Seven Principles of Prayer
By Stanford Murrell
An Exposition of Acts 4:24-37
24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
When Peter and John were with Jesus, they, along with the other disciples, asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The Lord gave His disciples a Model Prayer which embodied the principles which should guide all prayers. The disciples were good students and when they began to pray in public, they incorporated the principles of the Model Prayer.
Prayer is to be made to God the Father
While it is not wrong to pray to Jesus, or invoke the Holy Spirit, prayer is primarily to be addressed to God the Father. Jesus said, When you pray say, “Our Father which art in heaven.” To address God the Father is to show Him respect. It is to understand that He is the source of all things.
Prayer is to be Harmonious
When the Lord listens to our prayers, He is concerned about our spirit as well as what is being said. If a person is angry with another person, or harbors hatred in the heart, it is hard to pray. Husbands and wives are to be in harmony that their prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7). Christians are to pray for those who hurt them and abuse them. A calm spirit is needed to pray effectively.
Prayer is to Exalt God
It is easy to forget to whom one is speaking. Sometimes children show disrespect when speaking to their parents and have to be sharply reminded to whom they are speaking. Respect is always to be shown to the office of magistrates, even if a Nero is in power. God is not the “Man in the Sky”. He is not “The Big Guy.” He is God, the maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is. Never forget to whom your prayer is being addressed. Honor God.
25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, WHY DID THE HEATHEN RAGE, AND THE PEOPLE IMAGINE VAIN THINGS?
Prayer is to be Scriptural
If there is a struggle to prayer, it is possible to pray the Scriptures. Pray the Psalms. Remember the Word of God and recite it back to God. Peter and John remembered the prophecy concerning Christ and incorporate Scriptural language into their prayer.
26 THE KINGS OF THE EARTH STOOD UP, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD, AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Prayer is to be Submissive to the Sovereign Will of God
The apostles understood the doctrine of predestination. They comprehended that all that happened to Jesus, all that had been prophesied, was based on the determined will of God.
It may be that the hardships foreordained for Christ, would be their fate as well. The servant is not above the Master. If the Jews gathered themselves against Christ, the church would also know opposition. By acknowledging the Hand of God and His determinative counsel, the apostles were submitting to the Sovereign. “If the Lord will” is to be part of prayer (James 4:15).
29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
Of course the Lord was beholding the threatenings of the religious leaders. His eye is upon the sparrow. Not a hair of a person’s head is lost without his knowledge. The heart of every Christian can be assured that He is watching over them.
Prayer Allows for Personal Petitions
The Lord is pleased to hear our petitions. The apostles had several petition. First, they wanted the Lord to take notice of the fact they were being threatened. Petition granted. Second, the apostles asked for holy boldness to speak the Lord’s name. Petition granted. Third, the apostles asked that signs and wonders might be done in the name of Jesus. Petition granted.
Question. “Are these petitions something that every Christian could ask for?” Answer. “Yes.”
Question. “Are these petitions something that every Christian should ask for?” Answer. “Not necessarily.” In other words, do not be surprised if, for example, you ask for the power of “signs and wonders” and that petition is not granted. While it does not hurt to ask, be prepared for a negative answer. Not all petitions are granted. Sometimes God says, “Yes”. Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Wait.” Sometimes He says, “You have got to be kidding!”
30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Notice that the prayer of the apostles was not long. Like the Model Prayer Jesus gave, their prayer was short and precise. And then it ended.
Prayer is to be Concise
All Biblical prayers are short, with rare exception. No biblical prayer lasted more than six minutes. The longest prayer in the Bible is found in Nehemiah 9:5-38. The longest prayer of Jesus is found in John 17. While Christians are commanded to pray frequently, prayers are to be conversant, just like a normal conversation (1 Thess. 5:17).
Practical Results of the Gospel Being Preached
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid them down at the apostles feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Those who heard the gospel were transformed by it. First, five thousand of those who heard the gospel preached believed. They believed because they had been given to Christ by the Father (John 6:44). Second, those who believed were of one heart and of one soul. This was, and is, possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit giving the church the gift of unity.
Democracy was never to be the guiding governmental philosophy among God’s people. The church is designed to be a theocracy based on the New Covenant. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people”. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:31-34).
The fulfilment of this promise is found in the New Testament expression of the church according to Hebrews 8:8. God never intended the church to be guided by any other document other than the Bible. Nor is any other Book necessary to give the church her precepts and principles.
To teach the Bible, and to guide the people, God has given to the church spiritually gifted individuals. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11).
The rise of Denominations, the presence of Church By-Laws and Robert’s Rules of Order, the reliance upon democratic rule rather than Biblical eldership rule, testifies to how far the church has strayed from the New Testament congregation.
Third, those who believed the gospel, and were united in love to one another “had all things common.” This does not mean the Bible promotes Communism or Socialism. The State is not to control the means of resources and distribution. Neither Communism nor Socialism effectively works to benefit the people because both systems take, and take, and take. In Cuba, in the year 2016, people are paid on the average twenty-four dollars a month. The State provides free education, free medical care, and guarantees a government job. In return, the people are heavily taxed, and have no freedom of speech or movement. Basic human rights are taken away.
Christianity offers something better than Communism, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Christianity offers something better than Socialism whereby the State controls the major means of production and determines what is to be produced and distributed. Christianity offers human freedom to express a caring and compassionate heart. “Freely we have received; freely we give.”
The early Christians were of one heart, and wanted to use their resources to benefit the whole Christian society. Their pattern was Jesus and the apostles who had all their property in common, and Judas was made the treasurer.
Care must be taken. Jesus did not command individuals to give up their property into a common stock. The apostles did not command anyone to give up their property. It was their own (Acts 5:5). The larger point is that Christians found a way to look after one another. “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want” (Zig Ziglar).
Fourth, those who believed the gospel and cared for one another were evangelistic. The early church had spiritual power because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and told others of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The windows of heaven were opened and the grace of God was poured out upon the church. The word “grace” in Acts 4:33, is an important word in the New Testament. The word grace speaks of favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves (Nelson’s Bible Dictionary). God gives common grace to all through the Laws of Divine Establishment. Then, God shows special grace to those who are the heirs of salvation.
36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles feet.
An alternative reading in some manuscripts gives the name as Joseph. His surname was Barnabas, which is interpreted as, “The son of consolation.” Barnabas would live up to his name. He would be a blessing to many. The practice of giving surnames as an expression of a person’s character was not uncommon. Simon was called Peter to indicate his stability as a rock (John 1:44). James and John were surnamed Boanerges because of their explosive tempers (Mark 3:17).
Trained to be a priest in the tribe of Levi, Barnabas came from the island of Cyprus, the largest island of the Mediterranean. Blessed with a piece of land, Barnabas sold the property and gave the proceeds to the apostles for general distribution. Throughout church history, there have been people of great wealth. Some of them have devoted their enormous resources to the work of the ministry, and the church is blessed.