Thursday, May 8, 2014

TIME TO PRAY (Acts Chapter 4)

Acts 4:24, “And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord…”
Acts 4:31, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered was shaken.”

It was a noteworthy and undeniable miracle.  The 40 year old lame-from-birth beggar had been healed.  He was healed “by the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 4:10).  Many people saw it and then listened to Peter’s sermon—explaining how it happened.  About five thousand men believed as a result (Acts 4:4). 

The religious leaders were “greatly annoyed because they (i.e. Peter and John) were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2).  They arrested Peter and John and interrogated them.  Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8), spoke to them about Jesus.  “There is salvation in no one else,” he declared (Acts 4:12).

The religious leaders could not deny that a “notable sign” had been performed (Acts 4:16).  But they were not interested in how it had happened.  They charged Peter and John to not “speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18), but Peter refused to abide by their demands (Acts 4:19-20).  The leaders would have liked to have kept them locked up, but “because of the people” they let them go (Acts 4:21).

The newly born church faced its first major obstacle.  The religious leaders were powerful and extremely displeased by the ministry efforts of the Apostles.  What to do?  Take the matter to God in prayer!

The church was born out of a prayer meeting (Cf. Acts 1:14).  In its infancy it was “devoted” to prayer (Acts 2:42).  It was only natural then, in dealing with this ominous threat, for them to seek God’s help.  Prayer is a fundamental to the health and growth of the church.  If the church is to advance in its influence it must do so “on its knees.”  I’ve said before that if there was ever a time for the church in America to give earnest attention to prayer, this is it.  But that’s not the spirit of our day.  The churches anemic state is rooted in its amnesia with respect to the preeminent importance of prayer.

Leonard Ravenhill once wrote of this matter (a long time ago): “Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer.  We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few prayers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters.  Failing here, we fail everywhere.”

But those early believers knew what to do--in one accord they “lifted their voices together to God” (Acts 4:24).  What did they pray?  Their prayer was not merely a request, but rather an act of worship.  They acknowledged God to be the Creator of all things (Acts 4:24).  They spoke of HIs prophetic warning of opposition to “his Anointed” (Acts 4:25-27).  They acknowledged His sovereignty (Acts 4:28).  They asked for but one thing—that He would grant them “to continue to speak (His) word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).  Their prayer was that God would grant them confidence in the face of opposition, while He continued to make Himself known through signs and wonders (Acts 4:30).

Did God hear them?  How could they know?  The God who created the earth shook it (Acts 4:31).  Our prayers will not likely meet with such dramatic result, but God’s Word nevertheless assures us of His attentiveness (1 John 5:14-15).  Did God answer their prayer?  “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).  The church continued “with great power” proclaiming the truth about Jesus (Acts 4:33).

The discerning Christian is well aware of the ongoing threats and opposition faced by the church in our day.  What are we to do?  We would do well to follow the example of those who have gone before us!  The church was borne in prayer and grew and expanded in its devotion to it.  Much prayer, much power!  And vice versa.

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