Summary: Jesus called the temple a "House of Prayer". Is the church a house of prayer today? Do we believe prayer is still powerful? Nothing is more powerful than a church that prays together.
“A Praying Church”
May 17, 2009
Today I would like to share with you about what is probably the most important activity of each Christian and the church as whole, prayer. I know for a fact that some Christians only pray at meal times and it’s often a repetitive, shallow one. Maybe they more often when there are problems in one’s life. And how often does a whole church spend any significant time in prayer together?
I am going to use these verses in Acts 4 to share some insights from the Bible about prayer, especially as a body of believers. Just a little background here. We read from verses 16-22 that Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin council who were annoyed with what they were saying in public. They charged the disciples not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Of course we know that Peter and John told them they would continue because they were going to follow God over the religious leaders. The council was then afraid to pronounce any punishment because all the people were praising God for the healing Peter did earlier.
Peter and John went back to their friends knowing that the Sanhedrin would be wanting to punish them as soon as possible, so after the whole group heard this they immediately went to prayer. So we see:
I. The Priority and Purpose of Prayer (vv 23-24a)
This threat from the Sanhedrin is no laughing matter. Imprisonment and even death could be the sentence, so it was very severe. But they were not afraid to say boldly that they were going to follow God and not the council. The first thing they did though, was pray as a group, as a church. We see this time and again in the early church, that prayer should always be the first response when there is a need or a decision to be made.
So a logical question is, why did they do this before anything else? Well first of all, if they were going to get in trouble for God, they may as well ask him for protection, or at least power to continue. Secondly, it was what Jesus did and commanded. Thirdly, because they really believed that God was in charge of things and had the blueprint for how to live, so they sought his guidance before doing anything.
There may be more reasons, but as a church we need to be very conscious of at least these three, seeking his protection against the world and the devil, following Jesus, and acting only on his wisdom and instruction.
One just needs to ask, what would we do in the situation described here in Acts? I’ll tell you because we have done it, run and hide. If we rely on human power, wisdom, and emotion, the church becomes weak, but if God is in charge, it can only be strong.
We then go on to see the details of:
II. The Pattern in Prayer (vv 24b-30)
A. The Recognition of God’s Sovereign Power (vv 24b-28)
When we look at how they prayed or the pattern of their prayer, I find it interesting that they started by gaining perspective of who God is compared to the situation. If God is sovereign there’s no situation out of His hands, and by looking at things from His perspective we can have more confidence and see the situation more realistically.
Notice they don’t start by asking for something. The first thing they acknowledge in their prayer is that:
1. He is the Lord of Creation (v. 24b)
They sought to remember and acknowledge who God is and what he has already done in the past. This gives us an expectation of what he is capable of and the confidence to surrender his creation, which includes ourselves, to Him. If he can create all that is, surely he can handle whatever we throw at him.
2. He is the Lord of Revelation (vv 25-26)
The disciples used Old Testament prophecy to remember that God has the plan already, it is just waiting to be revealed to us until the right time. We remember that nothing surprises God, that he has the reigns because He is the not only the creator, but the sustainer of all creation.
Though we don’t see it specifically here, part of this pattern of prayer is silent receptive prayer. If we are busy chatting to God in prayer, it’s difficult to hear God’s revelation which is ultimately why we are praying. Prayer is a conversation in which both parties speak to each other. In this way reading Scripture is a form of prayer.