Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, February 26, 2016

Call to Corporate Prayer (Part 2)

I am interested in prayer meetings like the one we read of today. Where situations change miraculously because God’s people are praying together. In fact, throughout Acts, we see prayer meetings that do battle for souls; that overcome obstacles and move God's hand and that turn the world of their day upside down. We are asking God to teach us how to pray as a congregation as well as individuals. Last week we saw that:

Praying together was a priority for the apostles  
Praying together was modelled and practiced by Christ
  Praying together occurs throughout the New Testament
  Praying together has changed history
   Praying together works today

This week we are going to look at 4 Principles of Powerful Prayer Meetings that we can lift from the prayer meetings of the early church. They Are:
Deep fellowship
Clean hearts
One accord


By this I mean Tune in to God’s agenda.

Have you ever noticed how the apostles change between the Gospels and Acts? In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, their requests included calling fire down from heaven to consume those who rejected Christ, sending people away hungry, and sitting on the right and left hand of the throne when they got to heaven. Their actions were also telling. They constantly demonstrated a lack of faith, prohibited children from coming to Christ, and tried stopped someone from casting out demons. Now and then, they would get it right, but most of the time they were not in tune when it came to Jesus and His mission. Consequently, our Lord rarely ever did what they asked.

But when you turn to the book of Acts, you find a completely different focus in their lives and in their asking. Acts records no account that they ever failed in their faith again. When God looked on their prayer meetings, 3000 were converted in a single day, the place where they prayed was shaken, and prison doors swung open. Obviously, some tremendous transformation, some radical change had occurred. What made the difference?

Very simply, they went from being on their own agenda to being on God's agenda, and I touched on that last week. They stopped seeking a seat on Jesus' right and left and began praying for boldness to testify in the face of persecution. They stopped flirting with a return to fishing and focused on shepherding the people of God. They changed from being self-centered to being God-centered.
In Acts 4, Peter and John were released with threats of what would happen to them if they spoke in the name of Jesus again. They reported this to their friends who immediately, reflexively went to prayer:

When they heard this, they raised their voices to God unanimously and said, "Master, You are the One who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David Your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot futile things?

Why are they praying these things, quoting Scripture back to God and reflecting on the history of God's purposes? They spend five verses telling God who He is and two verses asking Him for boldness. Why didn't they pray, "Thank you Lord for getting our friends out of this mess. And Lord we want to be honest and tell you we're scared. Please protect us"?

Well, here’s why: Their concern was not their protection but God's purposes being secured above and beyond and through their suffering; not for their reputation to be vindicated but for His Son's; not for shelter, but for boldness. And the result was the place where they were praying was shaken as a physical sign of the power of God falling on them and they were all empowered by the Holy Spirit for Gospel purposes. (Adapted from John Franklin, And the Place Was Shaken)
Let's be honest here: we spend a whole lot more time praying for God to keep Christians out of heaven than for Him to get the lost out of hell. "God heal and help us" is prayed far more often than "save and sanctify."

Don't get me wrong: God is our Healer and we are commanded about praying for sickness and provision. But that's just one of many, many Kingdom issues about which we are to pray. When most of our praying is about our wants, our needs, and our concerns, we will see the working of God in trace amounts. Our culture needs to see His mighty power manifest through His church, and that comes about when our agenda is God’s agenda … or as I’ve said quite a few times recently, when God’s mission becomes our mission!

I call you again to join our monthly Tuesday night prayer gatherings. If you haven't been in a while, it will feel very different. Between now and our next Tuesday meeting I encourage you to come to our daily 7am and noon prayer meetings. Our goal is God and we're asking Him to teach us to pray.

Deep fellowship

There are three episodes from the life of the Early Church that I want to show you. In each scene, a common reality emerges that sets the stage for power in prayer.

In each instance, believers are loving one another. They shared their possessions, cared for those struggling financially among them, met daily in one another's homes and in the temple, were together in one accord, and brought out the sick and demon-possessed. As a result, the Lord added daily those who were being saved, filled them with great power, great grace was upon them all, and they were all healed.

If the foundational principle of powerful prayer meetings in the church is God-focus, the second principle flows from it: it is deep, authentic, loving fellowship among God's people. John Franklin concluded from his study of how the believers in Acts cared for one another that "God worked in their lives in proportion to the degree of their koinonia, the quality of love between believers. Their favor with God flowed from His pleasure in their depth of fellowship." All of us sense the need and the value of this principle in prayer. We want people in our lives who truly care. You and I will pray with more fervency when we can trust those with whom we're praying. And trust is built when our lives brush up against one another; when we share our burdens and troubles, and we walk the hard miles together. This is why small groups are increasingly a key element in our church's life. We simply don't have time to build close, open, honest relationships in an hour on Sunday. The second principle that fuels fervent, effective praying together is being real, binding wounds, and sharing our stories with one another so that care rises. Without it, our praying together will be surface only, and our pleading will be restrained.

Clean hearts

God has always required a right heart from those to whom He will reveal Himself. All who miss this point miss God. In the first pages of Scripture this was established. In Gen. 4, Cain and Abel bring their offerings to God. The Bible reports that God respected Abel and his offerings, but He did not respect Cain and his offerings. The Bible makes it plain that God's accepting or rejecting of their offering followed His acceptance or rejection of the person making the offering. God's willingness to respond was directly linked to the condition of the heart of the one worshipping.

What was established in this early incident rings true throughout Scripture: God answers an individual or a church in proportion to how they are walking with Him. He never differentiates between the thing requested and the one making the request. Another way to say that is this: God doesn't just answer prayer; He answers you.

A classic example of this occurred in a prayer meeting in the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland (I read this story on the htb media archive). Christians there had been imploring God for some time to send revival and awakening. Finally, during a Friday night prayer meeting, a youth of sixteen prayed from Ps. 24: 3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? 4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He then began to ask God if his heart was pure.

Others in the room began to inspect their walk with God, to confess their sins, and to renew a right relationship with God. God began at that moment to transform those islands. In fact, as they were praying God woke up most of the town at midnight, and they gathered at the village square asking how to be saved. Once the hearts of those Christians were cleansed, God worked mightily through them.

It has been my observation as a pastor who has served churches that have two or more worship services of similar format on a Sunday, that one would be Spirit-filled, vibrant, the hearts of all responsive, while the other service-with the same music, same singers, same message-was cold, flat, and unresponsive. For years as a pastor, I puzzled over this. And then God's Word made plain what the difference was. The spiritual condition of the hearts of those in attendance affected the freedom of the Spirit of God to work. The psalmist is absolutely right when he says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;" (Ps. 66:18) The Message puts it like this: “If I had been cozy with evil, the Lord would never have listened.”  We help or hinder the movement of God's Spirit in accordance to the depth of our repentance. This is one of the reasons we often start a prayer meeting with a time of personal confession.

One accord

Five times in the first five chapters of Acts, the Bible tells us that the disciples were in "one accord." Time for another Greek lesson. Each time, it's the Greek word "homothumadon," a compound word that basically means "same passion, combined heat, shared glow." There was among them a mutual experience of the same burning heart, the same heart passion. They were united. 3000 years ago, David wrote (Ps 133)
How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life for evermore.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion:
Does this look familiar?
And this:

The one is the highest point in the UK, the other the highest point in Norfolk.

When God’s people live and pray together in unity, God commands a blessing; and that blessing is like the dew from Ben Nevis …
… falling on Beacon Hill

Can you see praying together, and more especially praying together in unity, is so important? Please consider attending our corporate prayer meetings, so that we can pray in unity and in one accord.

Let me conclude:

Praying together was a priority for the apostles  
Praying together was modelled and practiced by Christ
  Praying together occurs throughout the New Testament
  Praying together has changed history
   Praying together works today

Praying Churches are used by God to change the world; especially when they are characterised by:
Deep fellowship
Clean hearts
One accord


Steve Finnell said...

Do men receive faith, that saves, because God arbitrarily bestows them with faith? Does God predetermined who will be saved and then cause them to have faith so they can be saved? No and No.

Faith comes from hearing God's word preached.

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(NKJV)

Romans 10:14 How they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?(NKJV)

Faith comes when men believe the gospel. Faith is not forced on men by God.


Ephesians 2:8 is used to prove that faith is a gift from God, however, that is not what is says.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God,(NKJV)

Salvation is the gift from God. Faith is not the gift.

Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Why would Jesus condemn men who do not believe if God is the one who arbitrarily bestows faith on men so they can be saved?

To have faith that Jesus is the Son of God is a choice. To trust in God is a choice. To believe that God resurrected Jesus from the grave is a choice. To believe that Jesus is both Lord and Christ is a choice. God does not force men to have faith. Saving faith is the not a gift from God. Salvation is the gift from God.


1. Hear the gospel. Romans 10:17
2. Believe. John 3:16
3. Confess. Romans 10:9
4. Repent. Acts 3:19
5. Be baptized in water. Acts 2:38


sonap69 said...

Faith is a gift from God, it is one if the gifts of the spirit. God does not withhold faith from us but it us His gift.