The Gospel Unleashed - Unleashed by Prayer

Sermon Summary

This message examines what prayer is and how it unleashed the gospel in a powerful way in the New Testament Church just after Jesus ascended back to heaven. Prayer is so powerful because it is the privilege we've been given to verbalize to God our needs, our hurts, our troubles, our questions, and really anything on our hearts. It is in prayer that we also verbalize our praise and thankful hearts to God for what He means to us and for the things He's done in our lives. But that's only one half of prayer. Prayer is also listening. God speaks to us through His Word the Bible and by way of His Holy Spirit who lives in a believer's heart and life. The power of the New Testament Church to unleash the gospel, the good news of Jesus, to the world was found in their willingness to listen to the content of God's Word. But there was lagniappe. Lagniappe is a south Louisiana word that means extra or bonus. Prayer was not only verbalizing and listening, it was also fellowshipping. Of course it was fellowship with God, but it also included the very important aspect of praying together with other believers. The New Testament Church found great power in gathering together for prayer in groups. Many great moves of God followed the fellowshipping of believers in prayer. The message closes with one such example found in Acts 12:1-18.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Can you share a specific way or time in which prayer unleashed the good news of Jesus in your life?

2. Prayer is the privilege we have to take anything to the God of the universe and verbalize it in prayer. God desires for us to come to Him and speak to Him. He really listens. Have you ever thought about how awesome it is we have an audience with Almighty God? Discuss what this privilege means to you. 

Psa 95:1  Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Psa 95:2  Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
Psa 95:3  For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.
Psa 95:4  In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.
Psa 95:5  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Psa 95:6  Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
Psa 95:7  for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

3.What are some of the things you are thankful you can talk to God about and how has sharing those things with Him impacted your life?

Phil 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Phil 4:7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

4. Listening to and for God's response is the other half of prayer we sometimes neglect. We can get so busy and caught up in the rat race of life that we don't take time to be still and listen for His voice. One of the main ways God speaks to us is through His Word and then by His Holy Spirit reminding us of the things we've studied. What are some steps you could take to be a better listener?

Psa 119:5  Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
Psa 119:6  Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.
Psa 119:7  I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
Psa 119:8  I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.
Psa 119:9  How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
Psa 119:10  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
Psa 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psa 119:12  Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
Psa 119:13  With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
Psa 119:14  I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
Psa 119:15  I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
Psa 119:16  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

5. The Gospel was unleashed in the New Testament Church through the fellowship of prayer. They prayed together. Why is it so important for us to be involved in small groups where we can prayer together about things.

Matthew 18:19-20 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”


Full Sermon Notes

Unleashed by Prayer

"With arms held high, Lord I give my life knowing I'm found in Christ, in Your love forever!" We hold our hands high as a symbol of our awe and amazement in the presence of Almighty God, but also to show our loving surrender to a truly good God who has promised to hear our cries, our needs, our hurts, our joys, our praises, our slightest whisper! The Gospel is the Good News! The Good News of Jesus Christ and prayer unleashes the gospel in powerful ways! Let's pray and ask God to unleash the gospel in our lives through prayer!
Pray!

Our text follows Jesus being taken up to heaven before the disciples very eyes. Remember He had told them they would receive power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them. They didn't know the exact time this would happen, they were just told to wait. Have you ever had to wait upon the Lord? Sometimes we know God has called us to something, or to do something, but the circumstances have yet to come together for things to work, at least not yet!

What should we do when we know God wants us to do something, but we don't yet have the resources or the timing is not right? Let's see what the disciples did in our text for today, Acts 1:12-14...

Acts 1:12-14 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.
When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew;
Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

They all joined together constantly in prayer, and not just the disciples, but some of the women who were Christ followers and Mary the Mother of Jesus and Jesus' brothers. Yes, according to Scripture Jesus had brothers. We see this in Mark's gospel...

Mark 6:13 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.
When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these
things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!
Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?
Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Just thought that was interesting and it's very interesting that Jesus' family, who at one point questioned His very sanity, after the Cross accepted Him not only as a son, and a brother, but embraced Him as Savior, Messiah, and Son of God! In fact James, the most prominent sibling, would eventually become the leader of the church at Jerusalem and write the book of James. But it was not only James who changed after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Remember after the crucifixion the disciples were discouraged and some went back to fishing and how the guys on the Emmaus road were so discouraged until they realized Jesus had risen. Now Jesus leaves them again as He ascended up to heaven! You know they were astounded by this, but this time they were not discouraged. In fact they were encouraged to go back to the upper room, which may have been the same room where Jesus had eaten the last supper with them, or the same room where the early church sometimes met or maybe even the house were the Holy Spirit would come upon them. We don't know, but we do know what they did there. They prayed!! They were getting ready to pick a replacement for Judas Iscariot who had betrayed Jesus and then took his own life. They knew this was a very important decision and they needed God's direction so they prayed. The disciples had witnessed Jesus do the same thing before every important event in His life. Luke tells us this...

Luke 6:12-13 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

What is Prayer?

Prayer is Verbalizing

Psalm 55:16-18 But I call to God, and the LORD saves me.
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.
He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.

Prayer is the act of communicating with God almighty. It is talking to Him and sharing our heart with Him and seeking His wisdom, His direction, His guidance, His comfort, His strength, His provision, His forgiveness. Prayer is loving God and telling Him just how much we love Him. Prayer is praising Him for who He is and for how amazing are His works. Prayer is thanking Him for His presence in our lives. Prayer is thanking Him for His many blessings and seeking His power to be a blessing to others. Prayer is asking God to help us forgive those who have wronged us and for the wisdom to know how to deal with that. Prayer is asking God healing when we are sick, but also trusting God to give us the strength to trust Him when immediate healing does not fulfill God's ultimate will for our lives. Prayer is talking to God and being honest about our questions, our feelings, our doubts. Prayer is not only for ourselves, but for others. Intercessory prayer is lifting others to God and speaking to Him on their behalf.

One day Jesus was praying. I'm not sure if the disciples heard Him praying or simply saw Him from a distance, maybe on His knees praying, or with His hands held high to His Heavenly Father, but they asked Him to teach them to pray. It's interesting that Jesus gives them an abbreviated version of the Model prayer or The Lord's Prayer which He had taught them in His sermon on the mount...

Luke 11:1-4 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into
temptation. ’ ”

That short teaching on prayer includes worshipping God, seeking God's provision, asking for God's forgiveness, forgiveness of others and prayer for spiritual strength to avoid temptation. Jesus also reminded them of another teaching He had given in His sermon on the mount...

Luke 11:9-10 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

When we earnestly seek God's direction for our lives in prayer I believe He answers by helping us receive His wisdom, find His direction, and discover the open doors we are to walk through. But prayer is so much more! And you might think, how could it be more than that? Well, we've only talked about one half of prayer. Prayer is communication and communication has to be at least two ways! So prayer is thanking Him that He not only allows us to talk to Him, but that He desires to talk with us!! Again, prayer is not one sided. It's not just us talking, it's letting God talk to us, and for that to be effective we must understand that...

Prayer is Listening

It's not just us talking to God, it's God talking to us and He can do that 24/7 and even in the middle of our busiest day. However, we must learn to hear His voice. We must develop a sensitivity to His voice and we do that by spending time with Him when we're not so busy! But you might say, "but I'm always busy!" The Psalmist has something to say about that...

Psalm 37:7a Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him...

That was the Psalmist giving us the wisdom to slow down and wait for God to speak to us, but in Psalm 46:10 he actually quotes God as saying...

Psalm 46:10:a “Be still, and know that I am God…"

God speaks to us by way of His Holy Spirit and allowing the Holy Spirit to remind us of His Word! And one of the things you need to remember is this: If you want the Holy Spirit to remind you of His Word, you need to take the time to read it and realize that when you're reading God's Word, that's God's primary way of talking to you. Once again we turn to the Psalms...

Psalm 119:7-18 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

Oh and by the way, when you take the time to let God speak to you through His precious Word, don't fret about remembering every little detail, the Holy Spirit will help you. Get the principle behind the verses you study. Get the main point. Get the action point. Jesus said this to His disciples...

John 14:23-26 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our home with him.
He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
“All this I have spoken while still with you.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

It's kind of like when a professor of mine prayed for us before one of our test. He said, "Dear Lord, help these students remember the things they have studied for this test!" That was no comfort for those who had not studied! There's a few verses at the very beginning of the book of Proverbs that specifically reference the book of Proverbs, but I feel can be applied to the whole Bible!

Proverbs 1:1-7 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Powerful words! What did he say we get when we listen to God's Word? It's a powerful list of spiritual goods...

Wisdom

Discipline

Understanding words of insight

A disciplined and prudent life

Did you notice discipline is on the list twice? Must be important! And, by the way, prudent means...

Prudent: acting with or showing care and thought for the future

When you listen to God He will encourage you to think with care about your choices and how they may effect your future and the future of those around you. I've told young people this before: "Your older self is going to be really upset with your younger self about this!"  The next thing on the list is so important for those of us who desire to unleash the gospel in our lives to the world…

Doing what is right and just and fair

The world is watching us. Do we practice what we preach? Are we doing what is right and just and fair? Our prayer should be that we can live lives of justice in order that the gospel might be unleashed to a world that needs to discover that the true meaning of life is inseparably tied up with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

And if you think you're not smart enough to do understand all of this, or that you are too young, think again, because the Word of God is...

Proverbs 1:4 "for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—"

So you have no excuse. Okay, one last thing on unleashing the gospel through prayer. Prayer is

Prayer is Fellowship

Now I know some of you are wondering what in the world I'm talking about. Are you talking about fellowship with God? Well, yes it is that, but it is even more. While it is so important that you spend time alone with God in prayer and grow in your personal relationship with Him, God's Word is very clear that we are not only to pray for one another, but to pray with one another! In our text many had gathered to pray. Jesus had taught the importance of gathering to pray when He said...

Matthew 18:19-20 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

And in the New Testament Church prayer would continue to play a prominent role in the unleashing of the gospel. After the Day of Pentecost had come, and Peter had preached his powerful message, which led thousands to follow Jesus, we find this statement...

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

There are many examples of God intervening in powerful ways when a group of believers got together to pray about something. I'll end with one of my favorites. Acts 12:1-18

Acts 12:1-18 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.
He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each.
Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers,
bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.
“Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so.
“Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him.
Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went
through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.”
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John,  
also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.
When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison.
“Tell James and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.

Amazing things can happen when the church fellowships around prayer. When we pray together, seeking, asking and knocking, we will find, it will be given, and doors for the gospel to be unleashed will be opened!
Let's pray!