Every person faces the challenge of victorious Christian living; and effective and fruitful service for Christ and country.
Prayer for bearing fruit in life and service is essential to our experience of a fulfilling and fully functional life that our Lord Jesus promised us.
A classic example in the New Testament of “Praying for breakthrough” or “Prayer for bearing fruit” is the Early Church in Jerusalem members’, “praying for breakthrough”. (Acts 4:23-31).
We must put this text on prayer in context. The Lord Jesus “showed Himself after His death to the Apostles and gave ample proof that He was alive. He was seen by them over a period of 40 days”. (Acts 1:3 REB)
What was the Lord Jesus’ post-resurrection purpose and plan for the lives of the Apostles, His closest companions; and for the 120 disciples or close followers of Him who were gathered in an Upper Room in Jerusalem?
Most of His Apostles were from Galilee. Jesus directed them not to leave Jerusalem. “You must wait to receive the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus continued, “Within the next few days, you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit”. Next, comes His purpose and plan for their lives.
The Lord Jesus gives them a clear command and commission: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the Earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT). At Pentecost, Jesus’ promise to them was fulfilled.
After Pentecost, “One day at three in the afternoon, the hour of prayer, Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, met a man who was a cripple from birth at the temple gate; “he asked for alms”. Peter said, “I have no silver or gold; but what I have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk (Acts 3:6).
‘The man sprung to his feet and started to walk’, leaping and praising God. Worshipers recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the temple gate; and “they were filled with wonder and amazement.”
Peter said it was the name and power of Jesus that healed the cripple completely. He seized the opportunity to preach on who really Jesus Christ is. As a result, the number of people who put their faith in Jesus and became His followers increased to 5000.
But while Peter, “was still addressing the people, the chief priest together with the controller of the temple and the Sadducees broke in on them” (Acts 4:1 REB).
They arrested them, put them in prison overnight and the next morning brought them before the Jewish rulers, elders and Scribes.
They were questioned about help they had given to a man and the means by which he was healed: “by what or in whose name have you done this?” The Jewish leaders, “ordered them to refrain from all public speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18 REB).
“Never again speak to anyone in this name” (Yet what was Jesus’ command to them in Acts 1:8).
But Peter and John replied, “is it right in the eyes of God, for us to obey you rather than Him? Judge for yourselves. As for us we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” With further caution, the Jewish leaders discharged them.
Here comes the huge threat to the believers’ God-given purpose and plan for their lives. Their very lives and ministry were at risk. They were in a crisis. They needed a breakthrough!
“As soon as Peter and John were discharged, they went back to the rest of the Apostles and the other believers and told them the Jewish leaders’ order, and “everything that the chief priest and elders had said”
When they heard the report and the order, “all the believers lifted their voices together in united prayer to God”!!
When you come under threat, facing crisis, pushed to the corner, how do you respond? These early believers of Jesus didn’t say, “now, let’s first list our key contact persons in the Jewish Council and in the Roman Governors office”.
No. Though that may be important in experiencing justice in Jerusalem then, and in Africa today, that was not their first response. They didn’t try other solutions first, hit the wall, and then turned to prayer. No. Prayer was their first action. They prayed for a breakthrough (Acts 4:23-31)!!
A Christian leader says, “prayer must be our first response, rather than our last resort.”
Next, let’s look at the structure, content, and outcome of their prayer for breakthrough and divine intervention (Acts 4:24-31):
• They prayed, beginning with worship (verse 24b).
• They prayed the Scriptures (verse 25-26). That is, they prayed the Bible text relevant to the theme of that prayer session.
• They prayed about their common experience of personally witnessing the suffering and death of Jesus and with regard to the true interpretation and understanding of Biblical prophecy about Jesus’ suffering and death.
God did not abandon Jesus to the envy and hate of some Jewish and Roman leaders to kill Him. God was in perfect control throughout all that happened to Jesus (verse 27 -28).
• They prayed on very specific petitions or requests. “Oh Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power. May miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4: 29-30 NLT)
• Finally, God granted answers to their specific requests and they experienced divine intervention and a classic breakthrough.
“After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. The Apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.
Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed!!” (Acts 4:31; 5:12 & 16 NLT).