What is it about prayer that makes it most effective? Notice what picture is portrayed from these verses found in Acts chapter 2:
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (verses 41 & 42)
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (verses 46 & 47)
First of all, we see the picture of success. Three thousand souls “received his word and were baptized.” Peter was preaching. Now that seems to be pretty successful preaching. Three thousand souls! How I would love to see one of my sermons have that effect.
But wait a minute. Surely it wasn’t just the preaching. No! In fact, the groundwork was laid earlier for this wonderful day, known as the Day of Pentecost, and that groundwork has everything to do with relationship. Therefore, I have titled this sermon, “Relationship and Prayer.
Just about ten days earlier, the disciples, about 120 of them were gathered together in what is called, “the upper room.” They were there together, the Eleven by name were “Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.” And Acts 1:14 gives the original emphasis that led to the later success: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
And just over forty days earlier, the Eleven had been gathered with Jesus on the night before He was crucified, and they heard His prayer. It is recorded in John chapter 17. Jesus prayed for his followers, both then and now, “That they all may be one, even as We are One.” “We” refers to the Father and the Son. “That they,” meaning even us today, “may be united as one.”
United as one! As the Father and the Son are One! In one accord! Continuing steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine! And fellowship! Breaking of bread! And in prayers!
So, they gathered in the temple and they gathered from house to house, the scripture says, and they ate their food, the bible says with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor… Favor, means grace! It’s the same word for grace where Ephesians 2:8 says you’re saved by grace. They were having favor with all the people. You might remember that when Jesus was a child, the bible says, that He grew in stature and in favor with both God and man.
In favor! In grace! The giver of grace is growing in grace with God and men. So, here we have the same idea. They’re praising God and they’re having favor, or grace with all the people. That means they’re really united, this church. And they’re even having favor with the people that aren’t christians yet. At this time, they’re not being persecuted yet. And the Lord added to the church daily… as a result of their combined prayers, from their unitedness… those who were being saved.
The trouble with Americans, and I’m an American, is we are such individualists. you go to the Mediterranean countries, where the gospel was first preached, where Jesus was born on earth, they are more of a group society. A collectivist society! You find this especially in the religion of Islam, and other religions. This is why it’s hard to convert just one person, because they don’t leave the family easily. They don’t just become a Christian when the rest of the family is Islamic.
Well, you know, it’s not too different from norms here in the South. For example, if you’re a Baptist, you tend to stay a Baptist all your life. Even if you’ve heard the Adventist message… And you hear those Bible truths, and I know. I’ve seen people hear those Bible truths, and they say, “You know, that sounds more accurate.” Because they may tend to be bible believers… and yet, something holds them back…
Our traditions hold us to our families even in this country. We like to think we’re individualists; but, in many ways we’re more collectivists. We’re more of a group think. Oh, we might rebel against our parents as we grow up. We might have those teenage angst years. You know what I mean? But, we all end up coming back home, don’t we? You’ve certainly seen the shows and the movies about 40 year olds still living at home with their parents, right? You know what I’m talking about?
Eventually, for the most part we come back to what we were raised with, even though we might have rebelled in earlier years. But, we still think so individualistically, which is really more rebelliously; yet, we tend to make peace with our family traditions before we make peace with cutting Bible truths.
So is it impossible for American Christians to come together like that? To come together in obedience to Jesus’ prayer? To fulfill the gospel commission? Can Adventists come together in unity, in obedience to Jesus’ prayer? Can we come together in fellowship and prayer like those early Christians did at Pentecost?
If you would like to listen to the whole sermon, here is the link to the audio, “Relationship and Prayer,” by Pastor Dean Read.