And then, he says they continued steadfastly in prayers and that’s the main thing I want to talk about for the rest of the talk today.
One of the things I think about is that it’s possible that you may get to a point where you can’t actually meet together.
You may be in hospital unable to get out of bed, you may be imprisoned for your faith. There may be some circumstance which means that you can’t meet together.
It’s possible that such a thing happens. It is possible therefore that you may not even have a Bible; so, you may not be able to read the word of God.
Hopefully, you would have remembered some of it so that even if that’s taken away from you, you can still remember the Lord.
We don’t know what’s in front of us. We know that the Bible says that, in the last days, it’s going to be very difficult to follow God, to be Christians.
But we know that if we have God with us, He’s with us always, even to the end of the age.
And one thing we can do in any circumstance is to pray.
I remember that, about 11 years ago, I was in hospital, in the Barnet Hospital.
It was a pretty desperate time. I was very ill after having cancer. The surgery went reasonably well but it didn’t go totally well, and I had to spend at least a month in hospital after that.
At the time, I couldn’t get out to meet anybody, I couldn’t go to church, I couldn’t do anything.
I could still read the Bible because I had one. But, above all, I could pray.
And I have to say that it was a time when I got closer to the Lord, closer than, I think, any other time in my life, and when I saw God answering prayer.
We can pray to God and know that He is with us and able to meet us at our point of need.
God tells us to keep in communication with Him, and what is most important is continuing with the Lord, to continue in communication with the Lord.
The Bible speaks about both personal prayer and collective prayer, coming together to pray as the body of Christ and, also, praying on our own, in our own private place.
So, let us look at a couple of scriptures which deal with that.
Pretty good prayer that, wasn’t it?
They didn’t say ‘Oh God what have you done to us? How did you let this tragedy come to us?»
They were very positive and outgoing.
I love the way it begins:
Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, …
It’s a good way to start our prayers, to remind ourselves and remind God who we’re praying to: the God who’s the Creator, who’s the One who has ultimate and absolute power.
And they quote from the scriptures and relate their personal situation to Psalm 2, about how the nations gather together against the Lord and against His Messiah, what really happened in the crucifixion of Jesus, what was happening then.
As people came against their preaching of the Gospel and they said ‘Lord, look at their threats, grant your servants boldness that we may preach your Word.’
And may that be our prayer as well, that we may have boldness to preach the Word of God no matter how many threats come against us, no matter how much comes against us in this time in which we’re living, in which many people are also gathered together against the Lord and against His Messiah.
We’re living in a time of opposition to the true faith in God and Jesus Christ.
So, do we cower and say ‘God, just let me be quiet and let me keep away from anything’? Or do we go forward in faith, strongly believing and proclaiming the truth of the Word of God?
They pray that they can speak the Word and stretch out your hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your Son Jesus, by your servant Jesus Christ.
And God answered that prayer by filling them with the Holy Spirit and empowering them to go out and to preach the Gospel.
It’s a good example of prayer in the New Testament. But that’s a collective prayer.
There’s also personal prayer and, if we’re going to really stand for the Lord, we need to develop a habit of praying to the Lord, of committing our lives to Jesus through faith and obedience to Him.
Let’s read the passage where Jesus speaks about prayer in Matthew 6. It says,
How and where to pray?
Jesus says, first, don’t make a big show of it. You know the bit about praying on the corners of the streets.
Somebody once said to me, ‘When we go out and evangelise, we have a prayer time on the corner of the street, is that disobeying the Lord?»
I don’t think so. We’re just praying, committing the work to the Lord.
The praying on the corners of the streets relates to praying ostentatiously so you can be seen, and people may think ‘what a pious person you are’ and you may get a lot of praise and glory from men for doing your prayers.
You do not do it like that. That’s not how you should pray. Not to make a show.
Instead, pray in secret, but you can pray anywhere and at any time and, in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul said,
You can pray wherever you are. Did you know that? When you’re walking down the street or when you’re sitting on a bus, you can pray in any situation. But you can also pray in your own room, in your personal time.
Sometimes, people call it a ‘quiet time’: a time to be or come before the Lord. And it’s a very good practice if you are a believing Christian to set aside sometime every day, to have a time to read the Bible and to pray, to strengthen your faith.
I usually pray in the morning for anything else. I get up, read the Bible, have a time of prayer, and, in the evening, at the end of the day, just to review the day and to pray and again to read the Bible before you go to sleep.
You can have a time to pray – they call it ‘prayer time’. It can be a noisy time because you can lift your voice out and shout and sing, and praise God at the same time.
But have that time set aside for the Lord and you’ll certainly find that if you set aside time for the Lord before you go out in the day, things will go better during the day than they would if you don’t.
And you’ll find that you have the victory in Jesus Christ. You may not feel anything, but you create this space when you have the time to be with the Lord and to commit your time to the Lord. You can do that, I said, in any place.
Sometimes, when I was working in South London and living in North London, sometimes I didn’t have much time and I had to sit on the tube for long periods.
So, I’d get my Bible out and pray sitting on the tube.
That’s okay, you can do that wherever you are. You can pray and you can commit yourself to the Lord. But, have that time to commit your time to the Lord, and to give thanks to Him.
He says, don’t pray in vain repetitions. Speak what you can to the Lord in your own language.
I was doing a Bible study on this with our friends from Iran and they were telling me how, in Islam, you have to pray five times a day (is that right?), and you pray the same set prayer which they tell you to pray to Allah.
You have to pray in Arabic even if you don’t understand Arabic. You just pray the same prayer over and over again.
Now, that’s assuming that God can only speak Arabic I guess!
But it’s saying the same thing over and over again in a language which perhaps you don’t understand.
Imagine you’re a father and your child comes up to you every day and he says the same thing over and over again, in a language that he doesn’t understand. That wouldn’t be much of a communication, would it?
Jesus says don’t pray like that, don’t pray in vain repetitions but pray what’s on your heart.
If you’re a father and your child comes to you and says, ‘What’s going on in my life?’ and, ‘I’m a bit troubled about this thing’, and ‘What should I do about this?’ asking for some advice, a good father will always be pleased to hear his son saying that, or his daughter saying that, and to give them some good advice.
If the child comes to you and says, ‘Thank you for the good things you’ve done for me’, a good father will be pleased to hear his child coming to say, ‘thank you’.
If the child comes to say, ‘I’m sorry for something I’ve done wrong against you’, a good father will be pleased to hear a child coming to say that.
And God is, of course, our very good Father, and He wants us to come to Him and give thanks for the good things He’s done for us; or, if we’ve done something against Him, to say ‘sorry’.
Or else, if there’s some situation which is perplexing us, to bring it to the Lord and ask Him, tell Him so He can tell us what we should do about it.
He is there, able to answer our prayers and to guide us.
He’s our loving, heavenly Father, and He knows what we need.