When was the last time you went to an old fashioned prayer meeting? You know the kind: the preacher takes prayer requests, and everyone divides into groups to pray over each request. These meetings aren’t as common today as they were when I was a child. I remember going to prayer meetings at Stepptown Baptist Church with Mawmaw and Grandaddy. They would write down a huge list of prayer requests and then the men and women would divide into separate rooms to pray. It seemed to me that we prayed for many hours. These were heartfelt prayers shared by people who loved one another and were committed to lifting each other up in prayer consistently.
I have often thought that my prayer life is lacking. I don’t have an organized list of prayers that I go through daily. I just pray for people as they come to mind. I don’t know if God cares all that much how we organize our prayer time, but I know that He cares very much whether or not we are praying. Prayer is about so much more than asking for sick people to get well or physical blessing to be given. It is our time to talk to God and listen to what He would speak to our hearts about the situations we face in life. I was reading in Acts a few days ago and came across a passage that I hadn’t given much thought before now. Acts 4: 23-32 says:
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against His Anointed.” for truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak Your Word with all boldness, while You stretch out Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the Word of God with boldness.
When I read this the other day I was astonished at the prayer of the believers. This prayer came right after they found out that Peter and John had been warned (after being in prison overnight) not to speak in the name of Jesus any more (Acts 4:21). They were in very real danger. These threats were made by the same religious leaders that had conspired to kill Jesus. When they were faced with persecution, they asked God to help them to speak the Word of God with boldness. They also asked that God would heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.
I see the Church in America facing some challenges to our freedom of speech. In the face of these challenges, we have been praying for the Lord to remove the challenge (nothing really wrong with that). I think our prayers show our failure to keep our focus on the kingdom of heaven. I believe that we can experience the same miracles that God did in the Early Church if we will pray as Jesus taught us. Matthew 6:9-13:
Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’
The early Church were praying for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done through their boldness in telling others the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness. I pray that we will have a concern for the lost all around us, that we will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and that we will share the Word of God boldly. Our world needs Jesus. Let’s not be so concerned with our comfort and safety that we fail to tell them about Him. Heavenly Father, please forgive me for being selfish in my prayers and taking my eyes off You and Your desire for us to take the message of the gospel to the lost all around us. We need boldness just like the early Church in order to share the message of salvation. Thank You for Jesus. Please fill us with the Holy Spirit and let us see Your healing and signs and wonders. Amen.