Title: Go pray!
Text: Acts 4:23-31
Introduction: Dr. Martin King may be one of the most poplar men in history due to his accomplishment in civil rights. However, he was one who also knew the challenges of opposition and persecution. Sadly enough many of his persecutors against his nonviolent liberation messages came from his peers, other Baptist preachers. It is enough when outsiders are persecuting you but it is even worse when those who are supposedly on your side are against you. My brothers and my sisters, as Christians our persecution does not mostly come from the world anymore. We don’t really get persecuted on our jobs or in the street like the early believers. But your biggest persecution will come from within the same walls you worship in. The world is not bothering. For the church, the world is not crying out “it don’t take all of that”. The world rarely says “we never done it that way before”. But this is the cry of religious folk in church. Today’s story is about believers who were persecuted by the religious folk. God is telling us thru the early church how handle persecutor in church through the power of prayer.
Our text opens up right after Peter and John were released from prison because they dared to speak the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The religious folk tried their best to shut them up and forbid them to speak or teach in the authority of that name. But they could not deny the power in his name. It was in His name that a 40 year old lame man was healed. And no one could deny it because they saw it with there on eyes. Peter and John could not help but to speak in the name of the most high, the one that brought salvation into the world. They could not help it! Though the chief priest and the scribe tried to stop the spread the message of Jesus by threats they could not find anything wrong about the miracle that was performed so they had to let them go. The text says that when they were let go they went to their own company and reported to them what the chief priest and the elder tried to do to them. After being threatened and persecuted by “religious or church folk”, it is good to be some comfort from people who believe what you believe, kindred spirits who really got your back. You would think after hearing what their fellow comrades went through this group of believers would be ready to roll! You know how we are. “You are not going to treat my people like that and get away with it”. That was their attitude but their reaction was unexpected. Look what they did. They did not go fight or argue. They prayed. The church went into prayer service to handle the opposition they were facing. They lifted up their voices on one accord to God. This is how you handle stuff when it comes against you for doing the work of the Lord. No more fussing and fighting and talking behind people back. Go pray! Don’t just say it do it! Like the early church, we have to do this corporately when we are up against people who claim to know God but action speak otherwise. Look how they prayed which is our lesson for the church.
I. Recognize God is Sovereign v.24
Look how they prayed in verse 24. They cried out, “Lord, you are God who made the heaven and the earth and sea and all that is in them. Beloved, you serve a sovereign God who is the creator of all things. Anything that is in existence, His hands created for his glory. You also have to know that He is Lord and we are children in His providence. In his providence, he will provide what we need. You got to know that He is the God who spoke order in to chaos. If this is the God we serve, He can speak order into your chaos! When you pray, you got to recognize who God is and expect Him to be God! The early church in this text knew who they were praying to due the experience they had with him in the upper room. You get know God by experience. You experienced him as a way maker. That is how you got to know him better! You experienced him as healer that is how you got to know him better. And you know him for yourself. It is thru those experiences you can draw from to know what He is able to for you in your next situation. But one thing he doesn’t do, i.e. fail! He is perfect and reigns despite what my situation looks or feels like! But I got to know him for myself in the time of my need that He is Sovereign!
II. Pray according to His word v. 25-27
The word of God is always relevant to whatever we go thru. In verses 25-27, as the believers pray they quote Ps. 2:1-2 which confirmed their current situation. The word says, “…the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and His Anointed or Christ…”. This scripture is now being fulfilled. The Word is the revelation of God that speaks to your life. So when you pray according to the Word, it is a reminder of what God said he would do for those who believe. God keeps His word. He is not a man that He should lie nor the son of man that he should repent. What this band of believers was going thru was not surprising to God because He told them in his Word. Therefore, all my issues and my problems that I deal with are not surprising to God because he already told me in the word. Let me prove it. In this life you will have tribulation but I have overcome them. That is word. Look what was in their prayer in verse 25. “Why did the heathen rage and the people imagine vain things”? This word is the same today. Heathens are raging in churches and church people want vanity. Where is Jesus in the Church? The Word of God confirms what is going on today. That is why you have to pray the word of God. When you pray the word you are in essence relinquishing your desires for outcome of the situation recognizing God is sovereign. In other words, when you pray…
III. Pray God will be done v. 28
In the middle of our persecution we have to pray for the will of God. Sometimes God will use persecution to make you stronger to bring out your purpose in life. Therefore, you may not want to curse your wilderness it could be God plan to make you better. Look how the believers prayed in the midst of their persecution, “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to do be done”. In other words, God do you what you want to do and what you all ready plan out. The Lord is all knowing. He is alpha and omega. He looks at you life from to end to the beginning. He created you with the end in mind. Jer. 29:11 says I know the plan that I have for you…God has a plan for you. When you pray according to the purpose and plan of God, you immediately line up with your destiny. It may be a rough road to your destination but Jeremiah’s promise is assured, you will prosper!! But it starts by praying God will’s being done. That is why we should always pray the Lord’s Prayer: Our father who art in heaven hallow be thy name thy kingdom come thy will be done… we can stop right there.
IV. Pray for Power v. 29
One of the main things we can learn about prayer from the early church is this text is that God may not deliver us out of trouble or take out our enemies. That is what we want. But it may not be in His sovereign plan. Look how they prayed in the text. “Now, Lord behold their threats: grant your servants with boldness to speak your word”. They believed in the power of their Almighty God to help them deal with their situation. But they knew something else. Despite what they were going to thru, they had a responsibility. They had to be witnesses for Christ. Despite the hardships they would face they would need divine enablement to get the job done. They prayed for boldness to speak the word. Boldness was not reckless strength. But boldness is courage in the midst of danger. Their lives were on the line but they had a mission to fulfill. My beloved in the middle of your trouble you have to speak with boldness. Your trouble may be different from theirs. But you can still speak Jesus boldness in midst of your crisis. Pray that God will give you holy boldness so in the midst of your trouble, you will have a word! The enemy has weapons lined up against you but thru the power of prayer you can speak with boldness that “no weapon formed against you shall prosper, every tongues that rises up in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the righteous!” Pray for boldness and speak the word in the midst of your trouble.
V. Pray for God to move vv. 30-31
Not matter how much we pray to be effective for God during our trials, God still has to move on our behalf. The battle belongs to the Lord and He will make the difference. Look how the believers prayed in v. 30. They prayed for the Lord to stretch his hand to heal and that signs and wonders to be done in the holy name of Jesus. They did not pray for things to get done in their own name but in the name that is above every other name. The name every knee shall bow and every tongue should confess. That name that brings salvation. That name that gives healing. That name that gives everlasting love. That is the name of Jesus! And when they prayed this prayer something supernatural happened. A Holy move of God took place. Their prayer caused God to move from heaven down to earth. My beloved, when we pray like these early believers prayed, we can expect God to move on our behalf in a supernatural way. The text says that the place where they were together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and God answered their pray to speak with boldness! And they did it! God lets his presence known when we pray!
Celebration: Church, I know it is hard to deal with persecution when it comes from religious folk. I know it makes you want to fight. I know it makes you want to holler. I know it makes you want to curse. But God is saying if you pray I will give you what you need to handle it and not only that I will show up. It is not your fight, it is my battle says the Lord. My beloved when the persecute you, they persecute Jesus. When you persecute Jesus they are in trouble because that only leads to resurrection. Jesus got up with all power. That same power that got Jesus out the grave is the same power God is going to give to deal with your persecutors! He will give you power to deal with gossiper, power to deal with liars, power to deal with negativity, power to deal your finances, power to deal with your family. He will give you power when you pray. He gives you Holy Ghost power. It is supernatural praying power! Your persecution is spiritual and you have to fight it in the spirit. So step out your natural and get the supernatural!