In Isolation Thoughts 2

Sunday 28th June 2020

Music: YouTube: ‘O Church Arise’ – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Bible Reading:  Acts 4.23-37

Quiz on Acts 1-4

  1. How old was the lame man begging on the Temple Road?
  2. What time of day did the Disciples begin preaching on the Day of Pentecost?
  3.  Who said, ‘This same Jesus’
  4. By the time Peter & John were arrested, how many people had become followers of Jesus?
  5. Which OT prophet did Peter quote in his Pentecost sermon?
  6. What two things did Peter say had to be done if people wanted to become followers of Jesus?
  7. How long were Peter & John held in custody by the Authorities?
  8. What choice did Peter give the Sanhedrin?
  9. At what time of the day did Peter & John first meet the lame man?
  10. In his Pentecost message, Peter says they did one thing and God did another, what were they?
  11. What is another name for Pentecost?
  12. What actions followed the many conversions on the Day of Pentecost?
  13. How long had the man been lame?
  14. What do you think caused the lame man to be disappointed?
  15. What are ‘alms’ and why was the lame man asking for them?
  16. What power healed the lame man?

Music: YouTube: ‘Sweet hour of Prayer’ – Vagle Brothers

The Power of Prayer

What is prayer? I suppose the answer to this question is easy, everyone knows what we mean by prayer. To some it means the Lord’s Prayer as found in the Gospels, to others it means the words found in the Prayer Book of the church, why else would it be called The Prayer Book? Can we go a little deeper into the question? All the suggestions above seem to relate to written statements that can be used by anyone at any time. In legal terms, a prayer also means a request or a petition to a higher authority. It can be on any subject or for any reason. In days past, when there has been a national crisis in a country, there has often been a call for a ‘day of prayer.’ This moves the issue from purely a legal matter or a ritual context to a plea to the highest authority known to man, that is, God. So a prayer has its roots in a relationship with almighty God. This understanding is at the very root of the meaning and purpose of prayer and is seen all through the Bible. Often the prayer is simply a communication or conversation between a person and God. It is not an understatement that the Bible is full of prayers, from Genesis to Revelation, we see repeated examples of people praying. There is, however, more to prayer than just a plea or petition to God, there has also to be an expectation that there will be a response. If this expectation does not exist, then we must question the purpose of prayer. If there is no outcome, then it appears to be a waste of time and effort. All the prayers in the Bible had a purpose and an expectation of an answer.

Let us recall a few:

  • Was the first prayer made by Cain in stating to God that his punishment for murder was too severe? God answered, not by removing the punishment but by adding a universal rider to protect Cain. The first murderer had protection for his life. Was this also the first ‘tag’?
  • There was also the prayer of Abraham for the deliverance from God’s wrath promised for Sodom and Gomorrah. The judgment came but Lot and his family were saved from the wrath of God, though Lot’s wife died for not obeying the terms of their deliverance.
  • The Israelites in Egypt were in despair, they cried to God and He responded by sending Moses & Aaron to plead their case before Pharaoh. At each of those meetings there was a prayer to Pharaoh, to which his response was total rejection. The prayer to God was still active, eventually Pharaoh gave in and in the crisis of the deaths of the first-born, let the Israelites leave. The people’s prayer was answered.
  • Move into the other books of the Pentateuch, how many times did Moses pray to God? We have so many events recorded where he prayed and pleaded with God to:
    • Provide for their needs, meat, water and manna.
    • To not obliterate them for their rebellions. They were saved even with a lesser punishment.
    • For their acts of idolatry while Moses was being given the 10 Commandments.
  • How many of the Psalms are the prayers of David, when faced with so many different circumstances? From Goliath to Absalom, from Bathsheba to Solomon. Not only was David a warrior king but also a prayer king.
  • I cannot leave off the quick scan of the OT without mentioning Daniel and his prayers. They got him into the lions’ den but God preserved him, ‘My God is able…’ This was his testimony to God’s answer.

With all this evidence, it is not surprising the early church depended on prayer from the start. It was in their history and experience.

Church in Crisis

Peter & John reported back to their fellow believers what had happened on the way to the Temple and the subsequent events, though no doubt they already knew the detail of what had occurred. They were all now under an instruction from the Jewish Authorities not to preach about Jesus. At the same time, they knew that this was contrary to the command from the Lord Jesus. They had been commissioned to preach, teach and make disciples from Jerusalem and then spread through the known and unknown world. If they obeyed the Jewish Authorities, then the gospel would end there and then. What a dilemma! What should they do?

Community Conversation

Note they prayed, all of them to the Lord. They put their problem in the widest possible context, were they expecting God to endorse their Commission? I think they were.  Look how they structured their prayer.

  • The God of creation
    • He made and thus commanded or ruled the heavens and earth, the sea and all their inhabitants.
    • He is the ultimate authority because the creation was His. If He made it, He can decide how it operates and what it does.
    • This shows a fundamental understanding of God, His power and His expectation.
  • God of the Fathers
    • They recognise that God has spoken by His OT servants. Who more appropriate than to quote the great King David?
    • They realised that King David spoke by the power of God. They attributed this power and leading to the Holy Spirit. They are not man-made words but the inspiration from God.
    • They recall his words about the rebellion of man and human authorities against God and His Messiah. This could also be a wider reference to the opposition to the nation, God’s chosen people.
    • They now introduce the modern opposition to Christ, Pilate and Herod, who acted in conspiracy against God’s Messiah. They clearly identify Jesus as the Messiah but now understand that His crucifixion was allowed as God’s will and the exercise of God’s power. It was not a man-made disaster, but a God guided provision.
  • God of all Authority
    • We are under threat from the Authorities. We are challenged as to what we should do! It seems they already knew what they should be doing, they should obey God.
    • We want to speak with power and authority, we need your strength to do this.
    • They called on God to act in a decisive manner, so there would be no doubt why they were preaching Jesus, they were carrying out the command from God and not man’s view.
    • God responded by shaking the house, with an awareness of the Holy Spirit, thus confirming their prayer and its answer.
    • They had no doubts and went out into the community and were bold in their proclamation of the truth from God concerning Jesus.

Changed Priorities

They were now full of vigour in their work for Christ. There was a realisation that it was a joint effort, they all had a part to play. Here was a pattern for the church which is still true today. Each member has a role to play, some lead and teach and preach, but at the same time there has to be support teams. They had to be seen as making a difference, they changed from self-preservation and interest to a communal spirit. The message was important, it was vital but there was also a responsibility to all in the church. So funds were created in many ways to support those with a need. This applied to all in the church, especially as some had given up their paid work to work for the Lord. They were trusting God to supply their needs. They were living by faith and God was faithful. Note it is recorded that there were no needy people left unhelped. At the end of the chapter we are introduced to Barnabas, obviously an early convert, who now joins in the communal support. His name means he was an encourager. Just what the church needed at this time when faced with opposition.

How do we deal with the current situation? Perhaps we consider we are facing a crisis in the church. How do we deal with the authorities and their guidance, post covid? Our first reaction must be to pray, we have a whole history to fall back on, if we have any doubts of its value. Secondly, we must be faithful to the word of God, the Bible and preserve the truth and its power. It is still relevant today; God does not change. Thirdly, we must not neglect our church community or the wider community. We must continue to respond to need, within the church and also, as Jesus said, ‘Love thy neighbour.’

We must be a praying believing community of God’s people. We must be faithful to His word and depend on His power. He will never let us down.

Music: YouTube- ‘Close to Thee’-Gaither

 

 


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