Community Bible Chapel
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
A place to grow.... where everybody is somebody and Jesus Christ is Lord.
 5/28/17   The Church – God’s Workplace      A Place of Prayer
 

There is nothing more basic to our faith than prayer.

          -Our faith is initiated in a prayer to ask God to forgive our sins.

          -And God answers that prayer by “forgiving all our sins and cleansing us
from all unrighteousness”.

-And at the same time that prayer is so basic to our faith, prayer is somewhat of a

mystery to us.

          -That mystery is made clear with all the questions about prayer that have been    

 batted around the church since it’s inception.
          -People question: 

*If God is sovereign – why do we need to pray?

                   *Does prayer really change anything?

                   *Is there a special pattern that we have to pray in order for God to answer,

      or certain words, or the magical formula to get God moving?

                   *Does God hear the prayers of unbelievers?

                   *How does God answer my prayer for rain when you are praying for sun?

                   *Is there a specified amount of time that we are to pray or a prescribed

 number of times that we must pray before God answers.

          -Now, we are not going to specifically answer all these questions today, but it’s

amazing that something so basic to our faith can be so confusing.

 

We have been Celebrating the Church of the Living God this year.

      -Last week we started this series on God’s church and looked at how God builds it.

-It’s built by God himself as He adds people to His Body.

-And we have a part to play by joining God in His work and we looked briefly at

the materials that we build with.

-And those materials are the attitude and character of Jesus.

          -Are you building with quality materials that will last for eternity

or are you building with sub-standard materials that will be burned up.

-Our prayer is that “God would fill us with the full knowledge of His will” about

His church so we might grow toward being fully used in God’s

 church and so we might gain the full benefit of being part of it.

I invite you to join me in Acts 12 today.

     We will begin to look at the role of prayer in the Church.

          -Prayer has always been a key practice of God’s people.

          -61 of the 66 books either mention prayer or express prayer.

          -Over 1100 references to prayer in the Scripture.

          -So, obviously, we will not be looking at them all.

          -We will focus in on Acts 12 today as we look at a church in prayer.

 
 
READ Acts 12:1-19

  The church of the Living God was beginning to spread and Herod was not pleased.

          -He saw the church as a threat to his reign in Jerusalem as unrest was rising

 between Jews and the church.

          -He seized and killed James and when he saw that it was helpful to securing peace

     with the Jews, he was beginning to stretch his hand out to eliminate the church.

          -So, he quickly arrested Peter and put him in prison guarded by sixteen men.

          -He was holding Peter for execution him right after the Passover feast.

          -We would consider that this was the end for Peter and begin to consider

                   who God might raise up to replace him.

                   -Or we would be in fear that Herod would succeed in destroying the church.

          -But the narrative proceeds in a very different direction than we might expect.

          -Verse 5 has one of those “buts” that cause us to sit up and take notice.

          -Something unexpected is happening here – it’s a turning point in the narrative.

                   “But the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”

          -Where they afraid?  Yes

          -Did they know how this was going to work out?  No

          -But they gathered to pray to their God as His people.

 

Now, let me take a moment and consider what prayer is.

          -Prayer is in its basic sense – talking to God.

          -It’s a direct address to God – from our soul to the Creator of our soul.

          -Prayer can be audible or silent – private or public – formal or informal.

          -The Bible does give us some parameters around prayer.

-It must be offered in faith (James 1:6), in the name of Jesus (John 16:23),

and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).

          -Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing”, meaning that we are including God into all

 of the day as we are in constant conversation with Him. 

          -We pray in worship and praise for God’s work in our lives and for who He is.

          -We pray to intercede for those in difficulty and sin.

          -We pray to make requests of God and seek his wisdom and strength to face the

 challenges of the day.

          -We pray to convey our trust in God’s goodness.

          -We pray in accordance with the will of God as we read and witness

His revealed will.

          -We pray to line up our hearts with God’s.

          -In short – we pray about everything and in every situation.

 

Now, as we look at this account, there are a few things that I want us to catch that

          are important to our lives and to our church.

X  Time to Pray

          -Although we should be praying about everything all the time, there are events

 that need special prayer as God’s church.

-In this account, there was no time to pray for James as he was arrested

and executed right away.

          -Peter was arrested and because of God’s sovereign hand, the week of Passover

 that stayed Herod’s hand.

-The Government would have been shut-down over the feast.

          -It was God’s revealed will that Peter be arrested, but the believers didn’t have

a clue as to God’s secret will and how it would all work out.

-That was still in the future.

          -The church found it necessary to gather to pray for Peter and I’m sure for

the future of the church in the midst of persecution.

          -Obviously, as we read this account, we see at least one thing that God

 orchestrated these events to reveal.

-As a result of these events, the church would grow in their trust of

God’s care for His church.

-His answer to their prayer would strengthen the church as they would

          always look back at this event and how God answered.

          -Our lives contain the time to pray also.

          -The prayer chain message goes out and as you read that call to prayer,

you stop what you are doing and pray.

          -We read the newspaper and set aside time to pray for those events.

          -We get the missionary insert in the bulletin and set aside time during the week

to pray for our missionaries.

          -We just missed getting in that accident and stop and give thanks to God.

          -Not only do we live in a broken world, but this world is also hostile to us because

 of our faith in Jesus Christ, so there is always much to pray about.

          -We take time to pray to God as we seek after His wisdom, strength, help, and

                             for His miraculous deliverance.

          -These folks heard that James was killed and now Peter has been arrested,

and they took time to gather for prayer. 

-The question is not, how long do we pray, or with what words do we pray,

but do we take the time God gives us to pray and talk to Him?

 
X  Reliance Upon God

          -Foundational to our prayer is a faith . . . a trust . . . and reliance on God.

-If you are anything like me, you “do” first and pray second.

                   -I tend to use my abilities and skills to solve the problems, then when I

exhaust those and the problem still exists, I pray to God.

 

          -The church had no opportunity to storm the jail and free Peter,

they weren’t going to create a special envoy to seek political freedom

 from Herod.

          -Their only recourse and resource was to turn to the Lord in prayer

and seek His help.

          -One thing that prayer does is that it reveals our level of reliance on God.

                   -The more recourse we think we have the less we will pray

and the less resource we think we have the more we will pray.

          -As I get older, I see the need for prayer more and more in my life.

                   -I realize my sinful nature is worse than I ever thought and I realize

more and more that my skills and abilities are no-where near as good

as I once thought they were.

                    -I am realizing my utter dependence upon God more with each passing day.

                   -As I work with people, I realize that I can bring God’s Word and the Gospel

to bear upon the challenges they are facing and I pray that I am doing that will a greater skill then I used to, but ultimately, I can’t change a single thing.

                   -I can’t change the circumstances, I can’t change how they respond to those

 circumstances, and I can’t change their hearts.

                   -I may desire to help, but I am limited in my understanding of their lives, I

 am limited in my ability and knowledge of the Scripture, I am limited

 by my own sinful nature.

                   -So, I pray that God would help me to help them

and I pray that God would help them.

                   -And when I pray, I recognize that God is not limited.

                   -He has a full understanding of their lives, His Spirit has complete access

to the Word and to their hearts.
          -Jesus said in John 15:5

“apart from me, you can do (some pretty cool stuff) nothing”

          -Prayer is one of the things that connects us to God and prayer is where we

 recognize our total inability to do anything, so we ask Him in total humility

          for His will to be done.

-And then we ask for Him to help us to glorify Him with whatever His will

is for any given circumstance is. 

          -Our prayer is greatly motivated by our recognition of our weakness and our

 desperate need for God to intervene, because only He is able to.

          -When our reliance is desperate – our prayer is fervent.

 
X  Peter’s Trust

          -Here’s a question that comes right out of the text.  V. 17

          -Where is James?

-Obviously, not the one who was just executed, but James, the half brother of

      Jesus who was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem that Peter refers too?

          -Can you imagine . . . the the church held a prayer meeting without the Pastor!

          -We can only guess as to where Pastor James was.

                   -Maybe he was hiding because of the persecution of Herod.

                   -Maybe he was ministering to the family of the other James who was

executed because of his faith.

                   -Maybe he was writing his sermon for Sunday.

                   -Maybe he was home sleeping.

          -We only know that the church didn’t necessarily need him there

to gather for prayer.

          -The Holy Spirit urged them to pray and they answered that call by gathering

at Mary’s house to pray.

          -The second question that the text points to is: 

How could Peter be asleep the night before his execution?

          -Peter seemed to have developed a habit of sleeping before executions.

                   -Jesus asked him to pray in the garden and Peter kept falling asleep.

          -And now, the night before his own execution, he is sleeping amidst a heavy guard

and chained up.

          -I don’t know about you, but I would have had trouble sleeping.

                   -Hopefully, I would be up praying, but not Peter, he is sound asleep.

                   -So much so that the angel has to smack Peter in the side to wake him up.

          -Now there are some possible answers.
                   -Tired

                             -The stress of being thrown in prison because of your faith would be

                                      pretty taxing.

                   -Remembered Jesus’ words in John 21

“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.”

                   -So Peter might have trusted that when Jesus said “when you are old”

 he meant “when you are older than you are now”.

                    -He might have also taken comfort in knowing that the church was

praying for him and so he left it up to them to pray while he slept.

                   -Or his trust in God’s sovereign hand pushed the anxiety of the circumstance

into the background of his faith. 

                             -He didn’t know the outcome, but he did know the God who was

 in control of the outcome.

                             -And he was content resting in that knowledge. 

                             -Even in the worst case scenario of his execution, it would be okay.

-He would go to the place that Jesus promised and the church

would still be in God’s hands.

 

The Church’s Doubt

          -It’s almost comical that while the church is praying “fervently” for God’s

deliverance of Peter, God as already dispatched the angel and Peter is delivered out into the street and is knocking on their door.

          -Peter gets out of prison but he can’t get into the prayer meeting.

          -Now, I used the term “doubt” but it’s more of a weak faith

or even a wrong expectation.

-God’s answer didn’t fit their faith, so they kept the door closed.

-They prayed because they knew God could release Peter from jail, but they also

       prayed not knowing if that would be God’s perfect will or how it might happen.

          -I think that is the case in my life too.

          -I pray and expect God to answer my prayer, but when He does,                   

I’m somehow surprised!

          -All our prayers have that certain amount of doubt in them.

                   -Not doubt in what God can do  but not knowing what God will do.

-We have faith to pray and seek God’s gracious help, but we have had

 enough experience with prayer that we have learned that God’s answers

are not always what we ask for.

          -Thankfully, God always answers our prayer,

 but not always according to our expectation.

          -He answers our prayers according to His perfect wisdom.

          -We pray for what we think might be best, but we pray with a very poor vision

of what is actually best.

          -And so we are very much like the church that prayed for Peter, but wouldn’t

believe that he was standing at the door.
         
X  My Place in God’s Church:  
II Tim 2:20-21

“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

 

If we are to build with gold and silver, then prayer will become a major factor in that.

          -More than anything else, prayer prepares us for the good work that God has

for us to do.

So, I’m going to get practical as we tie this up.

          Personal Prayer

                   -What is your prayer life like?

                   -If you are like me, you would say it is not sufficient for the task at hand.

                   -What are you doing about that?

                   -Are you actively working to grow your prayer life?

                -Here are some ways to do that!

                   -Start a prayer notebook?

                             -I have had many of them over the years and I start them

 and stop them.              

                             -Right now, we have a notebook on the table that we write out things

 we are praying about at the dinner table.

                             -You could do that as an individual or as a family as you train your kids

                                      about God and how we talk to Him.

                             -Record both requests and God’s answers, as well as praises.

                             -Anyway, start a prayer notebook

                    Are you on the church prayer chain?

-That is something you need to ask me to be on, meaning that I don’t

automatically put you on it.

-What a fantastic way to be involved in the Body of Christ.

Church prayer

          -Please be praying for CBC and all the ministries that happen here.

          -And your pastors need extra prayer.

          -There is the universal church around the world.

          -There is the persecuted church that needs our prayer and support.

          -There are missionaries that we support or don’t, but we should be

praying for them.

                   -Specifically, Tina reminded us last week that each of you has been

assigned a missionary to pray for – it’s done by the alphabet – you can find out who that is and contact them or just pray for them.

 Gather for Prayer

-If you are passionate about praying, answer the Holy Spirit’s call to pray

and gather together and pray fervently.

                   -There are a couple folks who pray in my office at 10:15 to pray.

                    -We had a wonderful time of prayer in May (National Day of Prayer)

and our next quarterly prayer meeting on Aug. 6.

                  

-Now, as we consider our role in the Church of the Living God, we want to be working hard

to “cleanse ourselves” from the ordinary and average and grow to become

 exceptional and very useful to the Master.

-Increasing and growing in your prayer life is exceptional and will have a huge

reward both in your life and in the life of the Body.

 

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