And the Church Prayed

I think we sometimes appear to others around us as people of prayer.  After all, we attend church on a regular basis and that’s what “religious people” do.  But we’re not really.

A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock to a supply cabinet.  She had been told the combination but couldn’t remember it.  Totally frustrated, she went to the pastor’s study and asked for help.  The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.  After the first two numbers, he paused and stared blankly for a moment.  Finally, he said, “You know, I can’t remember the combination either.”  Then he folded his hands and looked heavenward and his lips moved silently.  Then he looked back at the lock, quickly turned to the final number and opened the lock.  The teacher was amazed.  “Pastor, I can’t believe you prayed and God gave you the combination,” she said.  “It’s really nothing,” he answered.  “The combination is written on a piece of paper taped to the ceiling.”

As a church, we don’t know quite what to do about prayer, or how to go about prayer, or even whether we should have any expectation of prayer working in our lives.

Prayer is a major element in the Bible.

This is a strange text from the Book of Acts,  chapter 12.  It begins like a Shakespearian Tragedy.

The church is being persecuted.

King Herod puts a Christin leader, John’s brother James to death.  Herod finds that the masses like this and it helps increase his popularity, so he has Peter arrested and scheduled for execution.

Then the tragedy turns very dramatically as an angel appears by waking him from his sleep leading him out of the prison.  It’s a real mystery event as even Peter doesn’t know if it’s real, or a vision, or just a dream.

The angel and Peter walk up to the gates of the prison and the iron gates open by themselves.

But then the event turns and begins to feel like a comedy.

The whole church is praying for Peter’s release, and the church’s response when they see Peter is to think, “That can’t be Peter–he’s in jail!  We’re here praying for his freedom so he can’t be free!”

Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered so often, we find ourselves expecting God to do nothing when we pray.  Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for in a given situation, or how to pray. 

So looking at the Book of Acts, in particular, Chapter 12, it’s study can teach us all some important lessons about prayer.

The first lesson is, the Church should pray!

That’s simple and very logical.   Of course; you say the church should pray.  But I have to say that I wonder if we pray enough in our churches or in our own lives.  Paul says in his New Testament book, First Thessalonians,  “Pray without ceasing.”  Many of us will reverently bow our heads for a few moments and then stop.

Paul didn’t mean that we should be on our knees all the time or living like Monks in a monastery.  He meant that we should be in an attitude of prayer, so even while we’re talking with others around us, part of our mind is in communion with God.  And when we’re driving down the road, part of our mind should be in a quiet relationship with God.

But for many of us, prayer is a rare action.  It’s something we do much too infrequently.

“You are in my prayers”

We find ourselves in a conversation with others who tell us about how they are in the middle of problemed teenager situation, or they are waiting to hear back from doctors and the news might not be good, or they’re struggling to find a job and we give them what we think is comforting–but they aren’t in our prayers.  We say we’ll pray for them but we won’t.  I often will ask them right where they are if I can pray for them at the point of the request.  It helps them know they have my attention and it’s a good reminder for me to keep praying!

One of the things we see in this passage of Acts is that the Church prayed!

Praying is the most powerful thing that we can do as a church.  We need to pray as a community.

Prayer for me is often a private thing.  In the mornings when I’m reading my Bible, it becomes my prayer time as well in which I’m alone with my heavenly Father.  I like to call it ‘Father/son time’.

Hopefully, personal and private time prayer is something we all do, but we also need to pray in community.  It doesn’t have to be the entire church–it could be your small group or your Sunday School Class, or a few church members you contact via email.

The church finds strength as a praying community for one another.

Peter finds the church gathered together in prayer for him.

The strange thing is that even though the church is gathered specifically in prayer for him, a comic moment transpires as the church is caught off guard with the fact that God has heard and answered their prayers.  This brings us to another important lesson about prayer in the Book of Acts:

When we pray, we should expect God to respond!

Looking at the Bible you’ll find many times when prayers were answered.  Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction in finding a wife for Isaac, and God led him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:12-15).  

David prayed for strength and was able to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  

We tend to forget however, there are many times in the Bible that prayer seems to be left unanswered.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that “thorn in the flesh.”  

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered.  Jesus cried out in the garden, “take the cup of suffering from me.”  He prayed that He wouldn’t have to suffer on the cross.  Instead, He had to suffer the pain of it.

Our own lives are full of unanswered prayers.  So much so, that we begin to live in expectation of our prayers being left unanswered.

And like Rhoda and the church in Acts 12, we reach a point where we are shocked and unbelieving when God answers prayer.  The thought process of why some prayers seem to go unanswered is a complex question.  It’s not a one size fits all sort of question to answer.

There are different reasons for different situations.

Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because our hearts aren’t right with God:  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In Proverbs 15:29, we read “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Sometimes, the problem with unanswered prayer is our time isn’t God’s time.

And what we often interpret as “unanswered prayer” is simply a matter of an answer that’s delayed.

In Jeremiah 42:2-7 we read where the people asked the prophet to speak to God for providing immediate direction in their lives–“We want it right now!”

Sometimes the answer comes for longer than simply ten days later.  It might be years later.

Sometimes we misunderstand prayer.

We pray out of selfish motives. 

True prayer is God-centered.

But we often turn our prayers into a self-centered activity.  I

n the New Testament Book of James, we’re told: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  

The object of prayer is that God is glorified and not ourselves.  At times we think of prayer as Aladdin’s lamp to use in glorifying self.  We often think of God as a genie who is at our bidding and command.

Can we not pray for ourselves?

Of course, but we should pray for ourselves unselfishly.  Unselfish prayer for self is a prayer which seeks not self-centered comfort but Christ-centered conformity to God’s will.  Prayer isn’t an end in itself but a means to a greater end which is to glorify God!

The Bible promises us that God will hear our prayers.

The Bible never says that God will obey our orders and sometimes that’s the way we treat prayer.

In the Book of Acts, we don’t see Peter praying self-centered prayers.  He isn’t begging for his freedom.  He’s resting in the comfort of God.  He trusts God so much on the eve of his execution, he falls asleep and he sleeps so soundly that when the angel comes to wake him up, a gentle nudge won’t do.

When I was a young teenager, my mother would come into my room in the morning and wake me up for school–quietly coming to my bedside and gently rocking my shoulder she would say, “Mel, Mel, time to get up and out of bed and go.”  No–that wasn’t the way the angel woke up Peter.  The angel acted like my father.  When Dad would wake me up, he would crack the bedroom door and shout, “Mel.  Get out of bed right now and get to school!!”

Acts even says the angel had to hit Peter in the side to wake him up!  [Acts 12:7 – Interlinear Bible].

And you know, that in itself is really the best answer to prayer–not that God would do this or God would do that, but that He would give us such trust in Him that we could rest comfortably and calmly in His loving presence.

And the church should pray…



Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or as stated.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Commentary:  Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Contributions by Maynard Pittendreigh in researching commentary on Acts Chapter 12.

The Spirit of Whatever


270355045_ffe4d7f712That word, “whatever” has become a verbal shorthand to a particular response to life these days.  It’s a sigh of resignation, a denial of meaning and purpose when a person offers you a response of “whatever”.  The response essentially is saying, the topic doesn’t matter–their response doesn’t matter, or perhaps you don’t matter.  Some of us might even proudly wear the badge on our chest.

We’re living in a “WHATEVER WORLD”–

We are living in a culture in which TRUTH has been stripped away and its meaning replaced with personal preference.

My son-in-law says when he asks our grand-kids when they were in their middle teens, “Go and do…” and they would grumble under the breath “WHATEVER-R”, in his mind it was like them using the F-bomb for their reply.

What does a “whatever world” look like?

Even as believers in JESUS, we are living in an age, a culture where ALL IDEAS, ALL LIFESTYLES, ALL BEHAVIORS are considered of equal value.

~ You cheat, I don’t.  WHATEVER–what’s valid for me isn’t necessarily valid for you.

Investigating THE DNA of a Believer–

After our pastor Kyle’s message a few weeks ago:  DNA of a Believer, I decided I would investigate how Scripture often uses “WHATEVER” and as believers, how are we to understand more clearly the responses to the Christian’s Life?


Colossians 3:17:

And WHATEVER you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:23:

WHATEVER you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

1 Peter 4:10:

Each of you should use WHATEVER gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Corinthians 10:31:

So whether you eat or drink or WHATEVER you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be–

WORLDVIEW adopted in the western world:  “You can believe WHATEVER you want because… ALL IDEAS are pretty much equal.”

There is no authoritative TRUTH to which we all hold; each person becomes his or her own authority, determining our own values, our own beliefs, our own truth.  The Barna Research Group, through its surveys, show the results of the thinking worldview:


~ Three-fourths of all adults believe [think] “there is no such thing as absolute truth; two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways, but both could still be correct.”   WHATEVER-R-R! 

~ Less than half of all born-again adults (44%) and less than 10% of born-again teenagers (9%) believe in the existence of absolute moral truth.  WHATEVER-R-R!

~ Nearly half of adult Americans (47%) believe that “to get by in life these days, sometimes you have to bend the rules for your benefit”:  If that’s the attitude of their parents, is it any wonder, some 70% of American teenagers today admit cheating on exams and don’t see anything wrong with it?  WHATEVER-R-R!

[The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings from Barna Research Studies @ from Barna Research Online]

Our Spiritual DNA Makeup Begins In Our “Thinking”:

REMEMBER:  You’re not what you think you are, but what you think…you are! 

As Proverbs 23:7 reads,  “For as he thinks in his heart so is he.”  What you THINK today, you become tomorrow.  Your spiritual DNA is developed from the body, soul and spirit.  Or as someone has said:  “Your ‘know-er, your think-er, and your feel-er’.”   

If you think you can’t, you probably won’t.

If you think angry thoughts, angry words are sure to follow.

If you fill your mind with sexual fantasies, your body will find a way to fulfill those desires.

If you dwell on your problems, they will soon overwhelm you.

If you feel like a victim, soon you will become one.

“GIGO” Almost a generation ago!

The computer revolution had just begun, the pioneers in the field coined a brand-new word when not many people knew how to operate a computer and those who did made many mistakes.

Sometimes the “experts” entered the wrong data to discover a universal TRUTH:  If the raw data is bad, the computer can’t do anything good with it.  Whatever you put into a computer determines what comes out.  If you put the right data in, the right answers come out.  The reverse is also true.

To express that TRUTH, a new word was coined describing in four letters, both the cause and the consequences.  Most computer “geeks” know what word I’m talking about: GIGO; Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Those four letters summarize a huge TRUTH about computers:  What you put in determines what you get out.  If you input garbage, guess what your output will be?  GARBAGE!

Your “Thinker”–

What is true of computers is also true of the human mind–the “thinker”.  The human mind has often been compared to the computer.  In fact, the human mind is far more complex than the most advanced computer ever designed.


BUT, the BASIC PRINCIPLE of GIGO is still TRUE:  Garbage In, Garbage Out.  What you put into your mind; what you believe, determines what you get out.

Is our thought process, our THINKING, really so unimportant; Our Spirit of Whatever?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Beware of what you set your mind on because that you surely will become.”

Norman Vincent Peale :  “Change your thoughts and you change the world.”

Henry Ford gave that TRUTH a spin when he said,  “Thinking is the hardest work in the world, which is why so few people engage in it.”

I ran across this perceptive comment by Betty Sachelli during my Word Detective investigation this past week:

“Two thoughts cannot occupy the mind at the same time.”

So the choice is ours; how we respond to society, whether or not our thoughts will be constructive or destructive to the hearer.  It is a world in which life has no meaning beyond personal fulfillment with no values higher than my own choices.

Can Christians, Should True Believers, Be The  ULTIMATE AUTHORITY in Determining Right and Wrong?

It is easy to reach the stage in today’s lifestyles where there is no wrong–at least not for me.  But if we recognize there is a GOD who stands over us, that through JESUS, He wants to enter into RELATIONSHIP with us…then it changes the way WE THINK; it changes the way we determine OUR VALUES, OUR PRIORITIES, OUR COMMITMENTS, OUR “WHATEVERS”.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”  (Matthew 22:37)

The Old Testament passage (Deuteronomy 6:5) behind JESUS’ statement in Matthew is a little different; it says to love GOD with heart, soul and strength.  So why did JESUS instead use the word “mind”?  Perhaps to remind us that it is essential to bring our minds under the authority and Lordship of our Father in Heaven.  Otherwise our FAITH would make little impact on us or anyone else we come in contact with.

The way we THINK determines the way we live and the results of The Spirit of Whatever in our doing.


Colossians 3:12, 17:

[12] Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones, purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tender-hearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].

[17]  And WHATEVER you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, DO EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.

“WHATEVER” means “that absolutely everything…” in RELATIONSHIP:  

How’s Your Thought-Life As a Christian Believer?

 According to some psychologists, the average person has over 10,000 separate thoughts each day; 3.5 million thoughts a year and if you live to be 75, you’ll have over 26 million different thoughts.  Everyone of those 10,000 thoughts represents a choice you make and a decision to think about this, and not about that.

The words that dwell in your hearts and minds (Colossians 3:16); as you TEACH and TRAIN others.

As wives relate to their husbands (verse 18);

As husbands treat their wives (verse 19);

As children respond to their parents (verse 20);

As fathers bring up their children (verse 21);

As employees react and respond to their employers (verse 22);

“WHATEVER may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the LORD and not for men”  (Colossians 3:23 AMP).

 How’s Your Thought-Life As a Christian Believer?


The 14th Chapter of John’s gospel, JESUS made a most astonishing statement when He said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

And if it is the TRUTH, then it makes the difference in the kind of world in which we live.  If JESUS is Himself TRUTH, it changes everything!


THE WAY WE THINK determines the way we live.  If we THINK of ourselves as the ultimate authority in determining right from wrong, then it is easy to reach the stage where there is no wrong–at least not for me.

HE IS THE TRUTH FOR YOUR LIFE–not only does Christ provide the TRUTH but helps us understand [the “know-er” in our DNA] REALITY.  He also provides the TRUTH and allows us to live lives of meaning, purpose and fulfillment.


Each person is an authority unto himself and God’s Word is overlooked or ignored by untold millions.

News reports tell the tale of what happens when we IGNORE God’s TRUTH for our own:

A NATION where Gideon bibles are turned away at the schoolhouse door but…condoms are freely handed out.

A NATION where millions of children grow up in homes WITHOUT two parents.

A NATION where we can’t physically build prisons fast enough to accommodate the growing population of inmates.

How does all this happen in a NATION where, at least on the surface, it would appear that a large percentage of the population claim to be Christian believers?

A MAJOR part of the problem is too many of us take the religious dimension of our lives and put it into a neat little compartmentalized box–to be pulled out only on Sundays.  The rest of the week we tend to get along and go along with the world without letting our FAITH inform us in our day-to-day lives; at the office, the shop, the school, the neighborhood.

Your FAITH isn’t one more item to put on the To Do List.  You and I are called to let our commitment to Christ shape and guide everything we do in every facet of our lives.  It is the TRUTH from which everything else flows.


Listen to the apostle Paul’s practical advice in Philippians 4:8:


This verse gives us eight questions to ask about our thoughts before you think; before you speak.

#1.  Is it TRUE?  “Whatever is true”.  TRUTH is the first test.

“All that rings true” — by Knox.  

Before you open your mouth, are you speaking the TRUTH?  Do your words have a “ring of truth” about them?  If the answer is Yes, then it rules out all that is dishonest, untrue, and unreliable.

#2.  Is it NOBLE?  “Whatever is noble”. 

The word means “honorable”, “worthy of reverence”.  One person translated it as “noble seriousness”.

#3.  Is it RIGHT?  “Whatever is right”.

This means “In conformity to God’s standards.”  Not, “Is it right in my eyes?” or “Is it right in the eyes of others?” but, “Is it right in God’s eyes?”  If others knew what you were thinking, what would they think of you?

#4.  Is it PURE?  “Whatever is pure”.

The word means “undefiled, chaste, clean, holy.”  It touches the whole area of moral purity.  Is your thought-life clean?  We used to say, “Get your mind out of the gutter.”  If you LIKE the gutter, don’t be surprised that your mind is covered in slime!

#5.  Is it LOVELY?  “Whatever is lovely”.

This word is used only here in the New Testament.  It literally means “love towards” and has the idea of attracting loveliness, as a magnet attracts iron filings.  One person translates “those things that GRACE attracts.”

Do your thoughts automatically attach themselves to that which is beautiful and lovely?

Here is a simple rule I try to follow in my life with the Holy spirit’s help; I can’t do it with my own will-power and neither will you:

IF it is not lovely,  IF it doesn’t make me lovely…don’t say it, don’t think it, don’t do it, don’t dwell on it, and don’t repeat it!

#6.  Is it ADMIRABLE?  “Whatever is admirable”.

That is, if the television program, magazine cover in the grocery check-out counter I’m watching or glancing at…WORTHY of study and meditation?  Or is it cheap and vulgar?

This question asks us to focus on the things that are positive not negative, constructive not destructive, things that build up not the things that tear down.  This means editing your words, your choices so that you simply DELETE non-admirable things from your vocabulary; “Your Words Determine Your Thinking”  (Step #2 in 8 Steps to Your Destination by Dr. Creflo A. Dollar).

If that’s not enough questions, the Apostle Paul gives us two catch-all categories:


EXCELLENT refers to virtue and PRAISEWORTHY means “those things that God Himself would approve.”

 So here you have TWO FINAL QUESTIONS:

#7.  Is it morally EXCELLENT?

#8.  Is it something that God would approve?

Taken together, these EIGHT QUESTIONS point the way toward positive thinking.  Paul says, “Think on these things.”  

A.  It is a command.

B.  It is in the present tense.  

C.  Keep on focusing your thoughts on these eight areas.

D.  Find the virtuous, the moral, the holy things and think about it.

“Just Do It” with a Promise–

Verse 9 of Philippians 4 tells us that if we “Practice what you have learned and received…and model your way of living on it”–here comes the PROMISE,  “the God of peace will be with you.”  

The Online Dictionary defines PRACTICE:  To do or perform something habitually or repeatedly.  Synonyms–exercise, rehearse.

The Spirit of Whatever when practiced, will experience God’s peace in their lives.  “PRACTICE makes perfect”!