Read at beginning of service:
Acts 4:23-31 (NIV)
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “?Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Psalm 32:1-6a (NIV)
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”?and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah 6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found?
A certain person couldn?t find the right posture for prayer. He tried praying on his knees, but that wasn?t comfortable; besides, it wrinkled his slacks. He tried praying standing, but soon his legs got tired. He tried praying seated, but that didn?t seem reverent. Then one day as he was walking through a field, he fell headfirst into an open well. Did he ever pray! (quoted in “A Call for Prayer” by Tony Searles)
For the last 3 weeks I?ve been preaching a series of messages entitled Prayer Pak: Lessons on Powerful Prayer. I?ve got to confess to you this morning that from the very beginning I?ve seen these messages all leading up to this morning. In the previous messages I?ve been talking about the nature of prayer, some of the how?s and some of the why?s and I believe that many of you have been embracing some of the challenges posed by what God has been speaking to us on prayer. I hope you?ve been hearing what has been I believe one of the underlying themes of these messages.
This theme? I believe the Lord is calling us to a prayer life which is consistent, fervent, sincere, Spirit-powered, and life-changing. In my spirit, I sense a strong need for us as a Body of Believers to step forward into the realm of prayer – into the realm of powerful effective prayer that is not found in the crisis management of a person falling into an open well but is found in the daily individual and corporate activity of a person who is passionate for God.
There were many times throughout the Old Testament when leaders found that their armies and people were at a crux in their lives both individually and corporately that this call came forth for prayer, consecration, and worship towards God. There was a need for the people to prepare for what was about to happen, and call out to “make ready” and gain perspective for the future, so that God?s Will would be accomplished and released in their midst.
In the New Testament Jesus called his disciples to prayer before they were to launch out in the work he had prepared for them in building the kingdom. And as a result of their “waiting on God” and praying in the upper room they were empowered by the Holy Spirit and given a Godly boldness that ignited a revival wherever they set foot.
In stories of revivals and mighty moves of God down through History into modern day the common characteristic found among the people experiencing and living in the midst of God?s blessings was their reliance on and practice of prayer.
And today I sense that same call for us today in this church. You?ve heard me say many times before that I feel that we are on the brink of something great that God wants to do in our midst and something special in which the Lord is preparing to do in us and through us. I feel as though we are gaining perspective and vision for what this is but there is one thing that God is waiting for in our midst. And I believe God is waiting for us to as a church step up into the realm of spirit-filled prayer. I believe God is calling His people to communicate with Him on a level they?ve never attempted before. And as your Pastor today I am speaking that call into our midst. I am echoing the challenge for you to become a part of HPC?s prayer team. People who are committed to turning the heat up a notch in prayer, people who together take a more serious approach to prayer, people who will be willing to seek the Lord in prayer more fervently in their personal lives, and also as a part of the church as a body.
I am calling you as a church to pray and seek God together for what He wants to do in and through us. I am calling you as a church to come out to our Saturday night Oasis ? where we pray and seek the Lord. I am calling you as a church to actively participate and embrace the challenge of God to pray and seek His face for every area of your lives.
Do you want more? Do you Hunger for more of God? Do you want to see the Kingdom of God grow with new believers? Do you want to see the sick healed? Do you want what God has in store for our church for our community? Do you want to know Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit more? Are you ready to pay the price?
These things and more will come, I believe will ONLY come, when we ? as a body ? answer the call to prayer!!
Are you ready? Are you willing?
I?m saying this today because?
Prayer initiates and sustains life-giving change
Most of us have seen a stagnant pond in a swamp or in the middle of a field. Some of these ponds have some surface beauty -?I mean there may be water lilies, or colorful plant-life living on the surface of the water. But then as you look closer you?ll find that the water it self is murky and full of algea. Really these ponds are simply stale puddles of water ? they have little or no fresh water flowing into or exiting out of them and because of this the only life that you find is outside the water not inside (at least the kind of life you see). Have you ever had the desire to swim in such a pond? (yuck!)
Think, on the other hand, about a nice fresh water stream. On a hot summer day such a stream is so inviting and the thought of swimming in its cool water is refreshing. The water is fresh, cool, and crystal clear.
Now lets liken this picture of these two examples to your own life? Are you a pond or a fresh water stream? The difference between the two is life! When the currents flow and there is an intake and outflow of fresh water then the water is pure and clear and brings life. While the surface of a pond may for a time show the signs of life eventually, as the stagnant water sits the surface life will pass away too until what?s in the surface reflects what?s been in the water all along.
I believe God wants His church, wants His people to be a river of life not a pond of death! And it is through prayer that the life-giving currents of change flow through his people.
God wants us to be living the words of a song that is sometimes sung, “I?ve Got a River of Life”? (quote lyrics)
But instead many Christians are living lyrics of,
I?m a pond of death, won?t you come see me
I may be blind and lame but at least I?m free
I?m happy where I am so don?t move me
If I ever have to change I will charge a fee.
2 Chronicles 7:14-16 (NIV)
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
I?ve referred to this scripture many times but as we look at it today I want to point out the example found here that prayer initiates and sustains life-giving change.
Prayer releases life-giving change into your situation, your circumstances, your future?
- “if they turn from their wicked ways” turning from death to life comes as a result of prayer. Turning from our resources and the resources of the world to righteousness and God?s resources is the fruit of prayer. Prayer is the surrendering of what we can do to what God will do!
- God says that He will forgive their sins. There is a song that includes the line, “what a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart.” There is no greater change intiated by prayer than the prayer of confession and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour! For in that change is found the joy of experiencing Jesus Christ as your life! By His spirit He flows in and through us!!
- Finally, a third life-giving change found in this passage is a healing in their land. Oh God! Let this occur in our church and in our community. This is a significant phrase folks. Because in the ancient times “the land” was a type or figure of prosperity and life to the people. In fact people were identified by “the land” in which they lived. When God said, “Then will I heal your land” He is saying, “I will bring life, and prosperity, and restore you as a people”!
Reading further we find the Father speaking to Solomon and saying that in response to Solomon?s prayer God?s eyes and heart will always be” in the temple that Solomon dedicated. Lay a hold of that promise as you answer the call to prayer this morning! Prayer initiates and sustains life-giving change?
prayer determines closeness to the source of life
Jeremiah 29:11-13a (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “?
Such an incredible promise that God made through Jeremiah to the Israelite people. That when they seek Him with all their heart ? they will find Him. There is this incredible reminder here that sincere prayer is the path to connecting with God, the source of life!
Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)
29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
James 4:8-10 (NIV)
8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Church the promise is true, prayer is the vehicle through which we draw close to God.
Challenges are conquered through prayer
You can see this statement modeled in the life of Jesus. When He faced the challenge of the cross, He went to His Father in Prayer. The challenge of the cross had to be me head on and it was the will of God ? Jesus prayed as he had so many other times in His ministry on earth, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”
This statement is also modeled in the life of the disciples. They faced the challenge of the call to ministry. In Mark 9 a man brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus and Jesus healed the boy. In asking Jesus to heal his son the man had made mention that he had already gone to Jesus? disciples but they weren?t able to do anything. When the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked Him why they weren?t able to cast out the demon Jesus replied with something very important,
Mark 9:29 (NIV)
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
And there is yet another example of a challenge being conquered by prayer in Acts 16:25-26
Acts 16:25-26 (NIV)
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.
As Paul and Silas sat in the prison amongst the other prisoners they met their challenge by praying and worshipping God. The result is that God came and met them in their need.
Church throughout the scriptures there are examples where challenges were persistent, but God was faithful. Each challenge was met with a great faith that was planted firmly in a sincere prayer life and intimacy with God. Whether there was prayer offered at the moment, or an investment prior to the fact, the results were that God was glorified in all these things!
Challenges are conquered in prayer!
I?d like to conclude with the words of Isaiah this morning,
Isaiah 55:6-7 (NIV)
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
I believe this simple, yet profound scripture is for us today! Pray to God! Be reconciled to Him! And once reconciled, to Him pray! Right now in His patience, God is waiting for your response! His word is calling out to You! The Holy Spirit is striving with us, and wooing us, to call upon the Lord? for this is a call to Prayer!!!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon stated this about prayer and the church?
The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meeting. So is the prayer meeting a grace-o-meter, and from it we may be judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be a slothfulness in prayer. (quoted in “A Call For Prayer” by Tony Searles)
What does our gauge say? If you were on the outside looking into our church, what would you say? Are you adding to that answer? Are you a part of prayer? Maybe you are privately, but now we must pray as a body, publicly. There is a scriptural principle that holds true when we gather together to pray.
Acts 12:5 (NIV)
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire relates an awesome modern day testimony of the power of prayer and the blessings that fall on a church that prays. In the beginning of the book, the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Jim Cymbala relates the struggles he faced in pastoring a dying church in the middle of New York City. In the midst of some time away from the church to recover from an illness that crippled his voice Jim prayed this simple, heart-broken prayer,
“Lord, I have no idea how to be a successful pastor,” ? “I haven?t been trained. All I know is that Carol and I are working in the middle of New York City, with people dying on every side, overdosing from heroin, consumed by materialism, and all the rest. If the gospel is so powerful?”
I couldn?t finish the sentence. Tears choked me. Fortunately, the others on the boat were too far away to notice as they studied their lines in the blue-green water.
Then quietly but forcefully, in words heard not with my ear but deep within my spirit, I sensed God speaking:
If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that?s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response. (Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, p. 25)
Did you hear that? Friends, Jim Cymbala obeyed the call to prayer and his church answered this call to prayer and as a result Brooklyn Tabernacle has reached thousands of people and participated in ushering thousands of people into the kingdom of God.
Now this call has been extended to you. And friends, I know God has spoken those same words into my life. And friends this call is a vital one to all of us here at HPC. From now on the barometer of the health in this church will be Oasis on Saturday night. This is our night for prayer. Scripture teaches us and history teaches us that any revival in this community is going to be birthed in prayer. And I believe God wants this church to be the spark that ignites that revival. But it?s only going to happen through prayer! It?s time for a transformation in this church, it?s time for a Holy Spirit transformation in this community and there are thousands who need to be reached for the kingdom of God ? and this will only happen as we answer the call to prayer!