Becoming Agents of Holiness- Pt 2 (9/25/16)

Posted by on Nov 6, 2016 in Sermons | 0 comments

“The Power of Intercessory Prayer”

Pastor Jim is preaching a sermon series on Prayer, entitled “Becoming Objects of Holiness.”  Last week, he introduced the series by challenging us with the importance of prayer, and highlighting the importance of praying together (“Corporate Prayer”).

In this week’s sermon, he reminded us of the power that comes when we pray for others (“Intercessory Prayer”).  Peter was in jail, about to be executed, and his friends were together praying for him.  But, God answered their prayers (in the way they wanted): Peter was freed! His life was spared, but when he knocked at the door, their unbelieving minds just assumed that the knocks were coming from Peter’s ghost and not from the real live one.

The following recording is from the 9:30 service.  Click on the play button, then scroll down to follow along…

 

Our scripture reading was from Acts 12:1-16   Open the below drop down box to follow along.  The New Living Translation is shown below…

Acts 12:1-16

1  About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church.

2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword.

3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.)

4 Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover.

5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.

6 The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate.

7 Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists.

8 Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.

9 So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening.

10 They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.

11 Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”

12 When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.

13 He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it.

14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”

15 “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”

16 Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.

17 He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

There is something powerful about prayer; it’s not magic or a rabbits foot, but God does things when we pray.

 

Johnny, a very bright 5 year old, told his daddy he’d like to have a baby brother and, along with his request, offered to do whatever he could to help. His dad, a very bright 35 year old, paused for a moment and then replied, ” I’ll tell you what, Johnny, if you pray every day for two months for a baby brother, I guarantee that God will give you one!”

Johnny responded eagerly to his dad’s challenge and went to his bedroom early that night to start praying for a baby brother.  He prayed every night for a whole month, but after that time, he began to get skeptical. He checked around the neighborhood and found out that what he thought was going to happen, had never occurred in the history of the neighborhood. You just don’t pray for two months and then, whammo- a new baby brother. So, Johnny quit praying.

After another month, Johnny’s mother went to the hospital. When she came back home, Johnny’s parents called him into the bedroom. He cautiously walked into the room, not expecting to find anything, and there was a little bundle lying right next to his mother. His dad pulled back the blanket and there was — not one baby brother, but two!! His mother had twins! Johnny’s dad looked down at him and said, “Now aren’t you glad you prayed?” Johnny hesitated a little and then looked up at his dad and said, “Yes, but aren’t you glad I quit when I did?”

 

Protest or Pray???

Scripture is constantly reminding God’s people to be a people of prayer. As we noted last week, to achieve the holiness God is calling us to, for the Church to have a lasting impact and to be able to make an eternal difference, then the people who signboard-2016-09-21-prayer-steering-wheel-_img_3756call themselves Christian must be praying people.

 

Today it seems as if we are quicker to raise some sort of protest than we are to pray.

It was the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said, “Prayer is the safest method of replying to a word of hatred.”
Pastor Greg Laurie has said, “Prayer should be second nature to a child of God.”
The first Methodist Bishop in the United States, Francis Asbury said, “I purposed in my own mind, to spend ten minutes out of every hour, when awake, in the duty of prayer.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer the WW II Christian martyr said, “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”

 

Pray When Persecuted…

The Christians were being persecuted severely by King Herod, and still to a lesser extent, the religious leadership (v1-3a).
James the brother of John had been martyred, and now the Apostle Peter was arrested and put in prison (v4-5a).

  • SO WHAT DID THE CHRISTIANS DO with this seemingly impossible situation?
  • WHAT DID THE people of God do with the injustice, the cruelty, the senseless acts of violence being waged against James, Peter, and others?

Acts 12:5 says, “Peter was kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the Church.
The Christians had a lot of things they could have done, but they prayed.

“They did not divide into factions or make an uproar but turned to prayer, that true alliance which is invincible.
In this they sought refuge.”

– John Chrysostom (4th century)

“Though every prison door was locked shut, one door remained open: the door to the presence of God. So they began to pray for Peter’s deliverance.”

-Greg Laurie, “On Fire”

Putting Yourself in God’s Place…

True intercession isn’t about walking in the other person’s shoes, trying to understand him.  It’s more about putting yourself in God’s place and allowing the Holy Spirit to give you God’s perspective.

“True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.”

– Oswald Chambers  (“My Utmost for His Highest, p354),

 

Soften the Face

Intercession: literally means, “to soften the face by stroking” as a child does to parent to change mind.

To oversimplify it, INTERCESSORY PRAYER is the act of praying for other people. The Lord instructed us to pray not only for our own personal needs but to reach out and pray for others as well.

 “This type of praying is a selfless act and is considered by some to be the highest form of prayer.”

– John C. Maxwell, Partners in Prayer, p66

What is intercessory prayer? The Greek noun, “enteuxus” is used and it simply means “a meeting with, a conversation or petition rendered on the behalf of others.”  “Intercessory prayer,” then, is seeking the presence and audience of God on behalf of another. When we pray for the needs of others that is called “intercession” or we are said to be “interceding” for them.

Jesus was the greatest “intercessor” of all time. Isaiah 53:12 records the following prophecy about Jesus: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus who is our High Priest, is still interceding on our behalf:
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf.
For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

Here are some points to notice about this morning’s scripture…

 

1:  Pray to God

That may not be as obvious as we might think. Sometimes I wonder if prayers are really honoring God as God. God is the most awesome, most amazing, most powerful, most holy being in all of creation. AND God invites us to speak with Him!

EVEN Jesus taught this in Matthew 6:9-13 when He instructed that when you pray begin this way; “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
They are awesome words. AS WE’VE seen, the early Church understood this marvelous working God and we are told that prayers were offered ‘without ceasing” (v5b).

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.

 

2:  Pray Without Ceasing (v5)

Verse 5 can also be translated, “they prayed with agony.” THEIR ENTIRE being was wrapped up in this praying for Peter. They prayed with a passion which ran deep. THIS WAS a prayer which wasn’t just an “Oh by the way God, please bless Peter wherever he is and whatever is happening to him.”

NO, they were anguishing, praying as specifically as hey could and letting their request be made known to God. THESE folks were going to pray until they got an answer.  It is conceivable from the text, that the Christians may have been in prayer for Peter for days or even weeks.

AM I WRONG IN WONDERING that in our fast-paced, busy, live by the sound-bite drive-thru lives, that Christians have forgotten how to have a season of long impassioned prayers on behalf of others?

Could it be that God desires to act wonderfully in a world that is filled with violence, hatred, racism, sexism, classism, and so much more BUT He is waiting for His people to pray like the Christians here in Acts 12?

Always put the unknown future into the hands of the known God. He has the key it will take to unlock your locked doors”

– Israelmore Ayivor

“We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get us involved in His plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.”

 – Corrie ten Boom

 

 

3:  Pray with Agreement

In other words, they were in one accord, full agreement on the prayer.
Five times in the first five chapters of Acts, the Bible tells us that the disciples were in “one accord.” Each time, it’s the Greek word “homothumadon,” a compound word that basically means “same passion, combined heat, shared glow.” There was among them a mutual experience of the same burning heart, the same heart passion. This agreement in purpose, desire, attitude and action marked the dynamic nature of their praying together.

How important was unity to Jesus? In the last moments with His disciples, He prayed earnestly for that oneness. Listen to His heart-cry to the Father, not just for those immediate disciples, but for you and me in John 17:20-23:

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

They were believing and acting on Jesus’ words from Matthew 18:19, “if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven.”  They prayed for Peter to be safe, they prayed for Peter’s release from prison. They were in agreement.

LET ME quickly add that this verse is so misunderstood. Suppose a church has a meeting and says, “Hey, let’s pray that God will give us the island of Maui. Then we will split the island up and some can have the north part, some can have the south, others can have the east, and the rest can have the west!

WILL GOD GIVE THEM THAT REQUEST? Of course not. Jesus’ promise doesn’t mean we ask for anything we want as if we’ve won the grand prize on Wheel of Fortune. God is not bound to whatever we want. RATHER if two or more people have the same burden as God and are in His will and in agreement with the Holy Spirit, then God will grant that request.

DOES GOD want peace in our country? Then we must be in agreement and pray.  Does God want His churches to grow, does God want the lost to hear the Gospel message and be saved? THEN as we agree together and pray earnestly, God will answer.

 

 

4: Pray when You Doubt! (v12-16)

Once Peter was released the people still didn’t believe it. BUT they kept praying.  They didn’t believe the account that Peter had been released yet notice that they did not stop praying.

 

 

Conclusion

  • A flight from Charlotte arrived early… and had to abort its landing.
  • Meanwhile… it “just happened”… that someone got the feeling they needed to pray for someone on that flight.  Even though they gathered in advance of the scheduled landing, they were praying the exact moment when the plane was trying to land.

 


 

 

+     +     +     +     +     +     +

Click this button to view other sermons:                                                  Sermon Archive

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *