Acts on Prayer — No Shortcuts!

Acts 8:18-19
(18) And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
(19) Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

Simon didn’t get it. And while we’re quick to condemn him for his foolish act, we’re more like him than we are not. What was Simon’s issue? He failed to understand God’s method and tried to short circuit God’s process.

God’s method is prayer. It has always been prayer. It started that way in the Garden when God fellowshipped with Adam. It was like that for men like Abraham and it continued that way throughout the entire Old Testament. When Christ created the New Covenant in His blood, prayer was still at the heart of it (John 14:16; 16:26-28). Prayer is a constant in the life of the believer.

Simon didn’t get that. Neither do we. Like Simon we treat God’s Holy Spirit power like it’s an app we can buy at the Google Play Store. We’ll read books, go to seminars, apply formulas, but we won’t pray. Why? Because that sounds too much like work. It also means making myself completely open (read vulnerable) to God. Prayer – real Jacob-style, wrestling-with-God-till-the-blessings-come kind of prayer – is a glaring lack in my life that the Lord has been heavily convicting me about.

Now I don’t know about you, but for me some of the biggest and most life-changing blessings I have ever known have come as a result of crisis and fervent, heart-felt prayer. It’s how God works. He wants us to talk to Him, worship Him. When we do, He is more than happy to give grace for grace (John 1:16).

To seek God’s blessing in any other way, borders on blasphemy:

Acts 8:21-23

(21)  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

(22)  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

(23)  For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

What is sad about this exchange between Simon and Peter is the fact that it still doesn’t sound like Simon really understood. Peter told him to pray, and Simon – still apparently thinking that Peter’s power was a thing to be had, rather than the outgrowth of a relationship with God – replies: “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me” (Acts 8:24).

There is no record of Peter praying for Simon.

The only cure there is for my lack of prayer is me praying to God myself. There are no shortcuts to that kind of fellowship.

Acts on Prayer: Lessons from an Old Ford Wagon

I once owned a maroon Ford LTD Wagon. I’m pretty sure it was brand new once. It wasn’t when I bought it, though – for $300.00. It was beat up and worn. The back end sagged because the suspension was shot, and the tailgate had a barrel lock on it because it was designed to swing open like a door, and sometimes if you accelerated too fast, it would swing open and try to take a swat at other vehicles like an old lady with a purse. Continue reading

Acts on Prayer: Pray for everything – even the small stuff.

Acts 1:14 “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

In verse eight of this chapter, the Lord gives His disciples their marching orders. In verse nine He ascends into heaven, and from verse ten and following they go about doing what they were commanded to do.

So, they left Mount Olivet and traveled a Sabbath day’s journey (a little under a mile) to Jerusalem where they met in an upper room, probably in the home owned by Mark’s mother.

Scripture does not record this prayer, but here are some things we can know:

  • All the true apostles were present (Judas Iscariot had committed suicide).
  • “The” women were present, perhaps among them Mary Magdalene and Salome (Mark 16:1, 9).
  • Mary the mother of Jesus was present.
  • The Lord’s brothers were present.

Among the things that made the Lord stand out during His earthly ministry was His gracious treatment of women. This was not the norm, especially given the Pharisees’ teaching about them; according to them, women were more property than people. Jesus treated women with honor and respect. The fact that the women were present in the upper room and not excluded from that prayer meeting suggests that Christ’s disciples got the message about how women were supposed to be treated.

Mary the mother of Jesus is specifically mentioned because of who she is. By the way, she prayed with the others. She was not prayed to.

Jesus brothers were there as well, finally convinced that their elder brother was none other than Messiah. (See John 7:1-5) Why is this significant? Because even Jesus Himself had family members who were skeptical about the faith.  So, if even Jesus had unbelieving family members, should it surprise us if we do, too? Don’t you know that Jesus prayed for His brothers, just like you are praying for your unsaved family? The salvation of Jesus’ brothers wasn’t instant. If the Lord had to keep praying for his unsaved family members, how much more do we?

But now, what did those in the upper room pray? Well, considering what had transpired before they likely prayed for:

  • The arrival of the promised Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
  • Power to evangelize the world around them.
  • Practical guidance to do God’s will on the earth.

Funny, that really doesn’t sound that much different from what any of us should be praying for right now. As modern-day believers we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we are saved. The reason it came separately in the early church was so that it could serve as a sign to believing Jews that salvation was not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. (That’s a subject for another study.) Still, we need to pray for Holy Spirit power because it’s the only way we can get God’s work done.

What stands out to me is the apostles’ prayer for guidance regarding the replacement of Judas Iscariot. (Acts 1:15-26) Obviously replacing an apostle is no small matter, but casting lots as an unbiased means of making a choice was pretty common in Peter’s day. It was something they had learned from their Old Testament forbears. They could have just cast lots, but they prayed about it.

Sometimes we forget to pray for the practical, everyday things. But really, the true depth of our faith is often measured in how much we seek God’s face on the things we think we can handle ourselves.

We’ll go to God for the “big stuff.” We’ll pray to Him for the stuff that’s new or scary to us. But when’s the last time we prayed for the car to start (when we didn’t need to)? When was the last time we thanked God for the car starting (when we didn’t need to)? How many things do we just take for granted and say to God: “Lord, I got this.”

Brothers and sisters, we ain’t got nothin’! We need to be praying about everything. What does Paul tell us in Philippians?

“…[I]n every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (4:6b)

Let’s not just “cast lots” and let things fall where they may on the things we think we have a handle on. Let’s make everything something we do with prayer.

Lord, help me to remember me dependence on You in all things. Because there’s nothing I have that I did not get from You first and there is nothing I can do without Your grace! Amen!

Acts on Prayer — Absence Makes the Heart Grow Prayerful

John 16:7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

This is still a study on prayer in the Book of Acts. So, why am I referencing John? Because what happens in Acts 1:9-11 was mentioned by Christ to His disciples from before the crucifixion.

“It is expedient for you that I go away.”
Continue reading