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 4:32–37 (NIV)
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
So our text has taken an interesting turn today. I want us to notice how the prayer we witnessed in yesterday’s text begins almost immediately to be answered by God. This answer will persist through chapter 5 and beyond. Before we leave it behind, I want us to learn from the way these early Christians prayed. In some ways we witness the first prayer of the first church in Acts 4. I will rehearse the content of their prayer along with my proposed seven lessons below:
First, they name and declare the identity of the one to whom they are praying. Always begin by naming God. God ever listens for his name.
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,”
Second, after their naming of God, they remember and recite the mighty works of God; here beginning with creation. It is how our creeds begin. It is how the Bible begins. Might it be how our prayers ought begin?
they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
Third, they delve deeper into the Scriptures, remembering the text’s source and substance who is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who breathes life into our mortal bodies, who birthed the church is the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures.
You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
Fourth, notice the significance of stating in prayer the unstated assumptions of the church. It is a short step from here to quoting the Scriptures themselves—this time from Psalm 2.
“‘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.’
Fifth—Are you seeing it? They are praying the story, and as they do so they are more deeply aligning themselves inside of it. This psalm of David, while ancient memory for them is as fresh as today’s bread. Watch now how it leads them to recent memory. The Holy Spirit is literally fusing the horizons of Scripture—from creation to King David and psalms to Jesus and the cross.
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.
As they pray the massive story of God the Holy Spirit fires their imagination to know how to pray into the way ahead. Notice only now, 108 words into the 145 word prayer, we are getting to the part we would consider the prayer. It is only 37 words. The prayer, now baptized by the story, is birthed by the Holy Spirit.
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.”
Sixth, this is what Holy Spirit warfare actually looks like. The mode is prayer. The medium is Scripture—notably the story of Scripture. Notice its character is not defensive but decisively offensive. There is no praying against the Pharisees and the Saducees or even the devil for that matter. And the context of the prayer is God himself: enable your servants to speak your word . . . stretch out your hand . . . through the name of your holy servant Jesus. It is as though God himself rose up as a mighty fortress in and through their praying.
Seventh, and finally, behold what happens:
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.
We will meet up with Barnabas and company on Monday.
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.
What contrast can you draw between the way we pray today both personally and corporately with how they prayed in these early days of the church? What amendments to our way of praying might you propose?
Speaking of God as a fortress in prayer, let’s sing one of the great prayers of the church for centuries now in the great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It is hymn 35 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt