The Holy Spirit and prayer

Introduction:

 

This is once again a question and answer Sunday.

We received many questions and we hope to use a few of them for Christian Connections. As always if you would like to talk with me about a question please contact me. However, we also answer questions at the Wednesday night small group.

 

Today we will talk about:

How Does the Holy Spirit Work in Our Lives Today? Does Prayer and Forgiveness wipe the slate clean? Why Should we pray? What is the Purpose of Prayer, Does God answer prayer and how does He Choose to Answer? How do we keep prayer from being a Genie in a Bottle?

 

Francis Chan in Forgotten God:

You might think that calling the Holy Spirit the “forgotten God” is a bit extreme. Maybe you agree that the church has focused too much attention elsewhere but feel it is an exaggeration to say we have forgotten about the Spirit. I don’t think so. From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangelical would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can. The benchmark of success in church services has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit. The “entertainment” model of church was largely adopted in the 1980s and ’90s, and while it alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit.

 

If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit. The degree to which this has happened (and I would argue that it is a prolific disease in the body of Christ) is directly connected to the dissatisfaction most of us feel with and in the church. We understand something very important is missing. The feeling is so strong that some have run away from the church and God’s Word completely.

I believe that this missing something is actually a missing Someone—namely, the Holy Spirit. Without Him, people operate in their own strength and only accomplish human-size results.

 

Chan, Francis (2009-09-01). Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Kindle Locations 107-112). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

 

Forgotten God is a great book and I would commend it to anyone. But how is the Holy Spirit involved in our lives? I specifically wish to talk about the Holy Spirit in prayer. Let me first say that the Holy Spirit is too big of a subject for one Sunday, but we must understand that the Holy Spirit is with us every Sunday and every day of the week.

 

  1. The Holy Spirit in our lives today: Key text Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    1. In Acts, after Jesus has been resurrected and ascended to heaven, Peter addressed a crowd and declared, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38).
    2. The Holy Spirit is our:
      1. Teacher of spiritual truths. (John 14:26; John 16:13; 1Cor 2:14)
      2. Mouthpiece in witnessing to others. (Luke 12:11-12)
  • Helper in prayer. (Romans 8:26-27)
  1. Power for victorious living. (Acts 1:8; John 1:12)
  2. Purifier of our hearts. (Acts 15:8-9)[1]
  1. The Holy Spirit transformed the Apostles. After Acts chapter two Peter who was denying Christ now preaches. So, then we get to Acts 4.

Clip from Aladdin with the song when the Gennie is found.

 

  1. How is the Holy Spirit active in our prayer life? Acts 4 has the Holy Spirit in prayer:
    1. Allow me to read Acts 4:23-31:

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’

27 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. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 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.

  1. Now, allow me to review what is going on in this passage: At the beginning of Acts chapter 3, Peter and John are going to the Temple at the time of prayer. A lame beggar was there and asked for money. Peter said, “Silver or gold I don’t have but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” The man is healed. This attracted a lot of attention and Peter preached a sermon. Peter’s message reached about 5000 people with the Gospel, but this aggravated the Jewish authorities and Peter and John were thrown in prison for the night. The next day Peter and John spoke before the Jewish leadership and Peter again preached the Gospel (4:8 says that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit). Eventually they had Peter and John released.
  2. Now, following their release from prison, they come back to meet with their own people. They didn’t go to take a shower first. They didn’t go to catch up on business, emails, Facebook or other things. They went straight back to join their people.
  3. They shared about the chief priests. The Chief Priests were a small group of priest within the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin would be the Jewish Supreme Court. The Sanhedrin would be composed of 70 people plus the High priest.[2] The chief Priests are composed of former high priest and members of influential priestly families.
  4. Notice in verse 24: When “they,” which I am thinking is the rest of the disciples” heard this meaning what God had done. They went straight to prayer.
  5. We must always apply the Scripture to our lives. Let’s apply this narrative for a moment. Do we do the same? They could have gone to rest, but no, they went to prayer. Their prayer includes allusions to Old Testament prayers.

Let’s look at this Spirit-Filled Prayer

  1. They start their prayer acknowledging who God is in relation to who we are. We should do the same. God created everything that we see and feel. God created the stars in the sky.
  2. Verse 24 starts their prayer as “Sovereign Lord.” This means that God is in control. This means “absolute ruler.” Actually the Greek word translated here is where we get the English word “despot.”[3] God is the absolute ruler and they acknowledged that as they began their prayer.
  3. Let me also insert here that they were praying in unity. The Scripture says that they “raised their voices together in prayer…” This doesn’t mean they all prayed at the same time, but that they were praying in unity.
  4. Too often I believe that our churches are hindered because of our divisions. Our prayers are hindered because of our divisions. Hence, I am going to say that our divisions hinder the Spirit’s work in our prayer life. In a few verses we will see that this group of Christians experienced the Holy Spirit. I think we are missing the Holy Spirit because of our division[4].
  5. Another statement about division, I strongly believe that the devil starts and fosters our division in order to take our focus off of evangelism. I strongly believe that reaching the lost will heal our division. We will realize that the things we are divided over are not as important as sharing the Gospel with those who don’t even know the Lord. What we need to see here is that their prayer was in unity and God blessed them with a special baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  6. They prayed for boldness and an expansion of the Gospel. They ask that God allows them to preach God’s Word with great boldness.
  7. Verse 30 is a prayer for miracles.
  8. Verse 31 is a confirmation of their Spirit filled prayer.
  9. The place is shaken.
  10. They also speak the Word of God boldly. That is the answer to their prayer.
  • Let’s make some applications and sum up.
    1. I am trying to answer several questions today while talking about the Holy Spirit. I want to do this as best as I can.
    2. First, how does God answer prayer? How does God choose which to answer and which not to answer? Jesus said in John 14:13-14: And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
    3. We misunderstand “name” today. “Name” means “after my manner.” When we are asking Jesus for something by His name this means that we are praying by His will and not our own.
    4. So, I would say that Jesus chooses to answer prayers based off of His will. We see in that passage in Acts that the prayer is answered. But the prayer is heavily Gospel oriented.
    5. Next, God knows all, but He desires a relationship with us. When we pray we are humbly coming to Him recognizing we cannot do this on our own. Part of the purpose of prayer is our relationship with God. Another purpose is humility. (Phil. 4:6-9)
    6. How do we keep prayer from being a “Gennie in a bottle”? We must let the Scriptures inform our prayer life. Think about our prayers, are we praying for our own interest or God’s interest? It is okay to pray for our healing or our job, but is the end result God’s interests? If I am healthier, I can better take care of my family. Read the Bible and pray the passages, the narratives for yourselves and others. Surrender to God’s will.
    7. The Holy Spirit is always active in prayer, but I believe He is most active when our prayers are filled with Scripture and we pray as a body of Christ, whether in small groups or large groups.
    8. There was one question which has to do with prayer which I still want to address. Does praying and asking for forgiveness wipe the slate clean? In a way that when we pray and ask for forgiveness we are set free from the eternal consequence of our sins. We still may have temporal consequence, such as jail. We still did sin. However, God sees us as righteous by seeing Christ’s righteousness. We have imputed Christ’s righteousness. (Romans 3:23-34; 6:23)

We are New Testament Christians living in an increasingly secular world. Because of this we must go to the Word of God to be filled up with the Holy Spirit. Now, Christians are filled with the Spirit when we receive Christ as Savior and Lord; however, I believe as we grow in Christ we can experience special times of being filled with the Spirit. We should pray for this every day. I think this will mostly happen in small prayer circles and we need these as Christians. I think this will mostly also happen when our prayers are in the manner expressed in this passage. We must pray with worship acknowledging God as sovereign. We must pray in petition with our basic need, but also we must pray for the greater good submitting to God’s sovereign will. This prayer is for the building up of the church and it is spirit filled. Verse 31 says that they were filled with the Spirit.

Christ followers, let’s do the same. Whether or not you are a preacher, go forth and preach God’s Word including the Gospel. Do this with boldness. Pray in groups of Christians, pray in this manner and experience the Holy Spirit and get ready. Lastly, set aside diversity and instead embrace unity for the cause of the Gospel. Then, you ought to really be ready for the Holy Spirit’s work. We need the type of prayer illustrated in this passage. I certainly do. We need, I need, Spirit-filled prayer meetings in our churches.

Go and be Spirit-filled Christ followers, living as post resurrection Christians.

 

Listen as I read the words to a newer worship song:

 

Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble

Did you feel the mountains tremble?
Did you hear the oceans roar?
When the people rose to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

Did you feel the people tremble?
Did you hear the singers roar?
When the lost began to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

And we can see that God you’re moving
A mighty river through the nations
And young and old will turn to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice

Did you feel the darkness tremble?
When all the saints join in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokeness

And here we see that God you’re moving
A time of Jubilee is coming
When young and old return to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Written by Martin Smith ©1995 Curious? Music UK

Let’s pray.

 

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

 

[1] Discipleship Training by Dr. Charles Lake. Level 1 week 5

[2] Arnold, Clinton E. Acts. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary.

Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. Page 32

 

[3] Witherington III 201

[4] We may be able to take 1 Peter 3:7 which references our relationship with our spouse as hindering our prayer life to also mean if we are divided as a church it hinders our prayer life. Psalm 66:18 talks about cherished sin hindering our prayers.

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