At the beginning of this year I am doing a brief survey of the prayers of the gospels , the book of Acts and of Paul’s epistles . The object will be to draw your attention to the prayers of a Scripture so that you might be instructed in the way of prayer , and that you might be convinced anew concerning the importance and the power of prayer .
Speaking of the power of prayer : I have a precious book in my library , entitled the “the Power of Prayer “ , written by Samuel Prime . It is an account of the New York revival of 1858 – an amazing account . It all began with a prayer meeting in a Dutch Reformed Church in New York – a prayer meeting , the thought which began in the heart of a man called Jeremy Lamphier . It was of course a work of divine grace that moved him to initiate a lunch time prayer meeting for business men in New York. But he was nevertheless the Lord’s first instrument to begin an awakening in which thousands upon thousands of people were converted and reformed in their ways . This revival spread in the USA and to various parts of the world , and even into South Africa , where it was connected to the 1860 revival . Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was one of the great names associated with this revival . For those of you who are interested in an article that describes what God had done in those days in Southern Africa you are free to ask me and I will send it to you. The reason why I share that with you is because these accounts remind us so much of the happenings that followed the prayers of the book of Acts .
The prayer life of the early church is built upon the disciples intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ , and what He had taught them concerning prayer both by teaching and through personal example .
THE PRAYERS IN ACTS
1. The record of the very first prayer meeting is found in Ch 1:12 -14 : 12 “Then they (the disciples) returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. “ This meeting follows Christ’s ascension from Mt. Olivet from where they returned to the upper room in Jerusalem where their chief purpose was to wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit cf. John 14 &16) to arrive . This they did by devoting ( lit. steadfastly continuing) themselves to the work of prayer with their wives , Mary the mother of Jesus and the brothers of Jesus . V. 15 says that it was a company of about 120 people which was waiting for 10 days in prayer before the Holy Spirit was given . Two things characterized this prayer meeting : unity and perseverance . We do well to take note of this .They were able to do this because Christ had promised them His return in the person of the Holy Spirit . Christ’s promises give us the warrant to pray . Have we not seen from our study of the prayers of the gospels how willing Jesus is to give the Holy Spirit in converting power to them that ask Him ? ( Lk 11:13)
2. One of the first requests of that prayer meeting was that the Lord might guide them into appointing another man to the ministry of apostleship (1:24-26). They prayed to the Lord “ the knower of hearts “ ( one word : “kardiagnostes” ) who revealed to them through the casting of lots that Matthias was to be chosen . We note that the matter of apostolic appointment here was not a matter of human choice , but of God’s choice : “ Lord… show which one you have chosen…” . We learn from this that the early church truly cared that God would choose their leaders for them. We must too !
3. Acts 2:42 : “ And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…” After Pentecost this pattern of simple worship is revealed : attention to the apostles’ doctrine ( i.e. the OT & Jesus teaching) , fellowship , the Lord’s supper and prayer . Prayer is never a minor aspect in the church . It is a part of 4 important aspects of public worship . A Spirit filled church is a worshiping church . Public prayer was never an option in the early church .
4. Acts 3:1 : “ Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer , the ninth hour…” There were three recognized hours of prayer in temple worship : the 3rd hour ( 2:15) ; the 6th hour ( 10:9) and the 9th hour ( 3:1;10:36) . Jews as well as Christians observed this and both though of the temple as “ the house of prayer “ (Lk 24:53) . Daily public prayer was the habit of the men and women and the temple services were structured around this fact . Some people like Simeon (Lk 2:25) and Anna (Lk 2:37) were perpetual pray-ers . Anna worshipped with prayer and fasting night and day. Oh that the modern church might become a house of prayer !
5. Acts 4:23-31 teaches us that when the church is threatened her prayers should not become mute , but bolder ! The church can do this , because she knows her God . Good theology is the beginning of strong , confident , fearless prayer . The believers were addressing the Sovereign Lord knew Him as the God who made the heaven and the earth ( 4:24) and who spoke by the mouth of David and who predestined the death of Christ at the hand of wicked men. Make no mistake . The church did not see itself in the hand of the enemies of the church . They saw themselves in the hand of a Sovereign Lord ! What an important lesson for our prayer. God is at the end of our prayer ( not our fears) and God is in charge of history ( not men) !
6. Acts 6:4-7 : We learn two things here : firstly , the ministry of the apostles consisted of two major tasks - the ministry of prayer and the ministry of the word . The pattern of the NT church reflects that the elders of the church , after the ministry of apostles had ceased , took up this responsibility , and therefore it is this ministry that we must expect from our elders today . Our elders are good examples of those who lead in these areas. Secondly, the servants of the church ( in this case deacons) are appointed and ordained (prayed over). We shall see this pattern again and again in Scripture . No one is appointed to church office without prayer . We see this later again in Acts 13:1- 3 , when after fasting and prayer the leaders of the church at Antioch laid the hands on Barnabas and Paul before sending them off into the mission field . Again in Acts 14: 23 Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey , appointed elders in every church with prayer and fasting committing them to the Lord .
7. Acts 7:55 -60 : The prayer of Stephen , the first martyr of the church . This prayer matches the prayer of Jesus on the cross . At the end of the hands that threw the stones at Stephen were not simply cruel men , but the Lord Jesus . And note , that Stephen did not die cursing his enemies but praying ( like Jesus) for their forgiveness. This is called ‘ dying grace’ dear friends . From such a prayer we learn that we do not need to fear the pain of death ( even though it can be a terror) . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is even sufficient for such times . The testimonies of many modern martyrs are similar ( see also Foxes book of Martyrs) .
8. Acts 8:9-25 : Prayer for the Samaritans and for a Sorcerer : Here we read that through prayer the Samaritans ( first fruits of the gentiles) came into the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ . As always there are those who see prayer as a ‘ magic power’ and a tool for control . Simon Magus is such a man in Samaria . Peter the apostle sees right through such carnal thinking and warns him severely that such abuse will incur the terrible wrath of God . Simon Magus apparently sees this and asks for forgiving prayer . Oh the power of the prayer of the righteous man who trusts in God alone! (James 5:16)
9. Acts 9:10-12 : Prayer the language of the converted man . When Paul was converted and blinded by the vision he had only one thing to do - Pray ! When Ananias a faithful disciple of the Lord in Damascus is instructed by God to lay prayerful hands on him that prayer is miraculously granted . As an orthodox Jew Paul had been praying all his life , but not until he was born again did he know the power of prayer as Ananias did ! Many people pray today ? But do they ? “ I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray ? “ This story helps us to see that there is a prayer that distinguishes itself from a ritual ! It is the prayer in the Spirit . Young converts must be encouraged to pray privately and in public !
10. Acts 9:36-43 : The prayer that raises the dead ( following Jesus’ example e.g. Lazarus in John 11 ; see also the Story of Baptist Pastor William Duma who saw a dead girl raised ) . Talking about the power of prayer ! Though it is not a common thing , and through we must not major on this , it illustrates the power of prayer through faith in God . By way of application this power is available to raise our dead , unresponsive spirits and make them alive in Christ to become worshippers of God !
11. Acts 10 : The story of a God fearing gentile , the Roman centurion Cornelius who prayed prayers to God and who was remembered by God , and in this instance God did so much more than saving Cornelius and his household – but saving a great number of the gentiles ( 10: 44-48) . Are you not sure whether you are saved ? Well , then pray until God gives you Life through His Holy Spirit . Remember the promise of Lk 11 : 13 !
12. Acts 12:1- 12 : James killed and Peter imprisoned and the church praying for his release : The early church knew what it was to have fellowship with Christ in His baptism of death . James had been killed and Peter was under the sentence of death . The church was on her knees , and it is not without a smile that we must read of their disbelief when he turned up at the front door in response to their prayer ! In our church we did experience a number of physical onslaughts by Satan from 1990 -93 . I distinctly remember one of our members then , an MAF pilot , in response to a murder of a young woman committed in our streets in Klein Windhoek , being jailed and accused of her death ! ( the circumstances were utterly bizarre) . I also clearly remember our church gathering in prayer for his release , which duly happened , and he was acquitted . The investigating officer committed suicide , and it was discovered that apparently he was also a Satanist .
13. Acts 16:11-15 Paul and his entourage were looking for a place of prayer (16:13,16) in Philippi . This was the place where Lydia was converted . I have always encouraged our people over the years when they are away from our church they should look for a place of prayer wherever they are . It is only natural to seek fellowship with God and like minded people even when away from our home church .
14. Acts 16:25 : Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi with lacerated backs and their feet in stocks were praying and singing hymns to God at midnight . In that context God also worked powerfully , and He miraculously flung the prison doors open and the Philippians jailer and his family were converted.
15. Acts 20 : 36-38 & 21:5,6 : When Christians part , they part in prayer . Paul prayed with the Ephesian elders and the disciples in Tyre .
16. Acts 27:29 – during a storm at sea , they prayed for day to come ; 27:35 when eating , Paul like Jesus gave thanks to God for the food received.
17. Acts 28 : 8 : Praying for the sick and obtaining healing.
18. Acts 28:15 : Christians give thanks to God when they see friends.
Reference to prayer is found 31 times in the Book of Acts, more than any other New Testament book. Prayer precedes nearly every significant event in Acts. Prayer permeates the book of Acts . It shows us that prayer is a life style . It is the language of dependence , and how can it be otherwise ? The Lord Jesus did after all say : “ Without me you can do nothing “ . John 15 :5
 The Power of Prayer : The New York Revival of 1858 , Samuel Prime , Banner of Truth Trust , 1991
 Gr. Proskartereo cf 1:14; 2:42; 6:4
 Take Your Glory Lord – William Duma – His Life Story , p. 39 The story of Litta , the daughter of a Baptist evangelist in Zululand named Bhengu . She died ( was certified dead) and was raised to life through his intercession . A remarkable account !