Acts: Faith in Action
Acts 1:14; 2:42
Prayer Unlocks the Power of the Holy Spirit
About a year ago I was locked out of my car at work and needed Willie to bring our extra key and get me in my car. I tend to be somewhat judgmental and a week or so before that happened Willie had done the same thing. I remember thinking “how could you be so foolish, can’t you keep track of your keys?” After it happened to me I felt frustrated and angry at myself, seeing the keys on the seat and not being to get to them. Willie brought her key and let me in the car. My frustration and anger disappeared when I was able get in. Have you ever been locked out of somewhere and had this feeling of frustration?
Last week we saw that the Christian life is impossible without the Holy Spirit. The church without the Spirit is dead and it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to live godly lives in this broken and evil world. We asked God to fill us with his Spirit so that we can be in on the action participating in our own stories of advancing God’s kingdom.
How do we have access to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The key is prayer. Prayer unlocks, just like my story of me being locked out of my car, prayer allows us access to the Spirit of God.
It is prayer that connects us to God and gives us access to a divine partnership that we need to live effective Christian lives. It is prayer that takes us into the realm of the heavenlies and unites us with our Creator.
The disciples we are told in Acts 1:14, were continually praying before the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to them. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. In Acts 2:42 after they received the gift they were also of one mind and prayed continually. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. After the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the waiting disciples Peter witnessed to the assembly and three thousand people believed and were baptized. They devoted themselves to prayer.
The word for “one mind” in Acts 1:14 is an image of music with different notes forming a pleasing melody when they are played together. With one mind, unified in purpose and in spirit they were in continual prayer. The picture here is single mindedness, a deep desire by all present to connect with God. The disciples were unified despite their differing backgrounds, differing agendas, differing expectations and assumptions. Prayer brings unity, unity amidst diversity. We as a church have been encouraged during the search process to pray and to seek unity. Prayer and unity go hand in hand.
The word “continually” in Acts 1:14 and Acts 2:42 tells us that the disciples were spending more than a little of their time in prayer. They were anticipating what God was going to do and they were caught up in the excitement of the action of God. Oh that I would be so excited about ministry. That I would be sold out for what God was doing that I couldn’t help but pray continually!
The Gift of the Holy Spirit and Prayer
The gift of the Holy Spirit had ushered in Jesus’ heavenly ministry and it is ongoing communication with God that sustains our earthly ministry. This was true for the disciples in Acts and it is true for us today. The Spirit in heaven and prayer on earth cannot be separated. Prayer unleashes power to do the ministry we do.
Told to pray by Jesus
Prayer is essential and needs to become a part of everything we do. It was important to Jesus and even expected. Matthew 6 Jesus says:
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites… “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door… “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do…
Three times Jesus says “When you pray…” He expects people to be praying.
Jesus in John 14:13 assumes we will pray “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Jesus valued prayer, in his own life and in the life of his disciples. He modeled prayer disappearing into the wilderness and praying for the entire evening and into the morning. At Gethsemane before he was arrested he prayed. Jesus was a person of prayer.
People of Prayer
The Jewish people were people of prayer. While it wasn’t required many of them observed regular times to pray. They valued prayer.
Psalm 55:17 David writes: Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur,
And He will hear my voice.
Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.
Acts 6:4 the leaders of the church speaking: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.
Prayer was deeply and securely integrated into the life of the disciples because of their Jewish heritage. It was integrated into the life of Christ—he was a Jew and observed the Jewish rituals and lifestyle. We too are called to a life of prayer where it is integrated into the very fabric of all we do.
It may be a no-brainer, but I pray because I believe God hears me and will answer my prayers, it as simple as that. The Bible has much to say about answered prayer. Psalm 3:4 I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. James 5:16-18 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. Theses are just a few examples of answered prayer in the Bible.
I have examples of answered prayer in my own life that keep me praying. I’m not always aware of the many answered prayers in my own life because I’m too busy moving on to the next request. Every now and then I take time to stop and reflect on how God has answered my prayers. Recently I asked God to help me get back on track with my exercising. I walk regularly and had stopped walking so I asked God’s help. I began walking again but I didn’t think about God helping me because I was too busy, didn’t think about it, and was on to another ten or more requests. Besides, didn’t I make that decision on my own independent of God? Probably so, but with God’s help.
I keep a prayer journal where I write my requests and my conversations with God. It helps me be aware of answered prayers because I reread the journal and see in there all of the many times God has been with me, listening to me and hearing me.
He doesn’t always answer in the way I want or expect. Sometimes I pray for something that is important to me but an answer comes later and not the way I expected. When I was in my former ministry job at Woodland Hills I was praying that my supervisor would give me opportunities to use my gifts and abilities, but it wasn’t happening. In fact, the opposite was happening and there were fewer and fewer areas I could be myself. Looking back on it I can see how God was preparing me to move on and I couldn’t have done that if I had stayed in ministry there. I believe God answered my prayer to use my gifts and abilities, but it wasn’t there that he wanted me.
Learning and growing in prayer requires humility. Too often I make it all about myself, my needs, my desires, my agenda. God is bigger than me, He knows far more than me.
An Obstacle to Prayer: Unanswered Prayer
One of the greatest obstacles to a consistent prayer life is unanswered prayer. Unanswered prayer feeds the lie that God doesn’t care, that He isn’t listening. What’s the use of praying if our prayers aren’t answered?
There is no fixed formula in prayer: get your life in order, say the right words, get enough people praying, and the desired result will come. Life isn’t explained that way in the Bible or Job wouldn’t have suffered, Jesus would have never gone to the cross. “Does God answer prayer?” and “Will God grant my specific request no matter how just it is?” there is a great well of mystery around these questions.
The recent tragedy at Virginia Tech raises questions. “Why were some spared and others died?” God’s Son suffered terribly, he was buried in a grave, and he rose three days later. There is great mystery to these questions of unanswered prayer, we are left with unanswered questions that have no easy answers.
We are called to put our faith in a God who has yet to fulfill the promise that good will overcome evil, that God’s purposes will, in the end, prevail. Clinging to that belief is the ultimate act of faith.
I encourage you to learn more about prayer. Read Phillip Yancey’s recent book Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? Read Ole Hallesby’s classic Prayer, or anything by Andrew Murray or E.M. Bounds. These can help to inspire and recharge your prayer life. It is healthy to ask hard questions. Questions are good because they make us think and they help us understand some of the obstacles to our belief systems. An unknown obstacle is harder to remove than one that is known.
The disciples in that upper room were of one mind as they continually prayed. They had seen much the past three years and yet they were doubters. That was why Jesus appeared to them over forty days. Prayer is what sustained them during the ten day wait. Communication with God as one body of followers unified them. The result was fantastic, it was a miracle that continues today, with us, right here, right now. We too speak to the same God, we have the same Holy Spirit helping us, dwelling within us.
Prayer is our access to God.
Application & Closing
I’ll leave you with these questions:
What questions do I have about prayer?
How can I unlock the power of prayer in my life?
What keeps me from prayer?
How can I pray more?
Some prayer opportunities at WCC:
I invite you to the National Day of Prayer service this Thursday at 7pm here at church. We will spend time praying for the nation and other areas of concern.
The prayer ministry has a table in the entryway for you to learn about prayer at WCC, to write out requests, or to learn how to become more involved in prayer at this church.
If you have a prayer need there are people that can pray with you after the service, they will be up front on my left and your right.
Fill out a prayer request card in the pocket of the chair in front of you. It will get prayed for by our intercessors.
Prayer changes things, I totally believe that.
PLEASE STAY, THE CONGREGATIONAL SURVEY WILL BE HANDED OUT