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Constantly Together In Prayer  –  A study of prayer from Acts

04 Sep

“Prayer only makes sense when you have quit trying to do ministry alone. The following five passages were selected to provide a window into the prayer life of the early church in the book of Acts. 

97262076_640While there is not time to look at any of these passages at length, we will use them like a scrapbook to look through in order to get an idea of how and why they prayed.

Acts 2:42 
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The first fellowship was eagerly and persistently engaged in the critical duty of prayer. Understanding the sense of loss His disciples were feelings as they anticipated His leaving, the Lord Jesus Christ had promised in John 14:13-14 that “whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the  on. if you ask me anything in My name, I will do it.” 

The early church took that promise as the source of God’s provision for all their needs, and they relentlessly pursued divine help. Praying together was a hallmark of the early church:

(Acts 1:14) “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

(Acts 1:24) “Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen”

(Acts 4:24-37) “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. {25} You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? {26} The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ {27} Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. {28} They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. {29} Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your
word with great boldness. {30} Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 

Acts 4:24-31 Notice the four parts of the believers’ prayer…
THEIR PRAISE v. 24 Sovereign Lord…you made the heaven and the earth and the sea…It is always appropriate to remember Who God is before we address any situation. 

SCRIPTURE w. 25-26 Quote from Psalm 2:1-2. They were comforted in that their opposition had been foretold by David. They were, in fact, a fulfillment of prophecy. Satan’s efforts only succeeded in fulfilling God’s eternal plan. 

THE PROBLEM w. 27-28 Their opposition was because they belonged to Jesus.

THEIR REQUEST w. 29-30 They did not ask for protection or a place to hide, but instead asked for even more courage to boldly proclaim God’s truth – the very thing they had been ordered not to do.

GOD’S RESPONSE v.31 God’s answer was not long in coming for the building was shaken and they spoke the word of God more boldly.

Acts 6:1-4
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. {2} So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. {3} Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them {4} and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.””

Prayer and ministry of the word were inseparably linked. God’s people must always seek that marvelous harmony of Bible study and prayer. 

Bible study without prayer can lead to self-righteousness and spiritual dryness; Prayer without Bible study can lead to a perpetual condition of spiritual immaturity.

The apostles wisely recognized:
· that hurry and over commitment are the enemies of spirituality
· that we can do more than pray after we have prayed, but we cannot do more than pray until we have prayed! 

Still for most of us there is a great feeling that when we pray we are doing nothing, and this feeling makes us give undue importance to work, sometimes even to the hurrying over or even to the neglect of prayer. 

Like the early church, we must remember not to rest too much on the arm of flesh and to make of first Importance the practice of relying first and foremost upon the arm of God.

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “God wants us to take care of the depth of our ministry; He will take care of the breadth of our ministry.”

Acts 9:40-41 
“Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. {41} He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.”

As he had seen the Lord do when He raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:40), Peter sent them all out of the room where Dorcas’ body lay. He would not put on a display before the crowd that would draw all attention to him; and wanted a quiet place to pray. 

Some might think that Peter, who had been involved in many healings should simply have commanded Dorcas to rise. He knew, however, the source of his power and presumed nothing about the will of God.

(Acts 12:1-12) “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. {2} He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. {3} When he saw that
this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. {4} After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers
each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. {5} So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. {6} The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. {7} Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. {8} Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and
sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. {9} Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. {10} They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. {11} Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.” {12} When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.”

While Peter was kept in prison, the church responded as they usually did when facing persecution: fervent prayer. They knew the battle was spiritual in nature and that only God had the power to release Peter. 

The church poured the maximum effort they were capable of into their prayers for Peter. They knew the truth James was later to express, that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). 

What would you conclude to be some of their basic beliefs about God and about prayer?
1. They relentlessly pursued divine help according to the promise of Jesus. 
2. They believed God would protect them, so they prayed for boldness instead! 
3. They understood the premier importance of bath prayer and the Apostles’ words. 
4. They knew God was the source of power and prayer was not for the sake of show. 
5. They prayed with maximum effort, knowing their battle was truly a spiritual one.

· Stephen prayed as he was being stoned (Acts 7:55-60). 
· Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17)
· Saul of Tarsus prayed after his conversion (Acts 9:11). 
· Cornelius prayed that God would show him how to be saved (Acts 10:1-4)
· Peter was on the housetop praying when God told him how to be the answer to Cornelius’ prayers (Acts 10:9).
· The church at Antioch fasted and prayed before sending out Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13:1-3; and note 14:23). 
· It was at a prayer meeting in Philippi that God opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:13)
· another prayer meeting in Philippi opened the prison doors (Acts 16:25ff). 
· Paul prayed for his friends before leaving them (Acts 20:36; 21:5). 
· In the midst of a storm, he prayed for God’s blessing (Acts 27:35)
· after a storm, he prayed that God would heal a sick man (Acts 28:8). 

In almost every chapter in Acts you find a reference to prayer, and the book makes it very clear that something happens when God’s people pray.

This is certainly a good lesson for the church today. Prayer is both the thermometer and the thermostat of the local church; for the “spiritual temperature” either goes up or down, depending on how God’s people pray. 

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, said, “Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.” In the Book of Acts, you see prayer accomplishing all of these things.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Article

 

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