It was his custom to start his day with prayer and Scripture reading. And that morning was no exception; he felt that before he attended to the business of his country that first, he must attend to the business of his soul. And as he read from God’s word his heart and eyes were drawn to Psalm 72:8 May he reign from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. Actually, he was reading from the King James Version and so the words he read were Psalm 72:8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
The thirty-three Fathers of Confederation had gathered in Charlottetown to discuss and draft the terms of the British North America Act, there were many suggestions on what to call this new “United Canada.”
The leading suggestion at that point was John A. McDonald’s preference “The Kingdom of Canada”.
That morning Samuel Leonard Tilley, who by the way was from Saint John, had read from the Bible and became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God, that when he came down to the conference session, he presented his suggestion based upon his morning Bible reading, and that was the “Dominion of Canada.” The other Fathers readily agreed and accepted his inspired concept.
If we look around our fair nation today on her 151st birthday it because painfully obvious that God no longer has dominion over this country. What would it take to change a country? You ever wonder that? Listen to what God tells us in his word.
2 Chronicles 7:14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
That promise was for Israel originally, but it is for all those who are called by God’s name.
But how are we to pray, is it as simple as adding a line to our bedtime prayers, “And God bless our country?”
The 1908 version of Oh Canada written by Robert Stanley Weir
actually ended with a prayer. This is the last verse:
Ruler Supreme, Who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within Thy loving care.
Help us to find, O God, in Thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.
And for those of you with your knickers in a knot over the most recent change to O’ Canada, here is the first verse from 1908:
O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love thou dost in us command.
We see thee rising fair, dear land,
The True North, strong and free;
And stand on guard, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
The early church was defined by prayer, over and over again we read how they prayed, why they prayed when they prayed. And because of that prayer, they were able to change not just a country but eventually the face of the entire world.
In Acts 4 the church faces its first major crisis. The two major leaders of the church, Peter and John have been thrown into Jail for preaching the gospel; they are released after being ordered not to preach again. Although they didn’t quite promise to follow the order instead they asked a question, a question which we should each memorize and ask on a regular basis and it was found in Acts 4:19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?
As soon as our two heroes are released they high tail it back to the other believers and called a prayer meeting. The scripture that was read this morning was an account of that prayer meeting. This morning we are going to take a look at how the early church became a movement through prayer, and eventually went on to change the world.
Acts 4:24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God:
1) They Were Agreed in Prayer
The key word here, of course, is the word “Together” When they started to pray they had obviously thought back to that incredibly powerful promise that Jesus had made to them in Matthew 18:19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.
Now John & Peter must have figured that if two was good then a whole bunch must be better so they rushed back to the entire group and said: “Hey guys and girls this is something that we really need to pray about, and we need to all be on the same page.”
It is critical that Cornerstone is not only a church that prays but that we are a church that prays with unity. You think how confusing it must be for God when some churches pray. Like group “A” is praying for one thing and group “B” is praying for something that is diametrically opposed to group “A”. Meanwhile, group “C” in the back is praying for something that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the situation.
One of the major criteria if a church is going to go somewhere is that they will need to go there together. In reality, a church is like a bunch of people who get together and charter a plane. If the people in the front want to go to Vancouver but the people in the back want to go to Dublin and the people over the wings want to go to Orlando who does the pilot listen to?
The people who yell the loudest? The people who pay the most? The people who plead the most earnestly? It’s only when all the passengers get together and decide on a common destination that the plane can take off.
I am convinced that one of the major reasons that churches don’t grow is that they can’t figure out what they want God to do. If we are to succeed and become everything that God wants us to become then we are going to need some common goals and some common dreams, and we are going to have to pray together, and not just physically.
In the years ahead we need to make sure that whatever we do as a congregation, members and adherents, young and old, newcomers and old timers that we have a God-given goal and that we all pull together in that direction. We could take a lesson from the mule who has learned that you can’t pull and kick at the same time. And we will need to pray in that direction as well. A powerful church will pray together.
Acts 4:24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—
Not only did the church pray together but 2) They Prayed under the sovereignty of God
Regardless of how precise our goals are, regardless of how well-honed the focus of the church is, regardless of how carefully we have defined our purpose if they are not God’s goals, if it isn’t God’s focus, if it isn’t God’s purpose that we’re serving then we are going to be way out in left field. The biggest mistake that we will make as a church will be to follow the temptation to “Do it ourselves”.
I’m sure that there was someone in that early church who said: “Let’s just get together and present a petition to the Sanhedrin and they’ll leave us alone.”
It doesn’t matter if we think God can’t or won’t answer our prayers both are blasphemous because through them we limit the power of God. These believers started by stating right up front “You are God and you can do anything.” Do you believe that this morning? Can you say that in your life and in the life of the church? “I believe that God can do anything?”
When Martin Luther stood before one of the Papal Delegations who came to him they asked: “Where will you be when all of your supporters desert you?” His reply, “Where I’ve always been, in the hands of the sovereign God.” Don’t use God as a last resort but instead realize that he is all that you can really depend on.
So, not only does a powerful church pray with one voice but it also recognizes the sovereignty and power of almighty God.
Acts 4:24-25 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
The early church knew enough not to just stand on experience but 3) They Relied on the Word of God.
Experiences differ. Yours may or may not be the same as mine. The neat thing about Christianity is that Christ approaches each one of us as individuals and deals with us as individuals and so our experiences with Christ will be as distinct and individual as we are. But as different as our experiences might be the word of God is unchanging. Don’t forget what the Prophet Malachi wrote in Malachi 3:6 “I am the LORD, and I do not change.”
That is echoed by King David in Psalm 110:4 The LORD has taken an oath and will not break his vow:
Our directions need to be guided by Biblical precedent. And our prayers have to recognize the validity of the scriptures for today July 1st 2018
This is not simply an antiquated volume of cute stories and witty sayings. This is the living breathing word of God. And it is absolutely worthless to you if you never open it.
If I was to ask how many of you had read your Bible more then twice this past week there would be a few embarrassed Christians in this congregation. The worst part is that some of those would be quote-unquote “Mature Christians” and if quoted Hezekiah 3:21 I wonder how many of you would realize that the book of Hezekiah only exists in my imagination?
If you are a Christian, then you need to get into this book. I don’t care how you do it, but you need to read and feed on the word of God.
You need to get a Bible that you’re comfortable with and read it. And a Bible that you’re comfortable with is one that you can easily read. Read it, mark in it, devour it.
A lot of people are using “Bible Apps” on their phones and many of those apps allow you to listen to the bible being read. So, you can listen to it in your car, or when you are at the gym or going for a walk or run.
But find out what works for you and do whatever you have to do and feed on the word of God. It’s only as you know the word of God that you can find out what he wants from you because you can be assured that God won’t want anything from you or for you, from this church or for this church that is contrary to His word.
So a Powerful Church in bold prayer prays with one voice, under the sovereignty of God relying on the truth of the word of God.
Acts 4:29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.
4) They Offered Specific Requests.
These people knew what they wanted and they weren’t afraid to verbalize it. They didn’t beat around the bush with maybes, ifs and perhaps. Instead, they stated what they wanted.
I like the fact that they did it differently then I would have done it. My prayer would have been “Now, Lord, consider their threats and shut them up.” I might have embellished it a bit more, “May their vocal cords dry up and their tongues fall out” but you get the picture. But that wasn’t the approach that the early church took. They didn’t ask that the mountain be removed instead they asked for the courage to climb the mountain.
We need to step out in faith and claim the promises of God and one of those is that we serve a prayer answering God.
We deny the power of prayer not because we don’t believe it but because we don’t practice it I love the story of a small town in Kentucky whose only distinction was that they had two churches and one distillery, which was owned by an avowed atheist.
It seems that one night the people from the two churches called a special prayer meeting and spent the night praying that the distillery would close down. Well, you can guess the rest of the story shortly after midnight a storm blew in, lightning struck the distillery and it burnt to the ground.
Well, the churches were elated; the atheist wasn’t and imagine how he felt when his insurance company informed him they couldn’t pay the claim because it was “an act of God”. The outcome of the story is that the owner took the two churches to court to sue them for damages, which they claimed they weren’t responsible for.
The presiding judge supposedly said, and I quote “This is the most perplexing case I have ever sat on because on one hand, I have an atheist who claims to believe in the power of prayer and on the other hand I have two churches that deny it”
Is it true? Probably not, but it’s funny.
Let’s not be afraid to ask for specific things and when we receive them let’s not be afraid to give credit where credit is due.
A Powerful Church that prayed with one voice, under the sovereignty of God, relying on the truth of the word and offered specific requests.
Acts 4:31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.
5) They Witnessed the Supernatural Power of God
When was the last time you gathered in prayer and the building you were meeting in started to shake? “Well Pastor, God used signs and wonders in a different way in the New Testament Church then he does today”
OK, but what do you do with scriptures like Malachi 3:6 “I am the LORD, and I do not change.”?
Is the absence of the visible supernatural in our churches today because God has stopped doing that kind of thing or because we have stopped expecting that Kind of thing? Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that we need to have our building shake when we pray, I’m not even sure that our insurance company covers that, but I am suggesting that when we pray we pray for results.
Do you remember what they prayed for in Acts 4:29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Now, do you remember the last part of Acts 4:31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.
The miracle wasn’t the building shaking the miracle was that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. We don’t get results because we don’t pray as we should.
If we want to see Cornerstone fulfil all the great things that God has in store for us then we not only need to be praying as individuals but corporately, that is as a group, we need to be praying together for our church and for our pastoral staff.
We need to pray with one voice, under the sovereignty of God, relying on the truth of his word with specific requests expecting a supernatural response. And 220 in the afternoon is a great time to do that.
And if we want to see our Country truly be the Dominion of Canada then we need to heed God’s promise when he told us in 2 Chronicles 7:14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
On this, Canada’s 151st birthday are you praying for our Country? Are you praying for our leaders? Paul reminded Timothy of this truth in 1 Timothy 2:1-6 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.
Too often when we think of praying for the Government and our rulers we are like the characters in Fiddler on the Roof, when someone asked the Rabbi: if there was a proper blessing for the czar
And the Rabbi responds with these words:
“A blessing for the czar? Of course! May God bless and keep the czar… far away from us!”
Do you know why we pray for our leaders? It’s not so they will do what we think they should do, the Roman government still persecuted Christians even after Paul wrote these words. Listen again to what Paul tells Timothy 1 Timothy 2:1-2 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
And you’re thinking the answer is: so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes on to say,
Perhaps that could be read, 1 Timothy 2:3-4 This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants Justin to be saved and to understand the truth.
God wants everyone to be saved. I wonder what would happen if every Christian in Canada was praying for the Prime Minister’s wisdom and salvation? What if we believed the promise that God’s word will not return void. That promise is found in the book of Isaiah, in the NLT it reads this way. Isaiah 55:11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
You may or may not know that shortly after the death of Justin’s younger brother he was invited to attend an Alpha course, and he did, all twelve weeks. What if the church in Canada prayed that God’s word that was spoken into Justin’s life would bear fruit?
What if we prayed that the supreme court justices would be introduced to Jesus, do you think that would help them make decisions that honoured God and his word?
What if we prayed that everyday Christians would represent Jesus well in their daily lives.
What if those of us who are called by his name humbled ourselves and prayed and sought God’s face? Do you think that God would keep his promise and would restore our land? If instead of whining and complaining about the government policies that we don’t like or don’t agree with if we prayed for our leaders, I wonder what would happen?
I can almost guarantee you this if we don’t humble ourselves, seek God’s face and pray then Canada will never be the land that God wants it to be.