I want you to try something. Have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. EXCEPT…you can’t talk to them. Ok, go… Ok, we know that’s impossible. You we need to communicate with each other. How about this…Who in here thinks you can have a healthy relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend and never talk to them? Communication is necessary in relationships. What is our greatest, most important relationship? Our relationship with God. How is your communication with him?
Tonight we’re going to finish our “Devoted” series where we see three specific things the early church was devoted to and how we need to be devoted to them as well. We have seen they were devoted to God’s Word and fellowship. Tonight we’re going to see that we need to be devoted to prayer. And hopefully you’ll walk away with some practical tools to start communicating with God on a regular basis, and even constantly.
Prayer should be primary. From the very beginning of the church, prayer has been primary. It was the driving force behind everything they did. We don’t just see it in our passage for tonight, but it goes even earlier. As soon as Jesus ascends into heaven, what do the eleven disciples do? Well, after they are urged to go to Jerusalem and stop staring at the sky, they go and…pray.
Acts 1:14 – “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
Our first response should be to pray. Immediately after Jesus ascends into heaven, they go and pray. Immediately after Peter’s powerful sermon at Pentecost and 3,000 people coming to faith in Christ, they devote themselves to prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
What’s the first thing you do when you are in trouble? (MOM! HELP! You call out for someone.) What’s the first thing you do when something good happens to you because of someone else? (Thank you!) What do you do when you don’t know what to do? (MOM! You ask someone who can bring wisdom.)
It’s the same with prayer. Prayer should be our first response to everything. I think that’s part of how we can “pray without ceasing.” Need help? Pray. Happy? Pray. Confused? Pray. Thankful? Pray. Fearful or worried? Pray. Whatever the circumstance, our first response should be to pray.
Prayer isn’t just asking for things. It’s talking to God. To a God we can talk to, which is a miracle in itself. And a God who cares and who listens.
We’ll come back to this acronym later, but let’s see some more from Acts of why we should be devoted to prayer.
Prayer precedes powerful works. Throughout Acts, God uses prayer as his means to do miraculous works.
Hear what one person says about this:
Throughout the book of Acts, God uses prayer as a means to achieve His ends. In almost every case, prayer precedes powerful works. First, prayer precedes the filling of the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:3 is directly tied to the devoted prayer of the disciples in Acts 1:14. Luke intends his reader to make this connection. To make this even more clear, in Acts 8:15, Peter and John pray that the Samaritans would receive the Holy Spirit. Luke records, “Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17).
After the first recorded incident of persecution from the council of the high priest, Peter reports to his friends everything that has taken place. Together they pray to God, and “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Therefore, on three separate occasions, the Holy Spirit responds to the prayers of the early disciples.
God uses prayer to lead people to salvation. One of the most powerful prayers every prayed is found in Acts. Stephen, the first person killed for his faith in Jesus, prayed this prayer as he was being killed: “And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60). I think it’s one of the most powerful prayers because of who is there and how God answered it for that person. Saul, who we know as Paul, was there giving approval to the execution. And then Saul would encounter Jesus, be saved, and become the greatest missionary for Jesus.
One of our college students, Sophia led our Wildcats for Christ Bible study this past Monday morning, and she taught on Colossians 4:2-6. The first half of the passage, by the way it is Paul who is telling us this, tells us how our prayers affect our evangelism. They can even be an indirect form of evangelism. Hear what he says in Colossians 4:2-4:
“2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
That “continue steadfastly…” do you know what it literally means? “Devote yourself”…to prayer. And pray for gospel opportunities. That’s what Paul did, and that’s what the early church did.
C.S. Lewis said, “I have two lists of names in my prayers, those for whose conversions I pray and those for whose conversions I give thanks. The little trickle of transferences from List A to List B is a great comfort.”
I love the testimony of the greatest man of prayer in Christian history, George Muller. He said,
“In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God, and prayed for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six more passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer, in the self-same day or hour in which they were offered, has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these two individuals, and yet they remain unconverted; for next November it will be thirty-six years since I began to pray for their conversion. But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer.”
Now hear what the biographer reveals: “Of the two individuals still unconverted at the time of this sermon, one became a Christian before Muller’s death and the other a few years later.”
God answers prayers to provide and rescue. For example, in Acts, when Peter was in prison, Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” At the same time they are praying, an angel of the Lord helps Peter escape from prison. He makes his way to the house where they are still praying for him and he knocks but they don’t believe it’s actually him! (Acts 12:12-17)
Prayer should be a habit or discipline. Prayer isn’t just something we do when we need help. It should be a daily and consistent discipline for us.
Hear what one person says about this:
First, before healing the lame beggar in front of the gate of the temple, Luke says, “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1). Peter and John were intentional about making time for regular prayer. Likewise, when Luke and Paul were in Philippi, they went to “the place of prayer” (Acts 16:16). Again, the early Christians set aside regular time for prayer.
It is also noteworthy that the disciples were not limited to praying in the temple. On one occasion, Luke says, “Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray” (Acts 10:9). So, the disciples would commit time to pray no matter where they were in their travels.
Set aside a certain time when you are devoted to prayer. Mine is my shower time each morning. I start my day off in prayer. My wife’s is at night and she journals your prayers. Devote yourself to prayer by making it a habit and daily spiritual discipline.
We should trust God’s answers to our prayers. God doesn’t always answer our prayers how we want, but he does always answer our prayers. While God answered their prayers to rescue Peter from jail, at a later time the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem, James, had his head cut off. Surely they were praying for him as well.
We can and should trust that God works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28). Jesus modeled this kind of prayer perfectly in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went towards his death. He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 6:38).
God answers prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, or wait.
Prayer is essential. The importance of prayer for our life can’t be overstated. We looked at just a glimpse of how the early church devoted themselves to prayer, yet many Christians today live as if prayer is unnecessary. For the early church, prayer was essential. For us it is optional. It’s no wonder we don’t see the fruit as they did. It’s no wonder we don’t see and sense God at work in our lives and all around us. It’s time prayer becomes essential us. It’s time to devote ourselves to prayer.
Let’s start right now. Follow the ACTS acronym and spend some personal quiet time in prayer.
 Steer (p. 194).