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SOMETHING HAPPENS WHEN GOD'S PEOPLE PRAY
Intro: Prayer is a wonderful privilege. God has opened the door to His throne room and invited His children to enter His presence with their petitions, Heb. 4:16. He has promised to hear us when we call, Jer. 33:3. And, he has promised to answer our prayers when we pray according to His will, 1 John 5:14-15. We all know that there are many privileges and promises associated with prayer. I want to remind us from this passage that prayer is also a very powerful endeavor.
We have all experienced the power of private prayer. We have experienced those times when we called on the Lord in the secret place of prayer and He heard us, and He answered us in power for His glory. There is something special about entering God’s presence, by yourself, to talk to Him in secret. It’s something we should all do, and should do often.
This passage reminds us that there is power in corporate prayer. There is a special dynamic that comes into play when God’s children come together, united in faith and purpose, to seek the face of the Lord in prayer.
I want to look into this passage today and share a few truths that present themselves to us as I preach on the thought Something Happens When God’s People Pray.
I. v. 1-5a IT WAS A TIME OF PROBLEMS
A. There Were Attacks - James the brother of John, one of the Lord’s inner circle, is put to death by Herod. Peter has also been imprisoned and is sitting on death row awaiting his own execution. The Jews pressed these attacks against the early church because they hated the Gospel they preached. Herod persecuted the early church because it gave him a political advantage.
B. There Was Apprehension - The church did no know what the future held. As a result, there was fear and concern for the future of the church. After all, these people had left their Jewish roots to follow the way of Jesus Christ. Perhaps they were afraid that the hatred of the Jews and the king might eventually turn away from the leaders of the church and settle on the members of the church.
C. There Was An Adversary - We are told that Herod is the one who killed James and arrested Peter. We are also told that his actions pleased the Jews. So, Herod and the Jews were responsible for the persecution, but they were merely the human instruments. The one who organized and empowered this persecution was Satan himself. He hated the church, the Gospel it preached and the Lord it worshiped. He was out to destroy the church while it was still in its infancy. In order to do that, he stirred up his forces and set them in array against the people of God.
(Note: The church still finds itself in times of trouble. The church still finds itself under attack from its enemies. We must never thing that we are immune from assaults from without and from within. As long as Satan is allowed to live in this world, he will do everything in His power to disturb and disrupt the harmony and the effectiveness of the church. He hates our message and he hates our Master. He knows that if he can turn us against one another, he can shut down our work. He knows that if he can fill us with fear over the attacks we face he can stop us from serving the Lord. He knows that if he can fill us with fear over the future, he can keep us mired in the past.
Only someone who is willfully ignorant could look at the modern church without seeing the problems we face. We operate in a world that is hostile to our message. Society has no use for us or for the message we preach. Financially, numerically, and spiritually, the church in the 21st Century is in deep trouble. The only churches that are growing are those who have embraced a more worldly atmosphere and message. Fundamental churches that still cling to the Word of God and preaching as the foundational elements of their worship are dying at an alarming rate.
We are not immune from troubles here. There are troubles, attacks and problems here too. We need God’s help as much as any church in the world today. If there was ever a day when the church needed to learn to lean on the power of God, it is the day in which we live!
I. It Was A Time Of Problems
II. v. 5a IT WAS A TIME OF PRAYER
(Ill. There is a tiny word in verse 5 that makes a big difference. It is the little conjunction “but”. The situation looks desperate, but! It looks as though Peter might be put to death, but! It looks as though the fledgling church might be destroyed before it can carry the Gospel to the world, but! In the face of overwhelming problems, the church bowed its head as one person and it called on God. The church did not cower in fear before those who threatened them. The church lifted its collective voice and rang the prayer bells of Heaven! God heard their prayers and moved in mighty power to bring them His answer! Let’s examine their prayer, because it is the kind of prayer we should be offering up as a church body.)
A. It Was Fervent Prayer - We are told that that “prayer was made without ceasing...” The word “ceasing” means “to stretch forth”. It is a medical term that refers to a stretched ligament or a pulled muscle. It has the idea of “going beyond the boundaries”. When applied to prayer, it is a picture of fervency. It is the picture of people pouring out their hearts in prayer before the Lord as they seek His face for their needs.
That’s the kind of praying we need to undertake. The promise of God is that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous men availeth much,” James 5:16. The words “effectual fervent” refer to “energetic passionate” prayer. It is not prayer that is sluggish, lifeless, unconcerned, casual, halfhearted, blasé and apathetic; it is prayer that pours forth from a burdened heart. That kind of prayer reaches heaven and moves the hand of God.
B. It Was Faithful Prayer - By faithful praying, I mean theirs was a prayer of faith. Their prayers were made “to God”. This seems obvious, but there are times when it seems like our prayers are designed to be heard by other people, or even by us. This congregation joined their voices and reached up as one to touch God for their church and for Peter. When we pray, we must pray in faith. Faith is the essential ingredient that marks the difference between answered and unanswered prayer.
The Bible makes these statements about the roll of faith in prayer:
· “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” Heb. 11:6.
· “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” Matt. 21:22.
· “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him,” 1 John 5:14-15.
· I remind you, that when we pray, we are talking to our Father. He delights in hearing and answering the prayers of His children, Luke 12:32.
C. It Was Focused Prayer - Prayer was “made...for him”. In other words, Peter was the focus of this prayer meeting. They came together to pray for a specific purpose. This was not generalized praying, that sought to cast a big blanket of prayer over everything and everyone. This was pointed prayer that sought God’s power for a specific need.
If we do not pray specific prayers, how will we ever know when God answers? When we ask Him for specific needs, and God answers, it glorifies Him, it assures us of our relationship to Him, and it increases our faith. All I am suggesting is that we need to get specific in our praying!
D. It Was Family Prayer - They church gathered together to pray for one of their own. They came together as a family to seek God’s help for a brother in great need. The church touched Heaven for Peter. Their prayers had power because they were united in their walk with God. They joined their hearts and their hands, then they lifted their voices to God, and He heard them and moved in power.
We pray a lot, but I fear that we fail to pray for one another. We pray for our needs and our burdens, but how much time do we really spend praying for others? Right now, there are people in our church family who are facing life-threatening illness. We should be touching Heaven for them. There are others who are wayward. We should be touching Heaven for them. There are other who are struggling with needs, burdens and problems. We should be touching Heaven for them. If you will take just a minute to think, the names and faces of your brothers and sisters in Christ will come to your mind. They need you to touch Heaven for them!
Our differences hinder our prayers! We want to see people saved. We want to see the Lord bless the church. We want the power of God on us once more. We pray, and we pray, and we pray, but we do not see power of God manifested in our midst, and it is because we have allowed petty differences to divide us. I want to go on record and say that if I have offended any one of you, I am sorry. I love you and I want to be able to join my voice with yours, so that we can touch Heaven together for the glory of God.
I. It Was A Time Of Problems
II. It Was A Time Of Prayer
III. v. 5b-24 IT WAS A TIME OF POWER
A. v. 6-11 There Was Powerful Salvation - When the church prayed, God heard them and answered their prayers. Peter was delivered from prison through a tremendous, miraculous intervention. God saved Peter because the church asked Him to!
I wonder what we might see God do if we learned how to pray as a family? I wonder who He might save? I wonder what He might do among us? I wonder how He might bless His church?
I believe that our God is still the God of miracles. He is able to do so much more than we have ever seen Him do. In fact, the limits of His power have never been witnessed, Eph. 3:20. Let’s seek Him today and ask Him for some bring things that would honor Him and bring glory to His name.
B. v. 12-17 There Were Powerful Surprises - When Peter was released from prison, he went to the house where the church had met to pray. He knocked on the gate, Rhoda came out to see who was there, heard his voice and went and told the church that Peter was outside. They didn’t believe her, but assumed that he must be dead, and that it was his guardian angel at the gate. The Jews believed that every person had a guardian angel that could assume that person’s form. Poor Peter!
As Warren Weirsbe said, “God could get Peter out of a prison, but Peter couldn’t get himself into a prayer meeting.” Yet, when they investigated, they discovered that is was Peter himself, and they were “astonished.” Why were they amazed? After all, they had been praying for this very thing, hadn’t they? They were surprised because they were just like us!
Often our best praying is done in an atmosphere of unbelief. On our best day, we are marked by a lack of faith. I praise His name that my faith does not have to be perfect, it just has to be exercised. We are a lot like that father who brought his son to Jesus to have the demons cast out. He believed the Lord could do is, but he was still filled with doubt and fear. Consider their conversation: Mark 9:17-27. Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you,” Matt. 17:20.
As long as we live in this world and speak to God in prayer, we will often be “astonished” at His answers. Let’s not worry about cultivating big faith; let’s concern ourselves with developing simple, childlike faith in the kind heart and supreme power of our Heavenly Father!
C. v. 18-24 There Was Powerful Sovereignty - This passage closes with God giving His church even more evidence that He is sovereign over everything His church faces.
1. v. 20-23 God Proved Sovereign Over The Opposition - Herod, the king who dared persecute the Lord’s people, dies a horrible death at the hands of God. He refused to glorify God, and God killed him in a gruesome, public fashion. This was a lesson to the church to leave their enemies in the hands of the Lord. It was a lesson designed to teach them that God was greater than anyone, or anything they would ever face.
The same is true today. Our duty is to serve the Lord faithfully and leave the opposition to Him. If we could ever adopt the mindset of David, it would help us a great deal. In 1 Sam. 17:47, as David faced the giant Goliath, he said, “...the battle is the Lord’s...”. It always has been, and it still is!
2. v. 24 God Proved Sovereign Over The Outreach - The early church, with good reason, worried about their survival. As they weathered the storms that came their way by seeking shelter in prayer, they saw the Lord expand their outreach in ways they never imagined. As He blessed the church and judged her enemies, God taught a watching world that He was in control of the situation. The early church learned the lesson that they were not responsible for the success of their ministry; they were merely responsible for being found faithful.
That is a lesson we need to learn today. Success cannot be measured in numbers on a board. If that is the criteria for success, then John the Baptist, and Jeremiah were dismal failures. The truth is, the success of our church does not rest on your shoulders or on mine. The success of this, or any other ministry, is all up to God. Our duty is to be found faithful to Him and to His call on our lives. As we yield to Him and look to Him in faith and by prayer make our petitions to Him, we can count on Him to do what is best, what is right, and what brings Him the most glory.
Conc: Church, we need to be able to get a hold of the Lord. We need that as individuals and we need that as a church. The only way that will ever happen is for us to come together like the early church and make seeking God our priority.
· We need to examine our hearts and be sure there is nothing in us against another brother or sister in Jesus.
· We need to seek God as a family.
· We need to call on God by faith, believing Him for all things.
· We need to look beyond our own needs and lift up those around us who are in need.
· We need to pray through our problems until we see the Lord move in power.
Something happens when God’s people pray. Let’s pray together and see what happens!