A Journey Thru Acts 5: Prayer With, Power From, Praise For God (3:1-26)
We continue in this our 5th post digging into the book of Acts. We are trying to build on the 53 sermons from 2016, our foundations series, where we dug into the Bible to understand what it means to truly elevate God, elevate Christian community, and elevate others (non Christians). So now through the end of May we are digging into Acts to answer the question, “What do we do NOW? What is the LORD building on the foundation of this local church? What does the Bible say the church is supposed to be and do? Not what does the suburban American culture say, but what does the Bible say?
Please click HERE for Acts 3:1-26
Much we could learn from this passage—easily 3 posts just from this chapter! But for this post we are going to focus on something important: prayer with God led to power from God led to praise for God. Before we dig into prayer, I want to share a powerful quote about prayer from a man who was a pastor in Minneapolis for nearly 40 years:
“So I do not tire of saying to our church, The number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of a believers is that they try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom.
Until you believe that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission. It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission (“Go and bear fruit”), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the general’s headquarters, and said, “Comrades, the general has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send in air cover when you or your comrades need it.”
But what have millions of Christians done? They have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance, no strategic planning. Just easy peacetime and prosperity. And what did they do with the walkie-talkie? They tried to rig it up as an intercom in their cushy houses and cabins and boats and cars – not to call in fire power for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask the maid to bring another pillow to the den.
We simply must create in ourselves and in our people a wartime mentality. Otherwise the Biblical teaching about the urgency of prayer, and the vigilance of prayer, and the watching in prayer, and the perseverance in prayer, and the danger of abandoning prayer will make no sense and find no resonance in our hearts. Until we feel the desperation of a bombing raid, or the thrill of a new strategic offensive for the gospel, we will not pray in the spirit of Jesus.” John Piper
Some more powerful quotes on prayer by Leonard Ravenhill—lived on earth 1907-1994
Prayer is not only a place where I lose my burdens, but also a place where I get a burden.
Today, deacons and elders are usually ‘men of standing’.
In the New Testament Church they were ‘men of kneeling’ – praying men.
The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying.
Most Christians pray to be blessed; few pray to be broken.
Prayer changes things”? Yes, but prayer changes us.
Results of being with God: immunity from fear, flattery and fame,
& a Holy Ghost inoculation to stand against earth, hell & carnal churches.
Christian, keep your knees on the ground and your eyes on the throne.
Prayer recognizes unfinished business with and for God.
We never pray for folks we gossip about,
& we never gossip about the folk for whom we pray! Prayer is a great deterrent.
If God is going to increase in my life, then somebody/something is going to decrease in it.
The secret of praying is praying in secret.
A sinning man will stop praying, and a praying man will stop sinning.
Prayer does not condition God; prayer conditions us.
Prayer does not win God to our view; it reveals God’s view to us.
If weak in prayer we are weak everywhere.
Here are some Biblical passages on prayer:
- One of the only times the Lord Jesus asked His followers to do something for Him was when He asked them to pray…& they slept…at His hour of deepest need.
Matthew 26:36-46: 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.
44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
- Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat—to rip Peter apart. What did the Lord Jesus do in response? He didn’t firebolt the devil…Christ prayed for Peter, for his FAITH, & then told Peter to strengthen his brothers who would also be targeted. Wow. All flowing from prayer.
Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. & when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
- The Lord Jesus NEEDED to pray; why do we think we don’t?
Luke 5:16: Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
- Early Christians CONSTANTLY met together for prayer—were dedicated to it.
Acts 2:42: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
- Praying is a way we join in the struggles of other Christians.
Romans 15:30: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ
and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”
- Secret prayer, alone time w/God; not a task to be done but a Person to be with.
Matthew 6:5-8: 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
- Prayer is manly; real men pray; prayer is intertwined with salvation.
1 Timothy 2:1-8: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
- Why don’t we pray? The spirit is willing but the body is weak.
Deep down we don’t care—we just don’t want to.
We are still addicted to the things of this world. We are out of shape—like running, prayer is less concerned with technique and more concerned with endurance—keep doing it!!! We are not an endurance culture—we are a “SQUIRREL!” culture—get excited about a lot of things and then quit doing those things, like a match that burns quickly and dies out quickly. Prayer is a bonfire that, when stoked & with fresh wood, never goes out. Endurance & perseverance are needed most these days.
- Apostles focused on prayer & the ministry of the Word.
They didn’t just get busy w/techniques & strategies trying to do as much activity as possible—they focused on knowing God thru the Bible & prayer & they delegated—the entire family of Christians was committed to playing the role in the Church that God had designed for each of them.
- Often we think about prayer: Nothing seems to happen!
Even the Lord Jesus, when He prayed on the cross—“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”—received no answer to that prayer. And yet the Lord Jesus would continue to pray, saying to the Father with His dying words, “Into Your hands I commit My Spirit.”
So what do we do?
Confess to God—repent of lack of prayer, repent of our spiritual drowsiness, our culture coma, of being sleepy because we are full of this world’s turkey.
Ask God to help us PANT for Him, to desire Him more than ANYTHING else: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).
- A man may study because his brain is hungry for knowledge,
but he prays because his soul is hungry for God. Leonard Ravenhill
Decide to start getting together with other Christians to pray. We must simply do it, not wait til we feel like it or have time for it. Cancel your cable, put filters on your own computer, get rid of ANYTHING that hinders and run the race of prayer (Hebrews 12).
- How can you pull down strongholds of Satan
if you don’t even have the strength to turn off your TV? Leonard Ravenhill
- Again and again God asks men to do not what they can, but what they can’t. Ravenhill
God tells us in Hebrews 12 to “run the race that Jesus has marked out for us.” Without prayer, Christians are merely busy tying & retying our shoelaces, but never actually running. Or we’re merely stretching/stretching/warming up, but never actually running Jesus’ race. Or we’re running, but on a treadmill—getting our heart rate elevated—busy busy busy!—but going nowhere. Or we’re constantly admiring each other’s running outfits—look how my shoes match my socks match my shorts!; look at this cool new mp3 I use to listen to stuff while I run!; look at my cool new heart rate monitor—but never actually running the race! Or we’re constantly talking about the importance of drinking lots of water & replenishing electrolytes & eating this/eating that, but without realizing it we never get around to the actual running! To the casual observer who glances at us, we seem very much like runners! But if they stare at us, really observe us, they realize that we don’t often get in Christ’s race that He has marked out for us. All because we don’t really pray…without prayer, a Christian is in park or neutral, revving the engine loudly, and depleting our gas tank, but going nowhere. Learning to truly pray takes us out of park/neutral & into drive (or reverse for a time through repentance). Prayer is the transmission that puts the car in the right gear; but we often look at prayer as the hood ornament or fuzzy dice—nice but not really absolutely necessary. Prayer is not for those who can’t do anything else, but for those who realize that apart from Christ they can’t do anything.
If prayer at its best is being with God, if prayer is beautiful communication with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, then the question isn’t “will we pray in heaven?” The question is, “Will we do anything BUT pray in heaven!?” “Will we WANT to do anything else but pray in heaven?” We won’t even want anything else—the greatest present of God is His presence. And to the extent that we learn to pray on earth, to truly pray in the power of the Holy Spirit on the foundation of the Word of God, to that extent heaven begins NOW…we start to get a taste of heaven while we are on earth, like a backyard barbecue in the summer where you start to smell it as soon as you pull in the driveway. You haven’t even truly begun to eat whatever is being grilled, but you are already enjoying it because of the phenomenal smell. Prayer on earth, at it’s best, is deeply enjoying and smelling the feast of heaven, the wedding banquet/feast of the Lamb, where we will communicate with our Savior perfectly and completely without sin and with faith that is no longer a mustard seed but an oak tree of righteousness displaying the splendor of God.
Will this be difficult? YES! But pray with other Christians; the next time you get together, don’t put it off til the end, pray at the beginning, and pray for an extended period of time. You don’t run or do cardio for 10—30 seconds, do you? How strange would that be? Yet we are satisfied with quick little prayers. True Biblical Holy Spirit-powered prayer requires endurance, takes time. We are advised to get our physical heart rate elevated for 20—30—45 minutes 3 or 4 times per week; anything less doesn’t give us much physical benefit. So let’s ask the Lord to spiritually help us to get our heart rate elevated by teaching us to pray for longer periods of time, to train us to be long-distance prayers, not just quick sprinters.
Will your mind wander when you start to pray with others for longer than a minute or two? Yes your mind will wander! It will be difficult to focus! But the LORD will teach you! Will there be awkward silences? YES! But those will become beautiful times of being still and knowing that He is God. Will you and others secretly wish that the prayer time would end soon? Probably! But God will grow you to not want the prayer to stop. Will it be terrifying to actually pray out loud & possibly fumble thru your verbal prayer, perhaps not making much sense or using certain Bible terms incorrectly, thinking that others are laughing at you? Probably! But God is worth it! He’s patient! He called Moses, a stutterer, & gave him the job of TALKING to Pharaoh! God has a sense of humor, but He also has a purpose in putting us in situations where we are over our heads, where we MUST rely on Him; prayer is one of those situations. We simply can’t do it, or do it Biblically, on our own.
- The first times you walked as a baby you fell down EVERY TIME and looked silly as you tried to walk! But you kept doing it…
- The first times you rode a bike you skinned your knees or worse and got very frustrated nearly EVERY TIME, but you kept doing it…
- When you first began to talk as a child, you could only say a word or two and not very well, sentences took a while to come out, you did more grunting than talking, but look at you now! You kept doing it…
- The first times you began learning a musical instrument, you made terrifying noises! But you kept doing it…
On and on the illustrations go—may God help us to be dedicated to being with Him in prayer, for longer and longer stretches of time, in the beautiful example of Acts 3: prayer with God, then power from God, than praise for God…it’s all connected, let’s not skip or rearrange the steps!
Read a devotion with my children last week—the LORD taught ME through it! That is one of the most important reasons to disciple our children, to raise them up in the training & instruction of the Lord: we get discipled/trained by God in the process!
The devotion noted the importance of lifting something heavy w/your knees, not your back (e.g. lifting a heavy piece of furniture). Similarly, it said we often lift our daily lives w/our backs—our power—instead of on our knees thru prayer—God’s power. So humbling!
Loved ones, ask Papa to help us stop throwing out our backs each day; let’s confess to Him our sin of self-sufficiency and receive from Him His forgiveness & cleansing to rely on Him in prayer—it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!