The principles of a powerful prayer meeting, Part 2
By Pastor Lee Hemen’
October 23, 2011 AM
Last time, we asked why Elijah, Moses, Joshua, Jesus and Paul were so filled with confidence when praying about the impossible that they often announced that it would take place even before they prayed! How could they be so sure that God would answer their prayers? I believe it was because they had paid the price of being alone with God. They had come to know the very heart and intent of God. They began to see life from his perspective instead of their own. Fervent focused prayer surged through their spiritual souls and it beat with the intense intimacy they shared with the Father. They sought the Lord until they knew what he was doing and joined him in doing it! Therefore, they saw the power of God displayed in response to their prayers. This is the very essence of what Jesus meant by abiding in him, without which we will not know what God’s will is or what to ask him.
We find that the early church experienced the very same thing in their prayers as well, so much, so that they were confident in their prayers and their outcome. Much of today’s church is based on so much programming, manufactured hype, and commercialism that it often does not depend on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a look at what the rest of the principles are that the early church experienced that helped them to have empowered prayer.
We are so instinctively “me-centered” in our thinking and praying that it will take spiritual discipline in addition, discernment to force it from our prayers. Until we do, we will not receive what we ask because, as James 4:3 teaches, we will ask wrongly in order to get something from God! However, God-focused prayer calls us to a different kind of lifestyle. When the early church took on this kind of prayer focus, they experienced the power of God. What we find is that the church experienced a…
I. Deep koinonia!
1. Christian fellowship is the opening of a Christian’s heart to one another!
1) There are three episodes from the life of the Early Church that teach us the power the church experienced because of prayer. In Acts 2:42-43 we find that the church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” Because of their sensitivity to the working of God in their midst a godly “fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.” Then in Acts 4:31-33 we find that “those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.” Finally, in Acts 5:12-16 we discover that “Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles” and that “believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers.” In fact, those that were sick “and those who were tormented by unclean spirits… were all healed.” What made the difference? It is something that many churches in our day and age lack: koinonia! It was a deep abiding fellowship with one another. Look again and you find that “they devoted themselves” to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. They were of “one heart and soul” and decided to have “everything in common” with each other. Wow! Christians desire people in their lives who truly care, yet almost everything the modern church does, thwarts this. Mega cannot promote intimacy and you cannot program true fellowship. Koinonia comes from a spiritual connection that is based in our relationship with the Lord. John would write, “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” (1 John 2:10 NIV) Peter would say, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV) The early church’s prayers were powerful because they enjoyed a deep koinonia.
EXAMPLE: John Franklin concluded from his study in Acts that “God worked in their lives in proportion to the degree of their koinonia, the quality of love between believers. Their favor with God flowed from his pleasure in their depth of fellowship.” (“And the Place Was Shaken,” by John Franklin, page 40.) Years ago, when speaker of the house Sam Rayburn heard he had terminal cancer, he shocked everyone when he announced he was going back to his small town in Bonham, Texas. People said to him, “They have got the finest facilities in Washington, D. C. Why go back to that little town?” Rayburn’s response resonates with something inside us all. He said, “Because in Bonham, Texas, they know if you’re sick, and they care when you die.” (Submitted by J. R. Love, Ruston, Louisiana, PreachingToday.com.) He was speaking of the kind of koinonia a small town displays. God empowers the prayers of those who enjoy spiritual koinonia one with another!
We will pray more impassionedly when we trust those with whom we are praying. Trust is built when our lives brush up against one another; when we share our faith and we walk the tough times together. This is why small groups are a key spiritual element to our church’s life. We simply don’t have time to build close relationships in Worship. Koinonia fuels fervent effective prayer that is real, binds wounds, and shares with one another so that friendship and care increases. Without it, our praying together will be surface only and the power of God constrained. However, we discover that it wasn’t just the close koinonia that empowered the early church’s prayer it also came from…
II. Clean hearts!
1. Purity in the heart produces power in one’s life!
1) We find this principle from the very first stories in Genesis where Adam and Eve hide from God to the final chapter of Revelation where God’s holy saints surround the heavenly throne! God has always required a right heart from those to whom he will reveal himself. All who miss this point miss God. Go back and look at when Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God. God respected Abel and his offerings, but he rejected Cain and his offerings. Why? The Bible makes it plain that God’s approval or refusal was squarely based on the person making the offering. God’s response is always directly linked to the condition of the heart of the one worshipping. At the dedication of the new temple, this is why he tells the Israelites, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV) God answers a person or a people in proportion to how they are walking with him. He never differentiates between the thing requested and the one making the request. Another way to say that is this: God doesn’t just answer prayer; he answers you! David understood this spiritual concept and why he would sing, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalms 51:9-10 NIV) This is also, why Paul warned his friend Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV) Clean hearts lead to empowered prayer!
EXAMPLE: A classic example of this occurred in a prayer meeting in the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. Christians there had been imploring God for some time to send revival and spiritual awakening. Finally, during a Friday night prayer meeting, a 16-year-old youth prayed, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior.” (Psalms 24:3-5 NIV) He then began to ask God if his heart was pure. Others in the room began to inspect their walk with God, to confess their sins, and to renew a right relationship with God. At that moment, God began to transform lives on those islands. In fact, as they were praying God woke up most of the town at midnight, and they gathered at the village square asking how to be saved. Once the hearts of those Christians were cleansed, God worked mightily through them. God empowers the prayers of those with clean hearts!
I have often been amazed at churches with two similar worship services where one well be Spirit-filled, vibrant, and hearts responsive; while the other service, with the same message and music, will be cold, flat, and unresponsive. The difference simply depends on the spiritual condition of the hearts of those in attendance. The psalmist was absolutely right when he deduced, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” (Psalms 66:18-19 NIV) A believer either helps or hinders the movement of God’s Spirit in respect to their spiritual cleanliness. In fact, we discover that this extends to the unity of believers as well. In order to have empowered prayer a church needs to be in…
III. One accord!
1. The church consists of two types of folks: the saints and the aints!
1) Five times in the first five chapters of Acts, the KJV Bible relates that the disciples were in “one accord.” Each time the Greek word used is “homothumadon,” which is a compound word meaning, “same passion, combined heat, or shared glow.” The early church shared the same burning passionate heart. This spiritual unity reflected in their praying together, meeting together, fellowshipping together, beseeching God together, and doing miracles together! How important was unity? Jesus prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23 NIV) We reflect and bring God glory through our loving, selfless, servant attitude toward one another! This harmony is directly connected to God’s patent presence and power in the pages of Scripture. Paul would admonish his readers that Christians were to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV) Those who deliberately tried to sow discord in the church were declared as “blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:12-13 NIV) God said they were like a “scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth!” (Proverbs 6:12 NIV) Wow! For a person or church to experience empowered prayer, they have to be in one accord!
EXAMPLE: David McCasland wrote in Our Daily Bread about “a demonstration of sheep-herding using a Border Collie, the dog trainer explained that because sheep are highly vulnerable to wild animals, their main defense against predators is to stay together in a tightly knit group. ‘A sheep alone is a dead sheep,’ the trainer said. ‘The dog always keeps the sheep together as it moves them.’” He continued by stating, “The biblical image of God as our shepherd is a powerful reminder of how much we need each other in the community of faith. When writing about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the psalmist said, ‘[God] made His own people go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and He led them on safely, so that they did not fear’ (Psalm 78:52-53). As part of God’s flock, we who have trusted Christ are under His guiding, protecting hand while being surrounded by the shielding presence of others. We are part of a larger body of believers in which there is safety and accountability. While we don’t give up our personal responsibility for thought and action as members of the flock, we are to embrace the concept of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ in our daily lives. With Christ as our Shepherd and fellow believers around us, we find safety in the flock.” We are in one accord!
We find that the early church experienced empowered prayer because of their deep koinonia, clean hearts, and their being in one accord. What kind of prayer do you experience?
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.