"What Causes You to Pray?"

Preached by on May 6, 2012
— From the series,

They want to kill your leaders. One is dead; another is in prison. The church comes together to pray - earnestly, fervently, continually pray.

What Causes You To Pray?

(Acts 12)

 

Intro:

A.  When was the last time you attend a church prayer meeting.  I don’t mean, a prayer list, I mean a meeting that has but one purpose – prayer.  Prayer for an individual, prayer for a ministry, prayer for some special purpose.  A meeting in which people sat and prayed.  Some of the time it might be in collective quietness, and part of the time it might be in people praying aloud.  A church prayer meeting.  What would it take to get each of us to desire to participate in one here in this congregation?

B.  I find it interesting that in the ministry of Jesus, you find him praying, leading prayers, praying for his disciples, but you don’t find much about prayer meetings.  You have one in the garden and there the disciples fell asleep.  But when it comes to the Christian age you begin to see more and more about a local church spending time in collective prayer.

C.  I am not talking about a small group meeting, but the whole church coming together in prayer.  Now, I will grant you, that outside of Jerusalem many were house church of maybe 50 in a big church.  But what they seem to believe in the early church is that when they pray God acts.  Not manipulating God, but God’s blessings flowing down as the prayers go up.

D.  I want to take a look at the situation we find today in the reading of Acts 12 and see us in this story.  God’s word is not an ancient history book, but the living word of God that is powerful and active in my life today.  So open to Acts 12 with me and lets study.

 

I.  Are We on Satan’s Attack List? (Acts 12:1-5)

A.  The persecution that began with Stephen did not end.  It simply intensified.  What I want us to understand is that Herod is simply an agent.  He is not the issue.  Our struggle, our fight, is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

B.  Herod Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great, when Jesus was born, and nephew to Herod Antipas who had John the Baptist beheaded.  Herod is simply Satan’s tool for harm.

C.  The desire was to get at God and the way to do that was to now seek to bring down the spiritual kingdom of God, the church.  So how do you attack the church?  You go after the leaders.  Herod the king was violent in his attack.  He murdered the apostle James, the brother of John and put Peter into prison ready to kill him also.

D.  But I want to ask you brethren, are you on Satan’s attack list?  We pray for peace in which we can live a quiet life, yet we know that if we live out our faith we will face trials and persecutions.  But Satan has an attack list.  He wants to stop good from going forward.  Is this church doing enough good to get Satan’s attention?  Don’t take this to the extreme that we need to be belligerent Christians so that people won’t like us and we can feel good about being treated poorly.  What I want to think about is my life and this church.  Are we doing the will of God so out-there, so radically, so dynamic that Satan sees us as a threat and we have to pray for God’s hand of protection?  Our mission is not to sit in a building on Sunday morning in comfort.  That is the byproduct.  Our mission is to live out our faith so that world may know we are children of God.  When the world around us sees us, I am sure powers of darkness will also.       E.  So Peter is in prison because Satan hates God and the children of God.  It is the time of the Passover, that has to bring back some memories, and we read in verse 5 about a prayer meeting.

 

II.  When The Church Prays (Acts 12:5-11)

A.  Look at verse 5.  “Earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”  It is prayer meeting time.  When our faith reaches out to God to do what we cannot do, watch out.  The church was in earnest prayer.  This church was in constant prayer, with strong words from their hearts to God.  They turned to the one power that could make all the difference – God.

B.  What causes you to pray like this?  What causes you to pray for the miracle?  For most of us, it takes a tragedy to turn our hearts to God for help.  Satan’s attack fails when we go to God instead of running from God.  It means nothing to me that Peter got out of prison – we know the story – what is important is a belief that God can still move mountains.   Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego (Dan. 3:16-18).  Is that your faith in God?

C.  I am not here to challenge your personal prayer life.  I do want us to think about our collective church prayer life.  I get excited to think what might take place if we devoted ourselves as a church to God in prayer.  What wisdom do we need in this congregation?  What mission work do feel God’s calling to support that causes us to spend time together in prayer seeking His will for that prospective ministry?  Two of the church’s leaders – one dead the other about to be killed, what did they do?  This was not a personal prayer time.  This was the church begging God to intervene.

D.  While they are in prayer, an angel comes to Peter, who seems shocked, and sets him free.  Peter has to be struck on the side by the angel and told to get dressed.  Then the angel leads him through the prison and out to the street.  It is only then, that we see that Peter “came to himself.”  Peter was in a daze.  There is every indication that Peter assumed he was next to die, but now he stands free on the street.

 

III.  How Much Faith? (Acts 12:12-17)

A.  James would tell us that that the prayer of righteous is both powerful and effective.  Jesus would tell us to “have faith in God” and that if we had the faith of a grain of mustard seed we could move a mountain.  Well, maybe these Christians only had the faith of a grain of mustard seed, but God moved a mountain.

B.  Read with me beginning in verse 12.  They were in prayer for Peter (verse 5), when the servant girl announces that Peter is that the front door, they say she is out of her mind and that it was his angel.  And the whole time Peter is left outside knocking at the door.  Okay, so they don’t have great faith.  When the finally let him, the Bible says they were “amazed.”

C.  I don’t believe the purpose of prayer is to get what we want, but to get us to want what God’s will is.  Prayer draws us closer to the heart of God.  Collective prayer simply intensifies that process and draws us closer to each other also.  I don’t want to be engaged in empty rituals that only give lip service to God.  I want to get passed eloquent words and hear the heart of his church in prayer.  So why pray if it is not to force God to do my will?  Because when the prayers go up the blessings come down.  Because he asked me to even when I don’t understand.

Conclusion:

A.  Peter told him what God had done and how he was brought out of Prison.  He asked them to tell James, the brother of Jesus who was very important to the church in Jerusalem all of this.  Peter was living proof that prayer makes a difference.

B.  I will pray asking God to bring a healing to those on our prayer list.  I will pray asking God to move us as a church body to become more wholly dedicated to Him.  I will pray that I will become the Christian I talked about last week.  I will pray because prayer makes a difference even if I don’t understand how.

C.  You might be here today because somebody prayed for you.  You might be thinking about your spiritual life because someone has been asking God’s Spirit to prompt you change your life.  Before this day began there may have been people in prayer for us as a church.  So if God is leading you to come before us and seek us to pray with you, over you, and for you, then come as we stand and sing.