Text: Acts 16:25-26 “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.”
Subject: A Prison Prayer Meeting
Introduction: The book of Acts is the 44th book of the bible.
The book consists of 28 chapters, 1,007 verses and 24,250 words.
The book opens with the Apostles in Prayer but, it closes with Paul in prison.
It commences with Peter and John Preaching at Jerusalem yet, it concludes with Paul preaching the Gospel in Rome.
The book has been called the book of Acts, but if you will read the record, you will discover it is simply, the Holy Spirit working through Peter, Paul and their companions.
For Luke begins his gospel, in his address to his friend and companion, Theophilus, with the beginning of what Jesus began both to do and to say, so then, this Sequel called Acts, continues what he started…
In the first twelve half of the book, we find Peter witnessing to the Jews saying, “Repent.”
But in the last portion of the book, Paul is preaching to the Gentiles and saying, “Believe”
It was Peter that preached on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 souls joined the church.
Yet, it was Paul who stood before Felix, protested before Festus, preached on Mar’s Hill and almost persuaded Agrippa to be a Christian.
Nevertheless, we find as they preached, Christ was their theme, and the word of God was their weapon.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God dealing with the Jews, but in the New Testament, he is moving among the nations.
In Chapter One: The Apostles prayed and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven.
The first 26 verses are introductory to the book: they speak of three important events: the Great commission, the ascension and the promise of Christ’s return.
But, I believe that the key verse of the book is found at chapter one verse eight:
Acts 1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
In Chapter Two: the bible says, and when the day of Pentecost was full come…Peter preached and verse 41 says, 3,000 people came down front and joined the church.
In Chapter Three: Peter and John are on their way to the Temple Prayer meeting, and as they passed what was called the Beautiful gate, there they met a man asking alms of them.
In chapter Four: After they spoken to this man’ situation, Peter began to preach again and this time, 5000 men joined the ministry. And the Bible says, “when they had perceived the boldness of Peter and John, they perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men.
In Chapter Five: Annanias and Saphia, his wife sold a possession, and held onto part of the money, thinking they were talking to Peter, it is was evident that they lied to the Holy Ghost and the ushers carried them out one by one and laid them beside one another.
In Chapter Six: the widows are neglected and the deacons are selected to minister to the widows and the orphans.
In Chapter Seven: Stephen, a man full of faith and power is stoned for the sake of the Gospel.
In Chapter Eight: A man by the name of Philip had four daughters who were Evangelists, witnessed to a black man (an Ethiopian Eunuch).
In Chapter Nine: Saul gets a name change as he encounters Christ on the Damascus road.
In Chapter Ten: Cornelius is praying and he is told to send men to Joppa to inquire of Simon Peter, in order to fulfill his divine assignment.
But in chapter sixteen, we find two good men in a bad situation. Shut up, but not shut down. And we say that they have not shut down because, in the midst of their persecution, they can still sing and pray.
They are shut in but, not shut out, because it does not matter where we are or how bad the situation, where Jesus is, its heaven there.
Isolated but, not excluded because the power of midnight prayer, permeates the walls of a Roman jail, and the bible says that they sang and prayed until.
Not retired from preaching but, on temporary leave.
In Philippi, we find Paul and Silas in prison. Why do we find men like these locked behind iron bars? It is because of the preaching of the Gospel (16:16-24).
The second Christian Convert in Europe was very different from the first. Lydia was converted in a prayer meeting, but it took an earthquake to arouse a jailer. The jailer's question is one of the most important questions in all the world (16:30).
· Prayer is one of the highest functions and most important privileges of the Christian life.
· Prayer is the immediate desire of the heart of a new life in Christ to talk with God the father, the son and the Holy Spirit.
· It is the Holy Spirit which indwells the believer and plants the spirit of prayer within.
· Prayer is often referred to as asking and receiving.
· And if the truth be told, unless there is crisis, trouble or strife in our lives, there usually no prayer life.
· But trouble draws us to the altar, and trials bring us to the cross.
· But prayer much more than asking and receiving.
· As a matter of fact, prayer is the believer means of power, and
· Where there is little prayer, you will find little power. And
· There is much prayer, there will be much power.
· Prayer is manifesting the Christian life in communion with God, through his son, our savior and Lord.
· In other words, Jesus said, “Whatever you ask, ask it in the name of Jesus.”
· It is an expression of the heart and thanksgiving to God for his undeserved grace and his mercy toward us.
· Prayer is dependence on God.
· Prayer is a Christian discipline that brings the believer face to face with the Lord.
· Authentic, sincere and fervent Prayer includes:
· Saying prayers and praying prayers are two different things:
· A self-righteous Pharisee excelled in saying prayers
· But a regenerated soul can enjoy the privilege of prayer
· The spirit of prayer is the spirit of a new creature in Christ Jesus.
· The language of prayer is the utterance of the new and regenerate life.
· When Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, passed from his old life into his new life, the Lord said unto him, “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:1).
· As a Pharisee of the Pharisees, Paul had undoubtedly said long prayers. But
· When he saw Jesus and heard his voice, it was then that Paul surrendered and said, “What wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).
· The disciples of Jesus did not ask him to teach them to preach, but
· Their request was, “Lord, Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)
· The gift of prayer is for all those that love the Lord.
· The power of prayer is committed to every believer.
· A song writer penned the words of that great hymn of the Christian church:
I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk With Jesus made me whole.
I may have doubts and fears, my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and night.
I go to him in prayer; he knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.
Have a little Talk with Jesus Tell him all about out struggles
Hear your fainted cry Answer by and by
Feel a little prayer wheel turning Know a little fire is burning
Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.
· Nevertheless, when we consider the pattern of prayer, we find that Jesus gave some directions or general rule concerning prayer before he quoted the model prayer:
· And these negative teachings or instructions are found in Matthew 6:5-8.
· He says, “when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, and he goes on to say
· “The hypocrites pray in public, and they pray long, loud and repetitious, because they like to be seen of men.
· They stand up so that everybody can see them.
· Jesus goes on to remind them of those vain repetitions.
· And perhaps, this is a good time to pause, peruse or examine our prayer life.
· Think of the phrases and words used over and over again.
· Take out the vain repetitions, and the prayer would be short, concise and sweet.
· In other words, there are some of us who are still praying the same prayer, using the same words, and calling the same names every time we pray.
· There is nothing wrong with calling the same names but,
· In your thanksgiving, adoration and intercession, the Lord has been better to you today than he was on yesterday.
· The Prayers of Jesus and of Paul teach us how to pray.
· Both prayed for long periods of time, but you will not find long prayers recorded by either one.
· The longest prayer of Jesus is found in John 17 and it would require about three minutes to read.
· They prayed in private and
· Jesus has told us to pray in private.
· After the pattern of prayer, let us consider the elements of prayer.
· Three elements of prayer are found in this model prayer of Matthew 6. And they are:
· Godward – “Our father which art in Heaven…”
· The Godward element of prayer is called Communion
· Without fellowship or connection, you can forget Communion.
· Then, there is the Inward element – “Give us this day our daily bread.”
· The inward element of prayer is called Petition
· And finally, there is the Outward element of prayer which is called Intercession.
· Petition and
· Communion is that part of prayer which removes every hindering cause between God and ourselves.
· It is an act of worship and adoration.
· It is an attitude of thanksgiving and submission.
· In Communion God does something to us.
· Petition is that part of prayer in which we can ask anything according to his will and he will give it to us – if the first element of communion has been observed.
· In petition God does something for us.
· And finally intercession is that part of prayer which causes us to lose the element of self and become concerned about others.
· In intercession, God works through us.
The unlimited Power of Prayer
· The father has all power and he knows what we need before we ask.
· Just as there are three elements of the model prayer,
· So the Lord teaches us three to pray in three modes:
· He says: Ask, seek and knock.
· 7 Ask, and it shall be given you;
· seek, and ye shall find;
· knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
· 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
· First, we must ask in faith, without wavering
· Then, we must ask in the name of Jesus.
· Yes, we were taught in the Gospel choir, God can do anything but fail, but without faith, you can’t help God and he can’t help you.
· For the Bible says:
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that
cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder
of them that diligently seek him.
· Jesus taught the necessity of faith in prayer
· The power of prayer is based on asking “in the name of Jesus.”
· The chosen of the saved ones, are to ask the father in the name of the son…
· In other words, the bible says at Philipians 4:19, but my God shall supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
· Assurance comes through answered Prayer. (I John 5:14)
· “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:”
· The prayers of the saints are omnipresent. (everywhere)
· We can pray for a person in China and God can reach where we cannot go.
· Of the prayer is in the name of Jesus, then it is not limited
· Yet, when prayer is not offered from a biblical perspective, our prayer can be hindered.
· How can prayer be hindered?
· The hindering is caused by man, not God.
· In other words, if I pray and don’t get an answer, the failure is not in God it’s in me.
· We lack confidence
· We pray amiss
· We are not persistent
· God expects us to answer some of our own prayers.
· We access god through Jesus Christ
· The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us
· The high priestly prayer of Jesus assures us.
· The three answers to prayer:
· Yes, your prayer is in the will of God
· No, to answer your prayer would do you no good.
· Wait, God knows what is best and at what point we can accept his positive answer.
· Some find conflict with Matthew 6:8.
· If the father knows what we have need of, why should we pray and ask God?
· Because God is God.
· He knows all things before we think of them.
· He is still our father and he wants to hear from us, through prayer.
· Communion with God opens the way for petition, which opens up our concern for others, which is intercession.
· If you pray in secret, God will reward you openly.
As you peruse the pages of biblical history, you will witness the power of Prayer, through the records of Law, History, Poetry and Prophecy you’ll find God moving in the behalf of his people:
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched.
1 Sam 2:1
2 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord:
2 Kings 6:17
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
2 Kings 19:15
And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.
Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly,
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.