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 “If you only pray when you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble.”

~ Anonymous

“I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their prayers because they do not wait long enough on God.” 

~ E. M. Bounds

Peter was in prison, and Herod had probably ordered his execution for the next day.

Sounds like an impossible situation, doesn’t it? Imagine being a brand-new, multiplying church with the entire Roman army against you, and 16 soldiers surrounding your leader-who happens also to be in chains.

How did this church in Acts 12 respond? They didn’t have any armies or weapons. They said, “We have an impossible situation. Our beloved leader, mightily used by God, is in prison. We will pray earnestly unto God specifically for His deliverance.”

There are several principles of prayer in this passage. First and foremost, the church prayed “to God.” They knew the One to whom they were praying-His power, His authority, His great compassion and love. But there’s also another principle they practiced that we can learn from: They prayed “earnestly” (Acts 12:5).

The word “earnestly” here is a compound word in Greek. It has two parts, the first part meaning “out” and the second part meaning “stretched.” It’s the idea behind our English word for tension. It’s translated in 1 Peter 1:22 as deeply or fervently, and it’s used in Luke 22:44 where Jesus prays “in anguish” and “more earnestly” in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The image given is of focused and passionate prayer-coming to God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and saying, “God, I mean business! I want what I’m asking of You; I’m not just going through the motions.”

Those of us who have children may remember a time when a little one’s temperature rose to 102, then to 103, and then to 104. You may remember how our prayers changed as the temperature went up. Have you ever sat there with a little baby who’s burning up? We don’t pray, “O Lord, we would really like, if it’s in Your will, according to Your sovereign plan, to bless this child according to Your purposes,” do we? We pray, “O God, save my child!”

That’s what this word “earnestly” is saying: We need to come to God like we mean it. We need to know Who we’re really talking to, and then earnestly-with our soul stretched out before God-to say, “God, hear our cry.”

Earnest Together

A crucial aspect of the church’s earnest prayer was its corporate nature. They were united in their earnestness. The early church believed that it was the most powerful force on this earth, so when the body of Christ gathered and approached Jesus and the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, they asked in unity.

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“The secret of success in Christ’s Kingdom is the ability to pray.” 

~ E. M. Bounds

His Kingdom or My Comfort Praying?

by Jon Graf

Longtime Presbyterian minister, Dr. Wilbur Chapman (early 1900s) was 26 when called to be pastor of Wanamakers Church in Philadelphia. His first Sunday, an old gentleman came up to him and said, “you’re much too young to be the pastor of such a fine church as this.” Chapman thought the guy was a kook. But the gentleman went on to tell him that he had decided to pray for him, that the Holy Spirit’s power would fall on him each time he stepped into the pulpit. And he had another man who would pray with him.

Chapman report that those two men soon turned into 10, the 20, then 50, and finally more than 200 men who gathered each Sunday morning before services and pray for the Holy Spirit’s enablement. Over the next three years the church saw 1,100 people come into the kingdom—more than 600 of them men.

Somewhere along the line churches have lost sight of what they should be praying for! Today, most churches’ prayers are almost exclusively for needs within the body. Prayers that each person’s life would get back to normal. Seldom are there prayers that cry out for the fullness of Jesus Christ to come upon a body, for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto a church…

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“American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our body screams, ‘Get to work.’” 

Paul E. MillerA Praying Life3.

“One of the greatest attacks of the enemy is to make you busy, to make you hurried, to make you noisy, to make you distracted, to fill the people of God and the Church of God with so much noise and activity that there is no room for prayer. There is no room for being alone with God. There is no room for silence. There is no room for meditation.”

~ Paul Washer

Amazingly, before he died at the young age of fifty (while saving someone from drowning), Trotman saw the fruit of his labor spanning the globe in answer to those early prayers.

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Image result for dawson trotman

“This is our problem–and it seems many churches simply don’t realize how little they pray together, or how little their prayers reflect the bigheartedness of God.” pray more. Not rocket science, I know.”

~ John OnwuchewaPrayer, 14.

“The key to joy in God is God’s omnipotent, transforming grace, bought by his Son, applied by His Spirit, wakened by the Word, and laid hold of by faith through prayer”

~ John PiperWhen I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy138

John Piper Photo
September 2019
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