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, 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. 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 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.
II. That’s how I feel here at Logansport
We’ve experienced enormous growth. In 2001 we had 20 baptisms and this year (so far) we’ve seen 12 buried with Christ. Our attendance over the past few weeks has been between the high 130’s and the mid 140’s.
We have been privileged to take part in the establishment of a Hispanic church in Buffalo, and Rafael is now working on creating Bible Studies here in Logansport in preparation of beginning a congregation here.
We have a dynamic youth outreach. Brad’s ministry has been reaching to not only our church kids, but also to other youth who are often overlooked. They’ve been involved in a Sunday Night Radio program, development of concerts and there are even greater possibilities on the horizon.
In addition, there have been all kinds of extra activity going on inside our church. The "cookie" ministry, the pictorial directory (an in-house book that will not only list people’s faces, but also their birthdays, interests and other information).
A week from Wednesday, we will holding a special 9/11 worship service to minister to our community and to raise money for our local Police, Fire, Sheriff and EMT departments.
And we’ve begun to focus on a new Sanctuary (here I referred to a concept painting of the new building).
But, just like the leaders at Antioch – I’m beginning to think that there might be something bigger on the horizon for us.
I believe that part of the reason we’re not told what Antioch’s leaders prayed is because they had no idea what God had in mind. They just KNEW there was something else they weren’t involved with yet, something else that God wanted them to do. BUT when these Leaders prayed and fasted, when they opened themselves up to being used by God anyway He desired, God responded in a BIG WAY.