Thursday, February 12, 2015

When God’s People Pray, God Speaks

Do you remember a time in your life when you prayed about a specific request and God spoke to your heart? Maybe it was God’s Spirit who spoke. Maybe it was a child of God. Or maybe God spoke through His Word.

Once my wife Shelley and I were wrestling with what seemed to be an open door in ministry; but we were struggling with what we were hearing and experiencing. I knew I needed to clarify God’s call so I spent a day in prayer, fasting, and reading God’s Word, seeking God for His clear direction. I prayerfully read through select portions of Scripture, asking God to speak as I read. As I was reading through 2 Corinthians, God spoke clearly through His Word. Paul was writing to the Corinthian believers and he told them that although a door was opened to him by the Lord, he had no rest in his spirit so he said good-bye and left (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). That was my answer and it was an incredible moment. God had spoken to my heart through His Word as I prayed.

In Acts 1, we enter one of the early church’s prayer meetings. During the prayer meeting, Peter addresses the need to find someone to take Judas’ place as an apostle (Acts 1:13-14, 21-26). They needed a leader, so the apostles and disciples prayed together. In their prayer they acknowledged that 1) the Lord is omniscient, He knows everything; and, 2) that the Lord is sovereign, He is in charge. Since God knew all things and since God was in charge, they asked Him to show them who He had chosen. Matthias was God’s chosen apostle to replace Judas.

In Acts 6, Luke records a time when a need arises in the church (Acts 6:1-7). In short, a problem arose because the Hellenistic Jews believed their widows were not getting their fair share of the food that the church provided for their care. So the Apostles called the church together and charged them with selecting “seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Luke doesn’t tell us whether or not the church prayed about this specific decision, but based on the account in chapter 1, and the church’s commitment to prayer in chapter 2, I’m inclined to believe the church prayed. Once the seven men were selected, Luke tells us that the apostles “prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6).

I love the Apostles’ commitment to prayer and preaching. While it was important to them for the widows to be cared for, they couldn’t be responsible for this ministry because it would take them away from their God-given calling. Therefore, the decision to select seven men for this work. As a result of the Apostles’ commitment to prayer and preaching, “the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). God blessed His church. And what God did then, He can do again.

There’s another time when the early church was in God’s presence (Acts 13:1-3). They were worshiping Him, fasting, and praying. And once again, God speaks. He tells His people to set apart Barnabas and Saul to the work He had called them to.

In the first century church God’s people prayed and God spoke. When they prayed about a replacement for Judas, God spoke. When they needed to appoint seven men to serve the church, God spoke. When it was time for the church’s first mission trip, God spoke. The early church was committed to prayer. And Luke is clear: both the church’s leaders and the church’s members prayed. They prayed together. They prayed together continually.

From the early church’s experiences we learn that when God’s people pray, God shows up, God shows out, and God speaks.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” God may not answer like we want Him to, but since He knows everything and since He’s in charge of everything, we can trust Him to do what’s best for our good and His glory.

Child of God, when God’s people pray He shows up, He shows out, and He speaks. Remember, what God did then He can do again! So let’s pray.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

When God’s People Pray, God Shows Out

What would you like to see God do in your life? Heal your marriage? Bring your children to salvation? Break a stronghold? Return a wayward child? What would you like to see God do in your local church?

Over and over again when the early believers wanted God to do something, they prayed. And when they prayed, God showed up. We see this clearly in Acts 2. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and amazing things began to happen. For example, the Galilean Jews spoke in the language of each visitor to Jerusalem that day. These Galilean Jews were considered to be uneducated, yet they spoke other languages. What happened that day in Jerusalem can only be described as an act of almighty God. You see, when God’s people pray He shows up and He shows out

In Acts 2, Peter preached the gospel and once again, God showed out! “When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?” “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them” (Acts 2:37-38, 41). God showed out when about 3,000 became believers in Jesus. In fact, God continued to show out by growing His church (Acts 2:47; 5:14; 11:24).

Following the massive baptism, Luke tells us that “many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles” (Acts 2:47). For example, Peter and John healed a lame man (Acts 3:1-8). Later on, Peter prayed and God showed out by raising Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:40). There were many occasions where God showed out by empowering the apostles to perform many wonders and signs.

In Acts 12, Peter was in prison. Luke tells us that “prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church. On the night before Peter was to be executed, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, “Quick, get up!” Then the chains fell off his wrists” (12:5-7). God’s people were praying and God showed out by releasing Peter from prison. Later on in Acts 16, Paul and Silas were in jail. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose” (16:25-26). Again, God’s people were praying and God showed out.

In the early church, time and time again, God’s people prayed and God showed up and showed out. In his book, The Church God Blesses, pastor Jim Cymbala writes, “every time people really pray, they are believing that God by His divine power can change what is into something better.” He goes on to write, “we can all accomplish more for God’s kingdom than we have ever dreamed if we learn the secret of asking the Lord to stretch out His hand and do what only He can do in our midst.”1

Believers in the early church really prayed. As a result, God showed up and showed out. He did what only He could do. What God did then, He can do again! He’s the One who can grow His church. He’s the One who can perform miracles in people’s lives. He’s the One who can set captives free. Do we want God to show out in our lives? If we do, then we must pray because what God did then, He can do again.


1Cymbala, Jim. The Church God Blesses (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), p. 8, 17.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When God’s People Pray, God Shows Up

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to have been a member of the very first church ever established; to have been a charter member of the church in Jerusalem?

In 1995, my wife Shelley and I had the blessing of helping to launch Harvest Community Church. After several months of prayer and planning, our core group started meeting in a home for Sunday services. As our core group grew, we began public worship services on Sunday, February 11, 1996. One thing stands out to me about this church plant. We were committed to prayer. Before we launched our services, we prayed; and once we launched, we prayed. God heard and answered our prayers time and time again. And the church grew. Today Harvest Community Church has a facility that sits on 26 acres of donated land and continues to reach people for Christ. Harvest Community Church was birthed in prayer and continues in prayer.

Pastor Ronnie Floyd writes, “There is no great movement of God that has ever occurred, that does not begin with the extraordinary prayer of God’s people.”1 This was certainly true of the first church in Jerusalem. It was a church birthed in prayer.

Following His death and resurrection, and just before His return to heaven, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. Once Jesus returned to heaven, the disciples returned to Jerusalem. Luke tells us that they “were continually united in prayer” (Acts 1:14). These early believers were steadfast and faithful in prayer together. They persisted and persevered in prayer together.

Luke tells us, “When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech” (Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit of God came. God showed up. When God’s people prayed, God showed up! The early church was birthed in prayer.

The early church also continued in prayer. Luke writes, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). In the life of the church, teaching is important. Fellowship is important. Sharing a meal is important. But prayer is vital because when God’s people pray God shows up.

The early believers were praying. They were praying together. They were praying together continually. Why is it important to know that the early church was birthed in prayer and continued in prayer? Because what God did then, He can do again! What God did then in the 1st century church, He can do again in the 21st century church. God’s people prayed and God showed up. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20). When we pray together God has promised to be with us. He has promised to show up.

Do we want God to show up or are we satisfied with mediocrity in our lives and in the life of our church?

In his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, author Thom Rainer conducted an autopsy of fourteen churches that had died. One reason these fourteen churches died was that the church rarely prayed together. Thom writes, “Most of the churches, almost to the day they shut the doors, had some type of prayer time. It may have been a part of the worship services. It may have been with some type of fellowship like a Wednesday evening meal.”2 When Thom probed further he, and the former church members he interviewed, concluded that the churches had not had meaningful times of prayer. Their prayer times were “more like a routine or ritual. It would hardly qualify as corporate prayer in the New Testament sense.”3

One former church member said, “There was a day when prayer was powerful in our church. People would pray before the worship services. Small groups spent a lot of time in prayer. We prayed intensely for our community.” The member shared a little more and then continued, “…we stopped praying with the passion we once had. That’s it. That was the beginning of the decline that led to our death. We stopped taking prayer seriously. And the church started dying.”4 According to this former church member, when the church stopped praying, the church started dying.

Are you praying with other believers? Is your church praying together? If we want God to show up, then we must pray. We must be like the believers in the early church. We must pray. We must pray together. We must pray together continually.

Child of God, let’s believe that when God’s people pray, He shows up. Let’s believe that what God did then, He can do again. Let’s anticipate God showing up when God’s people pray!

1 Floyd, Ronnie. SBC Life, “Pleading With Southern Baptists” (Winter 2014/2015), p. 10.
2 Rainer, Thom. Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2014), p. 64.
3 Ibid, 66.
4 Ibid, 68.