Marks of a Gospel Movement: “God Calls His People to Pray”

Passage: Acts 4:23-31
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

Sermon Summary

Gospel movements are marked by kingdom-advancing prayer.  The prayer life of the early church made them unique in their day, and if we want to see a gospel movement on the North Shore, we too need to be a praying people.

Among the many qualities that made the early church unique—their racial diversity, their devotion to the poor, ability to forgive, care for the marginalized, or their sexual integrity, for example—the early church stood out because of when they prayed.  The church prayed in the midst of persecution and threats all around them.  Their instinct under threat was not to seek their own safety, or to revert to planning, but to seek God in prayer.  In Acts 4:23-31, Peter and John immediately “went to their friends” and prayed with them, even after having just been released by the religious authorities.  Is it our instinct to pray at times like these?

The early church was also unique in what they prayed for.  Trusting in the sovereignty and authority of God, they courageously prayed for God’s kingdom to advance, regardless of whether or not that brought them immediate benefits.  The church prayed with this unique boldness because they were saturated in their Scriptures and were therefore caught up into a greater story than their own—the story of their crucified and risen king, who was advancing his kingdom through them!  Therefore, we should saturate ourselves in Scripture, and the story of Jesus, so that we too can be emboldened to pray corporate, kingdom-advancing prayers.

Sermon Outline

  • When the Church Prayed (4:23-24)
  • What the Church Prayed (4:24-31)
  • Why the Church Prayed (4:25-28)

Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide

Re-read the passage (Acts 4:23-31)

When the Church Prayed (4:23-24)

Q) INTRO QUESTIONS: Would you consider our church to be “a praying church”? Have you ever been a part of a church or group of churches that really prayed? What was it like? How can you tell when a church or group of churches is dedicated to prayer?

Q) Read Acts 4:13-22 to get a sense of the context of this passage, then read Acts 4:23-24 to see what Peter and John did after their release. What would you have done if you were in Peter and John’s shoes? What does their instinct to pray tell us about their faith? What does it tell us about their view of God? Of themselves?

Q) Practically-speaking, what do you do when you feel anxious or threatened? Do you first go to God in prayer? If not, what do you normally do first (e.g. worry, plan, distract yourself, etc)?

Q) Why do you think that a community who reverts to prayer as a “first instinct” would be a community that stands out amidst its neighbors? How, practically, can we grow in this instinct as a church?

What the Church Prayed (4:24-31)

Q) Re-read the disciples’ prayer in Acts 4:24-30. What were some elements of this prayer? In particular, how did they address God? What did they want him to do for them?

Q) How did the disciples’ understanding of God’s sovereignty enable them to pray with greater boldness?

Q) How would you characterize the content of your own prayers—either individually, or in groups you’re a part of? Do you see certain repeated themes in how you pray or what you pray for? What are they? Where do you think you need to grow in your prayer life?

Q) Imagine a friend comes to you from outside the church and asks you about prayer. “Prayer seems self-seeking,” they say, “Like it’s just going to God with a wish-list.” In light of this passage about prayer, how might you gently engage them in this conversation?

Why the Church Prayed (4:25-28)

Q) In verses 25-26, the disciples quote Scripture to describe their understanding of God working out his story through them. How does having an understanding of God’s story in Scripture empower us to pray with greater boldness? Have you ever experienced this?

Q) What might you do this week to greater saturate yourself in Scripture? What about this Fall?

Additional Application Questions

Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?

Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?

Prayer

Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.

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