PRAYING ALWAYS WITH ALL PRAYER
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Acts 4:23-37)
There is only one real problem in the Church of God these days, and that is the prayer life of the Church. We could enumerate many other problems that face God’s people – for example, getting the outsider to attend our services; securing real spiritual results from our ministry; finding the right leaders for activities in our churches. There is the problem of finance, or the problem created by the lack of love and unity that can prevail. But these are all secondary and almost superficial; they only touch the circumference of the situation. The real problem is the prayer life of the Church, and if that is solved every other problem at once finds solution. All our difficulties would melt away if that prayer life were to become vital, powerful and, in a word, revived, for prayer is the very life of the Church. It is the life of the church’s individual members, of the church’s worship, and of the church’s varied activities.
In Acts 4:23-35 seven marks of a praying church are clearly indicated:-
1. In a praying church there is a recognition of the supreme importance of prayer, and therefore there is a spontaneous desire.
After Peter and John had been imprisoned and released they joined the Christians in Jerusalem and reported on all that had happened (verse 23). When the Christians heard Peter’s and John’s report did they hold a conference? No, they prayed (verse 24), recognising that prayer was fundamental, not supplemental, and they all felt the same way about it. Do we recognise the supreme importance of prayer, and have we a spontaneous desire to unite in prayer? Little wonder that the unbeliever does not believe in a living God who answers prayer, when many of us have so little real appreciation of its importance and so little desire for it!
2. In a praying church the eyes of faith and expectancy are towards the Lord (verse 24).
They turned their eyes away from man and from their problems, to the Lord who could solve every problem, and who is in control of every situation. They were in line with the Psalmist’s attitude (Psalm 62:5). After all, whatever problem faces us it is God who matters, not the meetings, the preacher, man or money. These are all, and always, secondary. The eyes of a praying church are upon God who is:-
- 1. The sovereign Lord (verses 24,28). God is the all-powerful creator and sustainer, the One who knows the end from the beginning and who has His great plan of campaign which no-one can hinder.
- 2. The self-revealing Lord. Verse 25 tells us that God has spoken, and verses 26-27 tell us that He has spoken not only through the prophets and in His word, but primarily in His Son (Hebrews 1:1).
- 3. The seeing Lord (verse 29). God sees all, and waits to intervene and accomplish His will in answer to the prayers of His people.
3. In a praying church there is an overwhelming desire to obey the Lord’s commission to evangelise the world.
See how they prayed (verse 29)! They didn’t pray, ‘Grant that we may be kept safe’ – ‘Grant that Peter and John may be protected’ – ‘Lord, don’t let it happen again!’ – but they prayed, ‘Lord, help us to get on with the job of proclaiming the gospel!’ In a praying church this will be the overwhelming desire of the members. Does this mark characterise your church? Is there a constant effort being made, not to organise, but to evangelise? – to get souls born again into the family of God?
4. In a praying church there is faith to demand miracles.
Where prayer is exercised God breaks in with His supernatural acts, His ‘signs and wonders’ (verse 30). These Christians prayed that God would stretch out His hand to heal and that He would perform miracles. But some Christians today think the days of miracles are past! Are they? Some say that the Apostolic signs are no longer required and since the canon of Scripture is closed we must not expect to see miracles performed. You may think there is truth in all this, but often when we say these things we are justifying and excusing our prayerlessness. The fact is that when the Church prays miracles really do take place. Miracles are wrought in the spiritual realm; souls are saved, and even desperate people are converted. In the physical realm also God is pleased to heal the bodies and minds of His children.
5. In a praying church the Holy Spirit manifests His presence and power (verse 31).
Prayer is the secret of every Pentecostal outpouring; but notice, we are not considering what happened on the Day of Pentecost: this happened after Pentecost – and it can happen again, and again, and again! There will never be another Pentecost dispensationally – but there can be experimentally! Prayer is the secret.
6. In a praying church there is mighty power in the preaching of the gospel.
See what happened after they had prayed (verses 31,33). It happened when Spurgeon preached: people were struck down by the power of the Word and multitudes were saved – but behind Spurgeon’s preaching was the vital intercession of his praying church, and in every case where great things have been accomplished through the preaching of the gospel it has always and only been in answer to the prayers of God’s people. Conviction and conversions follow the preaching that is backed by a praying church.
7. In a praying church there is great grace in the lives of God’s people.
Verse 33 says, “Much grace was upon them all”; the word ‘grace’ is the operative word here. It means ‘Christ-likeness’, and was seen in four ways:-
- 1. There was the grace of unity (verse 32).
- 2. There was the grace of renunciation (verse 32).
- 3. There was the grace of fellowship (verse 32).
- 4. There was the grace of liberality (verses 34-35).
Will you do your part, God helping you, to make your church a praying church?