Monday, July 04, 2005

Shaken! -- Acts 4:23-36

"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." Acts 4:31
Honestly, it's been a long time since I was with a group of people praying so diligently that the place was shaken by the very presence of the Holy Spirit. I have been in prayer with brothers and sisters, humbly seeking the face and presence of the Lord, and seen the entire group united and moved through the experience of prayer. How I long to be at that place again. Not just for the "experience," but because God was there and we sensed His presence, not in some mystical feeling but in the unity brought by the Spirit, and through the further direction the group took as we sought to serve the Lord in our community.

Prayer is a unique and vital part of the life of a follower of Jesus. Sadly, we don't involve ourselves in its practice as much as we should, and much of what we call prayer falls woefully short of God's design. Prayer becomes to often a recitation of a laundry list, rather than an intimate encounter with the Holy One. It has also become a rather "personal time" rather than corporate as we see continually throughout the book of Acts.

There are lots of aspects regarding prayer, as well as many questions about prayer. I would love to hear what you bloggers think about this thing called "prayer."
How do you see it?
What questions do you have?
What has been your experience?
Prayerfully waiting your responses.


Anonymous said...

One Sunday many years ago as Pastor Kraft was dismissing the service with prayer..the building began to shake..REALLY shake! He said he knew prayer was powerful but his prayers had never shaken a building before!Ha! That earthquake was a precursor to the big one in '89. Prayer is a big subject...there are so many kinds of prayer. There is the rote childhood prayers of "now I Lay Me Down TO Sleep"...the often sameness of table "grace"...there is polite prayer for a friend in need, there are invocations and bendictions that are often very predictable and often contain the same familiar phrases...then there is EARNEST prayer of "Lord SAVE me" like Peter prayed as he was trying to walk to Jesus on the water...and found himself sinking. We often find ourselves in "sinking" situations of life that calls for Jesus to save us one more time. There is the prayer of a truly penitent heart that says,Lord SAVE me"...that brings salvation.There is conversational prayer often performed publicly in small group situations where one prayer builds on another. There is public prayer when you are called upon to pray and you feel under pressure to say the "right" words and so often are praying for those listening rather than really talking to God. Then there is closet prayer when you and God are all alone and you pour out your deepest needs to Him and often just wait to hear from HIM. There is corporate prayer "concerts" where many people are praying at the same time and often times people feel under pressure and inadequate in these situations...a sense of discomfort. There is intercessory prayer where you earnestly intercede on another's behalf and wait in faith for the answer.There is prayer and fasting that is soul cleansing....and very effective. I have been "exposed" to all of these types of praying through the years. Some are more difficult than others....some are more effective than others...has the building shook? No...not the brick and mortar building but my inner temple if you will...has often been shaken during prayer...sometimes alone...sometimes in a small group and sometimes in a larger setting.This is often evidenced by tears...not always..but often.I grew up in a church that had an altar...there were precious times around those altars. God's presence was so very didn't WANT to leave. I too long for those times of refreshing. Pray on!Ruthie

Anonymous said...

Well said! I, too, have seen different "types" of prayers. When I was a little kid, before I started to attend EFC Felton (does that date me?), I used to think that REAL prayers were made in the Old King James English. That God wouldn't hear my prayers unless they were well marinated with "Thee's" and "Thou's" and words ending in "-eth" and "-est". For a six year old, that's as close to speaking in tongues as you can get. I used to think that God would hear my attempts, and kindly say, "Nice try, kid, you're almost there...." Over the years, I've heard many nice prayers. Real poetic ones. The kind of prayers that you would see on the front of a sympathy card at the Hallmark store. Some people seem to be very good at praying in public. When I was older (post EFC), I remember I was sitting in church next to a guy that I knew. Nice guy, real normal. The pastor asked him to pray for something or other. It was strange, but in the process of standing up, this guy morphed into someone else. His voice dropped a couple of octaves, his idioms changed, his grammar jumped ahead a few years. He got downright RESONANT.

Ruthie, you pointed out one of my favorite passages found in Matt 14. Peter on the water. When he was sinking, he cried out, "Lord, SAVE ME!" He didn't say, "Lord, Thou art mighty, and glorious to behold. I am but dust. Currently, very wet dust. I sinketh. If Thou wouldst extendest Thy hand toward my lowly estate, I shall be savedethest." Nope, Peter just cried out from his heart, "Lord, save me."

From his heart. It was real. It was not pretentious, it was not theatrical, it was from the well of who he was. Nothing against well spoken prayers. Nothing at all. As long as it's real. Jesus didn't save who we think we are, He saved who we really are. It's from that ground that we should pray.

When we pray for someone who's sick, we pray with who we are. (I once heard a very "young" Christian praying for a situation that had befallen a friend. In the middle of his prayer, in the midst of trying to say what he needed to say, a few "colorful" words were used. Some were shocked at his choice of verbage, but I thought it was fine. He was praying with his heart; with who he was. God will change his language soon enough, if He wants to. I think God was more interested in the guy's heart more than the words used.) If we pray in place of someone else, intercessory prayer, we should pray as though it was us going through the difficulty. Sometimes that means we don't say much at all. Sometimes that means not saying anything at all. Sometimes that means we pray all night to get the words out. Sometimes that means (shudder to think of it) that we weep.

My experience, though not as vast as others, has been that the prayers that move mountains and shake houses have their genesis in the heart.

Blessings on you, amigos!


Anonymous said...

Immediate divine understanding.

While listening to a tape of personal healings I gleaned an interesting and helpful thought about the potential blessing that can come to others, as well as to ourself, through prayer. If you recall the story of the lame beggar Peter healed in front of the Temple in Jerusalem, you are aware that the man not only was healed, but he who had never walked before was "walking and leaping and praising God." The point in the tape testimony, which related how the speaker himself was healed through prayer, was that when God heals he not only can make well, but the healing can contain the immediate understanding of how to use God's blessing ... like the beggar who was healed by Peter, and without ever having learned how to walk he instantly understood how to keep his balance, and to leap into the air. I like this thought. Immediate understanding, no time lapse necessary! Gary

Hey, how come I can't copy and paste on this blogger site? Am I doing something wrong?