SERMON: THE CHURCH THAT PRAYS TOGETHER #2
*READING: Acts 12:1-17
INTRO: In reading the O.T. we calculate there were tons of incense used in worship to God. When we reach the N.T. the incense changes its form. Here followers of Christ are His house, each one a stone in His temple, and are offering their prayers which is the incense of worship. "Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."- Rev 5:8
If "the family that prays together stays together" has any merit, than surely "the spiritual family that stays prays together stays together" is all the more meaningful.
This is a lesson on prayer, but more specifically, one encouraging us to pray more, more fervently, more faithfully, more often, and pray more as God's gathered family.
In times past we had the reputation of being "people of the book." That has passed. Wouldn't it be wonderful, if we, because of our dedication and love, became known as "people of prayer?"
I. SEEKING HIGHER HELP When we pray we are seeking help from someone higher. It is in another realm, the heavenly. Prayer is saying, in part, I can't change anything, but you can God. We can do some things by God's grace, but other issues are out of our hands. For example, Jesus, knowing that Simon Peter would deny Him, said, "I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen you brothers."-Lk. 22:32.
A. This Is Telling Us:
1. Jesus is very interested in each one's soul. Then, and now-Heb 7:25
2. That we can pray for one another to God.
3. Prayer did what Peter was incapable of doing.
B. This Is Well Illustrated In The 12 Step Program:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcoholâ€”that our lives had become unmanageable. Step
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 2
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. 3
4. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.5
5. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 7
6. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 11
II. SEE A NEED AND SEEK HEAVENLY HELP What could possibly happen if we prayed diligently in private and as a church, not just a single pray-er?
A. Acts 12 From Last Week. The new and improved Simon Peter has just witnessed the gruesome death of his former partner in the fishing business and a current fellow disciple of the ONE who called them to be "fishers of men."
B. Yet We Find Him Sleeping In Jail! Peter is not insecure, not overconfident, not talking incessantly, but sleeping- chained between two Roman soldiers while awaiting his own
trial in the morning.
1. This is not the quick tempered loudmouth of an earlier time who said, "Lord, you might need to worry about the rest, but not me!" This new Peter does not resemble the old Peter. Why?
2. Last week we offered:
a. Peter had the peace of one justified by faith- Rom. 5:1
b. Jesus had assured Peter he would not die young
c. Many people are praying fervently for him
d. So Peter is sound asleep while God is in control.
C. Acts 12 For Today:
1. Earnest Prayer To God Can Bring Light Out Of Darkness "a light shone in the cell" Light is often used in the Bible as knowledge of God or spiritual things, of salvation in Christ, of Jesus himself, good, and of revelation of truth.
a. Which one of you has not been living in darkness or had a dark time? Perhaps it was a sin, or maybe sickness, or sadness, or separation in a relationship.
b. If the whole church knew, the whole church could pray. Reading Acts 2 would remind us of the fervency and constancy of prayer. Hebrews 10:24,25 indicates that there is a strength found in numbers together.
c. For this to work confession would have to be part of our church life. Not just admitting sin, but disclosure of a dark spot.
2. Fervent Prayer Can Set Us Free From Bondage, Fears and Cares "the chains fell off." We can and usually do speak to God about our chains in private. Would there not be an added element of fellowship and warmth if we could bring ourselves to "say and pray?"
a. When we start this it will mean "letting go and letting God" or "casting all our cares on him." The casual prayer together would not fulfill this concept.
b. "Earnest" comes from "stretched out," so we would need to be "stretched to the max."
c. This describes the action of Jesus as he begged his Father "take this cup from me," and returned to his disciples to find them asleep. The scripture here says, "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood..."
d. This morning we are only discussing the church praying earnestly.
3. Stretched Out Prayer Bring Joy. "When [Rhoda] recognized Peter's voice she was overjoyed..."
a. This comical scene at Mary's house has many lessons. Ronda was at first overjoyed then overwhelmed. She forgot to open the gate! Great joy can do this to us.
b. A mistake like this would be welcomed in light of answered prayer.
4. Earnest Prayer Can Bring Results In The Presence Of Doubt. The comedy scene continues. The people in earnest prayer told Rhonda she was out of her mind and suggested she had seen Peter's angel.
a. The answer to their prayers is standing at the door, but they don’t have faith enough to open the door and let him in!
b. God could get Peter out of a prison, but Peter can’t get himself into a prayer meeting!
c. Remember that they had probably prayed for James and he lost his life, so doubt as to exact answer might be understandable. But God still came through. We need people of faith to be praying with us, but God can work without 100%.
Make sure that we recognize and earlier statement to be true and act upon it. “When we pray we are seeking help from someone higher.” While it is possible that everyone here knows and acts this way all the time, there still may be some lingering thought of not turning it all over to Jesus, who said, “It is finished.” The old law system came to an end, his life as he had known it ceased, and the complete sacrifice was not complete.
Please listen patiently to a story I told you in 2007. It may have new meaning today.
A Carpenter and his glasses.
My Mother's father worked as a carpenter. On this particular day, he was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to orphanages in China.
On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what had happened; the glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut.
His brand new glasses were heading for China!
The Great Depression was at its height and Grandpa had six children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning. He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair. "It's not fair," he told God as he drove home in frustration. "I've been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this."
Months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the United States. He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday at my grandfather's small church in Chicago.
The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage. "But most of all," he said, "I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year. You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses. I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of
replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this.
"Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top." The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued: "Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom made just for me! I want to Thank you for being a part of that."
The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas. But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary