April 24, 2022

The Power of Prayer April 22nd, 2022

Passage: Acts 4:23-31

O God of Resurrection, breathe your Holy Spirit upon us now, so that as your Word is read and preached, we might hear, understand, and believe. Amen.

A couple of weeks ago in our journey through the book of Acts we left the Apostles, Peter and John, who had been in front of the rulers and elders of the Temple in Jerusalem, being commanded to never mention the name of Jesus again. But for them that was impossible, after all that they had been through with him, from first being called as his disciples, to witnessing his miracles and his ascension to be with God, the Father. They had too much to tell others. They just couldn’t keep it to themselves.

After the rulers of the Temple finally released them, Peter and John returned to their home in Jerusalem and when they arrived there, they were greeted by their fellow believers, who were overjoyed to see them. And the first thing they did was to celebrate their safe return by praying. This morning we’re going to have a look at that prayer.

This is what Luke, the great physician and the author of Acts, tells us took place when Peter and John were released by the authorities and returned to that upper room where they were staying, “After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’”

So, the first reaction of Peter, John, and the other followers was to pray to God. They prayed together, and with one voice. And the first thing they did in their prayers was to acknowledge God as being supreme. They said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them.”  They acknowledged that God was ruler over all.

When Jesus was with them, that was the way he taught them to pray. The prayer he gave them, which we know as the Lord’s Prayer, begins this way, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

That’s important for us to remember, those early believers recognised the sovereignty of God. They understood that God has the plan for the world, not man. They knew that since it was God who created the world, he cared for all the creatures in it, not just those people who were like them.

An example of God’s love for all mankind can be found in one of the most beloved stories in the Bible, which is the story of Jonah. We think of it as a children’s story, however, it’s really a story for adults. What everyone remembers about Jonah is the three days he spent in the belly of the whale. But that’s not the point of the story. It’s about Jonah being a reluctant prophet. It took him a while to finally do what God asked of him. God tells him to go to Nineveh because the people there need to repent. This is what God says to Jonah, “‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’” (Jonah 1:2). But the problem is Jonah doesn’t want to go. Jonah is of the Jewish faith and the people of Nineveh are Gentiles. They aren’t like him and so he doesn’t want to help them. He only wants God to love people who are just like him. But God is much more than that, he cares for all of mankind!

And aren’t we like Jonah? We only want to love people who are just like us. When was the last time you prayed for someone who wasn’t just like you? How many of us prayed for the protestors in the truck convoy in Ottawa or for the invaders of the Ukraine? It’s not easy sometimes but just because we pray for them doesn’t mean we support their causes, but rather that that, like the people of Nineveh, we can pray they’ll come to realize the error of their ways. Prayer can be very powerful.

After Jonah was released from the belly of the whale, he obeyed God and went to Nineveh and this is what took place, “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth…. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:4-5, 10). And that is a perfect example of the authority of God, he is Lord over all things and wants the best for everyone. God cares for all people who love him. When God looks at the world, he doesn’t see political boundaries or different philosophies of living. God doesn’t have a foreign policy. God only sees human needs and suffering. So, when we pray, we must remember the sovereignty of God.

The second thing we should never forget when we pray is the supremacy of Christ. Jesus was the greatest life that ever lived on earth. He is the bridge between God and mankind. He is our only hope of salvation. The early church understood the supremacy of Christ. This is what Paul wrote in his Letter to the Philippians, “he (Jesus) humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11). To the early church, Jesus was everything, he was their Lord and Master. And it’s just as true for us today and is something we should never forget, when we pray, we should never forget the supremacy of Christ. God sent Jesus to guide us and to protect us.

Thirdly, when we pray, we need to remember the holiness of the church. This isn’t the church building, but rather the people who make up the church of Christ, those individuals who are glorifying God through Jesus, and those individuals who are still proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. It’s important that we pray for the people who are dedicated to doing God’s will in our world today. This is what those first believers prayed, “And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

When Peter and John returned to be with them, they didn’t pray that those who opposed them would be destroyed, but rather that God would give them the courage to preach the Good News of the Gospel to their oppressors so that they might repent of their ways, ask for forgiveness of their sins, and accept Jesus as their Saviour. They didn’t pray for judgment on their persecutors, nor did they pray for freedom from persecution, but rather for the strength to stand up against it. They saw that their number one priority was preaching Jesus to a needy world.

Their prayers were not centered on self concern, self comfort, or relief from their problems. It was praying focused on God. The focus of their prayer and the result of their prayer was that God would be glorified and honoured. They didn’t just for protection, but for power, not for fire from heaven to destroy their opposition, but for power to preach and to heal.

And what was the answer to their prayers? Luke says, “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” God encouraged Peter, John and the other believers by filling them with the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them to go out into Jerusalem and beyond to change the world forever. Such is the power of prayer.

That’s what we always need to remember, there is much more to prayer than our wants, needs and desires. Prayer is really about God. When was the last time you prayed for God’s plan for our world? God cares and wants to bring all people close to him.

When we pray, we need to look beyond ourselves. We need to look at things that are eternal. When we pray, we should remember three things, first, remember the sovereignty of God, what’s more important to us, God’s agenda, or our agenda? Secondly, remember the supremacy of Christ, he is Lord and Master of all on earth and he will lead us to God. Third and finally, remember the holiness of the church, we need to always be proclaiming and practicing the Good News of Jesus. Let’s always remember prayer is not about us; prayer is about God. Years ago, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, said, “Prayer is where the action is.”

Let us Pray:

Dear God, let us always remember your Word. Thank you for Jesus and use this message wherever it can be an encouragement to bring glory and honour to you through the faithfulness and work of your followers. Give us courage and strength to tell those around us about your saving grace. Many are tempted by man’s plan but help us to always remember your plan. Enrich our prayer life and help us pray for the many others who need you in their lives. Let our prayer be where the action is.  We pray all this in the name of Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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