Prayer and a Lost World

Bible Book: Acts  13
Subject: Prayer; Lost, Prayering for
Series: It Was Just A Prayer Meeting
[Editor's Note: All scripture in this sermon is from the KJV.]

Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,

And love that soul through me;

And may I nobly do my part,

To win that soul to Thee." (David Johnson)

1. The Portrayed Men

Acts 13:1 - Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

The church that was at Antioch

Certain prophets

And teachers

Teachers are several times mentioned in the New Testament as an order of ministers, 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Peter 2:1. Their precise rank and duty are not known. It is probable that those mentioned here as prophets were the same persons as the teachers. They might discharge offices, predicting future events, and instructing the people.

Barnabas was a preacher Acts 4:35-36; Acts 9:27; Acts 11:22, Acts 11:26; and it is not improbable that the names "prophets and teachers" here simply designate the preachers of the gospel.

Simeon that was called Niger - "Niger" is a Latin name meaning "black." Why the name was given is not known. Nothing more is known of him than is mentioned here.

Lucius of Cyrene - Cyrene was in Africa. See the notes on Matthew 27:32. Lucius is afterward mentioned as with the apostle Paul when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, Revelation 16:21.

Manaen - He is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.

“Which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch - Herod Antipas, not Herod Agrippa.” Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, Luke 3:1. The word translated here as "which had been brought up," denotes "one who is educated or nourished at the same time with another." It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. He might have been connected with the royal family, and, being nearly of the same age, was educated by the father of Herod Antipas with him. He was, therefore, a man of rank and education, and his conversion shows that the gospel was not confined entirely in its influence to the poor.

Saul was an apostle; and yet he is mentioned here among the "prophets and teachers," showing that these words denote "ministers of the gospel" in general, without reference to any particular order or rank.

When Heinz Was Rebuked

Everyone knows of Heinz, of the "fifty-seven varieties," but few know of his zeal as a soul-winner. At a revival meeting one day, the minister turned to him and said, "You are a Christian man; why aren't you up and at it?" He went home in anger, and went to bed, but could not sleep. At four o'clock in the morning he prayed that God would make him a power in His work, and then went to sleep. At the next meeting of bank presidents which he attended shortly afterward, he turned to the man next to him and spoke to him of the Christian life. His friend looked at him in amazement and said, "I've wondered many times why you never spoke to me about it if you really believed in Christ." That man was the first of 267 souls which Heinz won to Christ after that time. (The King's Business.)

2. The Prayer Meeting

Acts 13:2 – “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

As they ministered to the Lord - It is probable that this took place on some day set apart for fasting and prayer. The expression "ministered to the Lord" means as they were engaged in prayer to the Lord, or as they were engaged in divine service. The Syriac thus renders the passage.

The Holy Ghost said - Evidently by direct revelation.

Separate me - Set apart to me, or for my service. It does not mean to ordain, but simply to designate, or appoint to this specific work.

3. The Picked Men

Acts 13:3 - And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away.

And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them -

1. They fasted: this was probably done by the whole Church.

2. They prayed, that God would bless and prosper them in their work.

3. They land hands upon them; thus solemnly appointing them to that particular work.

4. The Prayerful Missionaries

Act 13:4 – “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.”

“Being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, or by his influence, authority, and under his continual direction.” Without the first, they were not qualified to go; without the second, they had no authority to go; and without the third, they could not know where to go.

Departed, unto Seleucia - This is generally understood to be Seleucia of Pieria, the first city on the coast of Syria, coming from Cilicia; near the place where the river Orontes pours itself into the sea.

Seek the Eternal

If we work upon marble, it will perish.

If we work upon brass, time will efface it.

If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust.

But if we work upon immortal souls, and embue them with just principles, the fear of God, and the love of their fellow men, we engrave on those tablets that which will brighten all eternity. (Daniel Webster)

In this chapter we find the beginning of the worldwide missionary outreach of the Church. The churches message now had been offered to the Jews, Samaritans, and to the Gentiles and it was ready to penetrate the whole world.

The church at Antioch was worthy of the Who’s Who list due to all of the famous men that was working out of its offices. The reality is that the true people of greatness were the ones willing to go meet the Lord in prayer. As the church of Antioch went to God in prayer we see that the Lord is about to honor their prayers and begin something might and marvelous.

The real question is what is the relationship between prayer and reaching the lost world with the Gospel? I would hope none of us have to be convinced that it is the duty of the church to reach the lost and dying world. We must not only witness to our Jerusalem (where we live) and to neighboring areas, but also to the uttermost parts of the earth.

It is very sad when the church becomes ingrown and the gospel becomes a commodity to protect rather than a treasure to be shared. It is sad that pastors do not proclaim the pressing needs of a lost city and neighborhood when he stands up to preach to his flock. It has been said by Dr. Oswald J Smith that the light that shines the farthest is going to shine the brightest at home. The church must unite the need for local evangelism and world evangelism.

The church at Antioch had spiritual unity due to the fact that they bathed their decisions in prayer. God can bless a church that is willing to come together in prayerful supplications. The church came together for worship and prayer and in doing so the Holy Spirit was able to bless their prayer meeting in an awesome and wonderful way. Let us look at the relationship between prayer and reaching a lost and dying world with the gospel.

A Boy's Prayer

A little heathen boy, who had just learned the alphabet, was one Sunday morning seen out on the hillside, with his hands clasped together and his eyes closed. He was repeating the letters of the alphabet over and over. The missionary drew near, and asked him what it meant. He replied, "I was praying." "But why," replied the questioner, "did you repeat the alphabet?" "Well," he said, "I felt that I must pray, and as I knew no prayer, I just said the letters of the alphabet, knowing that the great God would put them into words for me." (Canadian Epworth Era)

We may not understand exactly what to pray but if we will get a burden for the lost, God will sort out the in’s and out’s of our prayers.

We will find that prayer meets a twofold need in the ministry of missionary outreach as follows:

I. Prayer Supplies the Workers

A. The Pressing Need (Luke 10: 1 – 2)

Luke 10:1-2 – “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly [is] great, but the labourers [are] few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

I think all of us can agree that the harvest is truly plenteous and the church needs to promote and publish this mighty need. The true problem is not a lack of harvest, but lack of laborers.”

B. The Passive Noted (Luke 9: 56 – 62)

1. Passive in their Efforts

Luke 9:56-58 – “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save [them]. And they went to another village. And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain [man] said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air [have] nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay [his] head.”

2. Passive in their Excuses

Luke 9:59-62 – “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The reality is that the harvest is not being gathered due to Christians being selfish and placing their needs first above a lost and dying world. We see church members sing, “I’ll go where you want me to go.” but they would never budge off of their pew of do nothing and laziness. It is easy to pray “O God sent the workers” and then refuse to answer the call.

The church should seek God in prayerful meditation fervently asking God to send workers to the church and also from the church. If the world is truly dying please let us be in the group that is willing to go and reach them by all means and by all matters.

In this chapter we see a marvelous thing as Barnabas is mentioned first and Saul is mentioned last, but God joined them together and would use them to help spread God’s word across the world. The church of Antioch was losing some of its most promising and productive servants, right? In all actuality this is not true, the church was not losing these men but joyfully sharing them with the world, for the sake of the world.

If God begin to call our church members to the mission fields I wonder how we would react to this missionary matter. What if God called our best and brightest Gods, even more what if he called your kids and my kids, how would we react?

If God speaks to you, would you go, could you give up your job, your business, your plans to go and do his will? It is one thing to ask God to send laborers but altogether more if God chooses to send you or to send me. The church that does not seek God to send forth laborers is a church that is deemed unfit.

The church at Antioch was not having a missionary conference or revival, they were having regular worship and prayer and God gloriously called forth two men to go spread the gospel to a lost and dying world.

Isaiah 6:8-9 – “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here [am] I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”

Isaiah was in the temple praying and God done the same thing in his presence. It was just an ordinary time of worship and prayer and look what God done in his midst. Isaiah went into the worship service as a worshipper and came out as a worker. He went into the service as a spectator and came out as a participant. This time of prayerful worship led to God sending him into the missionary field.

Taking His Commands Seriously

A young Chinese man was converted in Atlanta, Ga. His godly teacher gave him a copy of the New Testament and said: "You are now a Christian and you must read the Christian's guide book and follow its teachings." He took this instruction seriously, and began at the first chapter and read straight through. When he came to John's Gospel, the story of the two disciples who followed Jesus and then went out and found their brothers and brought them to Christ gripped his heart.

In far-away China he had a father, mother, brother and sister, and he felt that it was his duty to bring them to Christ. He wrote letters telling them about his new-found joy, but he could not make them understand. He must go and bring them to Jesus. He worked hard and saved his money and went back to China. After many weeks he won his loved ones to Christ. Again he worked and saved his money until he could come back to America, his adopted home, where he had found Christ. (Taking Christ Seriously, by J. B. Lawrence)

II. Prayer Supports the Workers

I heard someone say this concerning missionaries, if you are not willing or able to go, you make sure someone is able to go. You do this by funding them or by praying for them. Those that will never go on a missionary trip, those that will never witness to a lost sinner, those are the ones that need to pick up the mantle of prayer and pray for those that will go and those that will heed God’s call. The greatest thing we can do is pray that God will supply the needed workers. If you won’t go, please ask God to send someone else.

A. Pray for their Safety and Protection

Romans 15:30-32 – “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in [your] prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which [I have] for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.

B. Pray for their Supply and Provision

Romans 15:33 - “Now the God of peace [be] with you all. Amen.”

Philippians 1:19 – “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,”

C. Pray for their Steadfastness and Perseverance

2 Thessalonians 3:1 – “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have [free] course, and be glorified, even as [it is] with you:”

Ephesians 6:18 – “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

D. Pray for their Speech and Productivity

Ephesians 6:19-20 – “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Colossians 4:3 – “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:”

Colossians 4:4 – “That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”

E. Pray for their Success and Prosperity

Romans 1:10 – “Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.”

Talking Business

A pastor was passing a big department store, and followed a sudden impulse to go in and talk to the proprietor on the subject of his salvation. Finding him, he said: "Mr. T., I've talked beds and carpets and bookcases with you, but I've never talked my business with you. Would you give me a few minutes to do so?"

Being led to the private office, the minister took out his New Testament and showed him passage after passage which brought before that business man his duty to accept Jesus Christ. Finally the tears began to roll down his cheeks, and he said to the pastor: "I'm seventy years of age. I was born in this city, and more than a hundred ministers, and more than five hundred church officers have known me as you have, to do business with, but in all these years you are the only man who ever spoke to me about my soul."