Topical - Power of...
I. Prayer & Power
A. The Effective Fervent Prayer (James 5:16-18)
1. Effective Prayer
a) What Is Effective Prayer?
1) Effective translates energeoµ, from which our English word “energy” derives.
(a) The prayer of a righteous man (cf. 4:3; Ps. 66:18; Prov. 15:8; 28:9), James notes, can accomplish much (literally “is very strong”).
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NKJV)
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. (Psalms 66:18 NKJV)
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight. (Proverbs 15:8 NKJV)
One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9 NKJV)
b) Elijah Was A Man With A Nature Like Ours
1) The Bible records that he was hungry (1 Kings 17:11), afraid (1 Kings 19:3), and depressed (1 Kings 19:3, 9–14). Yet when he prayed earnestly (lit. “he prayed with prayer”), incredible things happened: It did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. Elijah’s prayers both created and ended a devastating three-and-one-half-year drought (cf. Luke 4:25). While 1 Kings 17 records the drought, only James gives its duration and links it to the prayers of Elijah.
B. The Power of Prayer
1. One Crucial Reason the early Christians were on-fire for God
a) They Continued Steadfastly…in prayers (Acts 2:42)
1) Acts Reveals the Nature of Prayer in Empowering the New Testament Church.
(a) The church was waiting prayerfully for the power Jesus promised them, and then the church was born (Acts 1:12-14; 2:1-4).
(b) When persecution threatened to stamp out the infant church, believers went to prayer, and then spoke God’s Word with boldness (Acts 4:23-31).
(c) The growing church appointed additional leaders so the apostles could focus on prayer and preaching (Acts 6:1-4).
(d) In response to Peter’s prayer, Tabitha was restored to life (Acts 9:36-43)
(e) The prayers of Cornelius & Peter resulted in the gospel being preached to Gentiles for the first time (Acts 10:1-48).
(f) Constant prayer by the church resulted in Peter being miraculously delivered from jail and possible execution (Acts 12:5-17).
(g) Missionaries were sent out and elders appointed with prayer and fasting (Acts 13:1-3; 14:21-23).
(h) Paul & Silas were miraculously delivered from jail, and the jailer and his family were converted, as a result of prayer (Acts 16:16-34).
b) Consider What the Epistles have to say about Prayer:
Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; (Romans 12:12)
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints---- (Ephesians 6:18 NKJV)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (Philippians 4:6 NKJV)
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2)
Pray without ceasing, (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV)
(a) Prayer should be second nature to a child of God, just like breathing.
(1) Wherever we go, we should always be praying about everything that happens.
(2) We are teaching this to our son & daughter at an early age.
C. Principles of Prevailing Prayer – Acts 12:1-25
Wicked King Herod is persecuting the church, having already executed James the brother of John & put Peter in prison no doubt wanting to do the same.
Peter had been in prison once before (Acts 5:17-21) but had been miraculously released by an angel of the Lord.
To prevent another escape, Herod locked Peter behind two gates, chained him to two guards, and surrounded him with 14 guards. By all human reasoning there was no way Peter could escape.
What did Peter’s fellow believers do?
We find the answer in v.5, “but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
Though every door was locked shut, one door remained open: the door into the presence of God (Heb 4:14-16)
1. Pray to God – v.5
a) Sometimes Our Prayers Fail to Honor Him as God
1) How do You View Your Heavenly Father?
(a) Do you think of God as a divine Santa Claus whom we bring a list of wants?
(b) Do we treat Him like our butler or maid by ordering Him to get the things we want?
(c) Do you view God as a heavenly vending machine, thinking all we have to do is push the right buttons, claim certain verses & He is required to dispense whatever we want?
2) Sometimes God is not even Involved in Our Prayer (Luke 18:9-14)
(a) God’s people must have the right attitude (2 Chron.7:14)
(b) Jesus Gave Us the Model Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
(1) When we pray, our goal is to align our will with God’s will.
(2) Jesus prayed this way (Matt.26:39).
(3) If we lack wisdom in understanding God’s will, we are to ask (James 1:5).
(c) Why is it so important to pray in His will (1 John 5:14-15)?
(1) Jesus had this in mind in (John 15:7; 14:13).
V This verse could be literally translated: “If you are maintaining a living communion with Me, and My words are at home in your life, I command you to ask at once something for yourself, whatever you heart desires, and it will become yours”
V The Psalmist also had this in mind (Psalm 37:3-4).
b) Persecution Often Causes People to Pray – v.5
1) Because of Peter’s Circumstance’s, the Church Prayed Constantly & Earnestly.
(a) God used this difficulty to bring the Church to its knees to intercede on behalf of Peter.
(b) God will use our difficulties to bring us to our knees as well.
(1) Let's face it, we often pray the hardest and most consistently when we are facing trials and difficulties.
(2) And we often learn the most about God's faithfulness and our own weaknesses during these times of intense intercession. God has a plan for our trials!
2. Pray Without Ceasing – v.5
a) Constant Prayer Was Being Offered for Peter.
1) The Phrase “but prayer” was the Turning Point In the Story.
(a) The angel fetched peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.
(b) We see this principle in the book of Daniel (Dan.10:12).
(1) Just as Daniel “set his heart to understand” & “to humble himself before God,” the church also humbled themselves & prayed with passion, “they prayed with agony” from the depths of their heart until they got an answer.
(2) If we want to impact our world with the power of God, we must be willing to invest some time in fervent prayer as the early Christians did.
V Prayer stirs fellowship & communion with God.
V Prayer brings about a greater knowledge & understanding of God.
V Prayer causes a person to trust as well as worship & praise God.
V Prayer is the way man is to communicate with God.
· Ask, seek, & knock (Matt.7:7).
· Watch & pray, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matt.26:41).
· Men ought always to pray (Luke 18:1)
· Sometimes our answers my be delayed because of spiritual battle (Dan.10:13).
b) Many Today are Kept in Spiritual Prison – v.5 cf. 2 Timothy 2:26
1) Satan Has Blinded Their Eyes (2 Cor.4:3-4); They Need To Be Set Free (Acts 26:18)
(a) Satan asked for Peter, but Jesus prayed for him (Luke 22:31-32; Rom.8:34; Heb.7:25)
c) Peter was Sleeping – v.6 How Could Peter be asleep at this time?
1) Peter’s Confidence & Peace
(a) Many believers were praying for him (Acts 12:12), this helped to bring him peace (Phil.4:6-7), prayer has a way of reminding us of the promises of God.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety (Psalms 4:8 NKJV).
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)
3. Agree In Prayer – v.5
a) Constant Prayer… “by the Church.”
1) The Power of United Prayer – Two Essentials (Matthew 18:19-20)
(a) If two of you agree – The words shall agree mean to be in complete accord; to harmonize together like that of a symphony; to sound together; to act together in each other’s nature.
(b) If two or three are gathered together in My Name – The idea is close & intimate communion with Christ. This comes only from private prayer & prayer with others.
For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (Philippians 1:19 NKJV)
4. Pray Even When You Doubt – v.7-25
a) God Sometimes Works Despite Our Lack of Faith.
1) Sincere Faith – consider the woman described in (Luke 8:43-48)
2) Another’s Faith – consider the Roman Centurion & his servant (Matt.8:5-13)
3) Weak Faith – consider the father with a demon-possessed son (Mark 9:14-29)
4) Divine Intervention – consider Lazarus who was dead & had no faith (John 11:38-44).
(a) Lazarus was raised from the dead because Jesus directly intervened in his hopeless situation.
(b) This gives us confidence that when no one around us has much faith—including ourselves—God can still respond to our prayers and meet our needs. Why? Because He is God and chooses to intervene out of His great love for us.
b) The Result of Prayer & Obedience
1) The Church Marched on Triumphantly
(a) Acts 12 opens with James dead, Peter in prison, & Herod triumphing.
(b) The chapter closes with Herod dead, Peter free, the Word of God triumphing (2 Tim.2:9), & the church revived on fire.
(c) What made the difference? PRAYER!
1. Insights about Persecution – v.1-5
a) The Church is Built Upon the Lord Himself.
1) Two prominent leaders were persecuted but God didn't need them to run His Church.
(a) Even though the Lord uses men as His vessels (2 Tim.2:21), he does not need them to continue His work.
(b) The Church is built upon the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God is not dependent upon any man to sustain His work (Matt.16:18).
(1) “My Church”—The church is Christ’s not mans.
(2) “I will build”—Christ builds the church.
(3) “The gates of Hades shall not prevail”—Christ Himself protects the church.
(c) We must build our life upon the solid foundation which Christ has laid (Matt.7:24-27).
b) God Can’t be Figured Out
1) The Sovereignty of God
(a) There is no explainable reason why God allowed James to be killed and Peter to be freed. This simply rests with the sovereignty of God.
(b) There is no way to explain why God has allowed certain difficulties to enter your life while others around you seem to have escaped the sword of persecution.
The prophet Isaiah, For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV)
Paul in Romans 11 said, Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33)
Job confessed his confusion & lack of understanding, yet by faith he declared, Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. (Job 13:15 NKJV)
(1) Don't try to figure this out, you never will.
(2) And don't try to compare your life with others; you will end up frustrated and discouraged.
(3) Life is not supposed to make sense in these areas, but this is the very reason faith is necessary to get through life's difficulties.
B. The Power of God in Us.
1. Rekindling the Fire of the Holy Spirit.
a) Three Guidelines to Help Reignite the Fire of God in Us.
1) Revive the Fire in Your Own Heart (2 Chronicles 7:14)
(a) Humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, & turn from our wicked ways
(b) We need to anchor our daily life in the disciplines of:
(1) Worship, Bible Study, Prayer, Faithful Service & by Welcoming God’s direction in the everyday routine of your life.
2) Open Your Life to Others So God’s Fire Within You can Touch others as well.
(a) Having fellowship with other believers (Acts 2:42)—ill. Of hot coals close together.
(b) Reach out & disciple those around you & unbelievers as well.
3) Maintain the Fire Within Your Life When You Commitment is Challenged (Matt.13:18-23)
(a) Christians will suffer persecution (2 Tim.3:12).
(b) Trials & temptation will afflict us (Acts 4:22).