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Power in the Name - V

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Every night at dinner Michelle usually prays for the meal. Her pray is very simple, she thanks God for the food our house and she also prays and asks God to protect the missionaries, especially Rachel’s family which are the Harris’. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with praying for protection for the missionaries but as we will see this morning prayer for physical protection isn’t what is promised to us but what we are to be in prayer for is that the gospel message goes out and is not hindered. This praying involves a firm focus on God and the result of prayer is receiving God’s power, control and will.

Prayer Results in Receiving God’s Power, Control and Will

We will see this in our study of the book of Acts this morning. We are in Acts 4:23-31,
Acts 4:23–31 NASB95
23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples devise futile things? 26The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ 27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
Verse 23 is linked back to what we learned last week. Luke writes here “When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.” After their time before the Sanhedrin and being threatened by them not to speak in the Name of Jesus, Peter and John go back to the others and tell them what had happened. This was the first time they had encountered hostility from the religious leaders after the ascension of their Lord and Savior. We are privileged to have this written down for us and to see the boldness demonstrated by the apostles as they stood on trial for the gospel. This was also the first time they experienced this kind of boldness and they saw how their confidence in Christ shut up the mouths of their opponents.
These men didn't waste any time after their release, they ran right back to their companions who have probably heard about the arrest and trial. They were probably praying for Peter and John at the time of their imprisonment and trial so Peter and John go right back to them. Just by this verse alone it is obvious the men were not afraid of the threats imposed on them by the religious leaders. It also was a great testimony for these men to provide for their companions that they just stood before the rulers and they were able to silence them with the boldness they received from the Holy Spirit's work in them.
They also had a bit of a problem that arose from their encounter with the religious leaders. The problem they now have is, the Sanhedrin is not only opposed to them spreading the gospel but they have threatened them, they have imposed a law that forbid them from spreading the gospel. This threat drive them to the throne of Grace to seek out God and His power and control and will. This prayer is a great model of how to pray and it is a very humble prayer.
Let’s take a look at the prayer and the first element we will see is, Prayer Recognizes God’s Power.

Prayer Recognizes God’s Power

Look with me at verses 24-26, “And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea , and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the people devise futile things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’”
The first thing they do upon hearing this is pray. Prayer should always be our first recourse in any situation, whether good or bad. Prayer, true prayer is a response to God's character, power and His works. That is exactly how this prayer begins. Their prayer begins with exalting God and His Omnipotence, He is all powerful and the creator of all things, things we see and don't see. In stating this here they are recognizing not only God's power but also signifying He is the life giver. This is a demonstration of their faith in God and in His creative and life giving and life sustaining power. They don't fear the threats of men because the One they fear is the only One with the power to give life and to take life.
Psalm 146:5–7 NASB95
5 How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; 7 Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.
The prayer opens with recognizing God as the life giving creator God of the universe and moves to the work of the Holy Spirit in and through One of God's incredible, all be it flawed, servant David who they see as a patriarch. They pray back to God His own words in the second half of verse 25-26. This is a quote from psalm 2 which is a Messianic Psalm. The original intent was in respect to David as the chosen one of God to serve as the King of the people. But as the Holy Spirit moved in David the Holy Spirit intended this psalm to be a foreshadow to what would happen with Jesus. When it comes to prayer it is important to know how God has spoken in His Word and be able to apply that to your own situation. The more we know God's word and not just have it memorized but are really applying it to our lives the more it will come back to mind when we are in prayer.
Ephesians 3:20–21 NASB95
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
It is God who helps in times of need and it is God who empowers us through the Holy Spirit who works in us and leads us and guides us. When we know what the Scriptures say and when we know how it talks about God and how to apply it to our lives it comes to mind in any situation no matter how bleak because we know God has the power to bring us through it. That even fits in when it comes to threats of retaliation because of proclaiming the Word of God.
So the early church when it comes to threats upon their lives first go to prayer, and they recognize God’s power then they Acknowledge God’s Control.

Prayer Acknowledges God’s Control

Look with me at verses 27-28, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do what ever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”
Now in their prayer they acknowledge the fulfillment of what God's word said millennia ago. They have seen this fulfilled through Jesus being tried and killed by the civil, religious leaders as well as the Gentiles and the Israelites. They acknowledge God's enemies and they also recognize this as being a part of God's preordained plan. This has been spelled out and this has been fulfilled. God was in control of the whole event from the time it was foreshadowed in Psalm 2 to the very day they are praying this back to God. It is so important to see what is going on around you and know no matter how bleak it looks God is in control.
Isaiah 46:8–11 NASB95
8 “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. 9 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.
Paul says this in Romans 8:28-30
Romans 8:28–30 NASB95
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
It is funny time and time again Jesus as He walked the earth with His apostles continually told them He would have to be handed over to the chief priests and the rulers of the age and would have to go to the cross and die and on the third day rise again, just as it was says in Scripture. Remember when Jesus said this to Peter after Peter’s great confession of Jesus being the Christ the Son of the Living God.
Matthew 16:21–28 NASB95
21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. 28 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
When we pray we need to be like the apostles who’s lives are on the line. They go to God in prayer and they recognize God’s Power, they acknowledge God is in control and now they seek out God’s will.

Prayer Seeks God’s Will

The prayer continues in verses 29-30, “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” Do you notice what is prayed for here, do you see what is their main focus in prayer. This is important to note. They prayed that they could continue to spread the gospel and that nothing would hinder the message. They know threats have been made and they what to be sure those threats don’t scare off the faithful from speaking the truth with boldness.
Here is what is missing in this prayer that needs to be taken into account. These men didn't pray for personal safety. They didn’t ask for their opponents to be taken out of the way they didn’t ask for deliverance from their enemies they only asked they would not shrink away from spread the message that brings life. They saw it was God's preordained plan for Jesus to die and they all knew that if they were to provide this message and they were to follow after their Lord and Savior then they would follow Him even to a cross and die, all for the cause of Christ. Their own prayer was not selfish but selfless. They wanted to see God's power magnified and they wanted to continually have the boldness to share the gospel message with all those around them. They didn't want the message to be hindered in any way and they knew the only way the message would cease from being hindered was through prayer. So they asked for the boldness to speak and they asked for God's power to be displayed.
Jim Elliot was a missionary who went to Ecuador with a mission with four other men to spread the gospel to the people in this tribe. They had gone in and had a successful contact but when they returned Jim Elliot and his four friends were killed by those who they went to share the gospel with. Here are two quotes I want to share from this man.
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 828 Jim Elliot’s Diary

In a diary entry, Jim Elliot, the Auca Indian martyr, wrote, “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life, that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus.”

—The Bible Friend

Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 6127 Epigram on Submission

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.

—Jim Elliot

Now this is a man who understood what it means to live for Christ. He understood what it meant to seek God will for his own life and the seeking after God’s will didn’t mean protecting himself and shielding himself from those who went out to share life saving truth of the gospel it was about being focused on the gospel and sharing it even to his last breath.
No one knew more about living for Christ and the importance of spreading the gospel message was the apostle Paul. While he was in prison Rome arrested because he was sharing the gospel writes this to the Philippian church.
Philippians 1:12–26 NASB95
12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
Do you see how Paul looks at His imprisonment and how he lives for God seeking earnestly to follow God’s will and knowing the most important focus of his life is the gospel and why because he knows this life is not what is promised and to live in this world is to live only for Christ and to die is gain.
Our focus in prayer should always be seeking after the will of God. Sure we can ask for help from God and for protection but what is the help really for, what is the protection for and from. Our goal and our mission is not to be comfortable in this world but working toward the next. The only way God's Kingdom grows is if people are uncomfortable in this life. Uncomfortable by sin and disobedience and by the lies the world has to offer. When we become comfortable we stop telling people the gospel message, when people become comfortable in their sin they stop thinking they need to be saved. We need to not look for comfort and protection but we need to look for God to work in and through us knowing that this life isn't all there is and we need to live like Paul, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 3:16–21 NASB95
16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

The Result of Prayer

Verse 31 provides for us an immediate response to this powerfully God centered prayer. Let’s look at what happened as a result of this prayer. “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”
What an incredible conclusion to this passage and an amazing answer to prayer. The apostles and the disciples of Christ knew and understood the warning Jesus provided and the warning was that they would be persecuted and hated by those who hate Him. They didn't ask for protection from them they asked not to shrink away from proclaiming the Word of God. They asked for the boldness to preach the truth. It was about God's activity to further and to grow His kingdom not for the believers to prosper in this life.
This prayer is not only answered it is answered with a distribution of some serious power. The ground shook which is a demonstration of God’s power. They recognized God’s power in prayer and God responds with power. They also acknowledge God’s control and in acknowledging His control God distributes to power to do the work.
They are "filled with the Holy Spirit," this filling doesn't mean they had lost the Spirit and now He comes back on them. No it is an enabling to do the work of the Spirit who is in them and working to fulfill God's purpose God’s will. The purpose and will of God being "speaking the Word of God with boldness."
Ephesians 6:18–20 NASB95
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
This is something we should continually seek from God because when it comes to the gospel and the works of the Spirit we need to be sure it is the Holy Spirit who is at work and not ourselves. Paul even asked for the boldness to share the gospel message and it is not like he didn't already have it. He does but the problem is we all to often get in the way. So when asking for boldness and the confidence to share the gospel we are humbling ourselves to allow the Spirit to do the work and not plan on ways to bring things up. The Spirit needs to fill believers with the power and the ability to share the gospel and we should be seeking that filling.
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