“A true believer is one who signs up for life. The bumper-sticker sentiment ‘Try Jesus’ is a mentality foreign to real discipleship – faith is not an experiment, but a lifelong commitment. It makes taking up the cross daily, giving all for Christ each day. It means no reservations, no uncertainty, no hesitation (Luke 9:59-61). It means nothing is knowingly held back, nothing purposely shielded from His lordship, nothing stubbornly kept from his control. It calls for painful severing of the tie with the world, a sealing of the escape hatches, a ridding oneself of any kid of security to fall back on in case of failure. Genuine believers know they are going ahead with Christ until death. Having put their hand to the plow, they will not look back (Luke 9:62).” (The Gospel According to Jesus)
Charles Spurgeon once said prayer moves the muscles of God’s omnipotence. He believed God both sovereignly ordained every event but also that God honors man’s petitions and would not do anything unless man asked. And you see that often in the Book of Acts. Here are 6 lessons on prayer from this book of inspired early church history.
- Acts 1:13-14, 24-25 – When you need people, pray for them. The 11 disciples could only see what they could see. They didn’t know the heart of these qualified men. That was God’s territory. They didn’t know who “God’s man” was; so, they prayed to God about His man. When we need people for certain ministries or activities, we should not just hope God sends the kind of people you need to fill for certain needs; we must pray God would raise them up.
- Acts 2:42; 3:1 – Christians are praying people. Peter was compelled by God to preach on Pentecost. The crowds were gathered for this Jewish feast and saw this filling of the Holy Spirit, and this new gift tongues-speaking and the people were compelled to come up with reasons for this behavior. Peter preached a sermon to re-direct their thoughts away from the tongues-speaking onto the crucifixion of the Lord. The result? 3,000 men converted to Christianity, and the church was born. Prayer is a means to communicate the One who saved us. The Jews had 3x of daily prayer – 9:00am, 12:00pm and 3:00pm. These regularly scheduled times of prayer show us their commitment to pray. They planned to pray, which is a key to begin a more faithful person of prayer, as we will talk later.
- Acts 4:24-31 – When we feel insufficient for the task, we should pray. In Acts 4, Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin defending themselves for preaching the Gospel. The Sanhedrin couldn’t imprison them; so, they gave them a public reprimand. Peter and John left this scene and joined the local body of believers to give them a report. The Christians needed boldness as they faced public ridicule. How could these new, immature Christians possibly hope to persevere? By asking God for it! Prayer gave them confidence and made them even more faithful to the task of proclaiming the Gospel. God’s enabling. The Christian who faces adversity with hope, confidence and joy is a praying Christian. The Christian who panics often, can’t get away from their anxieties, and rarely sees victory over sin is not a praying Christian.
- Acts 7:59-60 – Prayer is a means to love others. Stephen’s prayer was for those who persecuted Him. Much like Jesus’ prayer on the cross (Luke 23:34), Stephen wanted his persecutors to be saved. He wanted them to be treated better than he was being treated by them. Not praying for someone in need is cold indifference to that individual.
- Acts 13:1-3 – Pray before you minister. Paul is ready for this 1st missionary journey and how appropriate that his ministry begins with prayer. Ministry – as we learned from Spurgeon – cannot presume to be successful without God’s “backing” and that comes through prayer.
- Acts 20:36-38 – Praying together creates intimacy and unity. Paul was in Ephesus on his 3rd and final missionary journey. He was concerned for the brethren and the false teachers that could rise from among them. He exhorted them to be alert. He preached long and hard to their elders about protecting the flock. He told them that God would give them everything they needed to shepherd these people. What a beautiful scene this must have been to see Paul praying for them and them praying for Paul. It created a loving bond. Prayer creates a family.
But to grow in prayer, you must plan to grow in prayer. We must plan for it.
We must plan to mediate on God and His Word often. I’ve never met someone who loves God’s Word AND never prays. And I’ve never met a Christian who prays often BUT doesn’t know what God’s Word says. Meditation on the Word and prayer are companions.
We must plan to pray when tragedy strikes. Next time you see something awful reported on the news, pray through that tragic news. How about next time you get an amber alert on your phone, pray for the guilt of the kidnappers to would turn the missing person in and the safety of the one who is missing.
We must plan to pray by recording our requests and answers. Keep a record of how God is responding to your prayers. And when God answers your prayers, tell others how He did so. That encourages further prayer. Prayer takes organization.
We must plan to pray with others. If you don’t have a prayer partner, find one. If you don’t attend a prayer meeting, join one.
If we want to show our care for one another – then we must pray. If we want to be a thankful church – then we must pray. We don’t want to be an anxious or worrisome church – so we must pray. We want to possess wisdom and discernment and be filled with joy – then we must pray.
I love me so trivia. So, let’s take a little trivia test about books. I will have 10 questions, and you get 1 point per each question. Add up your points and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how book nerdy you are.
10 = Nerdolicious
7-9 = Nerdier than the average bear
4-6 = Average bear
0-3 = Aspiring nerd
Don’t use Google or Bing or Yahoo Search or whatever other search engine. Of course, no one will know if you do, but you also won’t know your true nerdy quotient. Then, tell us in the comments section how you did.
- What state opened the 1st public library in 1698?
- What is the best-selling nonfiction book of all time?
- How old was Dorothy Straught when she wrote How the World Began? She is the youngest female author to be published.
- TRUE OR FALSE: A.A. Milne had a son named Christopher Robin who inspired the Winnie the Pooh
- Which author has sold the most children’s books in history?
- What country was the 1st English-language Encyclopedia Britannica published in?
- How did the man with the yellow hat capture Curious George?
- Who spent the most money for a published book (Codex Leicester by Da Vinci) in history?
- Which book contains the longest sentence of 823 words?
- What is bibliosmia?
How’d you do?
“One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).
David wants to “behold the beauty of the LORD.” You want a man who was caught up in the “beauty of the LORD”? Read Jonathan Edwards describe his conversion experience.
He writes, “The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words [1 Tim. 1:17], ‘Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen.’ As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up in him in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever! … From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him…. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.
“… I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner, at such times to sing forth my contemplations. … The delights which I now felt in those things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy; and what I then had no more notion of than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colours. They were of a more inward, pure, soul-animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul-satisfying and life-giving good there is in them.” (Murray, Jonathan Edwards, pgs. 35-36)
It’s interesting that in the same section, Edwards mentions how that before this conversion experience, he was terrified of thunderstorms. But afterwards, he rejoiced in them and was entertained by them, because he could see the majestic voice of God in them, which led him to “sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God.”
That is what David desires as well. David wanted to be where God was. He craved it. Can you say with confidence that you regularly behold the beauty of the Lord?
“A young, unformed player submits to his coach’s discipline and drills, or a young pianist submits to the teacher’s scales and lessons. It’s like the dirt presenting itself to Adam saying, ‘Plow me, cultivate me, bring forth a harvest from me.’ That is what we do with our hearts when we submit them to the church’s authority – we ask to be authored upon for the sake of the Holy, and this submission gives way to exercising authority in the lives of others. We give our hands, feet, and breath to working in their lives – tilling, weeding, and planting seeds.” (The Surprising Offense of God’s Love)
- “The 25 Most Influential People on the Internet” (Time). Thankfuilly, not many of these people influence me, but it still interesting to see who is “out there.”
- “The 8 Beliefs You Should Know About Mormons When They Knock at the Door” by Justin Taylor (The Gospel Coalition). What you should know about the Mormon teaching on apostasy, God, polytheism, man, Jesus, kingdom, sin, atonement, and salvation.”
- “Is the Rod of Proverbs Literal or Metaphorical?” by Eric Davis (Cripplegate). You don’t see too many articles answering this question.
- “The Power Over Christian Publishing We’ve Given to Amazon” by Tim Challies. Amazon is out favored online store, but have you thought about potential long-term consequences to Christian publishing?
- “The Second-Most Important Book for Every Christian” by Garrett Kell (The Gospel Coalition). Even though I don’t agree with the title of this blog and his conclusion, you can overvalue the importance of the “book” he references. We usually undervalue it.
- “Veggie Tales Reboot, but with the Gospel This Time” by Gene Veith (Cranach). This is an encouraging direction – away from moralism to the Gospel of grace.
- “Was Jesus Tempted to Commit Murder?” by Andrew Wilson (Think Theology). A clarification the meaning of the phrase “tempted like us in every way” from Hebrew 4:15.
- “When Worship Lyrics Miss the Mark” (Ask Pastor John). New songs AND old songs can be instructive.