Prayer That Rocks the House (text)
Topic: Prayer Passage: Acts 4:23–4:31
Prayer That Rocks The House
I thought that we would be starting a series in 1st Timothy this morning, but I'm going to delay that until next week, because the Lord has laid another message on my heart for this morning. It's a message that I think be blessing for us to hear as we start the New Year.
Q. Is there a sense of anticipation in your heart for what God is going to do in 2008?
There was a word at end of our service last week that God was giving birth to something new in SGC, and that we should expect great things from the Lord. I have also been sensing a growing excitement about what God is going to do in coming year.
I hope there are things in your heart you would like to see the Lord do in 2008. I'm not talking about the typical NY resolutions: lose weight, eat better, exercise, and all that stuff. I mean specific areas and specific ways that you would like to see God's hand move in your life in this coming year.
- Someone's been living in a spiritual desert and long to have a closer walk with God again
- Someone else praying that a loved one comes to saving faith in Christ this year
- Maybe suffering physically or know someone who is and long to see God's healing power
Whatever it is, it is a good thing to want to see God's hand move in our lives. It's a good thing - but it's not enough. We need to believe great things of God, but we also need to ask great things of God. God loves to bless and work in His people in proportion to their prayers when prayers are heartfelt and faith-filled. Special blessing when His church fervently prays together.
Five college students were visiting London in 1800's during the time that the great preacher Charles Spurgeon was leading the Metropolitan Tabernacle. They decided to visit the church and hear the great preacher preach, but while waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who offered to show them around the church while they waited. He asked them if they would like to see the "heating plant" of the church, and thinking he meant to boiler room, and since it was a hot day in July, they weren't very excited about it, but politely agreed. They were taken down a stairway, and their guide opened a door and whispered "This is our heating plant." The students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, asking God to bless the service that was about to begin above. There is no doubt that the fruit and the power of those services was God's response to heating plant: it was a church that prayed.
In book of Acts we find that the church in its earliest days was also a church that prayed. They were in prayer together when the Holy Spirit descended on them in upper room. After Peter preaches his first message and 3000 people were saved (not bad first attempt!), among other things they "devoted themselves to...prayer." God was moving powerfully - and those first disciples were praying powerfully!
I want us to open the door to the heating plant of the early church, and listen in on one of their prayer meetings with hope in this New Year it might stir us to a fresh commitment to prayer. Turn to Acts 4.
Context: Peter and John saw a lame man begging at the entrance to the temple and Peter healed him in the name of Jesus. When a crowd gathers around this miracle and they begin to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ and call them to repentance. At that point the religious authorities show up and order them not to speak or teach in name of Jesus any longer. Peter and John boldly tell them "we cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard." So the rulers and elders threaten them some more before sending them on their way.
This is where we pick up story in verse 23.
Although this prayer comes out of the threat of persecution, I believe this is a prayer that is relevant and powerful for the church in any season and in any situation. They knew how to pray!
Title: Prayer that Rocks the House
I want to draw three simple lessons from their prayer:
- They pray with a biblically informed view of God's awesome greatness
- They pray BIG - they ask for great things from God. And they ask for specific things from God
- God powerfully answers their prayers
I know that many sermons have three points and that is not surprising, but to shake things up, I want to begin with the last point first:
3. God powerfully answers their prayers
Might think, "God powerfully answers..." what kind of point is that? What lesson am I supposed to learn? It doesn't tell me to do anything! That's exactly right. Tells us what God does and that is one of the most important things for us to remember if our prayers are going to be lifted to God with faith. God answers prayer.
If the church loses a strong and vibrant faith that God answers prayer, then prayer becomes a nice religious activity, and prayer meeting becomes sleepiest meeting on church calendar!
God always answers the prayers of His people! Always! That doesn't mean He always answers them in the way we ask, or even the way we want, but never does He neglect our prayers and leave them unanswered. Many times in my life I have lifted prayers for a situation to God with hope of certain results only to see God answer those prayers in very different ways than expected, but distinct sense of His sovereign hand answering. Often I can see that His way was better, sometimes I can't. Know His way is best.
Every parent knows the pleasure of granting many of our kid's requests, but every loving parent has also had to say no to many requests too. We don't love them any less when we say no than when we say yes.
If you are a Christian, important that you pray with confidence that God hears and answers your heartfelt prayers. He answers them in the way that is best for us and for the advance of His gospel.
The best answer He could give
Notice that God answers their prayers with a great evidence of His power - He rocks the house. They didn't even ask for that - it was just God showing Himself to be powerful in face of puny men opposing the advance of good news of Jesus Christ. Gives them the boldness to speak word of God without fear - that is what they asked. But the best answer of all is that He gives them Himself - He fills them with His Spirit.
"They were all filled with the Holy Spirit..."
That's the best answer He could ever give us - Himself! See God filling the believers in the early church again and again. They were filled on Pentecost. Peter was filled with Holy Spirit as he answered the rulers and elders just a few verses before this. Now Peter and all the rest are filled again with the Holy Spirit.
The best answer to your prayers for 2008 is that God might fill you with an increasing measure of His Spirit. Nothing will do more to empower our prayers and transform our lives than to walk in power of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit in increasing measure. It's a prayer He delights to answer.
- They pray with a biblically informed view of God's awesome greatness
The threat these believers are facing is real. These are the same men who had Jesus arrested and crucified. They have real power to do them real harm and probably will. No doubt there is a temptation to have their eyes pulled down and see this threat as biggest thing in lives. But with faith and with scripture they lift their prayers to a God that is awesome and great beyond all comprehension!
Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them...
This earth and everything on it is puny in your eyes Lord - you made it all!
Then they apply Psalm 2 to their situation - nations rage against God and His anointed. They plan together and plot together about how overthrow the Lord and His anointed - words of rulers and elders echoing in their ears: "don't speak or teach in name of Jesus or we'll come after you and hurt you. Don't mess with us!"
Psalm 2 goes on to say that the God who sits in the heavens laughs - he laughs in derision. Their rage and their plots amount to nothing. It is all laughable to God. Continuing to pray a biblically informed prayer, they recognize that God's hand is sovereignly moving all the events of history and all the players of history like Herod and Pilate.
Don't need to be persecuted to pray like this. Countless things that try to pull our eyes downward to see the things in our face as great and God as small. We need to fill our minds and souls with vision of greatness of God
Before you pray, take time to meditate on God's greatness. Inform soul from scripture of who God is.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. (Ps. 145:3)
Get the sense David just doesn't know how to communicate how great God is. In every way in every direction beyond our understanding God is great! He is loving and wise and powerful and majestic and good and merciful and compassionate and glorious...on and on. There is no way to communicate how great God is.
It says they lifted their voices - but they lifted more than voices. They had their eyes upward, their faith upward, to see how great God is. They refused to feel the gravitational pull of this fallen world to convince soul that problems, needs, or worldly pursuits and desires are big, and God is no match. Good for religious moments - don't bring into real world. Fight that pull! Inform your mind and heart and stir up your faith with biblical descriptions of God's greatness. You won't ever comprehend it all (unsearchable) but as leaks into soul prayers will be lifted with wings of faith and confidence - God is great!
- They ask for great things from God
And they ask for specific results. Let's look at what they ask for:
"Lord, look upon their threats and..."
If it was me praying, I'd pray something like, "and squash them like bugs under your almighty hand!"
But they don't ask for that - look upon threats and grant boldness to continue to speak God's word.
"grant your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness."
This gives us the courage to refuse to back down and refuse to be silent and refuse to tailor our message to appease the threats of these men - courage to speak Your Word boldly!
Don't stop there, ask God to stretch out His hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. Ask God do specific things so that the great name of Jesus and gospel going forward in the world. Lessons I want to take home:
¨ Glory of Jesus and advance of His gospel be goal of all our prayers. Prayer that rocks the house is prayer that says fill this house with the glory of the Lord!
¨ Pray bigger and more specifically. If our prayers are so vague we can't tell if God answers them or not, not much good. God delights to glorify His name by doing what He alone can do - prayers that ask for God-sized answers glorify Him.
¨ Be committed to pray this way. God will sometimes answer "no" or "wait" or "I'll answer that another way" - expect that and don't get discouraged and stop praying. Prayer isn't demanding from God, it's calling upon God. Pray big but humble, "grant servants...stretch forth Your hand"
Let's ring the bell
C. H. Spurgeon once said, "Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might."
Let's ring the bell this year. Pull the rope - not timidly, not occasionally - but boldly and often.
¨ Set aside specific time. Start with 15 minutes. Make it count. Stir heart up to pray fervently and boldly. Pray out loud if possible!
¨ Make a prayer list and be specific. Ask God for specific things.
o The Lord would fill you with His Holy Spirit and grow fruits of Spirit
o Is there someone love who is lost and needs Christ? Pray that Lord saves them.
o Someone sick and suffering? Pray that God sustains them with His love, heal them.
o Marriage faltering? Young child turning away from Lord?
o Pray for your church. Pastor.
o God to stretch forth His hand and perform wonderful things in our midst as a church!
Ring the bell together.
¨ One of our goals is to give more opportunity to pray together as a church
o Meet for prayer each Sunday morning at 9:15-9:45 to lift up service for God's blessing
o Every fifth Sunday we will be meeting at the Riverside Hall for a meal and prayer
We serve a great God who delights to answer prayer - so let's ring the bell often, ring it loudly, and ask for great things!