When you read through the dynamic impact that the gospel was having in the book of Acts, do you sometimes wonder, “Why don’t we see that kind of impact in our world today?”
The answer to this question is certainly complicated. For one thing, the gospel is having an enormous impact in countries like Cuba and China, and whole continents like Africa. But I do think that there are clues in the book of Acts that explain much of the spiritual power at work there. Here they are.
Acts 1:14 (After Christ’s ascension, Christ’s followers returned to the upper room.) All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Then in Acts 2, Peter preaches and 3000 came to faith.
Acts 2:42 (Tells us what those 3000 souls did.) And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. This was the Acts' description of the typical Christian.
Acts 6:4 (When a dispute broke out over the distribution of the food to widows threatening the unity of the church, the Apostles appointed deacons to handle this important task.) Therefore, brothers pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. At the end of the process of delegating this responsibility, we read, And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
May I ask, are the church members you know devoted to prayer? Are you?
If you are a pastor, do you protect your schedule so you can devote yourself to prayer? If you are a church member, can you help the church free your pastor’s schedule so he can devote himself to prayer?
The source of spiritual power has been there in Scripture all along. James says explicitly what Acts demonstrates. Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer. (James 5:16 JBP). Perhaps the spiritual power shortage among Christians today is not as complicated as we think!
Prayer that Gets Results
No one is going to devote himself to prayer if that prayer brings no result. So what does Scripture teach about answered prayer?
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
The kind of prayer Jesus promises to answer is a prayer that is based on his Word. Here are some examples of what I think this means from my prayer closet.
- That I would sacrificially love Sandy (Eph.5:25)
- That I would cherish her (Eph 5:28-31)
- That she would feel emotionally one with me—that I know and value what’s on her heart (Gen 2:24-25)
- That I would know how best to help her grow, spiritually (Eph 5:26-27)
- That we would stay sexually drunk with each other (Prov 5:19). This is my favorite! Why wouldn’t the best sex be in the covenant relationship God designed?
- That he/she would know how much he is loved and delighted in by God (Eph 3:18-19)
- That he would desire the sincere milk of the Word and be transformed by it (I Pet. 2:2, Rom 12:1-2)
- That God would give him the faith to believe that God exists and is the rewarder of those who seek him. (Heb 11:6)
- I ask in Jesus’ name that God would give them power to resist temptation today (Matt 6:13)
- For a brotherhood or sisterhood connection in Christ’s body (Eph 4:15-16)
- To make me a prayer warrior (Eph 6:18)
- Self-control regarding exercise, sugar, etc (Gal 5:23)
- God’s provision for my sexual hunger through my wife (Prov 5:19)
- Wisdom for ordering my priorities in the ministry (James 1:5)
- A heart the seeks to share Christ with the lost and prays for them (Luke 19:10)
- That I would weep over the destruction that sin brings (Matt 5:4)
- For his relationship with his wife (same as I pray for mine)
- For self-control in whatever his battles are (Gal 5:23)
- For his witness in his office for Christ (Luke 19:10)
- For encouragement (Heb 10:24-25)
- Provision for his physical, spiritual, emotional need (Phil 4:19)
Of course there are lots of other important, specific needs that we pray for. But this is my attempt to ask Jesus to do something that I know from his Word he wants to do.
I don’t have the time to share many specific answers to the above prayers. But one that comes to mind was praying for one son to really desire and get excited about God’s Word. A month after I started making this specific request to God, my son happened to comment to his mom, “I can’t wait for you to come to my church (at college). My pastor (who expounds Scripture) is such a great preacher and makes the text so related to life that I take notes on the sermons.” God loves to answer prayers based upon his Word.