And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:31-33)
A Simple But Pointed Question
Do you pray?
This simple but pointed question was once asked by an Anglican bishop named J.C. Ryle in a powerful message he once gave on prayer. He would go on to make the case that faithfulness in prayer is the true measure of a Christian’s walk with God.
Now I seriously doubt anyone reading this would disagree with such a statement. We all would affirm that prayer is absolutely essential to the Christian life.
And yet so often the work of believing prayer does not receive its due emphasis in our day-to-day lives. It is all too easily neglected. Or as pastor and theologian Sam Storms so convictingly puts it,
“Many Christians will say they are committed to prayer. But how many actually pray? Believing in the value of prayer . . . is one thing. Actually praying is something else. If you want your life to experience divine power, it needs to be a praying life.”
Not only is this basic principle of the Christian life true for us on a personal level, it is also true for us on a congregational level. In order for LifePoint to experience divine power in community, we must be devoted to seeking God in prayer together. It’s highly unlikely that we will see a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our church if we are not, as Storms says, “a praying church.”
In light of this reality, I think it’s entirely appropriate to rephrase Bishop Ryle’s question just a bit in order to apply it more directly to LifePoint Church—specifically in regard to our Seven Days of Prayer beginning this Sunday.
With that in mind, the question then becomes, Will we pray?
Now please, let’s not rattle off a careless answer to that question. Please don’t say yes without considering what’s really being asked here. Will we pray? in this instance doesn’t refer to the kind of run-of-the-mill praying that might make us feel good about having done our religious duty, but never really results in any real life-transformation.
Rather, by asking this, what we’re getting at is, Will we set aside time in our lives next week to fervently seek God for an outpouring of His Spirit among the people of LifePoint? Are we ready to grab hold of heaven and bring it down to earth by praying together in the power of the Holy Spirit?
An Immediate Impact, A Wider Effect
In Acts 4:31-33 (quoted above), we see what life in a church which answers that question in the affirmative can look like. This passage demonstrates that the early church’s devotion to the work of believing prayer involved an immediate impact and a wider effect, both of which were a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit among them.
The immediate impact is highlighted in verse 31, which says that “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the Word of God with all boldness.”
How do you detect a real outpouring of God’s power? How do you know whether a church has really prayed heaven down to earth? Might we look for miraculous phenomena (such as building foundations shaking)?
Well, we certainly shouldn’t rule out miraculous phenomena, for God still performs such signs among His people. But most likely God’s power in a church will be measured by how boldly His Word is made known through the witness of that church. The real measure of a congregation’s encounter with God is how fervently it spreads the Gospel as a result of that encounter. That’s what is happening in Acts 4:31-33.
But there’s something else to be noticed here—a wider effect. Verses 32-33 describe the life of the early church in light of its praying and witnessing. Concerning the quality of the life they shared together in Christ, Luke wrote that they were of “one heart and soul,” and that no one claimed that “any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” Moreover, as the apostles continued to witness powerfully to the resurrection of Christ, God’s grace abounded in the church.
The early church’s encounter with God in Acts 4 and its subsequent impact served to shape the kind of church they became. In other words, this wasn’t merely a surge of notable but short-lived excitement. Instead, God’s Spirit remained powerfully within them, growing them to be a congregation that was characterized by unity, generosity, grace, and full devotion to God’s Kingdom. And it was because they prioritized prayer, understanding it to be the first work of mission.
The same is true for us today, LifePoint.
So often we view passages like this a lot like we would view something in a museum—like it’s some kind of Spiritual artifact from the past to be occasionally admired. However, God intends for us to see Acts 4:31-33 not as a past-time relic, but as a present-day roadmap, which shows us where a fresh outpouring of His power and presence can be found—in the midst of a local church that has fully devoted itself to the work of believing prayer.
By God’s grace, we can be that kind of church. As I’ve already mentioned, LifePoint’s Seven Days Of Prayer begins this Sunday. This is significant because it means that we have an opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit to unleash His power in our congregation right now. If you haven’t signed up for a time to pray (both individually and with your Community Group), make it a priority to remedy that as soon as you can. We can’t afford to allow such an opportunity to pass us by. No, we must make the most of it. And that depends entirely upon how we answer the question, Will we pray?
To help with that, LifePoint’s worship ministry will be introducing a new song this Sunday—“Spirit of God” by Sovereign Grace Music. I’ve included a video performance of the song below, as well as a link to download it from iTunes. Let’s come ready to sing it with gusto this Sunday as we prepare to pray.
Blessing of the Father
Gift of grace and love
Promise of the Savior
For power from above
Oh, wondrous gift that’s given
For confidence and mission
Holy Spirit, You make all things new
Spirit of God, breathe on me now
Source of life, come, revive my weary heart
Spirit of God, shine on me now
Light of life, come, ignite my longing heart
Come and lift the dark clouds
Of doubt and unbelief
Shine upon my soul now
For by Your rays I see
Clearer, closer, deeper
The love of my Redeemer
Holy Spirit, You make all things new
Where You breathe hope thrives
The dead return to life
And the dark must flee the breaking day
By Your light I see the glory of my King
Beholding Him I will be changed