"Holding forth the Word of Truth in a World of Deception"
|Exegesis ... Hermeneutics ... Critical Analysis|
Power of a Praying Church"
In order to be An Exhibition of God's Power thru the Principle of
Evangelism, We Must Have An Effectual Prayer Life. I submit to
you that basically Acts 4 is an account of A PRAYING CHURCH. In
Verses 23-31, Luke records the epitaph of A CHURCH AT PRAYER.
Some Wonderful Things Happened When This Church Prayed. Some Marvelous and Great Things Occurred when All of the Members of this Church got on One Accord and Prayed. For when this Church Prayed, an Earthquake Shook the Building. When they Prayed, All Believers Were Filled With the Holy Ghost. When they prayed, They Began to Witness Boldly. When they Prayed, the Church Had Great Power, and Great Grace was upon Every Member of This Church - When They Prayed, Some Wonderful Things Happened!
And I'm Led of the Lord to believe that God's Power Is Released In and Thru A Praying Church. The Power of God Operates Thru A Praying Church. Signs and Wonders, Salvation and Healing, Praise and Adoration, all take place within the context of A Praying Church.
We can either Pray, Believe and Receive or we can Pray, Doubt and Do Without! But God's Power operates In and Thru a Praying Church.
There's a church in Seoul, Korea that has been marvellously blessed by God. The pastor of that church teaches only Two Things: Prayer and Witnessing. In many other areas they may be short, but they are long in prayer and witnessing. Every Sunday the house is packed from Six in the morning to after Twelve at night; they have continuous service to meet the needs of all the parishioners - there is standing-room-only at every service. Often the pastor has to ask some of the membership to stay at home one Sunday a month, so that others may be recipients of the Word and salvation by grace. Now that's a powerful testimony to what God can do thru a church that Prays and Witnesses. God can Fill Up Any House! However, the problem lies with us and not with God.
The pattern that we find in the Early Church is that They Prayed and Prayed Often! And it's time for the Church to have a New Emphasis. Its time for us to enter into the Spirit of Corporate Prayer, to rediscover the Prayer-Meeting. Just as individuals are to pray, we are to pray as a church body. 'Course the Church hasn't been doing that lately. We have been gathering, but we haven't been praying!
Now the Church Has Always Had Problems, and will always have Problems as long as we are in this world. Getting the Gospel Out is a Problem. Getting Lock-Jaw when it comes to Witnessing is a Problem. Getting Spiritual Results from our Ministry is a problem. Mostly, there are carnal results; there are physical and fleshly results; but the deep work of the Spirit is seldom seen, and that's a Problem! Finding the Right Leaders for the various Ministries of the Church is a Problem. We just don't have sometimes the Right People with the Right Spirit and Motive to be placed over certain ministries, and that's a Problem. Finances are a Problem. It zooms up and then it falls down. People give according to their Feelings, the Economy and their Likes and Dislikes, and that's a Problem! The Lack of Love and Unity is a Problem. Then Disciplining New Converts is a problem. And then, Some People Fail to be Submissive, to give themselves to Spiritual Authority, and that's a Problem. There's only One Undershepherd over a local church, but sometimes we want to have our own separate ways, and that creates a Major problem!
But these are Not Critical Issues! They are a Problem, but they are Not Critical. The real critical issue is the prayer Life of a Church, and that's the Problem. If the critical issue of Prayer is solved, every other problem will find a solution. Difficulties will soon disappear, Obstacles will be removed, when the Prayer Life of the Church is Powerful and Effective. When We Pray God Will Provide!
It so happens that A Praying Church Becomes A Revived Church. We'll get in a hurry when its time to congregate; we won't lag and drag and be 20,30, 40 minutes late: When we are Revived, we'll be in a Hurry! When we're Revived, Our Voices will Ring Out Loudly, Succinctly in Praises to our God. We'll forget about our creaky and cracking voices, and we'll zoom in on the Lord and just glorify Him, when We Pray. A Praying Church is a Revived Church.
A Praying Church is a Worshipping Church. That congregation that does not worship, does not pray! But if we pray, prayer will spawn spontaneity in worship. We'll know how to lift up holy hands; we'll know how to say "Hallelujah. Hosanna"; we'll know how to 'Stroke the Lord.' We'll waive when we aren't speaking to nobody, scratch when nothing is itching us and run when nobody is chasing us. We'll forget about everybody else and we'll be in spirit and truth, and Just Worship the Lord! But Worship comes as a result of Prayer.
A Praying Church is a Soul Winning Church. The reason converts are not won to the Lord is the church is not praying for conversions. A church that is praying is going to win souls to the Lord.
A Praying Church is also A Giving Church. It won't have to worry about people giving themselves and their Tithes and Offerings to the Lord. It won't have to worry about where the money is going and how it is invested. But if we don't pray, we won't give!!!
But more than anything else, A Praying Church is a Spiritual Church; it is not Carnal. Very little arguing, fighting and focusing on things that do not matter, because our eyes will be on that 'mark for the prize.' A Spiritual Church, where people are maturing, growing in the Lord, being help-meets to one another and ministering to one another. A Spiritual Church, where Spiritual Gifts are freely operating, and not a cold, dull, lifeless form.
So, there is only one real problem in every church and that is: To Get All the Members of that Church On Their Knees Before the Lord. Its hard to get the folk who say they belong to God to come out on Wednesdays or whatever To Pray. God has said: "If My people who are called by My Name would humble themselves and Pray!" That's The Problem!!!
We have yet to learn the Importance of the Power of Prayer. We highlite and hype the Good Time Hour on Sunday mornings, where there is form, fashion and fabrication but no substance. But the power comes when the Church Prays. If the Church Prays on Wednesdays and keeps on praying, the Power Will Fall on Sundays and someone will be saved and healed, because we are going to be active thru the week doing what we are supposed to do. But if the Fire goes out on Wednesdays, its going to be a Cold Place on Sundays!
Luke records here at Verse 31(read). So, more than anything else, the Church Needs to Be A Praying Church, Because A PRAYING CHURCH IS A POWERFUL CHURCH!
Now there are Some Marks of a Praying Church that I want to share with you. I'm sharing these Marks that you might Catch and Implement Them.
The Marks of a Praying Church Are FOUR.
I. In A Praying Church, There Is The Mark Of A CONTINUOUS DESIRE TO PRAY.
A Praying Church recognizes the Supreme Importance of prayer; they recognize that its Always Desirable to Pray.
Prayer is of the utmost Importance. And this is illustrated basically in the Lives of the Leaders of this Church at Jerusalem. For in Acts 3, Peter and John were Praying Preachers as well as Preaching Preachers. They had Set Times for Prayer. And so, at the appointed time, Peter and John made their way to the appointed place to meet with the church for Prayer.
They Knew How To Pray, because the Lord Had Taught Them. They had asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." They knew that the Perfect Pattern for Prevailing Prayer was very Effective; for the Lord had diagramed the design. He taught them "after this manner pray ye." They knew how to get in contact with God; they were conscious they were in His presence hearing their supplications.
Very few people really Know How to Pray, from the Pulpit to the Pews. Most preachers preach when they are only asked to pray. They go off into this 'hoop and hum.' You ask them to Pray and they Preach; you ask them to Preach and they Pray. If the leadership's prayer life is subnormal, then the people's prayer life will be about the same.
But Prayer was an Important Part of the Preaching Priority. Peter and John gathered with the Church To Pray. And when they were absent from the Body of Christ, they prayed always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.
In Acts 4, Peter and John were in Prison. And while they were there, the Church Prayed. When the Leaders got in trouble, the Church called a Prayer Meeting. Not a Business Meeting to dismiss the leadership, but a Prayer Meeting to Pray for the Leaders. Now, I would love to hear of a church in the absence of its Pastor, calling a Meeting Just To Pray! Not to Vote. Not to carry on Foolishness. But Just To Pray!
And then, when Peter and John were set free in Chapter 4 Verse 23, they immediately went to the house where the church was. For verse 23 says that they let the church know what had happened to them. And in verse 24, when the church heard that, they Lifted up Their Voice To God In Prayer. When the Preachers told the church how Paranoid Priests had threatened them, the church said, 'We're going to pray for you.' Isn't it marvelous? The leaders didn't have to ask for prayer; the church automatically lifted up their voice to God and Prayed!!!
Little children have to be told what to do; but adults know what to do. The church knew it was time to pray. And my friends, It's Praying Time Now! Hardly anyone is seriously Praying For the Pastor. But Pastors are in Trouble; they have been Threatened (verse 17-20). When this church heard of the mistreatment of its leaders, They Prayed!
This Church recognized the Supreme Importance of Prayer; for the Leadership Prayed, the People Prayed. The church meeting in verse 24 was immediately turned into a Prayer Meeting. Whatever else they were doing, they stopped and immediately got down on their knees and prayed. That's Spontaneity. That's Freedom of the Spirit.
Sometimes our services need to be turned into a prayer meeting; we need to stop everything else and just zoom in on the throne of grace. As a church body, We Must Recognize the Supreme Importance of Prayer.
All of Us Ought To pray. There ought not be One Soul who does not pray, when the church comes together for prayer. We all ought to be saying:
Every Wednesday evening, the Membership Ought to come out to Pray. Because This Church Has great Needs. The Responsibility, the Task, the Mission of this Church requires the Whole Membership. It takes the Whole Membership Praying and Believing and Doing!
So, One Mark of a Praying Church is This Continuous Desire To Pray.
II. The Second
Mark of a Praying Church Is THE EYES OS FAITH AND EXPECTANCY ARE TOWARDS
When this Church in Jerusalem had a Problem, they turned their eyes away from Human Beings, even away from their Problem, and Looked to the Lord. That's what verse 24 is telling us.
They Looked to God because they knew He Could Solve Any Problem They Had, and they knew He Was Always in Control of Any Situation. So Verse 24 says "They lifted up their voice to God and said..."
This is the approach David took when in Psalm 62:5 he said: "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him."
When problems and situations face us, the only thing that matters is Our Fellowship With God; my talking to God, my knowing that He abides in me and I in Him. If my fellowship with God is in tact, He can handle any problem that might arise in my life. And as long as I am in contact with God and discovering His will for me regarding that problem, then I'm available for God to come in and work in and thru me, and work out whatever the problem might be. This church recognized that the only thing that mattered was Their Fellowship With God. When Problems came, Their Eyes of Faith and Expectancy Looked To the Lord, and they said , "Lord, Thou Art God."
You know, sometimes the Outlook seems Bad, but its the Up-Look that Counts. Its lifting up one's eyes Past the Hills. When things look Bad down here, we can always turn our soul's eye to the throne of grace; and the Up-Look says, "Its gonna be alright!" God says, 'If only we can Look Up to the Throne-Room, you'll see that He's Ruling the Situation!'
I read that in a certain cotton factory, the management had sign posted everywhere that said, "If you get your threads tangled, Send for the Boss." There was a new worker who got her threads tangled, so she tried to untangle the threads herself. But the more she tried to untangle them, she only made the problem worse. Then when she recognized she couldn't handle the problem, she sent for boss. So, he came in and looked at her tangled threads and asked her why she didn't send for him when her threads first got tangled? She said she had done her best to untangle them herself. But he told her, "No you didn't. Because doing your best was sending for me."
Many times we get our Threads Tangled. We can't handle our Problems. The more we try to unknot our tangles, the knottier they get. We just can't handle Our Problems! No matter how small the problem is, we can't handle it; all we can do is mess it up. That's why the Lord says "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path." Whenever a problem comes up, Send For the Boss! That's why He Died. He said, 'Cast all your care upon Him'; that means we shouldn't even try to mess around with our tangled threads. When our threads get knotted , Call For the Boss! And He said 'Before you call He would answer and while you are yet speaking that He would Hear.' Before you get off your knees, the Lord will have Untangled Your Problems!!!
We ought to just send for the Boss; for He delights in us calling. The Church in Acts proves this. They didn't try to deal with the priests, elders and that problem; they just simply sent for the Boss! They didn't try to untangle that knot; they simply said, "Now Lord, You are God. And we are persuaded that You can handle this problem because You made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them. So, here is our knot! You untangle it!"
Now that's one of the hardest lessons for us to learn; for again and again, we try to handle our problems, and we haven't learned yet that we can't handle them. No matter how smart we think we are, we can't untangle our threads. So we ought to resign from the flesh and submit to the wisdom of God. For He saved us from ourselves, because we got ourselves into our sin situation. And when we discovered we couldn't deal with it, we had to cry out, "Lord, save me!" So, let's just Send for the Boss!
The Eyes of a Praying Church are On God and God only. So there's no need of us looking to Southern Baptists; for we have a tendency to rely on others to do for us what we should be doing ourselves. We want others to help us do what we should be doing ourselves.
And in Verse 28, the Church summed it up by saying (read). In other words, "Since You are God, Sovereign and Ruler, we don't really care what those priests are doing, for they can only do what You let them do. You are God. You can tie up their hands; so we are looking unto You." New Zion, we need to come to the place in our walk with the Lord where we realize that whatever is occurring in our life right now, God's counsel has determined it beforehand to be done. Whatever God has determined to be done, shall be done and there's nothing we can do about it. Jesus told us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The Red Horse has already gone out and the rider of that horse has been given power to take peace from this earth and that men should kill one another. That's happening right now because God's hand and counsel has determined before that it must be done. God knows tomorrow's headline. He knows what will happen a day ahead, a year ahead, a 1000 years ahead from now, because He is the Sovereign God!
The Eyes of a Praying Church are on God because He is a Seeing God. That's what the Church was saying in Verse 29. "Now Lord, we know that You can See; so behold, their threatening." They were not looking at their problem; they were looking at the Power of Almighty God. "Lord, You Can See!" They weren't thinking about the possibility that Peter and John could be returned to prison, but they Waited on God; they Expected God to do something.
I Expect God to do something to me, for I know God's Track Record. I know what He has done. I know what He is doing right now. But I'm expecting God to do something Greater. So, they Waited. They said, "God, we are expecting You to do something Big. They think You are dead. They think they got rid of Your Son. They think they have crucified and finished You off. So, pull a surprise and attack and do something great; for the Eyes of our Faith and Expectancy are Toward Thee. Some folk and churches have written us off and said we are dead and buried and have written a period!
When the Church has A Continuous Desire to Pray and the Eyes of our Faith and Expectancy Are Toward God, then
III. Third, THIS CHURCH WILL EVANGELIZE.
For in Verse 29 they prayed, "Grant unto Thy servants that with all boldness, they may speak Thy word."
As these disciples Praised God who had brought the release of Peter and John, the burden of their prayer didn't become a Plea that He would keep Peter and John Safe. For oftimes, that's where our prayer ends; for we say, "God, You have brought us out, now keep us safe." But that wasn't the burden of their prayer. They pleaded to the Lord that He would enable them to go preaching the gospel with Greater Boldness. They did not pray, "Lord, don't let it happen again." They prayed, "Lord, do it again! But this time, give them greater boldness that they may speak Your Word!"
My friends, we must have a Burning Desire to Make Salvation Known To Sinners. And the only way it will be known by sinners is If someone opens up their mouth and proclaim boldly that Jesus can save you to the uttermost.
Many souls are won to Christ one-0n-one - as we speak to our family one-on-one, to our neighbor one-on-one, to our friends one-on-one about Jesus. And in a Praying Church, there will be Burdened Hearts as we lift up our eyes on the fields and see them white already to harvest, If we pray. We will become Burdened Soul-Winners, not with care, but because we want someone saved. For Burdened Sowers Become Bountiful Reapers!
A Church that Prays has a Burden for Souls because they want to Make Christ Known. And so, they pray, "Lord, don't keep us from it, just give us more power that we might have Greater Boldness to speak a Little Louder about Jesus! They slammed the door on us, told us to shut up, told us not to speak anymore about Jesus; but Give us More Boldness, Lord, so that we can go right back down there and say the same thing, and this time, a little Louder! Lord, Give us Boldness in Witnessing!"
IV. The Last Mark Of A Praying Church Is That THE HOLY SPIRIT MANIFESTS HIS PRESENCE AND POWER.
For Verse 31 says God Manifested His Power and the Place Was Shaken. When God shakes something, He is saying that He Is Present and Manifesting His Power.
I was at the historic Mt. Zion B.C. in Brownwood several years ago, pastored at that time by my friend, Tony Matthews, to share a day of preaching and teaching with them. At that time, that church believed in the Power of Prayer so much so that in the devotional part of worship on Sunday mornings, the whole church would get down on their knees and pray. And before I arrived that Sunday morning, that Wednesday evening they were in Prayer and Praise for that Sunday morning. And one of the brothers rose up and testified that those who were absent should have been there, for God came! And with tears in his eyes he said, "I believe God's Word Now, for" he said, "the foundation of Mt. Zion shook when we prayed!" And those who were present and witnessed it, all stood up including the Pastor, and said they all witnessed it; the place shook!
When God is in a Place, He's gonna let you know He's there in a supernatural way. That church in Brownwood was never the same. They are doing a tremendous work for God. They are going from door-to-door; and every Sunday folk were walking down the aisles to confess Christ as Lord and Savior of their life.
Prayer is the secret of every Pentecostal Blessing. For every Pentecostal Experience, Prayer is the Secret. If you want Pentecostal Boldness, Pray! If you want a Pentecostal Experience, Pray!
Something happened in Acts 4, and it wasn't Pentecost! For Pentecost had Come and Gone in Chapter Two. They weren't praying to be filled with the Holy Ghost; they were praying for Boldness. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit anyhow! All they wanted to do was to Be Obedient Servants in fulfilling the Great Commission, and God Filled Them with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Will Work in Miraculous Way in New Zion, When We Pray! For when God is in a place,Something Miraculous Happens. And when God moves in here, it is going to scare some people. When we begin to pray according to God's Will, we will begin to see in the spiritual realm, Miracles. We really don't know what Church Is, for when God is in the midst of His people, Miraculous Things Happen!!! We will see people being saved by the hundreds, not every now and then!
God's only question is : "Is anything too hard for Him?"
When God Comes In, The Work Takes Off, and we will never be the same! So come prepared to pray on Wednesday evening. For if we Pray, We Will Praise. If We Pray, We Will Witness. If We Pray, We Will Worship. If We pray, We Will Give. If We Pray, We Will Be Spiritual. If We Pray, We Will Evangelize.
But if We Don't PRAY, BELIEVE and RECEIVE, We Will PRAY, DOUBT AND DO WITHOUT!!!
You're listening to "It Is Well With My Soul."