A Journey Thru Acts 44: Earnest Prayer (12:5)
Acts 12:5: So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was
earnestly praying to God for him.
Importance of intense prayer, long term, exhausting prayer,
made from scratch prayer on the slow
not just microwave quick prayers on the go.
Not just five second prayers (though God graciously answers & honors those as well!), not just praying once quickly for something, but over the long-haul: over the road coast to coast truckers prayer, not just running down to the convenience mart prayer.
If earnest prayer were a food, this is the difference between prayer being a rare dessert treat—every once in a while—or earnest prayer being a staple, one of the four main food groups.
Acts 2:42: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Prayer was one of the four basic food groups of the early Church…
Today at best it’s a seasonal addition to the menu for a select group of Christians…
Acts 6:3-4: We [the apostles] will turn this responsibility over to them
4 and will give our attention
to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Wow. The eleven men who had been with the Lord Jesus the longest, discipled by Him for three years, with the huge task of being the first wave of Christians to begin taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, with that extensive mission before them, what did they focus on, how did they spend their time, what did they give their attention to?
Two goals: Prayer and proclaiming the Gospel with their words.
What an indictment of the busy modern Church…
Must have endurance—do you want to God to transform you to pray like this, with devotion, even if you don’t see results? Will not have as much time to do other things…
As Leonard Ravenhill said: “For God to increase in my life, other people/things must decrease.” The same is true if we are to learn to earnestly pray to the LORD…
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
22 “Yet you have not called on me, Jacob,
you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel.
23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
nor wearied you with demands for incense.
24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses.
Loved ones, the people of Judah that the LORD is speaking to here, these people of Judah went to Temple, did go to worship and offer sacrifices, but they went through the motions just to get it done, check a box off the list so they could calm their conscience and get back to living their lives according to their own desires/opinions…THAT was their issue…
And that is often our problem in prayer–it’s perfunctory, going thru the religious motions, a quick little prayer one-time because we know we should, but we can’t pray so much that we actually miss part or all of the big game!
The people of Judah in Isaiah 43 needed to call on the LORD in repentance & prayer in a way that wearied themselves, that showed that their hearts desired the LORD, that showed that they really meant what their lips were saying…21st century Christians in the United States need to do the same…
This is earnest prayer, my friends…this is what the early Christians did when Peter was in jail in Acts 12:5–they didn’t just pray for a minute or two and then get back to their routine…
1 Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
3 I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
The psalmist was in a situation where he needed to pray to God so much that his throat was dry and hurting and where he was physically exhausted…and he needed his fellow Jewish people to pray for him in the same way…His situation called for earnest prayer for long periods of time, not just quick bursts of prayer…
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
[When I look back over my life as a Christian so far, I often pray once or twice for something while praying for the same thing for months or years is difficult.
Part of the reason is that I fill my mind with too much other information.
My mind only has so many gigs in the hard drive, so to speak, and as I fill my mind with lots of filler, lots of possibly good but not great information (trivia, sports, entertainment info, etc.), the truly important things eventually get pushed out, like when my phone is at the text message limit and every new text causes the oldest text to be automatically deleted. Thus the good becomes bad when it keeps me from the great…
I forget to pray for long stretches of time for the same thing, not because I am forgetful, but because I’m thinking about so many other unimportant things…
Or I remember to pray but “lose steam” and don’t desire to keep praying…because I’ve gorged on so much fluff/junk-food information (social media, celebrity, entertainment, sports information)…
- Like the person who stops to get fast food on the drive home…of course they aren’t hungry for the home-cooked meal–they’re full of junk food already!
- Or the child who constantly eats so much candy and potato chips–they have no appetite for healthy vegetables, not because the veggies aren’t delicious, but because their pallets are conditioned to only want explosions of msg-induced flavor.
To learn to pray and never give up,
we must simplify and limit and increase the health of
what we listen to, read, and watch each day…]
2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day&night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
[The reason we don’t pray earnestly for long periods of time
is not a lack of time in our schedule,
but a lack of faith in our Savior…]
17 A man in the crowd answered,“Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth&becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?
How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
[That must be our initial prayer to the Father–increase our faith, help our unbelief! That is the reason why most of us don’t pray earnestly–our problem is not a lack of time, it’s a lack of faith in Christ…]
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, &he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately,
“Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting]”
Though the disciples had some initial success in healing people and driving out demons and proclaiming the Gospel with their words, they eventually faced a situation that required more prayer…earnest prayer..even physical fasting from food…they couldn’t just wing it–they needed extra training and spiritual preparation…they had to learn to rely on the LORD, not themselves…
Why could the Lord Jesus drive out the demon on the spot?
Why didn’t He have to go away for a week to pray & fast
and then come back to drive it out?
Because He already had a regular lifestyle of earnest, enduring prayer and fasting, staying up late & rising early to pray, a lifestyle of complete dependance on the Father and the Holy Spirit…He was spiritually training and in shape, so that He was ready when “this kind” of situation came up…and He commands us to be constantly in training as well…
Loved ones, do you WANT the Lord Jesus to transform you to pray EARNESTLY, as a marathon runner, not just as a quick little sprinter or as a casual stroller…
But you might say, “I want to learn to pray earnestly, but I don’t have time.”
My dear friend, we don’t have time NOT to learn this…
When a person is told by the doctor that they need radical changes to their diet & exercise or they’ll die, they often find the time/energy/will/determination to make such changes.
We can’t just will this on our own—we need to cry out for the LORD’s help every moment! Our individual faith/spiritual health, the health of a local church, &the health of the Church in a city&around the world will shrivel & wither if we do not change our priorities, if we do not repent, if we keep amusing ourselves to death with more entertainment all at the expense of learning to pray earnestly.
Don’t go home and try to earnestly pray for five hours...start with repentance, crying out to the Lord Jesus for mercy for neglecting earnest prayer, for not really wanting Him to teach us this, for wanting to do other things more than earnest prayer…
And then start praying alone & with other Christians consistently for shorter periods of time, both in person, over the phone, and over Skype/Facetime/Google Hangouts.
You don’t train for a marathon by going out and running 15 miles today! Start with 100 yards, then 300 yards, then find another group of runners to run with for a half mile, mile, etc.–build up over time–the LORD will honor this! 🙂
The Lord Jesus said, “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.”
We all will face or are facing situations that we simply cannot get through or get free from without learning how to earnestly pray—”this kind” of heavy, serious situation. This is the equivalent of a person going from taking occasional strolls around the block to training for a triathlon. We must be trained by the Lord Jesus to pray as He did—
Luke 5:16: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
This implies praying for long stretches of time...it takes a while to withdraw to a lonely, out of the way place, and you don’t take all that time to get there to simply pray for a few minutes and then get back to your schedule…
I know we are all busy, but during His three years of public ministry, the Lord Jesus was the busiest Person in the history of humanity–what a mission He had! And with the same amount of hours per week (168), He made time to often withdraw from His teaching and preaching and healing ministry in order to pray earnestly…
Word “pray” occurs 367x in the Bible—MORE than once for each day of the year!
Psalm 63:1-3: You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
Earnestly praying to the LORD is earnestly seeking Him…
Please remember, we pray not simply as a task but as a main way of being with God…
Luke 22:44: And being in anguish, he [the Lord Jesus] prayed more earnestly,
and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
My dear friends, the Lord Jesus is our example of earnestly praying…
not only does He tell us to earnestly pray, He shows us…
That was how He prayed before He was crucified…
Video: Go Past The Rim…(please click HERE)
Learning to earnestly pray does not mean that each time you pray you will experience some physical thrill/emotional high–but don’t give up! Marathon training is often difficult, but worth it! I can’t imagine runners are always effervescent about waking up at 5am to run 5 miles in the dark and cold…
But the LORD will bring dividends and fruit for His glory in the long-run! There will be times when we come down from the mountain top, like Moses, with glowing faces from being with the LORD!
It is quicker & easier to hang something with a nail in drywall…but the heavier the item is, the more likely it is to fall & rip a hole in the wall and damage what was hung.
The heavier the item, the more we need to take the time to find the 2×4 studs and drill directly into them. The studs are what make the hanging item secure and sturdy. Not always the easiest task, finding the studs, but well worth the effort…
My dear friends, learning to earnestly pray to the LORD is drilling into the studs, is hanging our heaviest & most important situations on the sturdy studs of the character of Almighty God.
We dare not casually and quickly only pray little 5 second prayers for these heavy items; no, we take the time to find the studs and drill into them, to learn to cry out to the LORD for extended periods of time over our entire life on earth. This is a blessing, not a burden, this is a delight, not just a duty. Let’s learn this together…!
1 Peter 4:7: The end of all things is near.
Therefore be alert and of sober mind
so that you may
Throw out the bucket list, my dear Christians, stuff we desperately want to experience before we die, as if the end of our earthly lives is the end of our ability to experience joy. Never! Watching paint dry in heaven will be more thrilling than any experience of earth…since the end of all things is near, let’s throw out the busy bucket list…
Let’s pray instead, and pray earnestly!