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9th August 2015
We read in Acts 12 about the ferocity of the persecution of the early church. We join the story just after Herod has killed James and imprisoned Peter. In the middle of the night, Peter is released by an angel and goes to where many of the church are gathered, praying earnestly through the night.
Prayer wasn't something the early church just did in a crisis. They'd learnt to pray from Jesus and it was part of their everyday lives. In Acts 2 we read that they were devoting themselves to prayer; in Acts 4 the place in which they were gathered was shaken when they prayed; in Acts 10 Peter was given a vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles when he was praying.
The first disciples prayed. It was a fundamental part of their lives. Wayne Grudem defines prayer as "personal communication with God". We get to speak to our Father in heaven and hear from Him and experience Him. We know that good communication is key to all of our relationships – it's how they deepen and grow. It's the same in our relationship with God.
It's in our personal conversations with God that our faith grows; that's where we're strengthened and become increasingly courageous. We can so easily, in our society, be self-reliant, but actually we are called to be those who are totally dependent on God for the strength and wisdom that we need.
Prayer is so important to us for a number of reasons:
1. It enables us to get a right vision of God – when we spend time with Him, we learn more about His character, His holiness, His majesty, His grace, etc., etc. Prayer reminds us of who God is and so enables us to have a right perspective of Him.
2. It emphasises our dependency on God – we're often slow to pray, thinking that we can sort things out ourselves or not wanting to bother God, but prayer shouldn't be something we do as a last resort, when we've exhausted all of our own resources. It should be our starting place.
3. Prayer brings supernatural intervention – when we pray we are coming to our heavenly Father who can intervene with signs, wonders and miracles. Prayer takes us from spectating to participating, as we call down God's supernatural power into our communities and situations.
4. It deepens our own relationship with God – as we walk with Him, hearing His voice and responding, we grow closer to Him. It's also when we pray that God highlights areas of our lives where we need to repent and receive His forgiveness. It's really important to cultivate a habit of praying. When we build prayer into our routine, it becomes a joy, as well as a strength in our times of need.
"I have come to know God a whole lot better since I slowed down to pray. I have been astonished by His approachability, endeared by His care, stilled by His presence, encouraged by His affirmation and challenged by His insatiable desire to make the truth known." (Bill Hybels)
5. Prayer builds us together as a church – in Matthew 18 we read that Jesus said that when two or three of us are gathered and agree in prayer, God will answer. It's good to pray together: when we do, we're encouraged and inspired and are built together.
6. Answered prayer strengthens our faith – our faith is founded on the knowledge and understanding that God is good. He listens to our prayers, prompting and directing us about how to pray, and then answering us.
7. Don't let disappointments put you off – we trust God through the painful times, through the times we don't understand. In Acts 12 we read that James had just been killed; no doubt the disciples had been praying for Him, yet He died. This didn't deter them from praying for Peter when he was in prison. Sometimes God doesn't answer us in the way we want Him to. We don't always understand why or why not; we can't always explain it, but we keep trusting God because we know He is good.
Why don't you resolve, over the coming days and weeks, to go deeper in your personal relationship with God by setting aside time to pray each day?
In September we have a week of prayer and our 7am Sunday morning prayer meetings start up again. Why don't you come along and pray with us?
Posted by Steve Young