Mike Gerhardt, August 27, 2017, Prayer: Corporately.
There wasn’t a better team sport than football when I was growing up. Joining together as one team is what corporate prayer is all about. Acts 4:23-31 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
There was a concentration of power in that meeting. It was born out of service for the Lord. Peter and John came in from the trenches, and the church met to pray to push back the enemy. Often we gather for prayer for other reasons. In Jerusalem, there was a sense of urgency and even danger. The church of Jesus Christ was just beginning. I believe that urgency is still important today. Notice: When they heard this, they raised their voices together (in one accord, Acts 1:14, 2:46, 5:12, 6:6, 15:25 all agreed) in prayer to God. It was a united and urgent prayer. The people were of one heart. Sovereign Lord, they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 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? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One (Christ or Messiah, Psalm 2:1-2). 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. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. Persecution united them in prayer. The prayer was based on Psalm 2. Praying the scriptures is a good practice. God speaks to us in His Word and we speak to Him in our prayers. Prayer that is filled with the Word of God. 1 John 5:14–15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. They did not pray to have their circumstances changed or their enemies put out of office. Rather, they asked God to empower them to make the best use of their circumstances and to accomplish what God had determined. This was not fatalism but faith. They asked for divine enablement, not escape; and God gave them that needed power. 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Phillips Brooks wrote: Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your power. Pray for power equal to your tasks.
They prayed for power to deal with their circumstances.
Sovereign Lord is the God who is in control of all things. The Greek word means despot, a ruler who exercises absolute power. The Creator Father is Lord of heaven and earth. The early church believed in God’s perfect plan for His people. Yet they did not permit their faith in divine sovereignty to take away their human responsibility, for they were faithful to witness and pray. Augustine: Pray as though everything depends on God and work as though everything depended on you. Faith in a sovereign Lord is an encouragement for God’s people to keep serving the Lord when the going is difficult. They didn't ask for protection; they asked for power. They didn't ask for fire from heaven to destroy their enemy, but power from heaven to preach and heal the sick. Boldness in prayer is the result of faithfulness in service. The name of Jesus has not lost its power, but some believers have lost their boldness because they've stopped believing in the Sovereign God. Dr. R.A. Torrey evangelist and educator said: Pray for great things, expect great things, work for great things, but above all—pray. Two more prayers of boldness. Acts 12:11 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.” 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. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. Never underestimate the power of a praying church! Thomas Watson, the Puritan preacher said: The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel out of heaven. This prison experience was different. Peter was alone. Deliverance did not come right away. The other two times, he was able to witness; but not this time. Peter’s previous arrests had taken place after great victories, but this one followed the death of James, his dear friend. What gave Peter such peace that he fell asleep between two guards? To begin with, many believers were praying for him (Acts 12:12) day and night for a week. The angel brought light into the prison cell. If Peter was going to be delivered, he had to obey the angel. He probably thought it was a dream, but he arose and followed the angel out and into the street. Only then did he realize that it was a miracle. God alone can do the extraordinary, but His people must do the ordinary. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but the men had to roll the stone from the tomb and unwrap him. The angel that removed the chains from Peter’s hands told him to put on his shoes. God never wastes miracles. It was Passover season, the time of year when the Jews celebrated their Exodus from Egypt. The word delivered in Acts 12:11 is the word Stephen used when he spoke about the Exodus Acts 7:34. Peter experienced an exodus. God opened the way, and the angel vanished. Peter decided to go to that prayer meeting. When you think that people were praying, night and day for as long as a week specifically for Peter’s deliverance, then the scene that is described here is almost comical. The answer to their prayers is standing at the door! God could get Peter out of a prison, but Peter can’t get himself into a prayer meeting! Note the plural pronouns in Acts 12:16: “They... opened the door and... they were astonished.” It seems for safety’s sake, they decided to open the door together and face whatever might be on the other side. Rhoda was too overcome with joy to do it. Where Peter went when he left the meeting, nobody knows! Except for a brief appearance in Acts 15, Peter walks off the pages of the Book of Acts to make room for Paul and the story of his ministry among the Gentiles. 1 Corinthians 9:5 tells us that Peter traveled in ministry with his wife, and 1:12 that he visited Corinth. There is no evidence that Peter ever visited Rome. Before we leave this section, it would be profitable to consider how Christians can best pray for those in prison; for even today there are many people in prison only because they are Christians. Hebrews 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them. In other words, pray for them as you would want them to pray for you if your situations were reversed. We ought to pray that God will give them grace to bear with suffering so that they might have a triumphant witness for the Lord. We should ask the Spirit to minister the Word to them and bring it to their remembrance. It is right to ask God to protect His own and to give them wisdom as they must day after day deal with a difficult enemy. We must ask God that, if it is His will, they be delivered from their bondage and suffering and reunited with their loved ones. Acts 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. One of the first missionaries to India and Persia, Henry Martyn said, The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become. We must pray together and often.