WhenThe Church Prays

Bible Book: Acts  4 : 23-35
Subject: Prayer; Church Life; Power in the Church; Growth in the Church

It is reported that Mary, Queen of Scots, once said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than I fear all the armies on the face of the earth.” That was probably one of the last times that anyone feared the prayers of the church. The world does not fear the church, it barely tolerates it. Generally, the world perceives the church as no longer a player in world affairs, only an observer a “yes man,” for the pagan leaders of Western culture, a culture that has long since abandoned Christian principles as a serious voice in shaping the values of modern society. The church in the eyes of many is a quaint relic of the past that lends a certain charm to the neighborhood, a holdover from bygone days, big but harmless, like a beached whale. For many, the crucial question facing the church is whether it can survive. I can answer that question. Yes, the church will survive. God has never left himself without a witness, and His church will still be around when the curtain comes down on this whole sorry mess. But God help us, if we are interested only in surviving. Christ intends that His church do a lot more.”

Someone has said, “Three hundred years after the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, the church had brought the Roman Emperor to its knees in worship of the Redeemer. How did that little band of disciples accomplish what no military power had been able to do? Did they possess something that we do not? Did they know something that we do not? The answer to those questions and others can found in the record God has preserved of those pioneer Christians. That record is found in the Book of Acts. For example here in (Acts Ch 4) we see that the priests and Sadducees, angered by Peter's talk of resurrection, grabbed Peter, along with John, and threw them both into jail. The next day the Sanhedrin, after threatening Peter and John, commanded them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, and they released them from custody.

Immediately, the two apostles returned to the gathered believers. “They went to their own company.” (4:23)

That was normal. People have a tendency to go where they naturally feel at home. Vance Havner used to say, “Where do you go when you're let go?” This was the Normal thing for them to do. To go to the prayer meeting. Tell me, is this normal for you? To be at the prayer meeting! “And being let go, they went to their own company.” (4:23) They returned to the gathered believers and related the story. What was the church's reaction? Did they picket the council? Did they write nasty letters to the leaders of the Sanhedrin? Did they organize a protest march against religious discrimination? No, they turned to the living God in prayer. Like Hezekiah the early church spread its trouble before the Lord in prayer. (Is 37:14) Now they didn't pray for revenge, rather with minds saturated with Scripture and memories still stirred by the Cross they called upon God to act and God did!

Someone has said, “Christians are like tea their real strength comes out when they are in hot water.” Now if that's true then the church of Christ ought to be praying with fervency. Look around and see what we've got - false cults are abounding on every hand, within our land there's moral corruption, the slaughter of innocent unborn babies, drug epidemic, alcoholism - people who don't know the Lord and only prayer can hold back the flood tide of sin and judgment and only powerful praying can send a move of God. Now I want to talk to you on this …. “When the Church Prays.” And I want to give you three things that I trust will challenge your heart.

I. The Person That Filled Their Vision

Who fills your vision when you come to the prayer meeting? Is your vision filled with yourself? Is it filled with others? Or is it filled with the Lord? Isn't it lovely to notice in (4:24) that these believers, “lifted up their voice to God .…,” That is they turned their eyes from man to God, from the problems on hand to the God who can solve every problem and is in control of every situation. They were quite in line with the psalmist who said, “My soul wait thou only upon God for my expectation is from Him.” (Ps 62:5) My, the outlook may be bad but it’s the up-look that counts ! Now look, as they came to the Lord in prayer they recognized some things.

A. The Unlimited Authority of God

The word translated “Lord,” is rare. It is not the same word rendered “Lord,” in (4:29)

In (4:24) its an extremely strong word meaning “despot.” The word “despot,” usually has a negative connotation, but here it indicates God's omnipotence, His rule with absolute and unrestrained authority. This is where they started, not with the threats of the enemy but with the absolute authority of God. For the church, victory always begins with the recognition that God is our Sovereign Lord.

The (Ps 146) talks about the Creator. (Ps 145:5-6) Now when they prayed they were quoting from this psalm and they recognized that the God who Created everything is the God who can take care of everything. (a) Now think of their situation for a moment. Here were a seemingly helpless band of believers against the power, might, influence of the Jewish Sanhedrin who told them “not to speak . …,” (4:18)

What hope had they against such an august body? What chance was there that the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus would continue to be preached? From man’s viewpoint very little, but faith has a different viewpoint, for it comes to God in prayer believing that with God no problem is too great, no mountain is too big, no matter is too difficult. Do you recall when you went to school and you fell out! Do you remember what you used to say? “I'm going to tell on you.” That’s what these believers did .... they told on the Sanhedrin ! They said, “Lord You are the Creator and they are the Created and Lord we don't have to be intimidated by them for the forces of nature at Your disposal.” Now when trouble comes and we're opposed we need to step back and get the right perspective. We need to look beyond the visible to the invisible, beyond the creation to the Creator! Is that what you need to do? Have you come with a burden, fear, worry, concerning the future? Are you facing a crisis in your home or business? Is there an unsaved relative who's causing you deep concern? Is your outlook gloomy? My, look upward to the Lord and ask yourself, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen 18:14)

B. The Unquestioned Sovereignty of God

They said “Who by .... done.” (4:25-28) These persecuted believers looked back to the darkest day of their lives, the day when all of their hopes, aspirations, dreams disintegrated with the death of Christ, and they saw God in charge of it all ! They said, “Nothing has gotten out of hand, God is still in control.” Again they quote from Scripture for their praying is based on the Word of God. They did not separate the Word of God and prayer (6:4) This time they quote from (Ps 2) And they understood that 700 years before Christ was born that David said this was exactly what was going to happen (4:28) You see what God was showing to His people was that He was not only the Omnipotent God but that He was the Sovereign God. He knew exactly what was going to happen!

Sometimes we get all worked up and say, “Well maybe the devil has taken over, maybe things are not going to turn as the Bible says they are going to turn out.” But my, nothing has happened that God has not already foreseen and that God does not know ! We need to learn afresh, God is still in control, God is still running the show, “God is still on the Throne.” Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian lady who suffered greatly in Hitler's concentration camp. Many of you have seen the film, “The Hiding Place.” Corrie said this on one occasion, “There is no panic in Heaven only plans.” Isn't that wonderful? I mean the Holy Trinity never meets in emergency. Praise God, this is what God before ordained. God knew it was all going to take place. Now are you beginning to see the exalted view they had of their God?

C. The Unparalleled Victory of God

Because if you read on in (Ps 2) that psalm will tell you how the kings would crucify the Lord Jesus and then it says, “Yet have I set My King upon my holy hill of Zion.” (2:6) It tell how the Lord Jesus is going to rule and reign. It tells us that God is on the throne, that sin cannot sin, that faith cannot fail and that our God is our conquering God ! My, do you see how the Early Church prayed? Their praying was centered in God. They were not looking at themselves or at their circumstances. They were looking at God. Too often our praying centres on ourselves when it ought to focus on God. My, our God is All Powerful God, the Sovereign God, the Conquering God ! Bless God for that, and when you pray you need to get your prayer in perspective! So many are whining and groveling in prayer, that when they're finished, you're filled with despair. My, we ought to be thanking God for the victory!

II. The Prayer That Framed Their Burden

What was their burden that was expressed through this prayer? My …. what is your burden and concern when you come to the prayer meeting? What is it that occupies you? Are you occupied with the sick? I tell you sometimes we’re more concerned with Aunt Lily’s toe than we are with Uncle John’s soul! What is your burden when you come together for corporate concern of these young believers? Well, look at (4:29) The word, “servants,” means bondsmen or bond-slaves. I wonder is that why some of our prayers are not answered! We haven't made that commitment to the Lord! Do you want God to answer your prayers? Then submit yourself totally to Him as Lord! I mean why should God increase your strength to give you more power to serve the devil! Why should God answer your prayer unless you are committed to Him! Here were a people who had a right concept of themselves. “Thy servants.” Now what did Gods servants want the Lord to do? What was their burden and concern?

A. The Centrality of The Word Of God

Did you notice that phrase in (4:29)? “Thy Word.” I wonder how many of us come to the prayer meeting with this particular burden? That God’s Word might be central in our meetings and that it might be proclaimed with boldness ! Is that your desire? To spread the gospel? To obey the great commission? “Lord grant.”

My, it was the proclamation of God’s Word that got them into trouble in the first place. (4:2) Yet they didn't say, “Lord move us to more favorable circumstances.” Here they were being criticized, pressurized, ostracized. What way would you have prayed in such circumstances? “Sovereign Lord send fire from heaven and destroy them." Do you know what they prayed? “Lord we're in trouble for preaching Your Word, now give us boldness to preach it some more .... Lord give us more of what got us into trouble in the first place.” We want to proclaim Your Word ! Now fear would have asked for protection. Passion would have us asked for revenge, but devotion asks for boldness in the Word! What Word? God's Word that Word that centered on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus!

My, is it your desire to make Christ known? Are you making every effort not only to organize and agonize but also to evangelize? Are you seeking to get souls out of darkness into light?

B. The Availability of the People of God

“By stretching .... heal.” (4:30) Now how was the Lord going to stretch forth His hand? After all Christ had gone back to Heaven (1:11) How was He going to stretch forth His hand? Their hands were to become His hands! They were saying, “Lord, take our hands and do through our hands what you would do if you were here in the flesh.” Now watch how their prayer was answered. (5:12)

My, do you understand that we are now the body of Christ? Do you realize that God wants to do His work in and through you? Are you available to Him? Are you saying, “These hands are your hands?"

There's a great Cathedral in Europe that was bombed in World War 2. Some of the USA were over there and they wanted to rebuild it and they did. Now in that cathedral there was a large statue of Christ with arms outstretched and underneath the words, “Come .... rest.” (Matt 11:28) The statue had been broken to pieces. They searched through the rubble and put it all together again, but when they came to the hands, they discovered they had been destroyed. They didn't know what to do until someone with an idea and they wrote these words beneath that statue, “He has no hands but our hands." How true that is. “Lord we're your bond-slaves, .…,”

C. The Glory of the Son of God

Look if you will at (4:30) “Lord .... that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” (4:30) It was His Name that gave them power to preach the Word and to perform the Miracles (3:16) and His Name alone deserved the glory! Do you see what they were about? “Lord that signs and wonders might be done with Your authority, in Your name, for Your glory. ”My, are we concerned about the glory of Christ in our prayers? So many of our prayers are selfish. James says, “Ye ask .... lusts.” (James 4:3) My, God is not some glorified bell boy running up and down the corridors of Heaven find things to bring to you to satisfy your every whim, God is not some sanctified Santa Claus, God is not some grocery clerk that runs around when I come with my shopping list. Many of us need to understand what prayer is. Prayer is a means of bringing the power of heaven into our lives and when we are interested in these issues then we'll see our prayers answered!

I heard about a woman in Miami, who did not believe in anything and they had a storm there and she wrote this to the Miami Herald, “I've never believed in God or prayer I thought it was all superstition but the storm was coming and I asked God to protect my house from the storm, and nothing happened, my house got damaged so what you sat about that?" Well, she wrote that to the editor and he replied in the newspaper. “Madam, I don't much about prayer either but it must have been that God was taking care of His regular customers." My .... can't our prayers be so selfish?

The question is are you committed to Him? Are you “His servant?”

III. The Power That Fired Their Soul

Look at (4:31-33) that word “shaken,” is interesting. It’s used (esaleuthee) to express the effects of a mighty rushing wind. It’s used in (16:36) to describe the after effects of the earthquake at Philippi! “The place was shaken.” There was power there! The people were shaken. For you’ll notice that after this prayer meeting they had:

A. Power to Live for the Lord Jesus

“And they all filled .…,” (4:31) This was not a second Pentecost. There will not be a second Pentecost any more than there will be a second Calvary. The Holy Spirit has already come. There is one baptism, but there are many fillings. Now they had already been filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost but the church can't run on the fumes of a previous fill-up. My, there must be a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit day by day.

Do you recall Paul’s words? “And be not drunk with excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18) Do you know anything of this? Do you know what it is day by day to be controlled by the Spirit of God?

B. Power to Labor for the Lord Jesus

“And they spake the Word of God with boldness,” look at (4:33) “And with great power gave .... Lord Jesus. ”These were empowered witnesses. The word translated “gave,” in (4:33) means “to give back, to return, it conveys the idea of repaying a debt or fulfilling an obligation.” Do you know something? We are not doing God a favor when we share Christ with others. We are paying a debt. It is something we are obligated to do. God makes a person honest, and an honest person always pays his debts. Paul expressed this same sense of obligation when he said, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians, both to the wise, and to the unwise.” (Rom 1:13) What do we owe the world? The gospel. And there is the resource to give it the Power. Note this!

C. Power to Love for the Lord Jesus

(4:32) Many believers but one body, beating with one heart, thinking with one mind, feeding with one soul.

Look at the outworking of this unity in (4:34-35) These believers had a new sense of responsibility toward one another, and they saw their possessions as a trust given by God to be used as needed among the family. A generous, giving spirit, permeated this early church and the overall atmosphere was one of care for one another. Wouldn't it be great to be in a church like this? Among believers who genuinely want to bear one another’s burdens and pray for one another.

(Matt 5:24 Titus 2:9) When the Church Prays !


One church had bought a new organ and had invited a noted musician to play on the organ and have a dedication recital for the organ. The noted musician sat down at the organ, but as he touched the keys of the organ there was not a sound. The caretaker was aware of the fact that he had not turned the organ on. Prayer was called for, and someone began to pray. And as they prayed the caretaker jotted down a note, slipped it into the hands of the organist, and here's what it said,

“After the prayer, the power will come on.” Do you believe that?