Prison-Opening Prayer

One of the speakers at the Seminary last week was a young Pastor from Burma. He’s going through our doctoral program and hasn’t finished yet, but they had him speak on prayer and it was touching. In fact, he even said, “Please do not take my picture, because of the persecution that we have in Burma.” There was a coup there in Burma a few years ago. They’re burning churches left and right. Almost 90 percent of the nation is Buddhist, and like many nations, there’s a real attack and warfare against the church. They’re persecuted; they’re martyred; it’s a big deal.

At one point he showed pictures of some of the feeding programs and other things they are doing. Big mounds of rice were being put in bowls for these kids. I’ve been in India and Africa, and, as I listened, I knew right where he was going with this story. He said, “That’s their breakfast; that’s their lunch; that’s their dinner.” Then he said, “Don’t waste your food. Give us this day our daily bread.”

In terms of numbers, there have been more martyrs in the last hundred years than in all of Christian history. Now, at the time of Peter in the early church, there was a lot of persecution. There were additional waves of it in the early church, but in terms of sheer numbers and considering population sizes, there is a higher percentage of people dying today because of their faith in Christ.

We have it pretty good here in America, and yet how many Christians are sitting at home just because they’re not interested in church?

I don’t think this is any of you, but how many have maybe haven’t read their Bible in a while, yet they have three, four, or five of them sitting there just collecting dust? We forget that there’s a price to proclaim the gospel. Sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone.

I’ve met widows in India, while ministering there, whose husbands died martyred. We don’t realize how challenging it is in a lot of these nations. We need to pray.

Keep Pastor Simon in your prayers. He is working towards his doctorate, and the seminary has given him a scholarship to expand the church. I believe he will be a bishop one day in that nation- to be an influence, even if it costs him his life. That’s a sacrifice.

How willing are we to give it all?

What if we prayed like it really mattered?

“Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” Acts 12:5 NKJV

James had been martyred and they’re hoping to do the same with Peter.

What if we, like they, prayed like it really mattered? What if the church actually got an unction to say, “God, you’ve made me a Watchman on the wall, day and night, night and day, I will pray until Heaven breaks in and the devil has run out of my home, out of our family, out of our church, out of our cities, out of the churches, until Revival breaks out?”

A praying Church could shake a nation.

“And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.” Acts 12:6-9

Do not worship angels, but understand they are working amongst us.  Don’t try to have an angelic encounter – worship God, and if God sends an angel to help you then simple worship and obey God.

The writer of Hebrews says we’re to be hospitable because “some of you have entertained angels unaware.” The Bible talks clearly about angels working among us in New Testament terms, but don’t get weird about angels!

God is working amongst us in supernatural realms. He can bring you out of the midst of the prison that you’re in. It doesn’t matter if you’re chained if it feels like there’s no way out. Hope deferred makes a heart sick (Proverbs 3:12), but faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen (Hebrews 11:1). Without hope, our faith is weak. Hope is a joyful expectation of a future good.

When we lose hope, we lose faith. When hope is missing, oppression from the enemy prevails. God wants to bring renewed hope to his church with the miraculous. The supernatural is normal. Breakthrough and breakout is what we should expect, Church.

You’re not going under, you’re going over.

You may be on a stormy sea, but your storm is preparing you for breakthrough. Hold on. Jesus is coming! It may be late at night, but in the distance, if you can look, you can see him walking on the water. He’s not stressed. Keep praying, keep fasting, keep declaring, say, “Lord, I’m going to hang on. I’m going to pray with all my might. Lord, if you can heal people from a car accident, back injuries, and stuff, Jesus, you can heal cancer. Lord, if you can make all the pain go away just that fast, you can do anything. Nothing is too great for Him; we needn’t put limits we put on God. There are no limits on Him!

So he thought he was seeing a vision. One day, verse 10, when they were past the first and the second guard post, they came to the Iron Gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord. And by the way,

“When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.” Acts 12:10

We should understand that if God wants to open the gates of the city, and the church gets her heart right and gets in the right place, believe me, He’ll open doors in high places.

God will open doors, open Gates. He’ll move things out of the way; He’ll do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

“And when Peter had come to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.’” Acts 12:11

Listen, you’re here until God says it’s time for you to go home. And when you have that settled in your heart, you’ll go and do whatever the Lord has. I’ve been in some very dangerous places, impoverished places overseas, surrounded by gangs, and all kinds of stuff like that. Some of you have as well.

You can “walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil,” because “your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You are with me” (Psalm 23:4). You will never leave me for the slightest moment. Not one iota will God turn his back on you. No, never. So, be who God called you to be.

“So when he had considered this,” verse 12, “he came to House of Mary, the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together, praying.” (Or, “Many were gathered together, praying.”)

Jesus said, “Could you not pray one hour?” How desperate are we? How much do you want to see something change in your family, the church, the city, the nation? When the prayer meeting no longer is the Cinderella of the church, watch out! When people really get a vision of how powerful prayer is, watch out.

The devil will do anything to stop the church from praying. He’ll make you too tired, he’ll make you upset with Brother So-and-So that’s in the meeting, or Sister So-and-So. He’ll get you upset up about something because then we won’t go to the prayer meeting. He’ll do whatever he can to bring disunity, disruption, anything to stop the church from being a voice and lifting up their petitions before God, saying, ‘God, who have we on Earth besides you? God, our eyes are on you. Lord, we look to you and to you alone!’

This was her pastor; this was their leader, Peter. He’s no longer The Wanderer. This is their man of God. He’s in jail. He’s in a dark place. And what are they doing? They’re praying, because they knew that if the enemy took him out, there was a good chance they all were going to get taken out – are you with me?

So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.” Acts 12:12-15

They said to her, ‘You were beside yourself.’ In other words, ‘You’re a crazy lady.’ To explain what she had seen, they said it was Peter’s guardian angel at the door, not Peter.

“Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.” Acts 12:16

Don’t be astonished when God brings the breakthrough and the miracle. Have an expectation that God is about to answer. We don’t see many prayers answered because we’re not expecting them to be answered.

If we expected prayers to be answered, we’d see more people knocking at the door and saying, ‘I don’t know what happened, but Jesus just set me free.’

Do you really believe the Lord can do what we ask of Him?

Can He apprehend the drug dealers out here, get them set free, running into the door of the church, throwing themselves in the altar, saying, ‘I want baptized. I gave my life to Jesus. I don’t want this anymore.’?

If we really believed it, we’d pray it, we’d declare it; we’d evangelize, and we would disciple.

“But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.” Acts 12:17

Prayer will change things, folks. We must pray like we really believe it.

Jesus often withdrew himself in the wilderness to pray. If the Son of God needed to pray and pray often, how much more do we need to pray?

The disciples didn’t come to Jesus and say, ‘Lord, show us how to multiply bread. Show us how to do miracles. Show us how to heal the sick.’ They said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’

He gave them the Lord’s Prayer model. Jesus said, ‘When you pray, pray: ‘Our Father Who Art in Heaven, holy is your name’ – worship, adoration. ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven’ – your kingdom, domain, your rulership, God over the chaos in my life, around the world. ‘Give us today our daily bread’ – yes, it’s okay to pray for your needs. That tells you to, ‘Lord, I thank you for the provision. I thank you, God. You know we have need of, Lord. I thank you that you see it. You know it. You’re bringing it in, God.’

Then he says this, ‘and forgive us our trespasses’ – it’s a good thing to actually get before the Lord every day and say, ‘Lord, if I’ve messed up someplace, Holy Spirit, show me.’ Be quick to repent, and then be quick to forgive, because then he says, ‘And forgive those who have trespassed against us.’

He continues, ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ You realize the enemy is trying to tempt all of us. The only one without sin is Jesus. Jesus was tempted in every way like we are, yet he never sinned. All of us are being tempted in some way. And so we learn how to rest in the Father and say, ‘No, no, look, Lord, I thank you. Deliver me from evil and from temptation.’

And then most believe the church added later, ‘For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

And so we learn how to pray, and we say, ‘Okay, Lord, you prayed and you told us how to pray. And so, Lord, we want to come into that place now.’

Listen, the Bible and church history revealed that people who petition God in sincerity of heart, righteousness, faith, and fervency realize answers to prayer. The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther said this, ‘If I should neglect prayer but a single day…”I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.”

Get up in the morning and pray. Oh, you don’t understand Pastor, I’m busy. I know you’re busy. Get up half hour early. Pastor, I’m so tired. I know you are. You can’t afford not to pray. You need to pray before you get in the car and you’re praying. I know people pray in the car. Pray before you leave the house where you’re not distracted.

John Wesley said he spent two hours a day in prayer, beginning at 4 am, and said prayer is the grand means of drawing near to God. George Whitfield, used powerfully in the first Great Awakening here in the United States in the mid-1700s, said of prayer, ‘Whole days and weeks have I spent prostrate on the ground in silent and vocal prayer.’

Why did they see Revival? Because they were serious about prayer. E.M. Bounds, pastor and author in the nineteenth century, said this in some of his writings on prayer, ‘Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: How hungry? How desperate are we for God to move in our lives, in our society? How willing are we to sacrifice our time, our energy, our affections, to have God move upon Humanity with a great ingathering of souls? How bad do you really want Revival? How resolute are we to see the oppressed freed, the outcasts gathered, and the sick in soul and body healed? Every aspect of God’s kingdom manifested here on Earth and people and families, churches and life is first conceived in birth by prayer as we partner with God for His purposes.

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Bob Sawvelle

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