about?
ILLUS: Years ago, when I was preaching at my 1st church, I got an uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong in the church – I just didn’t know what it was.
The church was growing
There had been at least 12 baptisms that year
Attendance was higher than ever
(pause…) AND yet, I felt uncomfortable – as if there was SOMETHING I was missing
So, I went on an extended fast. AND right in the middle of that fast, I believe God made plain what was wrong. Something that needed to be addressed in that congregation.
I believe that the leaders at Antioch felt uncomfortable about something. Granted – they were a dynamic church. They had marvelous leaders and great potential. BUT I think they were beginning to suspect there was something more… something bigger that they could accomplish. But they just didn’t know what it was.