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Rev. Ronald C. Purkey, a Baptist minister, claims no originality for this Bible study outline.
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PRAYING FOR ONE ANOTHER
September 6, 2015
SCRIPTURE: Acts 4:23-31
KEY VERSE: And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
BACKGROUND: Because of the astonishing and energizing event of Pentecost (see, Acts 2:1-41), the disciples and the new believers gathered daily for fellowship, the apostles' Bible teaching, eating meals together, and praying in the courts of the temple (Acts 2:42-46). (Faithful Jewish people prayed three times a day: (1) in the morning, (2) in the afternoon, and (3) in the evening.) The unity of the Christians believers, and the power that the people saw in the miracles that the apostles did, led many people each day to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior (Acts 2:43 & 47).
The Jewish religious leaders watched with concern as this growing movement of over 5,000 Hebrew Christian believers (see, Acts 4:4) challenged their authority. After Peter and John healed a crippled beggar at the “gate of the temple which is called Beautiful,” the Sanhedrin saw their chance to use their authority over the apostles and arrested them.
The Temple officials rushed to investigate the crowds that gather after the cripple was healed in Acts 3 and detained Simon Peter and the Apostle John for questioning (See, Acts 4:1-4). When the Sanhedrin met to investigate, Peter boldly asserted that a miracle had been performed in the name and power of Jesus Christ, “whom you crucified” (See, Acts 4:8-12).
Simon Peter’s courageous speech stunned the Jewish leaders. Yet all knew that Peter and John had performed an “outstanding miracle.” The best thing seemed to be to frighten these “ordinary men” and “stop this thing from spreading any further.” But Peter and John are unimpressed.
When released, Peter and John gathered the new church together for a prayer meeting (which is a good model for a prayer meeting for us today). Their prayers were filled with praise and expressions of confidence in God, which led to a request which, when fulfilled, truly glorified God (See, Acts 4:23-30). In Acts 4:31 that prayer was answered, and the church, united in faith and love, continued to witness powerfully to God’s grace.
INTRODUCTION: Prayer is one of the most important spiritual exercises for a believer. Jesus, the Son of God and Lord of all things, spent whole nights in prayer while He lived on earth.
In those night-long encounters, Jesus communed with His Father. His prayers were not just petitions to get something. Too often we think of prayer as a way to get God to do things for us or for others, but the highest purpose of prayer is to deepen our relationship with Him.
Prayer does involve petition and intercession, but it also includes communion. In petition God does something FOR us, in intercession He does something THROUGH us, and in communion He does something IN us.
When we pray, how much of our time is spent communing with the Lord? Our prayers will become less self-centered and more God-centered as we draw closer to Him, seek His glory, and subordinate our petitions to His will. Communion is the line that connects our soul with the battery of God’s power. When this line is down, our petitions are but idle chatter. God’s power must flow into our lives as we bow before Him and recognize Him as Lord of all. Communion with God is a great privilege and the most important element of prayer. – “How to Pray,” M.R. DeHaan, Our Daily Bread, April 2, 1997
I. A PRAYER FOR BOLDNESS. (Acts 4:23-30)
A. They praised and prayed to the God of Israel. (Acts 4:23–24)
· (Acts 4:23–24) And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.
1. Peter and John have been released and have returned to the church, and they give their report.
Here we have recorded a great meeting of the early church. I do not believe the spiritual condition of the church has ever again been on such a high level. We find the key to this in their prayer. It is more than a prayer; it is a song of praise.
2. They prayer, “Lord, Thou art God. Lord, You are the Creator.”
Friend, I am afraid the church is not sure of that today. The Lord is God. Are you sure that the Lord Jesus is God? Are you? That is most important.
3. The church today has lost its power.
The church is not sure today. The church is fumbling; it has lost its power. The church is always talking of methods, always trying this gimmick and that gimmick to attract people. The church in suburbia and the church in downtown are little more than religious clubs. The church is not a powerhouse anymore.
The early church was sure that Jesus Christ is God; they refer to the second psalm: They had great boldness and great power. Let’s do what the early church did; let’s make them our model.
B. They remembered teachings in the Word of God. (Acts 4:25–26)
· (Acts 4:25–26) Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
The beginning of the fulfillment of Psalm 2 was when they crucified Jesus Christ. The hatred of Jesus and of God has been snowballing down through the centuries for nineteen hundred years. It is gathering size and momentum. It will finally break into a mighty crescendo upon this earth in the final rebellion of man against God.
C. They asked for boldness to speak about Jesus. (Acts 4:27–29)
· (Acts 4:27–29) For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.
I am moved by this. This was a great prayer and praise service. They all were in one accord. Probably they did not all pray at one time, but they were certainly “amen”ing the one who led in prayer. Notice that they did not pray for the persecution to cease. They prayed for the courage to endure it! They asked for power and for boldness to speak. That early church was something different, friend, from the church of 2015.
D. They wanted the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit of God. (Acts 4:30)
· (Acts 4:30) By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
Finally, notice that they wanted to glorify God’s Holy Child (Servant) Jesus Christ (See. Acts 4:27 & 30). It was Jesus’ name that gave them power to perform miracles and to minister the Word, and Jesus’ name alone deserved the glory. The highest purpose of answered prayer is the glory of God, not the needs of men!
Today, as in the days of the apostles, we can have God’s power in our personal lives and in our churches. (1) We can pray. (2) We can read, teach, and preach God’s Word. (3) We can go to others and show them what the Bible says, show them how it has changed our lives, and ask them to accept Christ as their Savior. (4) The Holy Spirit of God can save them and change them just as He did it in the book of Acts. (5) Let’s DO IT TODAY!
Illustration: Prayer is important in missions. David Howard was a missionary in Columbia while his brother Phil served among Slavey Indians in Canada. Columbia flourished while Phil went 14 years without a convert.
The Indians in Columbia prayed for Phil and his work, and that night he felt a release from discouragement. Shortly after, Slavey Indians began accepting Christ as their Savior. -- Paul Borthwick, Discipleship Journal, #48 -- Around the World on Your Knees, 12/19/1988
II. AN ANSWER FROM GOD. (Acts 4:31)
Note: Elijah would have appreciated a story about George Muller -- that saint of a man who supported his orphanage exclusively on prayer. Muller never directly asked anyone for a contribution. He simply prayed to God about his circumstances. Someone observed, "It looks like a hand-to-mouth proposition." "Yes, it is," Muller responded, "but it is God's hand and my mouth."
· (Acts 4:31) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Note: When the Christian believers were gathered together (“were assembled”) “and when they had prayed” (i.e., “when they had finished the preceding prayer,” see: Acts 4:23-30) “the place was shaken.” The shaking may have been by a mighty wind as in Acts:2:2.
The Greek word used for “shaken” is properly used of ships or of the sea agitated and tossed by the wind (as in Matthew 11:7, "A reed shaken by the wind.") But it is also applied to the rocking caused by an earthquake (see, Acts 16:26) which maybe the kind of shaking here meant. In this fresh outpouring or the Holy Spirit, whereby they were enabled to “[speak] the word of God with boldness,” they had a direct and immediate answer to their prayers.
The Lord’s answer was to shake the place where they were meeting and to fill the people once again with the Spirit of God. This gave them the boldness that they needed to continue to serve God in spite of official opposition.
This was NOT a “second Pentecost” because there cannot be another Pentecost any more than there can be another Calvary. It was a new FILLING of the Holy Spirit to equip the believers to serve the Jesus Christ and minister to the needs of people. It was the condition of the early church which made this possible.
Illustration: Evangelist Louis Arnold quoted Paul Harvey about a 73-year-old man who was rescued by friends, just in the nick of time, after being pinned beneath his tractor longer than Jonah was in the belly of the great fish. Although his ordeal took place during a driving rain in a terrible storm, the four days and nights cost him only the amputation of one leg below the knee. It could have cost him his life - and would have, too, had not his friends come looking.
Why did they go to his farm to check? He missed prayer meeting! Not showing up for the least attended service on the church calendar caused those who knew him to realize something must be drastically wrong. His faithfulness to the Lord and His work saved his life.
If you missed prayer meeting, would any come looking for you, fearful that something terrible had happened? -- Dr. Robert Sumner, Biblical Evangelist, 1/12/1989
CONCLUSION: Acts 4:24-30 presents an incredible prayer. The Christian believers' very lives were in jeopardy, yet they prayed to the Lord and asked for a bold witness that would put them in even more danger. Why? Because they were earnest about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to others and being witnesses for the Lord. That type of prayer is still appropriate if we are to be the kind of witnesses for Jesus that the Lord wants us to be.
The great Methodist founder and preacher John Wesley (1703-1791) tells of the time that he was putting on his preaching robe to speak at All-Hallows Church in London.
He said to Mr. Thomas Letts of that congregation, “It is 50 years, sir, since I first preached in this church. I remember it from a peculiar circumstance that occurred at that time. I came without a sermon, and going up the pulpit under much mental confusion and agitation, I met a woman who had noticed that I was deeply agitated; she inquired, ‘Pray, sir, what is the matter with you?’ I replied ‘I have not brought a sermon with me.’ Putting her hand upon my shoulder she said, ‘Is that all? Surely, you can trust God for a Sermon?’”
Wesley went on to explain that the woman’s encouragement to have faith in God was the motivation he needed for extemporaneous preaching -- both that day and the decades to follow. He said from that day he had experienced such a freedom that “I have not since taken a written sermon into the pulpit. – Unknown Author
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: “Pray as though everything depended on God; work as though everything depended on you.” -- Augustine
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REFERENCES: References used in the Bible study are the King James Bible (KJV), Dr. J. Vernon McGee © Thru the Bible Radio Network ( www.ttb.org ), the Scofield Study Bible, the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge Bible Outlines, Dr. Lee Roberson’s Sermons, Dr. Charles Stanley: ( http://www.intouch.org/ ), Don Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Women’s Study Bible, The Bible Reader’s Companion Ed. 3, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version, KJV Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament ed. 4, Dr. David Jeremiah: ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/ ), Dr. Cliff Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the Old Testament, With the Word Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s “Be” Series: Old & New Testaments, RBC Ministries ( http://rbc.org/ ), selected illustrations, and other references.
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