When Necessary - Part 3

PRAY (Acts 4:23-31)

 

Welcome to Christ’s Community Church.  Today we’re in the middle of a four-week series called “When Necessary”. And we’ve been looking at the book of Acts in Chapter 4 and we’ve been amazed by the courage and the boldness of Peter and John. We saw their courage to pray a powerful prayer of divine healing over a lame man in Jesus name. We saw their courage to stand up to a threatening group of men called the Sanhedrin, a sect of Jewish leaders who just a month and a half earlier certainly played a role in the crucifixion of Jesus, and we saw their courage to proclaim that this lame man had been healed in the name and by the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This morning, as we continue in part three of “When Necessary”, I want to talk to you about prayer; about praying bold prayers, because what you pray for really reflects what you believe about God. For example, if you don't pray, maybe you don’t believe that God will answer your prayers. Or maybe you just pray these little nonthreatening, non-risk-taking prayers. Or maybe for you, prayer is a last resort, you know, when you’ve done everything you can do; you throw up your hands and say, “Well, all we can do now is pray.”  And so, what you pray for really reflects what you believe about God.

 

Today, we’re going to learn about prayer, because God responds to faith, and the Bible says he is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). Therefore, this morning I want to challenge you to be bold enough to pray for it, because it’s our bold prayers that lead to bold results.

 

As we begin, I’d like you to think about what you prayed for last week. What did you pray for? And as you’re thinking, I want you to consider, if God answered all of your prayers, what would be different because of your prayers?

 

I imagine, if you’re like most people, the only things that would be different would be the things that are close to you. You know, you would’ve gotten that raise, you would’ve qualified for that loan, your husband would be the spiritual leader of your house, and your aunt would’ve been healed of cancer. You see, if you pray like most people, the only things that would be different would be those things that are close to you. What I’m saying is that most of us pray self-centered prayers.

 

But today, we’re going to look at the first believers as they gathered together with Peter and John in prayer and we’re going to learn to pray powerful prayers, prayers that make a difference, prayers that literally shake things up. But before we get started, let me give you a little context in case you haven’t been with us.

 

In Acts chapter 3, Peter and John prayed for a man who’d been lame from birth, this man who was now about 40 years old, immediately jumped to his feet and began dancing around the temple courts. Of course, this drew quite a crowd and Peter seizing the opportunity began preaching about Jesus who rose from the dead and who now had healed this lame man. The religious leaders were greatly disturbed, because they were hoping all this talk of Jesus would just disappear, and so they confronted Peter and John commanding them, “You must not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” However, Peter and John refused to be quieted down and courageously said, “We cannot help speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.” The religious leaders wanted to keep them in prison, but because of the lame man who was now healed, that would have caused quite a commotion. So, against their own wishes they released Peter and John and here’s what the Bible says in Acts chapter 4,

 

“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God…” (Acts 4.23-24).

 

I love that because there’s something incredibly powerful when believers come together and lift their voices in prayer to God. Some of you are like me, and you may not be outgoing, you may not be bold, but something happens when you pray with someone. It’s like, even if I don’t have a lot of faith for something, when I hear someone else praying it begins to stir my faith, and there's like this snowballing effect to my faith. And that’s what happened here, these believers were fearful, they were facing great persecution, but they came together in prayer and they experienced the power of God. You see, when you join your voices together in prayer you can sense God’s presence, and that’s what happened, "Sovereign Lord" they prayed in verse 24,

 

“You made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:24-28).

 

Notice that as they prayed, they humbled themselves, they put themselves in a position of worship, of praise, reminding themselves that God is in charge. And that’s really what sovereign means, that God’s in control, that he’s the supreme ruler of all, and that he ordained this, he allowed this to happen, and it has all worked together according to his plan. And so, it’s my prayer today that we would learn to pray like these first believers, because if we’re going to make a difference in this world, we can’t pray half-hearted, wishy-washy, insincere types of prayers, but we need to pray boldly and with conviction in the name of Jesus Christ. You see, the first thing they prayed for was to speak God’s Word with great boldness.

 

1. Pray for Great Boldness

 

In verse 29, they prayed. Now we don’t know exactly what the threat was, but we can only assume that it was beating them, maybe putting them in prison, or even killing them, and so they prayed,

 

“Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29)

 

Now honestly, their prayer was just the opposite of what most of us would’ve prayed. You know, I probably would’ve prayed, “Considering their threats, please protect us, help us to hide so we don’t get arrested again.” But that’s not what they prayed is it? They prayed for even more boldness, great boldness, and yet it was their boldness that got them arrested in the first place!

 

You know earlier, I asked you to think about what you prayed for; and I wonder if any of you prayed for boldness this week. Have you ever asked God for great boldness? I think if most of us were honest, we’d have to admit that most of our prayers are very self-centered. You know, we pray, “Help me to get that raise. Help me on this test. Help me get that new car.” But to ask for great boldness is a crazy scary kind of prayer because we like our comfortable lives.

 

However, a prayer for great boldness is exactly the kind of prayer that opens the door for a supernatural move of God, because a prayer for greater boldness is typically an others-centered prayer. And so, I’m going to ask you to listen with your heart and engage your spirit in what I’m about to share, because you need to get that objective, that goal in your spirit, because this prayer, this bold God-honoring prayer is not going to help you, but it’s going to benefit someone else, and it’s going to further the plan and purpose of God.

 

You see, what I’ve been praying for is that somehow, I would be able to be a catalyst that God would use to inspire you to believe him for the impossible in your life. So that you would pray for, reach for, and believe for that which seems impossible for you right now. And this is so important, because I don’t believe that Jesus saved any of us to merely survive in this world, but that he saved us to make a difference and to change it for his glory. Yet time and time again, I find believers, people who love God, that have settled into this comfortable complacency and have been reassured by lowly earthly expectations. But the kind of prayer that I am talking about today, is a prayer that will shake things up, becoming a catalyst in your life as you believe God for the impossible.

 

There’s a story in Mark chapter 5, where Jesus had been asked to come to the house of a man whose daughter was dying. Mark tells us that, “While Jesus was still speaking,” in verse 35, “some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler and said, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?" (Mark 5:35).

 

And the reason I tell you that story is because that’s where many of us find ourselves today. We have this mindset, “Why bother the teacher anymore?” “Why even pray?” And maybe it’s because you’ve asked God to do some things, you believed he could do it, but just as soon as you began thinking, “Maybe God could use me, maybe this will happen” suddenly everything you’re believing God for falls apart, your faith is shattered, and your heart is hurting so much that you wish you’d never even believed to begin with!

 

I don’t know, maybe I’m just talking to myself, because there’ve been times in my life when I felt like that. But I wonder if maybe some of you are in that place right now? You’re in that place, in your relationship with God, where you feel like, “Why even bother praying?” You know, “Why bother believing for your healing? Why bother asking God to heal your broken marriage? Why bother to pray for your kid who is off on drugs, a husband who’s obsessed with pornography, a relationship that’s just not what it should be? Why bother?”

 

I just love Jesus’ response to these men. This verse just blesses me, because a lot of times I’ve got to put up with a lot of negativity, but verse 36 says, “Ignoring what they said” and I love that, because if you’re going to do great things for God, there are going to be times when it’s not just the people around you, but it’s also the voice in your mind telling you that it’s not possible, that you can’t do it, and even giving you 100 reasons why it’s never been done before. But Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36). And so, on one hand, you’ve got Jairus’ servant telling him why bother? And on the other, Jesus telling him “Just believe.” And the smartest thing that Jairus ever did was to just keep his mouth shut and do what Jesus said because he was about to see the impossible, the unexplainable, and the miraculous breaking out in his house.

 

In the same way, when you step out in faith, when you believe and pray for great boldness, you better be ready, because God is going to open some doors, and you’re going to have divine opportunities like you’ve never imagined. Jesus said, "Don't be afraid; just believe.” And suddenly, the door is wide open, the opportunity is there, and you may find yourself praying with that neighbor that professed not to believe in God. You might even find yourself sharing the gospel by the dog food at Walmart. You just never know! And I’ll tell you, I’ve experienced this countless times, and so I encourage you to pray an others-centered prayer; “Give me great boldness. Give me eyes to see those who are hurting. Give me opportunities to minister to those around me. Use me for your glory.” And you just pray and watch, because God will do something in you, he will stir you to boldness, and use you for His glory. And then, the second thing is to pray for God to move powerfully with miraculous signs and wonders.

 

2. Pray for Signs and Wonders

 

In verse 30, all the believers were gathered together, they pray for great boldness and they pray lifting their voices to God,

 

“Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:30).

 

They're praying big prayers, they’re praying bold prayers, they’re making a difference, and that’s the kind of prayers that I want to challenge you to pray. You know like, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, perform miraculous signs and wonders.” Because sometimes I wonder if God isn’t just waiting, hoping that you and I will be bold enough to ask him for something that’s so big that when it happens everybody’s going to know that God did it. And so, I want to encourage you to pray with great boldness, to pray for miracles, signs, and wonders, because what you pray for reflects what you believe about God.

 

This is amazing, watch what happens: “After they prayed,” verse 31 tells us, “The place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

 

This is the kind of prayer that I’m talking about.  Remember earlier I was telling you about Jesus going to Jairus’ house to see his daughter who was dying, but while they were on their way men came from the house of Jairus saying,

 

“Your daughter is dead, why bother the teacher anymore?” Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:35-36).

 

Isn’t that a great strategy for prayer? You see, bold prayers lead to bold results. Don’t be afraid. Just believe when you find yourself in that situation where it looks like everything’s going against what God’s promised. Pray with great boldness, don’t be afraid, just believe and stay focused. Keep the promise of God in your heart and like Jairus follow Jesus back to the house.

 

You see, Jairus got in line behind Jesus and the Bible says in verse 37, “Jesus did not let anyone else follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James” (Mark 5:37).

 

You see, Jesus knew that you can’t let everybody speak negativity, anxiety, and grief into your life when you want to do great things for God. Jesus was selective about who he allowed around him and verse 38 says,

 

“When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him…” (Mark 5:38-40).

 

They laughed at Jesus. But here’s what you need to understand, you don’t have to base your life on your circumstances. Your circumstances don’t have to be perfect for your faith to be perfect. Jesus was like, “Jairus your 12-year-old daughter can be dead at your house, but if you’ll just keep moving forward in faith... Don’t be afraid, just believe!”

 

You see, Jesus looks at your situation today and says to you, “Don’t be afraid, just believe!” (Mark 5:36). Here’s the thing, Jesus doesn’t see a death there at Jairus’ house, he sees an opportunity for resurrection; and in the same way, Jesus doesn’t see your situation the way you see your situation. Watch what Jesus does, watch how unfazed he is, watch his unflinching response as the situation appears to get worse, verse 40,

 

“…After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat” (Mark 5:40-43).

 

Isn’t Jesus just so cool?  I mean he’s got it altogether. He raises the girl from the dead and the first thing he does is tell them to make her a sandwich. You see, God’s not worried about your situation. He’s not stressed out about what’s keeping you up at night. He’s got it all under control!

 

“The disciples prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

 

They had no need to fear, no need to worry, God had it all under control. As we close, I want to ask you a question. “Why are you worrying over a situation that God has the ability to resurrect?” “Why are you losing sleep over a battle that God has already won? You see, even if your situation doesn’t get better, he’ll use the very thing that the enemy meant to tear you apart and use it to build you up as a testimony to the glory of his name.

 

As I wrap this up I want to give you an opportunity to pray boldly for miracles. We’re going to ask God boldly for signs and wonders and when God answers we’re going to tell everybody. We’re going to make sure he gets all the glory. And if God doesn’t answer the way we think he should, God is still God, and that doesn’t shake our faith, because we believe.

 

He is the Sovereign Lord, Creator of the universe; therefore, we’re going to pray boldly, we’re going to shake things up, because what we pray for reflects what we believe about our God.

 

Pastor John Talcott

Christ's Community Church

303 West Lincoln Avenue

Emmitsburg, MD 21727

August 13, 2017

www.cccemmitsburg.org

 

Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.

Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

 

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