From now until the end of the month we will be re-releasing highlights from our Wake-Up Call Acts journey together. Join us on December 1 when we begin our new series celebrating Advent—Protagonist by Matt and Josh LeRoy.
PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 4:23–31 (NIV)
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the 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 heavens 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 rise up
and the rulers band 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 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.
There’s a new kid on the block now; a character we have never known in all of the story of God. The new actor has a name: “The Church.” Let’s remember our working definition of The Church: “The presence of Jesus in the people of God for the sake of the world.”
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
I want us to notice how “The Church” responded to Peter and John and their reporting on how they had been handled by the “Religious Establishment,” aka the temple, aka the Sanhedrin.
When they heard this . . .
They got angry?
They empathized and consoled Peter and John?
They established a task force and set up a series of meetings?
They started plotting about how to solve the problem?
They hired a consultant?
They called an executive session?
No, No, No, No, No, No, No. Behold what they did do:
They raised their voices together in prayer to God . . .
There is a saying I heard many years ago when I first began in ministry. While I have not always heeded it I have never forgotten it:
“You can do more than pray after you have prayed. But you will never do more than pray until you have prayed.”
As we began our work with Seedbed we reframed that saying into a new one—Prayer is not the only thing we do but it is the first thing.
We see this powerfully at work in the early days of the church.
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
Prayer was not the only thing they did but it was the first thing. Because they knew they could do more than pray after they prayed but they knew they would never do more than pray until they prayed.
Let’s go back to chapter 1 and remember what preceded the day of Pentecost.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 1:14
Prayer was not just something these early Christians did. It was who they were. Look at how Luke describes them following the day of Pentecost:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
Prayer was not the only thing they did but it was the first thing. Because they knew they could do more than pray after they prayed but they knew they would do nothing more than pray until they prayed.
I’ve been having a disturbing thought of late. It is this: What if the house of God (i.e., what we think of as the church) is only actually the house of God (aka the church) to the extent it is a house of prayer? Remember this?
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Matthew 21:12–13.
Consider what happened to the place formerly known as “the house of God” aka the temple. Now, let me ask again: What if the house of God (i.e., what we think of as the church) is only actually the house of God (aka the church) to the extent that it is a house of prayer?
What if to the extent we are not a house of Prayer we are actually a den of robbers?
What if the church could become the church again? What if it is as simple as reclaiming our identity as a house of prayer?
How might that begin with you and me?
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
So what if my what-ifs are on point? What are the implications? What might repentance look like? How might I own responsibility? What would it take to become a house of prayer again?
Today we will sing the old favorite hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” It is hymn 440 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Certainly, the hour does not the house of prayer make, but it would be a good start for many of our churches, right?
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt
P. S. Would You Share a Word Back?
Please take two minutes to give us some feedback on the recent Wake-Up Call series. I would greatly appreciate it. LINK HERE.