We are continuing to talk about Acts, we are looking at what the very first church did that resulted in thousands of years and exponential growth. What do we need to do that would have the same results as the first church?
One of the things the first church did was pray. A lot. But this is not unusual. It is reported that regardless of their spirituality 85% of people in America pray weekly. They pray for jobs, success, family, friends, all kinds of things.
I found this to be true when I crowdsourced my sermon this past week.
Crowdsourcing is when you go online and ask a question and use their answers. So I took to my Facebook and Twitter feeds and asked people why they pray. Some of you answered as did some of the other 2,000 people who I am friends with on Facebook.
Not all people on my Facebook are Christian but they answered with their reasons for prayer.
To have someone to talk to
To get stuff
Maybe you are in some of those categories. You pray for all of these things and more. Maybe you pray for peace in Ferguson or the Ukraine
or just in your own home.
Maybe you pray for guidance or maybe you just pray that you can make it one more day without a drink.
These are all great individual prayer requests for people to pray and we should be praying for them but what does the church pray for? That when we gather together as a group of believers what should we pray for?
I think we should pray for the same things individuals are praying for, but I think maybe we should also take it a step further.
Acts 4:23-31 Common English Bible (CEB)
The believers pray
23 After their release, Peter and John returned to the brothers and sisters and reported everything the chief priests and elders had said. 24 They listened, then lifted their voices in unison to God, “Master, you are the one who created the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. 25 You are the one who spoke by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers gathered together as one against the Lord and against his Christ.[a]
27 Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with Gentiles and Israelites, did gather in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and plan had already determined would happen. 29 Now, Lord, take note of their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence. 30 Stretch out your hand to bring healing and enable signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus, your holy servant.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence.
When the early church gathered and heard what had happened to Peter and John they listened to all that was said, then they started praying.
Look at how they prayed.
They prayed an acknowledgement of who God is. Sovereign over all things, including Herod and Pontius Pilate.
They prayed an acknowledgement of the current situation. A confession of sorts that they were not in control and that God was in control, no matter how bad things Got. It was a prayer of “I can’t, god can, I think I’ll let him”
They prayed for boldness. They didn’t pray for numbers or firepower or safety and security. They prayed for boldness.
The only prayer request in the book of Acts is for boldness.
The first disciples knew that while all the other prayer requests were important and should be prayed. The most important thing they could do as a church was pray for boldness.
They could have prayed for the government to be overthrown, but what was the point of that? Jesus was their true Lord, who put these people in power and allows them to stay in power
They could have prayed for safety and security, but that would have left them comfortable and isolated.
They didn’t pray any of that. They simply prayed for the boldness to speak the word of God.
In verse 30 they talk about God doing signs and wonders while they speak with boldness. It appears that for the early church there was a connection between their speaking the word of God with boldness and God’s working of signs and wonders and healing.
It is as if the early church believed that if they did not speak with boldness God would not work signs and wonders in their life.
I think that has some interesting things for us today.
I don’t think it changes what we pray for when we are alone having our own prayer times.
I don’t think it changes the church’s need to pray for each other during our worship time
I think what it means is that when we gather our primary prayer is for the boldness to speak the word of God.
It can be easy to skip out on speaking the word of God. Your friend says they are having a hard time and we reply with “Oh wow, that is so hard.” Or our family asks us about eternity and we say “well, it is different for everyone.” and we skip speaking the word of God.
We can’t do that, we must speak it with boldness. But boldness is different from being a jerk.
Walking up to random people and telling them they better “turn or burn” or “Get sanctified before they get chicken fried” or my favorite “Eternity: Smoking or non” isn’t being bold. It is being a jerk.
Speaking the word of God with boldness is more about see that opportunity and capitalizing on it. Having the courage that when someone asks you “Why do you go to church?” You have a cognizant answer.
It can even be easy as a church to skip praying for boldness. We get so caught up in our budget, and whatever crisis is happening and our prayer requests and the sermon and announcements and all that stuff that we miss our prayers for boldness to speak the word of God.
But if we don’t speak with boldness then God isn’t going to work signs and wonders. It is as if we wanted to see God move in a mighty way in our church and our community that it starts with us speaking the word of God with boldness.
It is almost as if we want the church to continue growing and expanding and bringing the Kingdom of God closer to reality that we must speak the word of God with boldness. Sure, it might get us arrested, it might annoy other people. but at the very least it is what is required if we ever want to see God do signs and wonders.
Can you imagine the scene if God were to do an amazing sign here in California? Maybe turn water into wine again, or bring the dead to life again? Right here. I don’t know if that will happen, but I know if we speak with boldness then God will do something amazing here.
So then, I think that is what we need to do. We need to pray for boldness as we speak the word of God.
I think that is what we are going to do right now. As a congregation I will close us in prayer and pray that we would be bold in speaking the word of God. So that our family, friends, co-workers, and loved ones would see the work of God in their lives.