Acts 9. Creating a Prayer culture: ‘the Ministry of prayer’.
Also John 21:1-19.
Father, give us afresh your Holy Spirit, that these spoken words may be faithful to the written word and lead us to the Living Word, and that these words will bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Amen.
Over the coming weeks, between now and Pentecost, we will explore the Ministry of Prayer, which we all have. We will draw out principles we see in Acts (mostly), and share practical advice and stories.
We begin with Acts 9.
Praying with others.
We probably know well the story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. But there is a key person in this story – Ananias.
For me a church community, is one where we not only pray for each other, in our quiet times at home, but also with each other in person.
This can be in our Life Groups. Also, after each Sunday service, we have a trained prayer ministry team – a pair of individuals – with whom, you can pray about everything and anything, big or small.
But we can all be involved in this ‘ministry of prayer’.
I love the idea of a community, where when meeting up, someone talking with us, shares a deep problem or pain. We may say, we will pray for them. And we will.
But we can also offer to pray with them there and then, if it is appropriate.
Is that something you would consider doing?
The ministry of prayer.
Isn’t that the job of a minister or an council members or simply someone who is holier, older, wiser, trained etc than me? Of course, in some situations the answer may be ‘yes’ due to what the person has shared.
But usually, most of the time, you can. God will listen to your prayers, when praying with someone, just as much as he will when you pray, for that person by yourself at home.
Ananias is a disciple. He is not an apostle, evangelist, prophet, pastor or teacher.
And Ananias, a disciple, prays for Paul, and Paul is an apostle. We’d maybe think it should be the other way round – but here, we have, a disciple, praying for an apostle.
The first Christian act of service, done to Paul, was someone praying with him and for him.
In the vision, the Lord could have told Ananias to pray where he was. But he sends him.
One reason, is the power of presence. You see, at times, when we face struggles, to have someone sit with us, listen, pray for us, is powerful, loving, supportive, we are not alone.
It is a glimpse of what Jesus did. Incarnation is about Jesus coming among us, being here in our struggles. God up there became the God down here. Beside us.
Often persecuted Christians said to Brother Andrew, that they appreciated and needed his prayers, but also his mere presence was a support, an encouragement, a strengthener.
To set aside time. To say you matter, this matters,
let’s pray together.
That is why we call it a ministry – a service – of prayer.
We can learn further from Ananias how to serve people in prayer…
What does Ananias pray?
He prays for practical things for now, and not about the future.
He prays for healing – for Saul has been blind for 3 days.
Our prayers for healing, with others, can be prayer for physical, emotional, mental or spiritual healing.
Here it is for physical healing. We will return to praying for healing later in this month.
And he prays for Paul to be filled with the Spirit. We may be used to Bishops only praying for people to be filled with the Spirit at confirmations. But we also of course, do this as part of our worship on Pentecost – we offer to anoint everyone on that Sunday and I will pray for them. We also include, prayer for this filling / refilling , as part of the Away day on the Holy Spirit within the Alpha Course.
Jesus tells his followers in Luke 11 – that the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. So we have his presence within us, but we ask for his presence and power as well.
Ephesians 5. Paul teaching the Ephesian Christians – who are saved, born again, children of God – and he says that ‘be filled with the Holy Spirit – present continuous tense – it means be filled and go on being filled’. We are to pray to be filled not only at a one off event as a confirmation, or yearly at Pentecost, it is a regular activity for every disciple.
So you ask God to fill you, daily.
And you can pray for God to fill another disciple, as Ananias did.
A disciple praying this for an apostle.
Listening to the Lord.
I have said that, I love the idea, of a church community, where we just naturally, bravely, boldly, compassionately, offer to pray with someone after they share a struggle…
But I want to suggest another dimension. It comes from listening, listening for the Lord’s voice.
At times we are aware of people and their needs.
We may be praying for them on a list.
We can ask the person if we can visit them and pray with them.
But at times the Lord may initiate.
Ananias is probably praying. The Lord interrupts. ‘Ananias, go to the house of Judas on Straight Street.’ You could call this, the charismatic dimension, to our ministry of prayer.
Openness to the promptings, the voice of God. Now, this is not the first time the Lord interrupts the lives of Christians in the Book of Acts and it isn’t the last.
In Acts 9, we see the comparison. Two times the Lord speaks.
Saul, Saul! Who are you Lord.
Ananias! Yes Lord.
One knew the voice, the other did not. Ananias knew the voice of the Lord. Saul did not.
It reminds me of Genesis 2-3, how Adam and Eve, when the Lord God called out ‘where are you?’ Adam and Eve knew, they did not seem confused as to who it was, or even if it was again the serpent. They knew God’s voice. Jesus said, in John 10: I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me. … They too will listen to my voice. Jesus approach – we can, recognize his voice, listen to his voice.
Ananias knows the Lord’s voice.
Ananias is a Jewish disciple. He has the Hebrew Bible, he knows teachings of Jesus – that is why he is a disciple of Jesus – and yet, the Lord speaks in a supernatural way.
How do we know the Lord’s voice?
How can we grow in that?
We will look more closely at this next week…
Ananias experience gives us a model.
First. As we said. The Lord may lay on our heart, he may speak in a supernatural way, for us to pray with someone.
Second, we ask, when we pray with someone:
how Lord do I pray? The Lord told Ananias to ‘lay on hands’ on Saul.
what to pray for: The Lord said, to pray for healing, for Saul’s sight to be restored.
where to pray: go to the house of Judas, on Straight Street. Location can matter to the Lord.
Attitudes when praying with someone.
Our attitude towards others when praying with them, for them.
‘Brother Saul’. Ananias tries to inform the Lord about who Saul is – I have heard many reports etc.
But he goes in obedience.
Now, his first words: Brother Saul. He could have just said ‘Saul’ – saying who he was and known as – but ‘Brother Saul’ – a fellow brother in Christ, a fellow Christian, a new creation. He acknowledges what God has done in Saul’s life.
In Paul – Saul – Ananias’s day, there was a very close bond between family and kin. So he acknowledges that Saul is a fellow believer, that he is a brother in Christ like all the others in Damascus. It is a word of deep commitment.
In that word ‘Brother Saul’ I hear compassion and love.
Ananias is showing love to a fellow Christian.
Ananias knows all about Saul’s past – he has heard reports – yet he believes he is now a Christian and so now calls him brother. As Paul would say in Romans 15: Accept one another as Christ has accepted you. Ananias accepts Saul, for Christ has accepted him.
The one we are praying with or praying for:
Is One for whom Jesus died.
Is One whom Jesus has accepted.
One who is a brother or sister in Christ, no matter their past – all their sins are nailed to that cross.
We are committed to them.
One who is a fellow disciple – even if we have never met them before or don’t know them that much.
Ananias went. He was sitting, kneeling or standing by Saul. Saul no longer alone in his struggles.
Brother Saul – the words communicate to Saul, he is not rejected by Christians, but part of that community. Ananias attitude – he is accepted.
The message – the Lord has sent me. In fact he adds – Jesus who appeared to you on the road – strengthening Saul’s faith. Ananias has listened to the Lord and obeyed.
Sent, no to judge him, but that he would see – be healed and be filled with the Spirit. God’s help and power to be given.
God worked in those prayers: immediately something like scales fell from his eyes.
The Purposes of the Prayer.
We have prayed. That may be all.
Yet more can come from it.
Saul is baptized. This service of prayer, was part of Jesus’ path for Saul to declare his faith publically. Maybe only Ananias was there. This prayer was part of the journey into a trusting relationship with Jesus.
One part of the ministry of prayer, can be the opportunity to pray with someone to commit their life to Christ. It is a real privilege.
This does raise another question – if someone wants to pray to become a Christian, would you feel able and comfortable to pray with them? To take that final step with them?
A possible prayer to use can be TSP.
Thank you, Sorry, Please. To lead someone in a prayer such as:
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for dying for me on the cross.
I’m sorry for the things in my life that have been wrong.
I now turn away from everything that I know is wrong. And I now receive your gift of forgiveness. I put my trust in what you did on the cross for me.
And I ask you, please, to come into my life, and fill me with your Holy Spirit,
to give me the strength to lead the kind of life you desire. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
The second purpose of that prayer.
I think, by Ananias being involved, this led to Saul being accepted into the community of believers. Ananias had heard from Jesus, he had seen Saul, he prayed with him and saw healing, he was there when he was baptized, and so he was the one who helped Saul become part of that group of believers in Damascus…
It asks the question. Is there any follow up needed from our praying together with the person? A hug may be suitable, depending on who it is. It may be you share you will continue to pray for them in the week ahead. Or perhaps you have some thoughts in prayer, that you may share…
The ministry of prayer.
It is a way to serve others. Each of us can pray with anyone. We do not need to be a minister, warden. Ananias – a disciple prays for an apostle.
What can we pray? Some of the things we can pray – for practical needs – in this case, for healing, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.
To help them take that final step towards trusting in Jesus.
We pray for them to be filled with the Spirit.
We listen to the Lord’s voice. He may show us someone to pray with.
Or when we are praying with them, to be open to his voice: how we wants us to pray, what he wants us to pray for, where he wants us to pray with them.
To be expectant as we pray that the Lord will use our prayers… it may be at that moment, or afterwards.
Attitudes: a beloved brother or sister who matters to Christ, one of his sheep.
And finally, purposes. the Lord may have other purposes for our praying, he may only reveal later.
So can I invite you, all of us are invited, to be involved in the ministry of prayer…
Shall we pray.
Lord of heaven and earth,
as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer,
to ask, keep asking, seek keep seeking, knock keep knocking,
give us patience and courage never to lose hope,
but always to bring our prayers before you;
May we be renewed in our knowledge
that you are a good father who wants to give good gifts to those who ask;
help us in these days til Pentecost, to grow in wisdom and prayer
so that we may pray in the Spirit on all occasions will all kinds of prayers and requests.
in Jesus Christ our Lord.