Summary: When faced with a crisis, prayer was the New Testament church’s first impulse not its last resort.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN
A CHURCH PRAYS
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Acts is the story of the church from birth to powerhouse. Dr. Luke records how a handful of frightened believers rocked the mighty Roman Empire. If Acts is the story of the church then Acts 12 is the story of the church in crisis. The Jerusalem church had grown rapidly. They had faced persecution. Now their leaders faced execution. I wonder how we would react?
Did you hear the account of the Eastern European church several years ago before the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall? Church meetings had been outlawed. Pastors had been imprisoned. Some had disappeared. One significant underground church continued to meet. Suddenly one night as they were meeting in a secret location, the door to their meeting place burst open and two heavily armed soldiers entered.
One shouted, “You know you are not to be meeting like this? We could kill all of you!”
The other soldier interrupted, “No we can’t do that! Let’s let them go.”
The first soldier turned to the huddled crowd of several dozens worshippers and barked the order, “All of you who really believe this Christian stuff stay here. The rest who are ready to give up this “god myth” may leave and live. Now go!” Many of the scared church members rushed through the door and out into the night.
Once they were gone, the soldier shut the door and bolted it. He turned to the remaining believers and said in a very calm voice, “We too are followers of Jesus. Now that the unbelievers are gone it is safe. We came to join you in worship!”
I wonder what we would do under such circumstances? I hope our children or we never have to find out!
When facing a crisis like that many in our day might picket the city jail, start a petition drive, and lobby our congressman. Some might begin efforts to start a Christian political party. If the preacher were arrested, we might appoint a search committee to call a new one. We certainly wouldn’t want a preacher with an arrest record! Some churches might begin to point fingers and blame one another. Lots of church members I have known through the years would whine and complain. Many would conclude that all was lost. What’s the point of believing?
The church today has many advantages over that first century church. We have more money, more buildings, and a freer government. We have more political powers, more Bibles, more tools. We have padded pews, handsomer preachers (just kidding), air conditioning, sound systems, guitars and drums. We have many advantages! But that first century church has us beat in one all -important category. They knew how to pray, when to pray, and what to pray for. They believed that prayer was a power that over ruled even the most powerful opponent!
My goal is to once again take you to the pages of that first century church again and challenge you to make their prayer lives the pattern for our prayer lives. When faced with a crisis they did the most revolutionary thing available to them—they appealed to the God of heaven to over rule the laws of kings. That church was carried on the backs of those prayers. That church was born in a prayer meeting (Acts 1); it grew because it believed the power of prayer was the secret of their existence. I believe that any church that believes like they did and prays like the did will experience what they did!
Another thing happens when a church begins to major in prayer—when the tongues of believers are occupied with praying to the Almighty, there is no time left for gossiping (one can’t gossip about what you are sincerely praying about), complaining (burdens that are given to the Lord in prayer are burdens that are seldom heaped on the backs of others), or cursing (you can’t call on God and talk against God at the same time).
R. G. Lee, a fiery Baptist evangelist of a previous generation, said it a bit strongly, but correctly when he wrote, If all the sleeping folk will wake up,
If all the lukewarm folk will fire up,
If all the dishonest folk will fess up,
If all the disgruntled folk will smile up up,
If all the depressed folk will cheer up,
If all the estranged folk will make up,
If all the gossipers will shut up,
If all true soldiers will stand up,
If all the dry bones will shake up,
If all the church members will pray up...
Then we can have a revival!
My burden is to continue to challenge you to see prayer as first impulse not a last resort. I want us to corporately begin to make prayer the lifeblood of this church. I want you to begin to ask—not just me or not just the elders—how can we become a more praying church? What would happen if we began to prayer like the early church?