“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 1

While I have been in Dallas for these past two months, I have been attending Crossroads Christian Church in the nearby city of Grand Prairie, Texas.  I have enjoyed the worship and the teaching at this church.  The membership is in the thousands, and so they offer three morning services as well as having a Wednesday night teaching service.

It can be difficult for me to attend church with the muscle disease that I have, but thankfully the building is relatively flat, including their main sanctuary.  In the sanctuary they have very comfortable theater style padded chairs that don’t hurt my legs.  The church also offers multiple Sunday School teaching classes during each service.  Again, I am thankful that their smaller Chapel room, which can seat over a hundred people, has nicely padded pews. So I have been able to attend a class in there too.

Right now, the church is proposing an amazing building expansion that will focus just on Children’s Ministries.  It is a huge step of faith to believe that they can accomplish this over the next year, but it has the potential to reach thousands of kids in the surrounding areas.  And so they just had a church-wide emphasis on prayer.  I would like to share the summaries of the lessons taught on prayer over the next four weeks in my Thursday postings.

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Lesson Overview:  “Jesus never questioned whether or not if believers should pray. In Matthew 5:6, he said, “When you pray…” Paul knew how essential prayer was. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul reminded believers to “pray without ceasing.” Still, most believers will tell you that they do not pray enough and many will confess their lives are almost completely without prayer.”

The key text that our leader focused in on during this first lesson was Acts 12:1-19. The background to the story in this chapter is that the church in Jerusalem was flourishing well in the months that followed after Christ’s death and resurrection. The Jewish political ruler at this time was another King Herod and he tried to keep the Jewish leaders happy as well as the powerful forces of Rome which occupied and governed Palestine.

In order to do this, King Herod started to persecute the early church and even had one of its leaders killed, James the brother of John. This pleased the Jewish leaders, and so King Herod went on and had Peter arrested and put in jail. This galvanized the Christian believers into action as we can see from verse 5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Let’s now consider the main points that we can learn from this story in Acts 12.

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1.  “They were praying for the impossible.”

Looking at Peter’s situation from a human perspective, there was really no hope of Peter being released. Remember that Jesus had been arrested, put on trial, and killed in less than one day. The text also implies that James was immediately put to death. And to make sure that no one was able to come and rescue Peter, Herod put four squads of four highly trained Roman soldiers to guard him at the jail. And yet, the church’s immediate response to the situation was to gather the believers and pray.

2.  “They were praying specifically.”

It is possible that the Christians prayed about other things, but the text is very clear that they were earnestly praying to God concerning Peter. Looking at the Greek verb here, we also learn that this was not just a single prayer offered up, but they were continually, constantly praying to God. This sounds similar to the “Persistent Widow” in the parable found in Luke 18:1-8. That passage teaches us about the importance of persisting in prayer and then seeing the request being granted. The question for us to consider is whether we practice this kind of praying.

3.  “They were praying corporately.”

Verse 12 of our key passage tells us that “many people had gathered and were praying.” I believe there is an important lesson to be learned here. Think about what we do today. When we hear about a critical situation that needs prayer, what do we often do? Nowadays, we will usually get the news through an e-mail or perhaps by a telephone call, which does make it harder, but is our first thought to gather with other Christians and to pray together about this matter? Sadly, it is not.

4.  “They were surprised at the answer.”

I think this is the most amazing aspect about this story. The church responded quickly, decisively and specifically in prayer when the crisis happened. God answered their prayers and Peter was standing at the door outside, but the people did not believe this report of the servant girl that Peter was alive and standing at the door. For me, this actually makes the story more believable because it shows how human the early Christians were.

This raises the biggest question of all for us as believers. When we pray, do we not expect God to answer our prayers? Are we perhaps more similar to Thomas then we care to admit? Remember how Thomas heard the reports that Jesus was alive but it wasn’t until he saw Jesus with his own eyes that he believed.

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Recall what Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” and also 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” And finally, grab hold of and believe what Jesus said in Mark 10:27, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Dear reader, it is my hope that you will not only pray regularly to God yourself, but that you will seek out other believers to pray together with and truly experience the power of prayer.

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