Prayer

Devoted! (Acts 2:42-47)

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With the World Cup Soccer 2018 reaching fever pitch level on the excitement scale for many around the world, when I read this passage and read the word ‘devoted’, I am reminded of all those soccer fans colourfully arrayed in their teams colours.  Faces painted, hats on, scarves, socks, shirts, tattoos even themed underwear!!!

In moments like this words like devotion, passion are on display in technicolour.  In our passage today, Luke uses the Greek word that is translated into English as ‘devoted’.  The underlying word means to be earnest towards something, to persevere in something, to be constantly diligent in something, or to continue to adhere closely to something (like with teaching or instruction).

The converts from Peter’s first Gospel message joined the 120 disciples and together they formed the first church on the planet.  A church, a new community of faith that had previously not existed, people that did not know each other or even have much in common instantly became a family that together devoted themselves to some things.

  1. The apostle’s teaching (which is the Scriptures now for us)
  2. Fellowship/Community/Partnership
  3. Breaking Bread (Communion)
  4. Corporate Prayer

Now, we know what a devoted Brazilian, English, French…. soccer fan looks like, they are hard to miss really.  So what would a church community that’s DEVOTED to these things look like?  And, who doesn’t want to be part of a church like that?

Which reminds me of something Nicky Gumbel said; 

“Stop looking for a perfect church.  It does not exist.  Join an imperfect church and serve in everyday you can to make it nearer to perfection”.  

This church we have in Acts 2 is radically wonderful!  But don’t go looking for one, rather make the church you’re in like one, because you’re there and because you get it…

These brand new believers kept on meeting (vs44) with one another in the big meetings, all together in the temple and then also meeting in homes (small groups) (vs46), they ate meals together (vs46), they had their view of personal finance transformed by their faith.  

So much so, that these devoted Christ followers ensured that no one amongst the family of faith had any need because they provided for another through sacrificial giving to the church by liquidating assets and investments to provide in abundance (vs45) for God’s church.

This was a worshipping (vs47), glad, supernatural (vs43) community who were also in awe and reverence of God (vs43).  A church where reverence, wonder and amazement is dead will also have worship that is dead.  That’s because wonder, reverence and ‘strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship’. – John Piper

So, let’s believe God for churches like this saturating our cities and towns just like this church started to impact Jerusalem with its devotion as the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (vs47).

Pray: 

  • Pray that you would be freshly filled with the Holy Spirit like these believers were.
  • Pray that you would be full of awe, wonder, thanks and praise
  • And pray that you would be devoted to Scripture, Fellowship, Communion & Corporate Prayer like they were
  • Pray that your whole life would be transformed by the Gospel including your finances, your view of your time, resources, relationships…
  • Pray asking God to ‘do it again’, to cause churches like this one in Acts 2 to fill your city!

Act:

  • Don’t look for a church like this one, make one!  
  • Live the change you desire!
  • Be devoted!
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Be Inspired (2 Kings 18-21)

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What do you want said at your funeral or written as an epitaph in your memory?  How about; “there was none like him among all…!” 

Hezekiah stands out in stark contrast to the many who went before and those who came after him the rest of verse 5 tells us.  And what was the secret to this glowing description of Hezekiah’s life and reign as king of Judah?

5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…. he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. (2 Kings 18:5a,6-7)

Hezekiah believed God, and held on to his belief in God unswervingly.  He did not get into compromise and sin but kept God’s commandments and in response to his faith and obedience God was with him always and caused him to prosper.

Don’t for a moment think that Hezekiah had an easy time following God.  Hezekiah didn’t follow God or lead Judah in a time of ease or peace and security but rather did so in the presence of terrifying threats from the Assyrians!  The Assyrians had recently overthrown the northern tribes of Israel and had also overtaken all the towns around Jerusalem which was surrounded.

And yet Hezekiah trusted God, held fast to his God in the midst of great trials.  Hezekiah’s trust in God is expressed wonderfully in his prayer recorded in 2 Kings 19:15-19;

15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 

What a prayer of faith!  A prayer that’s real about the circumstances and yet more impressed with His God.  And what a response from God through the prophet Isaiah;

“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”  (2 Kings 20:32-34)

What an inspiration Hezekiah is!  Don’t you want to be like him?  How can you be?

5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…. he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. (2 Kings 18:5a,6)

Let’s be like Hezekiah, let’s trust God, let’s hold fast to God when life is messy and confusing, let’s not depart from following God and keeping his commandments.  And then let’s see all that God will do in and through us.

Magnificent God (2 Kings 4)

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Elisha is the one true God’s representative. In a nation divided and filled with the worship of false gods, the call on Elisha is not just to bring messages for God but to reveal who God is through his everyday life, actions and interactions.

In this chapter we see God revealed in numerous ways through a collection of short stories which all put on display God’s nature as the one who sees, a personal God, involved in the intricate details of people’s lives, who is not indifferent to the cries and the pain that individual people endure. These stories reveal God as the one who is able to miraculously suspend or overturn the normal with His supernatural inbreakings of power at any time on people’s behalf.

Short story 1: Debt (2 Kings 4:1-7)
A poor widow in crisis is struggling with mounting debts and the ongoing challenge of providing for her two children as a single woman has the debt collectors at her door threatening to take away her children as slaves as payment for her debt! Crisis. She asks God by asking Elisha and God provides miraculously an abundance of olive oil which she sells and pays off all her debt and as able to live off the rest. God is the miracle working, prayer answering, need-seeing God who intervenes in remarkable ways for poor or rich people.

Short story 2: Deep Longings & Despair (2 Kings 4:8-39)
A wealthy woman is hospitable and honouring of God’s servant, she was rich but used her wealth to bless Elisha & Gehazi not to gain anything (vs13-14). Elisha discerns the true longing in her heart, one she is not even willing to express for fear of her longing being dashed again, and so promises her a child. She is so shocked she can’t receive this good news (vs16) but she does conceive and a son is given to her. Many years later the child falls suddenly ill and dies will in the fields with his father. She rushes straight to Elisha in deep despair, she would have rather not had a son than have one and then loose one like this! Elisha goes with her, and raises the son from the dead and gives him back to her alive. God knows the deepest longings in our hearts, even the ones we dare not speak of for fear of being hurt or disappointed again or opening up the wound… God is able to bring back to life people, marriages, finances – God is good and is so whether you are rich or poor.

Short story 3: Deadly Stew & Multiplication (2 Kings 4:38-44)
There is a famine in the land, Elisha is hosting around 100 of the prophets. He wants to cook for them, but Gehazi is a bad cook or one of the prophets is injudicious in his produce selection and the stew being cooked is bad, so bad it is like death warmed up. They complain. Elisha miraculously cures the pot with a little flour and the food becomes edible to them all. While they are all there, a man brings to Elisha some of his first fruits offering to supply food for Elisha. Elisha tells Gehazi to set it before the men to eat (but there is not enough – vs43). Elisha tells him to proceed and they all ate and yet there was excess and they had food to spare. God is hospitable, able to throw feasts of abundance in the midst of a famine, able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

Our God heals, answers long-lost longings, provides financially and materially. This all makes me think of the song we sung on Sunday;

You’re my author, my maker
My ransom, my Saviour
My refuge, my hiding place
You’re my helper, my healer
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
You’re my hope, in the shadows
My strength, in the battle
My anchor, for all my days
And You stand, by my side
And You stood, in my place
Jesus, no other name
No, only Jesus, no other name…

So, cry out to him now!  Tell your Father in Heaven your deepest longings, know that He is good and when you can’t join all the dots of your confusing life, He can and He does and so having asked Him trust Him.

Pray & keep praying… (Colossians 4:2-5)

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Consider this for a moment.  Apart from a mother in the throws of child-birth or the patient receiving some excruciatingly painful physiotherapy – people do not normally need to be encouraged to keep breathing.  

That’s because Breathing is essential to life.  Any kid who has tried to hold out on their parents request or instruction by holding their breath – goes red fairly promptly and then gasps again for as they resume breathing again.  We breathe continually because it is essential for physical life.

And yet our connection with God our Father in prayer, or with the Holy Spirit for His enabling power in some situation is really as essential as breathing.  So;

  • We pray because we know we can call out to our Father & because we know He loves to answer (see Psalm 18)
  • We pray because we know that we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who is ever-present & ready to respond.  
  • We pray because we know Jesus ever lives to pray with us and on our behalf, making intercession to the Father for us
  • We pray because we know that we don’t have the resources, wisdom or capacity we need in any given scenario and we know that God does
  • We pray because, when we pray, we are humbled & helped and God is exalted as the all-sufficient, loving God.

“Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.”  W. S. Bowd

Colossians 4:2-5 urges us strongly to be consistently diligent in prayer.  We are urged to saturate our prayers with thankfulness, to be watchful in prayer, to be alert and to keep awake, to be vigilant in our prayers and vigilant enough to pray.  So, be vigilant (to pray) remembering that you have an enemy who wants to stop you from praying wants to disconnect you from God.  Be also vigilant in your prayers, be consistent, don’t be caught off your guard having been prayer less, and lastly be alert regarding HOW you pray or even WHAT you pray for.

I urge you to take this opportunity to reflect on your life rhythms and patterns and ask yourself whether your prayer life can be described in this sort of way.  If so, then the encouragement of Scripture is to keep being consistent in this diligence.  And if not, then I urge you to make some changes in order to make constant communication with God your life-pattern.

Consider: what does ‘being watchful’ in prayer mean?

Lastly, note how prayer unlocks mission!  Prayer unlocks Gospel advance and kingdom breakthrough.  That is where this appeal from the apostle Paul comes from.  Make it a life-habit to not only pray about personal needs or those of close loved ones, but pray in ways that release mission and cause Gospel and Kingdom advance.  Your prayers unlock situations for churches and ministries, open doors and release things.  So pray, and keep being diligent in prayer.

In Reconciliation Road Church we have the following prayer meetings you could commit yourself to (apart from your own personal prayers times):

  • Men’s Prayer Meeting (Tues 5:45am-6:30am)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 10am-11am)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 5:30pm-6:30pm)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 8:20am-8:40am)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 4:45pm-17h10pm)

Join us!

How to pray for someone else… (Colossians 1:9-14)

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Paul’s letter reveals a wonderful outline of how you can pray for someone else;

  1. Pray for God to fill the person you’re praying for with the knowledge of God’s will for their life in this moment they are in (vs9)
  2. Pray that they would have not their own wisdom or the wisdom of the world but rather Holy Spirit inspired wisdom and understanding in their life circumstance (vs9)
  3. Pray the above SO THAT the one you’re praying for can walk in a way that honours God (vs10)
  4. SO THAT they may please God in every way by bearing fruit in all they do and (vs10)
  5. And SO THAT they may grow in their personal knowledge of God (vs10)
  6. Pray that they may be strengthened with God’s power in the midst of their current situation not that they just be ejected out of it, pray this SO THAT they may have great endurance & joy in the midst of their circumstances (vs11)
  7. Pray all of this SO THAT they may give thanks to God who qualified them to share in the inheritance He has for us, and give thanks to God who rescued us who believe from satan’s kingdom, and brought us into the Kingdom of Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who purchased our forgiveness…(vs12-13). Amen.

Who can you pray for right now using this passage as your prayer outline?

Let me tell you… (Psalm 34)

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This Psalm is just absolutely jam-packed with gems about God and how God interacts with us his people.  It is a psalm full of personal and experiential knowledge of God’s nature and character.

It’s almost like David is explaining in the rest of the Psalm why he says in verse 1; “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

David wants you and I to join him in magnifying the LORD with him, wants us to join in and exalt God’s name (God’s character and attributes) together.

My God answers prayer! (vs4-6,15,17)

David can testify that he called out for God, he enquired after God in threatening life situation after threatening life situation (David was a fugitive fearing for his life for 15yrs!) and he can testify that God answered when he called.  More than that God delivered him from all the threats that put fear into his heart.  ‘This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles’ (vs6)!  And because of this testimony David can declare that the face of those who look to God for their help – their faces are radiant (vs5).

What are you facing today?  Call out to your God who answers, who delivers, who saves.  Put your trust in the trustworthy ONE, so that your face may radiate on the day that God delivers you.

Angelic Help (vs7)

Angels are ministering spirits sent out by God to serve and protect God’s children (Hebrews 1:14).  David can testify to angelic protection, a heavenly body-guard for those who fear God.  This reminds me of the moment in Israel’s history when Elisha’s servant feared because of the formidable Syrian army amassed around the city and the servant was afraid and Elisha prayed that God would show him the mighty heavenly host that was arrayed around them to protect them and declared to his servant; “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us (angels) are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:15-17).

Know this.  God the Holy Spirit is with you (Hebrews 13:5) and God has sent an angelic body-guard to encamp around you!  So, do not fear.

Taste and See (vs8)

We learn in lots of ways, from what we read or hear from others, through modelling etc but experiential learning is one of the most powerful sources of learning.  David urges you and I to do as he has done – do ‘taste and see’ that God is a faithful deliverer.  This is an invitation an exhortation to find out for ourselves to experience that God is good!

Such knowledge of God hewn out of the experience of everyday life is unshakable and precious!  There are no short cuts but this is the exhortation of Scripture for you and I to discover for ourselves what David has discovered – God is good.

Recounting, Praise & Prayer (Psalm 9)

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(vs1) Whole hearted thanks, gratitude expressed is the bone and marrow of the Christian life!  David declares that he will give thanks to God with his whole heart.  Gratitude expressed is a heart matter and a head matter in that it requires a decision of the will to express what one is grateful for.

(vs2) Gratitude is founded on remembering, recounting what has happened, recounting what God has done for you and for His people.  Again, David declares that he will recount, he decides to remember and as he does, recounting leads to feeling grateful and expressing it to God in prayer and in songs of thanks!

(vs3-9) David recounts God’s interventions for His people.

(vs10)  When God is thanked, God is honoured, we get perspective and our faith for the future is fortified.  In this verse David declares that those who know God put their trust in Him (because He is worthy of trust) and those who have put their trust in Him can testify that God does not forsake those who trust in Him.

(vs11) So it’s appropriate to praise Him with singing, for He alone is King of kings, it’s appropriate to ‘tell among the peoples His deeds’.

(vs13-20) Emboldened by his recounting and his praise, reminded of God’s faithfulness to him and to Israel, David transitions into confidently asking God for some things which is totally appropriate since his thanksgiving has reminded Him that God is worth praying to and bring your requests to.

Reflection:

  • Decide to recount what God has done for you, for us as a church.  I challenge you to write down no less than 25 things right now that you can thank and praise God for & then take some time to do just that.
  • (vs11) Why not decide to tell 1 person at least 1 of those 25 things you’ve just recounted in a way that honours God today, encourages you and them
  • Having recounted and thanked God, confidently bring your requests to your Father in Heaven.