Sermon Series- The Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
From Acts 4:23-31
Let’s make some applications.
First, I think it is important for us to learn to listen to our prayers. The Church here prays, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” My point earlier was that often we need to be reminded of who God is when we go to Him in prayer. This is why we should start, as Jesus instructs us, by drawing near to our Father, hallowing His name, and declaring who He is. We should begin our times of prayer with praise and adoration. We should learn to spend more time in the adoration of God. Praise and adoration are for us and not for God. God does not need to be told who He is. We are not stroking the divine ego when we praise Him. Praise is for us. Praise and adoration are assertions of truth that we make about God. You will find that if your prayers do not start with praise and adoration, they either are, or they will most likely drift into selfish desires. God is not a genie in a lamp that we rub when we want our wishes granted. We need our eyes directed away from the world and ourselves as we enter into prayer and the best way to do that is to begin with, praise and adoration of God.
Praise and adoration take time, practice, and the reading of the Word of God on a regular basis. We learn to pray first as we listen to the saints pray in Scripture. Of course, the Psalms are the best place to learn how to praise and adore. But there are many wonderful prayers of adoration outside the Psalms, too, so don’t just look there. Secondarily, I would encourage you to regularly pray with other more experienced disciples. I learned how to pray in prayer meetings as I listened to the older saints use the Word of God to praise almighty God. As a reminder, we pray via Zoom daily at 7 AM and 7 PM. The morning prayer time starts with a Psalm reading and then a time of praise. If you want to get into the habit of praise, we have a vehicle in place to help you do so. I hope to see you there in praise and adoration.
Second, from the very beginning we were told that the nations would rage and the kings of the earth would set themselves against the Lord and His Christ. Our circumstances today are not new. Do you look out and see a hostile world and wonder what can I do against such a leviathan? Are you afraid of the future? This also is not new. Abraham was afraid of Pharaoh. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel. The children of Israel were afraid of the sons of Anak. Their brief spiritual failures came about when these saints feared man more than they feared God. Their defeat came when they did not pray and ask for boldness and the presence of God to be with them. When you think about today’s world, “What do you pray for?” Do you pray for boldness to declare Christ? Do you pray for God’s presence to go with you? “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7) I’m afraid we have no time for prayer these days. We are all about action and strategy. But I would remind us that before the Lord began His earthly ministry, he spent 40 days fasting and praying in the wilderness. Throughout His life, we witnessed times where He chose prayer over sleep. Prayer is the foundation of the Christian life. If we are not worshiping God in prayer, then we likely are not living obediently before Him either. Fear is a dangerous and deceptive emotion felt by a desperately wicked heart. Often action and strategy are our attempts to control and alleviate our fear. Look to Scripture and the saints of old and see if plans or prayer were more important to them. We should be wise, but our plans should be laid at the feet of God. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Third, I try to be balanced in the way I present prayer. There is private prayer. Again, any reading of the saints of the past will affirm the place of getting alone with God to worship Him in our closet. There is no substitute for reading Scriptures in the presence of your heavenly Father and seeking His face. Do not study God; worship Him. We’ve been doing far too much studying and far too little worshiping. I will continue to remind us that Christianity is not a science but a religion. Scientists study, religious people worship. The difference can not be overstated.
There is also the family altar. We must read the Scriptures and pray with our wives/husbands and our children. Singing songs of praise and teaching your children adoration by example is very important. Reading about the works of God that are of old is very important as well. Praying together in our families is very, very important.
A verse of Scripture that sticks out in my mind is Psalm 87:2, which says, “the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.” There is a special place in the heart of God for the corporate “us,” the Church as a whole. Zion is where the public worship of God was carried out. Zion, n the New Testament, is the body of Christ as a whole entity.
In the modern world, everything is atomized and specialized. The individual reigns while the public aspects of our lives fall into disarray. There is no aspect of our nation’s public life and institutions that is not dying. Education, government, art, agreed-upon manners and customs are all crumbling.
I’m a big believer in the idea that the Church sneezes and the world catches a cold. The decline of Christian nations starts in the Church and not in the civil realm. As we turn our sights to the right place, we see Church attendance has never been lower. Giving is seen as optional as people don’t feel responsible for the public worship of God and its maintenance. Sunday schools are viewed as superfluous. But if you asked, “What has been the least attended worship meeting in the body of Christ for the last 40 years?” The answer would not even take a moment’s thought to arrive at the conclusion. It is the prayer meeting. And, it is the same in this body as well as everywhere else. The most neglected aspect of Christian ministry is not the preaching of the Word. We have regular preaching, and much of it is good. There are podcasts for those who want to go deeper. There are print ministries galore. There are conferences without number. I once heard Sinclair Ferguson preach a conference on prayer for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod. He talked about how he turned down countless opportunities to preach on prayer because it was so hard in the modern era. Nobody wants to hear about it, or at least that’s all they want to do is hear about it.
Studying God is easy for many. Knowing God is free through the meritorious work of Christ in the Gospel, but it isn’t easy for anybody. Often there is no immediate benefit to prayer. And in a society obsessed with cost-benefit analysis, prayer is the first thing to go because it can’t be measured, charted, and graphed. It feels pointless. I’ve heard Christian people say, “prayer is a cop-out for inaction.” But we should note that public prayer died first before all the other public deaths we’ve experienced. People obsess about getting prayer back in schools. What about getting prayer back in churches? I’d like to see it return to churches. When Charles Haddon Spurgeon was asked, “Mr. Spurgeon, without an altar call, how will you know if someone has become a Christian?” He answered, “They’ll show up for the evening prayer meeting.” I wonder what he would think of the modern Christian Faith in America and Europe now? That’s rhetorical; I don’t really wonder.
What’s my point? In Acts 1, we find 120 people gathered together to maintain the life that Jesus had taught them to live. In Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit falls, we see them gathered together at 9 AM, which was the first prayer hour of the day for the Jews. In Acts 3, we find Peter and John headed to the Temple to pray at 3 PM, which is the 3rd prayer hour of the day for the Jews. Here, we find Peter and John returning from a harrowing ordeal, and the first thing they do is preach a sermon. That was sarcasm. No, the first thing they did was listen to John and Peter’s story, hear the good and the bad, and immediately turn to God in corporate prayer asking for boldness and for the presence of God to be with them.
I asked this question last week, and I’ll ask it again. Why has any population anywhere at any time ever listened to Christians and given their hearts to the One True God? Is it because of our strategy and eloquence? No, we have a simple message: the King of Glory has come Incarnate and saved us by His life, death, and resurrection. We have a simple task: to go forth and proclaim it while doing good. We are to have a simple intention: to lay aside our self-interests and pursue the interests of Christ. But if you think of these three as interlocking gears that turn the engine of the Church, the oil that keeps that engine running is prayer. It is the stuff that should be in every crack and crevice. The Holy Spirit is the fuel, but prayer is the oil. Prayer is a demonstration of dependence, and when it is absent, it shows that we are self-dependent, which means we are driven by self-interests, which means self and the love of it are fouling our preaching and good works. Without the oil, there is friction, and friction in an engine leads to its destruction. You can go nowhere without fuel. But you can go nowhere for long without the oil.
Let us repent of our prayerlessness, of our self-love, of our practical atheism, and return to worship the “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” (Acts 4:24) And our repentance will come with a return to and a love of corporate prayer… praying with our brothers and sisters.
If you would like to grow in your prayer life and you are interested in praying with other believers, then let me invite you to join our prayer ministry, “The Opus Dei.” We pray @ 7 AM and 7 PM central time zone via Zoom 7 days a week 365 days a year. The prayer times last 15-20 minutes each and include a reading Psalm and New Testament in the morning and two chapters from the Old Testament in the evening. Your mic is always on mute. In the morning you will have a time to praise and adore the Triune God after the Psalm reading, and then a time to intercede for your friends and family after the New Testament. In the evening you will have an opportunity to review your day and confess your sins after the Old Testament reading. All done from the privacy of your own home. If you participated in both prayer times you would find that you had prayed through the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
Help us to connect believers from anywhere and everywhere in the privacy of their own home in a ministry of prayer. No matter the Christian tradition you are from or the denomination you attend there is a place for you at the Opus Dei.
Join us for prayer by CLICKING HERE enter password: crucified