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.

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