Welcome to Thursday’s podcast. I hope that you are having a good week. Our Bible passage today is Acts Chapter 12 v1-5, and our focus will be verse 5:
“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”
Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to attend a conference themed entirely around the topics of Worship, Prayer and Prophecy. The speakers included Pete Greig (who founded the 24/7 prayer movement), Dave Smith (the leader of Kingsgate Church in Peterborough), and Pastor Agu (senior pastor of the UK’s biggest and fastest growing Pentecostal church).
Having heard so much great teaching and testimony regarding prayer from these amazing leaders, it seems somewhat fraudulent to now be writing just a short 6 minute podcast on the topic. I should also point out that most of what I am about to share is based on their input, not my own inspiration.
The church in Acts prays earnestly in order that Peter might be released from prison and his life spared. Christians were facing violent attacks and persecution at the hands of King Herod, and this time of crisis leads them to pray earnestly.
Now, let’s be honest……for many of us, praying earnestly in times of crisis, is our default position. However, the default position for those first Christians in Acts was to pray earnestly at all times and in all circumstances.
What would it look like for us to develop a prayer life like this?
I was challenged by this at the conference, and here are 3 key points I have been reflecting on since then.
Firstly, we need to commit to pray.
The church in Acts was a church that had an impact. And yet on paper it had no chance, no hope, no resources, and faced difficulties the like of which we just cannot imagine.
However, one of the key things that made the early church so effective, so powerful and so impactful, was its commitment to prayer.
Pastor Agu stunned the conference to silence when he said that he and his wife pray together for 3 hours every day, but that he had to be honest and say that when times were really busy and stretched, it was sometimes only 2. That man is committed to prayer, and his church is having a huge impact and seeing great breakthroughs in people coming to faith.
On Tuesday we looked at the kingdom impact that God intended Peter to have. God intends for us to have a great impact for his kingdom too.
Does our commitment to prayer match God’s desire, or even our desire, for our faith to have an impact?
On Wednesday 6th November we have a Day of Prayer at STC. It starts at 7am, and then from 9am-5pm there is constant prayer in the church, followed by a Night of Prayer 8-10pm. How much of the day can you commit to be at?
Maybe your commitment is to wake up earlier and be there at 7am? Maybe your commitment is to stay for the entire night of prayer? Maybe your commitment is to re-arrange other plans, and come during the day?
However big or small, let’s all increase our commitment to prayer.
My second reflection has been that we need to learn how to pray.
Peter Greig pointed out that the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
They didn’t say teach us to preach or teach us to lead. They knew they needed to learn how to pray, as Jesus had shown them this constant example of returning to prayer.
What might it mean for us to learn how to pray?
Perhaps we need to learn what the best environment is for us to pray in? Jesus often goes to different places, alone, to pray. Maybe we need to change our schedules or our routines in order to pray more often? I recently heard the story of Susannah Wesley, who used to sit in a chair with her apron over her head, to indicate to her children that this was her time and space to pray without disruption or distraction. I know someone in our own congregation who leaves the house earlier than they need to each morning, just so they can drive to their work car park, and have time to sit quietly, read the Bible and pray, without the chaos of 3 kids around.
In Ephesians 6, we read that we should pray with “all kinds of prayers.” Maybe our prayer life has got a bit stuck in a rut, and learning all kinds of new prayers, would help to breathe life back into this vital part of our relationship with God? There is the Lord’s Prayer obviously, but the Bible is full of prayers…..an internet search tells me there are 650 of them. If you would like to try and learn some new prayers, then reading through Psalms is a great place to start, or perhaps use the Prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles Chapter 4. The Church of England even has a webpage called ‘Learning to Pray’ which contains many simple, practical ways to engage with prayer.
And my final learning point from the conference was that we need to talk about prayer much, much more.
We need to tell lots of stories and share testimonies of answered prayers – however small and however simple. We need to tell people that we are praying for them. We need to share with others the things that we are praying for. Because when we hear that breakthrough has occurred because of prayer, our faith is energised and our own prayer life becomes bolder and more earnest. We begin to actually believe that payer can make a difference and bring about change. Recently we have started to use a family prayer journal every Monday evening. There is a simple Bible verse to read, boxes to write different types of prayer in, and even stickers to use! It has been really good to talk more intentionally about the prayers that we are asking God to answer, as well as to talk about what it means to keep praying for something repeatedly. Not only is it good to talk to God in prayer, it is also good to talk to others about prayer.
The early church prayed earnestly, and saw miraculous breakthroughs as a result of this. May the same be true of us, as we commit to pray, learn to pray and talk about prayer with others.
Lord, help us to pray. Amen
READING: Acts 12:1-5
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.