Prayer Is Our Duty (Book of Acts)

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Imagine you were diagnosed with a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine[1] – a pill every night before going to bed. Imagine that you were told you could never miss a dosage, or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No! It would become so crucial to your thinking and central to your habits that you would never forget or fail to miss.

 

We pray because God has spoken.

  • Eugene Peterson[2] “because we learned language so early in our lives we have no memory of the process” and would therefore imagine that it was we who took the initiative to learn how to speak. However, that is not the case. “Language is spoken into us; we learn language only as we are spoken to.” At birth we are immersed into a sea of language, and slowly syllable by syllable and by words and phrases we acquire the capacity to speak: dada, mama, ball, bottle, food, yes, no; etc. We were all spoken to before we spoke.
    The more we immerse ourselves in God’s speech, the more intimate and confident we will grow in prayer. God speaks to us through Christ and the Scriptures. “Without immersion in God’s words, our prayers may not be merely limited and shallow but also untethered from reality. We may be responding not to the real God but to what we wish God and live to be like.”[3] Or as Peterson adds, “There is a difference between praying to an unknown God whom we hope to discover in our praying, and praying to a known God, revealed through Israel and Jesus Christ, who speaks our language. In the first, we indulge our appetite for religious fulfillment; in the second we practice obedient faith. The first is a lot more fun, the second is a lot more important. What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God.”[4]
  • Hebrews 1
    • We pray because of Jesus.
    • Opened the way Heb 4 / 10
  • Acts….
    • We pray because the early Christians gave us an example.
    • Today’s message will better understand how prayer is the duty of a Christian in God’s church.

Why We Pray - 2018

EXAMINE           Acts     Prayer Is Our Devoted Duty

Many Christians and churches struggle in praying.

  • My praying as a boy viewing God as more spiteful than graceful.
  • Bayside and prayer meetings with D.M.
    • Growth spiritually
    • Growth numerically with salvations & baptisms
    • Healing
  • My praying through doubts at CN
  • Pastoral Ministry / C.J.
  • Marriage & Family
  • SPBC
    • Knit fellowship (small)
    • Spirit & numerical growth
    • Heart for Katie
    • Answered prayers – jobs, life, church
  • Korean Church
    • Pastor Yoon & ALKBC
    • Global Mission
    • Asian believers[5]
  • 2018-19+

 

In Acts, prayer is not a procedure but a disposition.

“The Acts has so much to say to our half-hearted and cold blooded Christianity in the western world. It rebukes our preoccupation with buildings and ministerial pedigree, our syncretism and pluralism, our lack of expectancy and vibrant faith. As such it is a book supremely relevant for our time.”[6]

4 Principles of Prayer

Prayer is duty to Jesus (Acts 1:14)

To the early Christians, prayer was commonplace. Immediately following the ascension of Jesus the disciples were caught stargazing. An angel exhorts them to persevere in following Jesus and their immediate action is to gather in prayer.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts 1:14).

  • One accord: They were driving Honda’s (ba-dum dum). Literally means “with one mind”
  • Devoting to prayer: Imperfect verb implying constant and repeated action.
  • Women were intricately involved in Jesus’ ministry (Lk 8:2-3) and specifically first eyewitnesses at the resurrection (Lk 23:55-56).

Prayer is both a duty and a delight.

  • Muslims pray 5x a day.
  • Jews pray 3x a day.
  • Christians pray like breathing.
    “Our Father” (Mat 6) “in everything through prayer (Php 4) “devoted to prayer” (Col 4) “w/o ceasing” (1Th 5:17)
  • NT teaches prayer is for every Christian, everywhere, and about everything.[7]
    (cf. Rom 12:12; 2Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18; Php 4:5-6; Col 4:2-4; 1Thess 5:16-18, 25; 2Thes 3:1; 1Tim 2:1-2; 8; Heb 13:18-19; Ja 5:13-16; Jude 1:20-21)

Prayer provides us the means for a personal relationship with God. If a believer could have every other spiritual discipline without prayer, we would be greatly missing the personal intimacy and aspect of relating to God.

  • We couldn’t truly sing because singing is just prayer set to rhyme and rhythm.
  • We couldn’t truly fast because fasting is just an effort to avoid distraction and enhance focus in prayer.
  • We couldn’t truly meditate because meditation without prayer loses application.

Personal prayer was presumed in the example of Jesus (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 18:1; 22:44)

  • Peter
    Acts 3:1 “Peter and John were going up together to the temple complex at the hour of prayer”
    Acts 10:9/11:5 “[In Joppa] Peter went up to pray on the housetop about noon”
  • Paul
    Acts 9:11/22:17And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying”
    Acts 16:16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.
    Acts 27:29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come.
  • Stephen
    Acts 7:59-60 while they were stoning him, Stephen prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he said this, he fell asleep.
  • Early Believers

Acts 4:12 The apostles were “uneducated and untrained men, [and they] recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

 

  • As the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded, Jesus Himself exclaimed “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Malachi 1:11; Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).
    • Above all things, the house of God should be a house of prayer.
    • When our prayers lack we will get off track.
    • When a church isn’t praying it is straying. 
  • Set alarm for 10am/pm (October 19-21)

 

Prayer is our duty to the church (Acts 2:42)

The early Christians understood that their duty to Jesus was to be devoted to the church.

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Acts 12:12 describing the church “many are assembled praying”

The prayer meetings of the church in Acts were central to its essence and courageous in expression. They were bold and even a bit dangerous. Unfortunately, I believe much of our prayers make the angels yawn instead of staying vigilant.

When the early church experienced persecution, they prayed not for safety but boldness.

Acts 4:24, 29-31  when they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them… Lord, consider their threats and grant that your servants may speak Your message with complete boldness while Your hand for healing, signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

The early church prayed for leaders and servants of the gospel. The church in Acts knew nothing of sedentary or spectator Christianity.
Acts 1:24 “they prayed [for replacement apostle of Judas]

Acts 6:4 Apostles “were devoted to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Acts 6:6 “They had servants (deacons) stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.”

Acts 13:3 “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on [missionaries] and sent them off.

Acts 14:23  “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

  • How often do you pray for your pastor’s preaching and shepherding?
  • How often do you pray for church local outreach and international missions?

 

The early church prayed for each others burdens.

Acts 12:5 “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”

  • Do you utilize the church prayer list?
  • What about a church directory for praying for church members? (my prayer calendar)

The early church prayed for transitions and relocations of people.

– Paul with Ephesian elders

Acts 20:36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.
– Paul with Christians in Tyre

Acts 21:5 When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed”

  • Since SPBC is transitory, how can we maximize, equip, and send people?

“Prayer was never meant to be a merely personal exercise with personal benefits, but a discipline that reminds us how we’re personally responsible for others. This means that every time we pray, we should actively reject an individualistic mindset. We’re not just individuals in relationship with God, but we are part of a community of people who have the same access to God. Prayer is a collective exercise.”[8]

  •  Prayer Experiences… 

Prayer is our duty to the lost (Acts 10:4)

The early church wasn’t just a holy huddle, but they had a mission in mind.

Prayed for others’ salvation.

Acts 8:15 Peter and John prayed for people of Samaria that they might receive the Holy Spirit,

Prayed with others for salvation. God uses our prayer life to stimulate evangelism

Acts 8:22, 24 Peter tells Simon “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you… And Simon answered, ‘Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’”

  • Note: Prayer doesn’t save (10:2, 31) but leads to hearing of gospel and responding in repentance and faith by grace of Jesus Christ that saves (10:34-45). Be careful of believing “prayed a prayer” or “walked an aisle” salvation; religious traditions don’t save, only real trust in the gospel of Jesus does.

Acts 10:2, 4 (cf. 10:30-31) 2  a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 4  And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.

Acts 10:9 (cf. 11:5) “The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.”

with Paul & Timothy & Luke before they met Lydia

Acts 16:13 “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.”

“As we pray for salvations, we realize that God’s sovereignty diminishes only our anxiety and apathy, not our activity.”[9]

  • Pray regularly for High 5 – five people your investing friendship/inviting to church/incarnating gospel.

 

Prayer is our duty for seeing deliverance and miracles (Acts 5:12-16)

Beyond prayers for the miracle of the new birth (salvation) is the prayers to God in extraordinary circumstances for God’s supernatural power, which often relieves physical suffering and glorifies God.

Acts 5:12-16 “Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles… people praised them highly (even though not all joined). Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers – crowds of both men and women. As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. In addition, a large group came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”

Acts 9:40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

Acts 12:5 “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”

Acts 16:25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them… a violent earthquake opened the doors and prisoner’s chained loosed… but Paul told the jailer no one escaped, and the jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Acts 28:8 “It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.”

  • Prayer is powerful not because we say words but bc we cultivate faith and cherish God above all else.
    Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

APPLY/THINK

Adoration / Confession / Thanksgiving / Supplication

  • “God wants a deep relationship with his people. And the deeper the relationship, the more varied the communication. We explore the wonder of who God is during our prayer of adoration. We embrace the mercy he provides during our prayer of confession. We reflect on all he’s done for us during our prayer of thanksgiving. We lean on him and feel his strength during our prayer of supplication.[10]

 

 

[1] Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, pp. 9-10.

[2] Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles, p.49 (also Keller, 57).

[3] Keller, 62.

[4] Eugene Peterson, Answering God, pp.5-6.

[5] http://www.bpnews.net/34218/morning-prayer-nurtures-korean-students

[6] Michael Green Thirty Years That Changed The World, 5.

[7] Megan Hill, Praying Together, pp.39, ff.

[8] Jon Onwuchekwa, How Praying Together Shapes The Church, 41.

[9] Onwuchekwa, 113.

[10] John Onwuchekwa, Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes The Church, p.88.

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