Sermon

God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

Church Membership and Prayer (Psalm 121:1-2 and Acts 4:23-31)

Let us pray:

Almighty Father, we come to you in prayer for the Gospel ministry of our churches. We ask for continuing work of conversion that comes from your Word and Spirit. We petition for those whom you called by your saving Gospel to bring about the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, their families and country.

Loving God we pray that our communion with you as our Triune God may continue to bind us in loving relationship with our another. Give us the desire to serve and love another one, bearing each others burden, involving ourselves in the lives of one another, learning to live in peace and unity with one another.

We come to you our perfect and wise God for increasing our knowledge of your perfect and good will. May we learn contentment when difficulties come our way. We praise you for your daily provisions. Thank you for your gracious supplications in our lives.

Most Holy God we humbly come to you in prayer clothed by the righteousness of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We continue our study of Church Membership and we will relate it now to prayer. What is the role of prayer in the Gospel ministry? What are the prayers items included in the Gospel ministry? These are the questions we will answer from Scripture.

In sum, the role of prayer in the Gospel ministry is to ask God everything we need for his kingdom to come in our lives and the prayer for the Gospel ministry includes love, knowledge, and power. These are things we will learn this Lord’s Day morning.

The Role of Prayer in the Gospel Ministry

Before we delve into the role of prayer, let us first frame it in the context of redemptive history and trace back the origins of prayer.

The origin of prayer is found in the Old Testament at the Garden when God promised Eve that he will put an enmity between the serpent and her and her seed with crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Essentially, it comes with faith in the promise of redemption by a savior whom God himself will provide. During the time of Abraham, God made clear this promise by way of a covenant wherein God foreshadowed the giving of a substitute (Genesis 22). Then Moses and Israel institutionalized these sacrifices in the law with the temple formalized during the time of David and Solomon.

In response to God’s love and faithfulness the saints of the Old Testament dedicated a hymn book called Psalms to inscripturate the praises and prayers of God’s people. In thanksgiving, petition, and lament, God’s congregation pours out to God their response of faith for his work in creation and redemption (Psalm 121). Then finally in Isaiah 56, God reveals the extends his saving promise to all nations and calling them to worship his true name and praying to him as their true God. Isaiah records, Yahweh saying: “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (verses 6-7)

Jesus himself reiterates these word from Scripture when he cleanses the temple in Jerusalem and proclaims, “And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? (Mark 11:17). This means when Jesus inaugurated his kingdom and sends his Spirit to the church, Christians are called to become part of the praying church.

The ministry of Gospel is wrapped with the prayer of his people. The role of prayer in the gospel ministry pervades Luke’s account in Acts with the apostles. Dr. Allen Vander Pol summarizes: “Acts 1:14 says that, after Jesus’ ascension, the apostles joined together constantly in prayer (cf. Luke 24:53). The apostles prayed before they appointed a replacement for Judas and before they set seven apart for the ministry of deacon (Acts 1:24; 6:6). Peter prayed before he raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:40). Peter also prayed when God gave him the vision of unclean animals (Acts 10:10). And Cornelius prayed when God told him to send for Peter (Acts 10:30). The church prayed while God released Peter from prison (Acts 12:12). The church of Antioch appointed Paul and Barnabas as missionaries after they fasted and prayed (Acts 13:2, 3). With prayer and fasting Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church on their first 

missionary journey and committed them to the Lord (Acts 14:23). Paul and Silas prayed before the prison earthquake in Philippi and before the jailor’s conversion (Acts 16:25). We could mention even more examples of the praying church in the book of Acts. In many  of these cases the church prayed together as a body.”

When we read in focus from Acts 4 which is our NT text this morning, God’s people prayed for the apostles. They were filled by the Holy Spirit and receives the boldness they all need to continue with the gospel ministry.  Let us read their prayer and Luke’s commentary after:

“When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 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. (Acts 4:23-31)”

In sum, the role of prayer in the gospel ministry is to supply God’s people with everything they need for consummation of the kingdom until Christ comes. Our prayer of gratitude in response to God’s grace demonstrates our need that God himself supplies. Prayer is the appointed means for God to supply his ordained end. As the Heidelberg Catechism asks and explains:

Question: Why do Christians need to pray?

Answer: Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gift sand thanking God for them.

God provides with everything we need and prayer is the means we ask for those gifts in Christ by his Spirit.

Prayers for the Gospel Ministry

NT Scripture records for us the prayer items we need to pray for in relation to the gospel ministry of the church. Paul’s letter leaves us with his prayer reports and it gives us inspired accounts of what we should be praying for when it comes to the gospel ministry. First, let us relate the pattern of Paul’s prayer in line with model of prayer Jesus himself taught. Second, let us dig deep with the prayers of Paul in relation to our growth in likeness of God in Christ by the Spirit.

In Roman 15:30-31, Paul at the end of his letter listed as his prayer the motive, requests, and attitude for the ministry.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. (Romans 15:30-31)

First, the motive of Paul’s prayer is to teach us to learn to the Father for all everything we need in Jesus’ name and by the Spirit. He wants us to direct our petitions to our Triune God. Second, the petitions that Paul reports are two petitions from the Lord’s prayer namely deliverance from evil and the supplication of our daily needs. Third, Paul shows for us to learn the humility required in prayer when he asks all of in accordance to God’s will and not his. This clear shows to us that for Paul all our prayers end with “….for thine is the kingdom, power, and glory, forever. Amen.”

Next, Paul asks us to petition also for work of the Triune God demonstrating divine life itself in us:

  1. Prayer for Love
    • For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thes 3:9-13)
    • Paul wants us to pray for the love of God to manifest in our love for one another. We pray for love to increase in our lives as we grow in holiness as God’s people
  2. Prayer for knowledge
    • And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:9-14)
    • Paul prays for us to possess the knowledge that comes with wisdom and understanding. It is for the learning of God’s will of providence in Creation and his revealed will in Scripture. Paul wants us to mature in our walk towards godliness and for fruit of good work in our lives. He also wants us to receive encouragement and strength that comes from knowing his will and it may help us endure in the end.
  3. Prayer for Power
    • For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
    • Paul wants us to pray for the sustaining work of God in our lives and relates again knowing with godly living and our growth knowledge sustains our living before God.

In sum, we pray for the gospel ministry, for all its needs and consummation. We ask the Father in the name of the Son and by the power of the Spirit everything we need for our growth in holiness demonstrated by our increase in love, knowledge, and power.

Conclusion

ZCRC (Imus), God’s promise is the origin of our prayers before him. He calls us to worship him and petition before him everything we need in this life for the consummation of his kingdom. May we continue to come to him in prayer and humility. Amen.

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