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Fresh Start – Prayer

One of the key ingredients in the early church that seems to lacking in the modern church is the act of prayer. Repeatedly, Acts shows that they prayed about every issue described. From making decisions about where to go, or what to do, or to have victory – I believe their prayers made them a powerful church.

Prayer was not the only thing they did, they involved themselves in discipleship, fellowship, communion!

  • Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

To many, the word prayer has become an “adjective” to modify another word …

  • Prayer… Chains, rooms, requests, calendars, bracelet, pendant, bible, etc.

Have we made prayer a thing that only be done in conjunction with some other “process.”

It’s not an act that requires a room, a calendar, a partner, or a bracelet. It’s not something that can only be done in tandem with a worship service, a bible study, or a meal. It is an activity which ought to be engaged, all by itself, as an all-consuming, all-out passion and top priority of every believer.

Prayer in simple terms is “dialogue” with God.  Dialogue is meant to be a two way process – we have one tongue and two ears… This suggests we ought to listen more than we talk! Perhaps this also shows the problem in many conversations. Someone always dominates the conversation and everyone else has to sit back and listen. When that happens, I suspect we can think of the person doing the talking as if they were giving a speech, telling a long story, or reading aloud from a book…

Prayer involves talking to God and then listening for His direction and answers!

Let me share three aspects of making a Fresh Start on Prayer as defined by the early church.

Praying in One Accord

  • Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

The Greek word for “with one accord” is translated as “with one mind.” This one word describes the harmony of the early church! There were no schisms, no divided interests, and no discordant purposes. This pictures a church as David describes in one of his Psalms.

  • Psa 133:1 … Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

The apostles felt that they had one great focus of prayer. They suffered through their grief at the loss of their master, along with their doubts and perplexities, they prayed with one mind!

The early church learned quickly that if anything was going to happen … they must pray.

  • They had spent the past 40 days with the resurrected Jesus. (Acts 1:3)
  • Jesus told them they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them (Acts 1:8).
  • Jesus ascends into heaven … leaving the disciples looking into the sky. (Acts 1:9)
  • Disciples are told by two men (angels) that they should not be gazing into heaven …
  • Their task was now to go and tell (evangelism). (Acts 1:10-11)

Returning to the upper room … they probably wondered what they would do next.

It might have been a time to worry, but rather than worry … They began to pray … all of them together. For upwards of 10 days they focused on being together in prayer.

Paul continues this theme in many ways, but none more so than in one of his letters.

  • Phil.4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

Praying in one accord speaks does not remove their individual passion to prayer, rather is brings all of their individual strengths into the full assembly of praying people and the joint prayer is stronger than their single prayer.

If we are going to be effective in the work of God and our collective and individual witness for the kingdom… We need corporate prayer! Without corporate prayer we are perhaps weaker, having the entire burden of need carried upon a single individual. It would almost be like a person in a sports stadium being the only one to stand and do the “wave” – it is so much more effective when all participate!

After these days of prayer together (Acts 2:1) the presence of God descends upon that group and the Church is Born! (Acts 2:1-4)

I believe we see the fulfilled promise of Jesus to His Church … Empowerment by the Spirit, as a result of  “with one accord” praying!

Praying Before Making Decisions

  • Acts 1:24-25a And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship…”

They gathered together … now 120 strong (Acts 1:15) … to pray about the replacement of Judas. The choice was between two men – Joseph called Barsabas (Justus) and Matthias. What a decision to make! Who would you have chosen? They were both godly good men. Rather than deciding by themselves … They prayed!  They did not want man’s desires, favor or intellect to lead to an answer! Still, they voted individually trusting that the Lord was leading them to the correct choice.

As individuals and church we constantly have to make decisions that not only impact our lives, but those around us. How are we to decide what to do?

Let us follow the example of the early church.

  • Decisions need to Bible based. (Acts 1:20)
  • Examine the alternatives. (Acts 1:21-23)
  • Pray for wisdom and guidance. (Acts 1:24)

James approaches this concept of praying for wisdom with a command that we are to ask of God when we have no wisdom in the matter.

  • James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that the decisions we make should be based upon the wisdom and guidance of God rather than the whims and notions of man? We stay constantly prayed up.

One pastor noted that it seemed to be common for someone in the church to come and state that they felt it was time for them to move on. Peeking into the parking lot, the pastor sees the car packed, the trailer attached to the car, the kids tussling in the back seat, and the spouse is looking at her watch wishing the husband would hurry back out to the car…

This sort of makes you wonder how much prayer went into the decision, how much advice was sought before the car was packed, and it makes you question the stability of the person in all the areas of their life! Read again that last verse of James…

  • James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Rash decisions call into question all decisions! Purposeful and prayed for decisions bring a sense of stability to the person who is asking of God!

Praying Until Something Happens

  • Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

The disciples went from praying for power and discernment to praying for boldness. The world is always trying to silence the witnesses of the Lord Jesus.

  • The early disciples are threatened to not speak or teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:18)
  • Peter & Co. say they cannot help but to speak the things they have seen and heard. (Acts 4:19-20)
  • Prayer meeting like no other shook the place. (Acts 4:24-30)

They prayed for God’s purpose and boldness

  • Acts 4:28-29 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,

“And when they had prayed …”  The place was shaken (stirred up; to be moved). God physically shook the building they were in. But more than the building was shaken that night … their hearts and souls!

That’s what we need … A moving and a stirring of the Spirit to get us to pray fervently and righteously and to then witness and work for the Lord Jesus.

The ironies of prayer are evident:

  • God knows our needs, yet we must ask.
  • God is ready to answer; yet we must patiently persist.

It is in the book of James that we are reminded that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2) and that we ask for incorrect things (James 4:3) so that it satisfies our own lusts. As well as having wrong motives in our times prayer, we often limit prayer to a single event, or a few moments of time.

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17  (NKJV) pray without ceasing

Paul emphasis the persistency of prayer, as did Jesus in His teaching

  • Luke 18:1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,

Persistency is the key!

We live in a day where decisions are based upon too little prayer and too much working it out for ourselves. Still, we do not want to be stymied by indecision.  As one person states it, “Making no decision is truly making a decision…” We get caught up into “analysis paralysis” and we are good at analyzing everything to the -nth degree, but never making a decision to move in one direction or another. “Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of My Way…” is a favorite bumper sticker. We get stuck behind our own inability to make decisions and create a traffic mess around us with those who are struggling with their own choices! We have created a traffic jam!

Finally!

I am encouraging all of us to make a Fresh Start with Prayer. Do not try to time your prayer to some clock, nor try to make all the nifty little reminder attachments to our schedule to remind us to pray…

Just Pray.

By yourself and with others.

With One accord.

Without Ceasing.

About Everything (unless you have the wisdom to act).

And God… Will Give…