I remember years ago, former First Lady Hillary Clinton said, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” Many times now, I’ve tweaked that quote to say, “If you don’t pray, you have no right to complain.” Probably one of the biggest lies Christians speak forth is “I’ll pray for you” or “I’ll pray about it.” I think it’s safe to say that the American Church DOES NOT believe in the power of prayer and the need for intimacy with God. The signs are obvious that Christians have abdicated their roles as watchpeople on the wall. If America’s falling apart, it’s the fault of weak, vacillating, impotent Christians who embrace a culture versus a Savior. It is absolutely our highest privilege AND responsibility.
There is a powerful story in Acts 3. Peter and John had just healed a beggar during their regular time of prayer. This caused an uproar and they were arrested. The Church began to pray and they were set free.
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ” ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ‘ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (vv. 23-31).
Throughout history, the enemy has tried to destroy God’s work by striking His people. The 1st Century Church faced opposition from the Jewish Sanhedrin, followed by great persecution order by the Roman Emperor Nero. Every step of the way, when believers were attacked, arrested, tortured, they knew what to do…PRAY.
Their prayers invited God’s blessing. “they raised their voices TOGETHER in prayer to God” (v. 24). I’ve heard it said often, there are no denominations in nations where Christians are persecuted. Psalm 133 tells us “how wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony…the Lord has pronounced His blessing, even life forevermore (Ps 133). The unified Body of Christ followers in prayer invites God’s Presence, Anointing, and Blessing. What more do we need? It is said that armies marching in cadence have to break the rhythm when crossing a bridge. The force of those soldiers marching in unison can actually collapse it. How much more can we accomplish by praying together?
Their prayers invited God’s provision. “enable your servants to speak with great boldness” (v. 29). They knew God called them. They were ready to obey. They asked for everything they’d need to succeed: grace, courage, and strength. God certainly answered their prayers whether they preached in Jerusalem or stood before the Sanhedrin, magistrates, governors, kings, emperors, rioting Greeks…or facing torture and death.
Their prayers invited God’s power. “stretch out your hand: miraculous signs and wonders “ (v. 30). 23 times, a form of the wordy “pray” is mentioned in the Book of Acts. And when they prayed, things happened. It was because they stepped out of the way and let God be God. Thousands followed Christ, miracles happened, demons were cast out, finances abounded, and people were fed.
“The place where they were at was shaken” (v. 31). Important point: they weren’t shaken…the world around them was shaken. They not only shook the world, they “turned it upside down.” In the middle of chaos and panic, will we be the voice of peace, comfort, and hope? Or will we be distressed, disillusioned, disabled? Before you answer me, remember the way Christians reacted during the Y2K scare. The American Church talks about prayer but denies its power. We complain about restrictions on school prayer and government sponsored prayer breakfasts being cancelled. But prayer meetings are still the least attended services in our churches. Maybe we should focus on what we can do instead of what we can’t do.
If we trust in legislation, politicians, government leaders, and programs, they will FAIL US! We will be shaken. But if we trust in God and seek His face, we will receive the guidance and power we need to be UNSHAKABLE! When the disciples were opposed and threatened, the Church grew exponentially.
Let’s do our country a favor: SHUT UP AND START PRAYING!