We observe Pentecost as the day the Holy Spirit empowered God’s people to speak languages they had never learned so that people who were gathered in Jerusalem could hear the Word of God clearly in their own language. It was a mass miracle in that all 120 people who had gathered in the Upper Room to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised, all of them were supernaturally enabled to speak for God. As a result, 3000 people were saved and baptized. It was a mass miracle, as well, in that 3000 people were converted.
Acts is an historical record about the birthday of the Church, but it is also a book of miracles. The birth of the Church did not come about through human effort. The proliferation of the Gospel and the witness of the power of God did not come through human effort. Paul said in I Corinthians 2:4, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” The birth of the Church and the spread of the Gospel came about through powerful signs, miracles, and wonders.
Turn to Acts 4:23-31 which takes place after the miracle of tongues takes place, after Peter preached a bold and courageous sermon, and after the 3000 people were saved and baptized. It takes place after the healing of a lamb man in Acts 3, after Peter preached another bold and daring message to a crowd again about the name and power of Jesus. It was so bold and daring that it landed Peter and John in jail. Peter and John were called to answer for their actions, called to explain why they were preaching in the name and power of Jesus. Peter preached another message which really put the religious leaders on the spot. All they could do was threaten Peter and John and tell them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. So, Peter and John were released, and we pick up our text at this point.
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
What a great response to the threats of man! When earthly forces opposed the mission God had given them, Peter and John went to prayer. There was no doubt that what took place on the Day of Pentecost was enabled on the wings of prayer. I also love that they went back to their people, they went back to the other believers, some of those who had waited together in that Upper Room, and they got together to pray. Peter and John could have just prayed together, but they had experienced an unprecedented releasing of the power of God after they had prayed together with many of God’s people, and they were looking for significant help from God to deal with this unwanted situation. I want to submit to you that Pentecost Prayer is a united effort.
The text goes on to say: “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
Those Holy Spirit-filled believers obviously believed in the sovereignty of God. They addressed Him as sovereign. They lifted up His Divine power as Creator. It could be easy to conclude that if God is sovereign, that if He is all-powerful, that if He is going to do what He is going to do that there is no need for us to pray. Why pray if God is going to act according to His will regardless of what we do or don’t do? Have you ever asked that question? Have you ever asked yourself, “If God knows everything He is going to do, what difference does my prayers make?
It is obvious from the book of Acts that the early church saw themselves as participators in the work of God on earth. I don’t know if we often view ourselves that way, but it is our privilege as well, to be vessels God uses to accomplish His sovereign purposes on earth. Jesus ascended, and the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us that we might represent Christ on earth and act with His authority. What a Divine privilege. Prayer enables our hearts to be tuned to Christ’s mission and to discern how and where Jesus wants to use us. We don’t pray for God’s benefit, to get Him to work in the world, we pray for our benefit, that we can participate in the work God is already doing.
The early believers didn’t feel tension between God’s sovereignty and the work of prayer. God’s sovereignty didn’t inhibit their praying; in fact, it incentivized it. Because they believed God was in control of all things, and because they were filled with His Spirit and were being given the mind of Christ and were living in response to the will of God, their prayers were bold. As they prayed, they prayed with confidence that God was acting in the world and that He would act through their obedience to pray which was also according to His plan. They knew they were aligned with God’s power, so they weren’t afraid to pray with boldness. They asked God for big things, and they were granted unto them. They knew they were aligned with God’s mission for them on earth as they proclaimed the Gospel, so they knew they could pray with great reliance on God’s power and with great trust that God’s presence would go with them in every situation.
Pentecost Prayers rely upon the Sovereignty of God.
As they moved on in their prayer, they placed the persecution they were facing into its context. This wasn’t the first time God’s people had suffered persecution.
25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.[b]’[c] 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles (the Romans) and the people of Israel (the Jews) in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Do you see that last sentence? It is yet another reference to the sovereignty of God. What those early believers understood was that God has the power over any worldly leader who would try to stop God’s people, and even those who persecute God’s people are somehow, in the larger scheme, they somehow serve God’s purposes. Yes, Herod and Pilate and many Gentiles and the powers of Rome were players in the crucifixion of Jesus, but it all worked together to serve God’s purposes. Peter and John and the others could know that no matter what they would face, God was at work even through the persecution to accomplish His will. Friends, when we embrace that reality, we will receive a new kind of confidence in our prayer lives and boldness in our daily lives. Let’s move on to verse 29 to see what they asked God to accomplish in response to their prayers.
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
What an incredible prayer. They said, “God, since the threats are ramping up, help us ramp up in the way we speak for You. Help us get even bolder than we have been to this point. Help us not shrink back from sharing the Gospel. Enable us to not be intimidated by those who oppose us.” In other words, they were asking for Holy Spirit help that would enable them to meet the challenges that were coming their way. They didn’t ask for life to be easy. They didn’t pray for people to stop opposing them. They prayed for courage and power to meet the situation.
As they prayed for great boldness in the face of this new persecution, they were praying not that God would change the situation, but that God would change them!
Pentecost Prayers ask for the Holy Spirit to change us.
When is the power of God easier seen? When those who carry the Gospel are unopposed and there is mass receptivity to the message of Christ or when there is oppression and antagonism towards Christ, yet His followers still declare His message with power, confidence, and authority? Those Christ-followers saw great victory on the Day of Pentecost. I mean, 3,000 people coming to Christ after one sermon had to be exhilarating. I wonder if Peter thought, “Is it always going to be this easy? Will 3,000 people get saved every day? This is awesome!” He and the others learned very quickly that wouldn’t be the case. The Day of Pentecost was a preview, a revelation of God’s heart for all people and was a display of His empowering to work in believers to accomplish His purposes, but it wasn’t a precedent for the way people everywhere would readily receive Him.
Surely, they were reminded of the times when Jesus wasn’t well-received, when Jesus’ message invited threats, intimidation, and persecution. Yet, Jesus never backed down, and the way He continued to move forward involved strategic times of prayer. Those believers never took God’s plan for granted. They never took their ability to stay the course for granted. They never presumed that their prayers were of no consequence. They prayed because they understood that prayer was a part of God’s sovereign plans.
Look at what they asked for next. Verse 30: 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Pentecost Prayers include requests for signs and wonders (miracles).
The word, “miracle,” comes from a Latin word and it means, “object of wonder.” Miracles defy human logic. Miracles reveal God’s glorious wonder. When the apostles prayed that Jesus would enable them to perform signs and wonders they were praying that the Holy Spirit would enable them to reveal God’s glory.
Y’all, what an incredible prayer! “Show me Your, glory, Lord,” is one kind of prayer, but “Reveal Your glory in me,” is entirely another.
Those early believers knew they were messengers for the glory of God. Paul said it this way in I Corinthians 4:5-10:
5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
The signs, miracles, the wonders that they prayed for were to enable people to see Jesus. I think it would delight the heart of God to hear His people praying again, “Oh God, perform signs, miracles and wonders through us that the world would see your power and glory!”
On Wednesdays at 11 am, during our prayer meetings, Jack Donaldson will often pray, “Teach us how to release Your power here on earth.” That is a Pentecost Prayer. Jack prays that way because we live in a dark world, and the only hope for the transformation of humanity is for people to see the power and glory of God residing in us!
Did those early believers receive the answer to their prayer for signs, miracles, and wonders? To this point in Acts 4, the healing of the lame man, which got them in trouble and sent them back into prayer mode, along with the miracle of tongues were the only recorded miracles in Acts that involved Christ’s followers. After that, those early believers were enabled to do all kinds of miracles.
In Acts 5:15, Peter was so filled with the Holy Spirit that even his shadow had healing power. Take that, groundhog! Once when Paul was preaching, a young man named Eutychus fell asleep and fell out of a window to his death. (That’ll teach you not to fall asleep in church!) Paul brought the guy back to life. Blind eyes were opened in chapter 9:17-18. A paralyzed man who had been bedridden for 8 years was healed in Acts 9:33-35. A woman was delivered from a demonic spirit in Acts 16:16-18.
The book of Acts also has three miraculous jailbreaks in chapters 5, 12, and 16. We read in Acts 19:11-12 that “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured, and the evil spirits left them.”
Those are just some of the examples of the miracles found in the book of Acts. Yes, their prayer was answered.
31 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.
Wouldn’t it be cool to be in a prayer meeting that was so charged with the power and presence of God that the walls and floor started to shake? I thought about that phenomenon and thought about an Old Testament reference to the same kind of experience.
Isaiah 6 records a shaking during his prophetic vision. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
What was happening in Isaiah’s vision was a Holy Spirit cleansing of His sin and an empowering to speak for God. As He saw the holiness and glory of God, Isaiah recognized his great need for God, his need to be consumed by God and the things of God. His sin was removed, and he was able to be sent to be a messenger for God.
After those early believers prayed again in Acts 4:31, they experienced a shaking, not in a vision like Isaiah had, but there was a literal shaking in the place where they met and they were filled, again, with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Pentecost Prayers will shake things up.
There was a demonstration of the power of God right on heals of their bold prayers. When you pray Pentecost Prayers, you aren’t praying for business as usual. You are praying for life in the Spirit which is anything but predictable. I am glad they prayed for signs, miracles, and wonders to be demonstrated. If not, the book of Acts would be kind of boring. You could find references to miracles 40 times in the book of Acts. Guess how many happen outside the walls of the church? 39. I know our times of worship are powerful. I know it is encouraging to receive the ministry of prayer in this place. I know God meets with us as we hear the Word in this place, but what happens here isn’t to be the culmination of anything. It is to be the preparation for what happens outside of these walls.
Pentecost Praying prepares us to go out into the streets.
As we pray Pentecost Prayers, we will be sent out to do the ministry of Jesus in the world.
Let’s pray some Pentecost Prayers today. Let’s pray in reliance on our all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God. Let’s pray and ask to be changed, transformed, purified, made holy and powerful like Jesus. Let’s pray for mass signs, mass miracles and mass wonders to be demonstrations of God’s power on earth. Let’s pray for a shaking of epic proportions. Let’s pray to be made bold in the streets for the sake of the Kingdom. Let’s pray some Pentecost Prayers.