DEVOTED TO PRAYER

By


Shelby G. Floyd

 

Good Morning. It is great for all of us to come out this morning and sing those wonderful hymns and praise to Almighty God. And we are thankful for the great prayer that Jeff led. Likewise, Terry always does a good job reading the Scriptures.

Sarah and I and Damon and Susan took a quick trip to Nashville, Tennessee for a memorial service for our nephew and came back last night. So we had a quick trip and we realized that a lot of people are on spring break because we could see about every other car had something on top of the roof. They were all headed to Florida and many were coming back. This is the time of the year when people take spring breaks. We are going to get back to normal soon.

Today I am speaking on the subject, Devoted to Prayer. It is a “first day of the week” subject that I planned to present to you. Now, the world looks up on the weekend as including Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the reason is because a large number of people enjoy sports, camping, pleasure trips and things like that and they include Sunday to be involved in those things. Christian people enjoy those activities also, but we do not allow those things to keep us from observing the Lord’s day and coming together to worship and to study and to pray on the Lord’s Day—the first day of the week.

THE EARLY CHURCH BEGAN ON “THE DAY OF PENTECOST”—SUNDAY

There are over 30 references to prayer in the book of Acts. Our text today that I am using right now is an example of one of those Scriptures. Acts 2 and verse 42 is set in the context of the beginning of the church. When did the church begin? It began on the first day of the week. It is called the day of Pentecost and Pentecost always occurred 50 days after the Passover. You would count seven weeks and then on the 50th day—that was the day of Pentecost. It was always on Sunday, the first day of the week. God started the creation of the universe on first day of the week according to Genesis the first chapter and he finished it in a week. So in this setting, we have the beginning of the church.

On the first day of the week Peter received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well as the other 11 apostles. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The Bible says they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 3000 people cried out after they were convicted of putting to death God’s only begotten Son and asked, “what shall we do?” The simple answer was “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Very simple. So we have the nucleolus of the church on the day of Pentecost–the first day of the week.

Immediately, we have the early church involved in the work and worship ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is briefly described in Acts 2:42. This verse brings us to this lesson of “Devoted to Prayer! “They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.” All of the newer translations say “they devoted” themselves to the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. Did you know the early Christians were called “devotees,” and we all are devoted to the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers? That is a good name to be called by, and we ought to be devoted to all of those things and other things that are found in God’s word.

Concerning prayer someone has said, “Prayer only makes sense when you have quit trying to do the work of ministry alone. I have learned that as things go smoothly, I pray less. As our goal shrinks, I pray less. As things become more manageable, I pray less. But as we reach out, stretch ourselves, and tackle God-sized dreams, I pray more.”

Now if we want to pray more here at Heartland and I think we do. Then we have got to enlarge our vision and make our dreams larger. Our dreams of spiritual and numerical growth as a church requires prayer. The early church was a praying church and because they were devoted to prayer, they were a powerful and growing church. We want to be a powerful and growing church and so we will have to rely upon prayer a lot more than we do now.

THE EARLY CHURCH PRAYED “IN ONE ACCORD”

Now we need to go back to the first chapter of Acts to pick up another thought on prayer. After his resurrection Jesus spent forty days talking to the apostles about things that pertain to the kingdom of God and he said go into the city of Jerusalem and tarry there until you receive power from on high (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:1-8). They need the power. So you go to Jerusalem and you tarry there until you receive power from on high. Now how long had Jesus been talking with them? The Bible says 40 days after his resurrection. That leaves 10 days until the day of Pentecost. So they went back to Jerusalem to wait for this promise of the power, which was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was never promised to anybody but the apostles! Therefore they are waiting there in Jerusalem and they have some matters to take care of before they receive that power.

So the early church learned quickly that if anything is going to happen, they must stick together and pray together and when the 120 disciples came together and the record says, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14 NKJV). This is the last mention in the scriptures of the mother of Jesus. John is taking care of her as Jesus asked him to do. The NIV says “they joined together in prayer and supplication.” That is what we have been doing this morning. We joined together in prayer. They were sticking together. They were praying together. We can learn from this example that if our work in the kingdom of God is going to be successful, we must stick together and all pray together and be on the same page. That is what they were doing.

THE EARLY CHURCH PRAYED BEFORE MAKING DECISIONS

Now let us advance to the next point that we want to make, and that is the early church prayed a lot before they made decisions. We get in trouble sometimes personally because we make decisions without doing any praying and asking God for his guidance. The early church did not make that mistake. They prayed before making decisions as a church. So the disciples are gathered together there in Jerusalem. They are waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit—for the power from on high. And they have a problem! They must replace one of the apostles who fell away by transgression. That apostle was Judas. The Bible says he fell because of transgression. He broke the will of God. Their choice came down to two good men—Justus and Matthias or Joseph and Matthias. They were both good men. A lot of times when there are positions in the church to fill such as elders, deacons, preachers and bible class teachers, there are many good choices. These disciples are not going to make the choice on their own. They are going to ask God to guide them and help them in the decision.

So who did they choose? Who would you have chosen? How should we go about making decisions like that? Let us look at Acts one. You can open your Bibles and follow along with Acts 1: 24 through 26:

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 from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Then they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the 11 apostles. Now they are back to the original number of 12 apostles. I do not know how they went about that, but however it was carried out, they relied upon how it turned out to be the will of God. From the context of this statement we make some observations concerning the prayers of the church.

1. I think we can safely say that our prayers and our decisions should be Bible based—based upon the word of God. And when they got ready to choose this apostle, Peter spoke. He was always the spokesman, he was outspoken, quick on the trigger, and impulsive. Peter said it is written in the book of Psalms. Before they cast lots, they went to the Bible so their decision will be based on the word of God. Peter said it is written in the book of Psalms and then he quoted Psalms 69:25 and also Psalms 109:8, and he speaks here in the Greek language, so we have an inspired translation from the Hebrew in Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 into the Greek language of the New Testament. So before we make our decisions, we should say it is written, if we possibly can. The Bible had already pointed out that the place of Judas would become vacant and that somebody else would take his leadership role. The decision is going to be based upon Psalms 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. Let us follow their example in making our decisions affecting the work of the church.

2. We need to examine all of the alternative options.

In Acts 1:21 through 23, Peter says,

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

So there are further qualifications to replace this apostle. It must be somebody that actually was a witness of the resurrection of Christ. There cannot be any apostles today. Nobody today was a witness to the resurrection of Christ. Then they proposed two men, Joseph, and Matthias. Both of these men had been with the group of disciples from the time that Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17) until his resurrection.

3. Number three. We need to pray for wisdom and guidance before we make those decisions.

And that is what the Bible says in Acts 1:24 through 26:

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 from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

God is a heart knower! We think we know a lot about people, but we cannot read people’s hearts. We only read the outward man, but we cannot really know the inward man like God. He knows our hearts. When they asked God to show them which of these two, He had chosen, it will be better if we can make choices that God has already made. That is the ideal. James an inspired writer agrees,

“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. 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. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8 NKJV).

That is our formula for making decisions. A lot of prayer and a lot of reliance upon God’s word—God’s eternal will.

THE EARLY CHURCH PRAYED UNTIL THINGS HAPPENED!

Now the next thing we want to talk to you about is the early church prayed till things start happening. In our day and time we pray and things just keep going along like they do every day. There does not seem to be any upheaval or any kind of problem. There is no opposition, and we even thank God that we are free to worship and assemble because the government cannot take that away from us. They did not have that kind of protection in the beginning of the church. The early church prayed until things start happening. They were actually threatened. From 3000 new converts the church is growing and expanding every day. More and more people are being baptized every day even after being threatened. The Bible says the disciples prayed for boldness to speak God’s word. They were severely threatened and commanded not to speak about Jesus Christ.

So they prayed for boldness and they were severely threatened and commanded not to speak about Jesus Christ by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They huddled together and had a little meeting in which they said we must stop this movement. They are filling Jerusalem with this doctrine. The priesthood especially was troubled and this what they said,

But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:17-18 NKJV).

What were they to do when the authorities came along and said, “You can preach, but you are not to mentioning the name of Jesus Christ!” Would they just meekly abandon the great commission of taking the gospel into the whole world? This pandemic has caused a lot of people to realize the power of the government to shut down many institutions. There have been many contradictory statements made about this problem. This gives us a little insight as to what could happen if we lose our freedom of worship and freedom of speech.

Therefore how are the 12 apostles going to handle this threat? They stated emphatically that they were going to speak the things that they had seen and heard: “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:19-20).

I do not think they had to have a meeting to find out what Peter meant. What would the church do if they put Peter and John in prison? On this occasion the whole church had a prayer meeting. I think it would be good if we had more prayer meetings. The whole church would be more effective in carrying out God’s work if we prayed more. The Jerusalem had a prayer meeting and offered up this prayer:

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24-30).

No wonder David is called the messianic prophet because he and Isaiah are quoted more in the New Testament than any other Old Testament writers! Here again the church is relying upon the word of God, and not just the apostles. The church is quoting the words of the prophet David their father spiritual father and that is from the second Psalm. Here are some of the most beautiful words in all the Bible. “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed one.” They mention that Herod, Pilate and the Gentiles and the people of Israel plotted and conspired against Jesus. They were all conspiring to put a stop to the growth of this new movement called the kingdom of God.

Now I want you to notice the five specific parts of their prayer.

1. First, it is always good to praise God’s name in any situation. So they addressed their prayer to the Lord. “Lord” is translated from the Greek word “despot” in verse twenty-four. Despot means that Jesus Christ is the absolute ruler!

2. Next, they quote the beautiful words of David in Psalms 2. They were fulfilling the scripture.

3. Third, they state that the problem is they were being opposed because they belonged to Jesus Christ and they made a request in his prayer.

4. They did not ask for protection, but they asked for courage and boldness to speak God’s word.

5. And what was God’s response? He shook the building.

IV. GOD SHOOK THE MEMBERS TO BOLDLY SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD!

And that brings us to our final exhortation. and that is they prayed for boldness and God not only shook the building, but he shook the congregation until they became bold in body and spirit. The Bible says when they had prayed, God physically shook the building they were in, but he also shook the people in the building. He shook up their minds and their spirits to go out and boldly speak the word of God:

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 (Acts 4:31).

That is what we want to happen to all of us—to be bold in our proclamation of God’s word. We do not need to hide in a corner and we do not need to be ashamed. We need to be bold and courageous. The Bible teaches us that we should pray without ceasing. “Pray with ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17). Jesus Christ emphasized in the story that he told about the Judge and the widow, to never give up in our prayer life. The widow had a grievance and she went to the judge and he paid no attention to her. He put her off but she did not give up. She kept pestering that judge every day until finally he said, “If I don’t take care of this widow, she is going wear me out!”. So finally, he took care of her problem. This story then illustrates if you do not get the answer to your prayer right away, never give up.

Now, what can we draw from our lesson today? 1. Let us pray together as a congregation. 2. Every time we come together in unity, let us ask God to help us make our decisions as a church. 3. Let us persist in our prayer until God shakes us up to go and carry out our duty of spreading the gospel message.

Now I hope all of you are praying for somebody to become a Christian. We all know someone who has not confessed Jesus Christ and been baptized for the forgiveness of sin. Pray for those who have strayed away from the church. We need to pray for them also before it is too late! Come to the Lord as together we stand and sing.*

Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon March 28, 2021 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.

Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

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