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2011-05-22 In Prison but Praying

Time: 2011-05-27 Click:




Part I by Pastor Wu
Part II by Bruce
22 May 2011 Sunday
Bible Verses Acts 12:1-8 (NIV)
Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison
 1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him.
Part I by Pastor Wu
I feel so good when one of our worship team members asked if our lord reigns over your life. Every time I pray about our Lord reigns in the church, I have been praying it shouldn’t be by me or pastor team that reigns over the church, but the Holy Spirit reigns. My prayer is answered, indeed the Lord reigns over this church. I give praise and thanks to our lord for the invitation of whose who are the members of the church. And also I want to give thanks to the Holy Spirit because He has been energizing the worship team and you have been able to lead the congregation of our church.  Many thanks to you and we thank the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord reigns over this church. This morning I want to share how the Lord reigns over prisons, there are all kinds of prisons in one way and another. In one sense, we are all prisoners as long as physically we live in this world. We might be in a prison of doubt; we might be in a prison of guilt; we might be in a prison of lust; we might be in a prison of power; we might be in a prison of disbelief etc...  We see all kinds of prisons in this world, we are all prisoners to our unlimited wants sometimes, not all the time; sometimes we are prisoners to our emotions. That's why I say we are all in prisons, physically and sometimes spiritually in this world.
If you can be like Peter, who was in prison but didn’t lose his heart & courage, and still hang on the promise and salvation of God, no matter what kind of physical prison that you are in, you will be saved by our Lord. I want to focus my preaching this morning on Peter, Acts 12:1-8. 
1.        The first thing, Peter didn’t deny Jesus, and the church kept praying
Three things happened and were happening to Peter when he was in prison according to Act 12. What was the first thing that happened to Peter when he was taken to the prison? This time he was taken to prison, he didn’t deny knowing Jesus as what he was saying and doing when Jesus was in crucified. He didn’t deny knowing Jesus for three times when the young lady pointed out that he was one of the disciples of the Lord, he was simply going along with the soldiers who were taken him to the prison. When he was in prison, pay attention, this is the first thing happened to Peter while he was in prison, the church that he was pastoring, the church that he was worship & praise God. People who were in that church didn’t run away for their life, which they should have, because their leader was taken in prison, going to be trialed and probably be executed… they are supposed to run away because after Peter the soldiers will come back to those people to get them, and to take them to prison and probably be executed as well.
The Bible tells us, those people of the church that Peter was pasturing didn’t run away at all. What were they doing? They didn’t plan to dig a hole in a wall of the prison to get Peter out. That might be something that we do, dig a hole because they are my friend or our family members, no matter what methods we have to take, we want to get them out, that church didn’t plan to dig a hole, they didn’t lose their heart & courage. What did they do? They were gathering together when Peter was in prison, when Peter was about to be brought to trial, when Peter was about to be executed. They joined together in prayer. In Acts 12:5, “ So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”   They didn’t plan to dig a hole or didn't have a fund raising party to get the money to bribe soldiers.  But they had strong faith in God, they prayed, they believed God would come to rescue Peter, the God would response and answer their prayer, so they kept praying, and their prayer was answered by God!
Brothers and sisters, let me challenge you, what would you do when your family member were in prison? What would people of this world do when their family members were in prisons? This is what they normally do: they might go out to look for a person who is so powerful that knows a lot of high ranking officials, they look for them, get familiar with them and can get their help, that is what this world people do, we call this kind of thing in Chinese – “Lao ren”.  But the church that Peter was pasturing didn’t do that, they simply stayed together in prayer, because they trusted Lord that the Lord would answer their prayer, God will come and rescue. That is the first thing that happened to Peter when Peter was in prison.
2.        The second thing, an angle appeared, God was at work
Acts 12:6, “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peters wrists.  When Peter was taken to prison, God was at work. He did care about us, He does care about us, and He is always involved in our life, and he is always active in response our prayer and request. God sent His angle and He was at work, our Lord does care about our life.
I remember an old brother in our church who has been suffering from paralytic, confined in a wheel chair, but he has been worshiping in our church for so many years. He was so afraid after being confined in a wheel chair, he wasn’t able to come to church again. So he asked a few brothers and sisters to pray together with him that he could continue to come to church to worship with us. One of the brothers stood up and said: “Every Sunday, I will take you to the church.” Brothers and sisters, that brother is the angle sent by God to this brother.
Brothers and sisters, I challenge you today to be the angle who is working at people’s life and in people’s life by the power of God. Brothers and sisters, let me challenge you: Do you want to be an angle of God? Yes? I am sure you want to be an angle of God. That is the second thing happened to Peter when he was taken to prison, an angel appeared.
3.        The third thing, after Peter was taken to prison, he fell into a deep sleep, he had peace.
He was sleeping. Brothers and sisters, let me ask you, were you able to sleep in a prison? two guards slept on both sides of you, and you were chained, entrance stood guards watch over prisoners. Were you able to sleep?  Would you feel uncomfortable? One day I had a visitor who came to my home, I welcome everybody to my home to visit me, to talk in spirit. But I felt a little uncomfortable.  I like to pray together with you, but sometimes I feel tired,  because I feel at ease in my little space, I don’t want everybody to watch over me all the time.  So this is in fact, in reality, it is very difficult for a person like Peter to sleep in prison, It must have been hard to sleep, but Peter was sleeping in the prison, why? because he had faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ will rescue him, he believed in the Lord’s salvation.  That is the reason that he fell into that deep sleep, he was awaken up by an angle.  In Act 12:7, “ Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’  he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.”
Peter was struck up by the angle on his side, he wasn’t shaken up, he wasn’t hit up. He was struck up because Peter slept so deep. An angle is very big or this big with wings on the back, even stronger than you are, because they are the soldiers of God, they are the military of God, they must be very powerful. Peter was able to sleep in that kind of situation in prison, he had trust, he had faith, he believed God will come to his salvation. And God will keep his promise to save him.
Brothers and sisters, you might be confined in some kind of special physical position, don’t be afraid. Because our Lord will be with you. the holy spirit will be with you. Don’t be discourage when your prayer is not answered, “Keep you waiting” is one of the ways God answers our prayer.  I remember I read a story, a pastor was praying for his five personal friends. Two years later, one of those five friends came to Jesus, and the pastor was very happy.  And five years later, another two friends come to the same civil as his. Then in another 25 years, the fourth one came to Lord. And the fifth one come to Lord when this pastor came to the end of his life. So it took 52 years for this pastor’s five friends come to Jesus. His prayer was answered in 52 years, he was waiting for 52 years. He never lost his heart and courage. He never, never complained.
So brothers and sisters, let’s wait with faith,  and by faith, our Lord will surely keep his promise to come to help and take care our physical and spiritual life. Always have faith in Him. Amen!   (Brothers and sisters, I’m so honored this morning that brother Bruce wants to share his own experience on prayer, Act 12, let’s welcome him!) 
Picture: Peter was released from prison 
Part II Sermon by Bruce
I’d like to tell you about the power of prayer today.
1.        The importance of prayer
I remember the first time that I saw my father praying, I was just a little boy. Like little children always interrupt parents. So when my father was praying, I said: “daddy, daddy…” “Be quiet, son, I am praying to God. ” “Oh, Ok, daddy. ” My parents taught me very early about the importance of prayer, and I want to encourage you to teach your children very young about the importance of prayer. My parents taught me and my brother and sisters: every day, you should pray to God; every night, before we could go to sleep, we had to say a prayer in front of either my mother or my father. All of us, I have three brother and sisters, all line up sat in prayer. And the prayer they taught us, I still remember it to this day: “Now I lie down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.” (at normal speed)have our personal relationship with God. We hear the song “God He reigns”, in our life, He wants personal relationship with us, He wants us to turn to Him in prayer.Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”brings us closer to God. When we pray, we have the chance to be filled with the spirit. Sometimes you could hear people pray, and sometimes then people pray you know the spirit is in them. I’ve seen it many times here and outside the church. When people pray, you know that they have the spirit in them. They are full of conviction, with power, they know what they are saying, have a direct communication with God.
Children are children, all of us we would say the prayer differently, it usually sounded like this: “Now I lie down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.” (at very fast speed)
My parents didn’t care, if we went through the prayer rapidly, because they were still teaching us the importance of praying. And the importance obvious stuck with me because I still remember the prayer many years later, so teach your children to pray at very young, and they will remember for the rest of their lives.
2.        Why pray? Develop relationship with God
That brings a question to my mind, why do we pray? Obviously from the message of pastor Wu, we pray as a church to support, courage and ask God to help us, protect one another. We also pray so that we can
How do you have relationship with anybody? You talk to them, you do things with them, you get to know them, and you talk with them often. The same thing with our God, we have the opportunity to speak to the Father in heaven, to Jesus, and the Spirit. We can talk to Father of heaven and earth. And He encourages us to talk with Him to build our relationship with Him. What a great opportunity for us to take advantage so that we can develop our relationship with God.  Even, I think, more amazing than that, God teaches us that we can ask him anything in prayer. And if we have faith, and If we believe, it will be done for us. We can read in Mathew 21, “
What happen to the fig tree that Jesus is talking about? One day Jesus was walking along and he saw a fig tree, and he wanted to eat some of the fruits, but this fig tree had nothing but leaves on it, no fruit, there was nothing there to eat. So Jesus said to the fig tree: “May you never bear fruit again. ” and so soon as He said that, the tree withered. And the disciples were shocked, like “Wow, how did He do that?” and that’s when Jesus told them, in Mathew 21, “ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.’ ”
What we can learn from this is that faith and prayer are very closely connected to one another. As a matter of fact, it is hard to imagine one without the other. If you have no faith, why will you pray; and if you don’t pray, how are you going to develop your faith?  Faith and prayer are very close to one another, we should to pray often and develop our faith.  Faith is very important. I’d like to give you another example from the Bible, I like to read all the miracles of Jesus, they are fascinating.  I try to imagine what is like when it happened. Pastor Wu read us a story about Peter when he was in prison, and there was another time when a miracle happened to Peter.
It is the time when Jesus walked on the water, the disciples were in the boat, the winds and the storms were blowing, and they saw the figure out on the water, but they didn’t know it was Jesus, so they were very afraid. If I saw somebody walking on the water, I would wonder too. But Jesus said: “be hold, it is I, don’t be afraid.” So what did Peter do, Peter said: “Oh, lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come out there on the water with you. ” so Jesus said: “Come on.” Peter had the faith to step out the boat, now imagine would you step out the boat? Peter had faith that he could go out on the water with Jesus. And sure enough he did and he was walking on the water, and he was going towards Jesus. But then you know what happened? He lost his faith and that’s when he fell into the water. Jesus reached him and said, “You of a little faith. Why did you doubt? You were walking on the water. Why did you doubt?”
This was about what Jesus teaches us: if you believe in Him, have faith and do not doubt, you can ask Jesus for anything according to God's will. So I want to ask all of you: “Do you have enough faith to get out of that boat, and walk on the water with Jesus?”   Some may doubt, God tells us ask Him for anything in prayer, ask Him for faith that you can get out of that boat and walk on the water as Jesus does. This is what all of us can do, we can grow our faith, we can ask God to give us that faith, we can walk on that water just as Peter did.  What do your ask for God in your prayer? Are you asking Him for anything? Or just talking not asking God for anything? He wants you to ask Him things, He wants to know your needs through your prayer, and the desires of your heart. This is the relationship with our heavenly father, like our earthly father that we always calls on him, close relationship.
3.        Prayer brings us closer to God
Another reason why we pray is that it
In Acts 4:31, “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.” This is what can happen to all of us. When we pray, God fills us with His Spirit, God fills us with His love and power, we can tell more people about the love of God and what He has done in our life, so that they can have God in their life too.
There are many other reasons why we pray too. One of them is that we can turn away from our sin. Another reason we pray is that we can confess our sins to God. If we don’t turn to God, how are we going to turn away from our sin? We need to turn to God, and through prayer is a very good way to turn away from our sin. If we don’t open our hearts and share our hearts with the Lord, and how can we ask Him for forgiveness? We need that connection, we need that relationship, we need ask God for His forgiveness. And prayer is a very good way for us to do that. Do you want to seek God? Do you want to have the peace that comes only by knowing Jesus Christ?  I want to ask all of you, to pray to God, ask Him to give you the faith of Peter, so you can get out of that boat and walk on the water.  Ask God to be in your life, open the door of your heart, so that he can come in and be the Lord of your life.
Finally I want to remind you, one of the most amazing promises we find in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything,” That isn’t a appropriate messages for us, we have so much stress, so much pressure, so many troubles, the world seems to be in chaos, but God teaches us:” Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6-7.
God knows our hearts, but He wants us to give Him a request. I was talking with some people before this service, we were talking about prayer, somebody asked me why do we have to pray if God already knows our heart? Think about it, if you have a close friend, and this friend is having some problems, you know your friend is having problems, why does your friend tell you about his problems, if you have already known it, because they trust in you, they want to share with you their life and they trust in you can help solve those problems they have. This is exactly what we do when we share our troubles with the Lord. God knows what is going on in your life,  He knows what problems are, He also knows your heart. But when you share those things with God, you are trusting in Him, that pleases our Lord. He wants you to share everything with Him.
Here comes the promise, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7. It doesn’t matter what problems you have now; it doesn’t matter how big those seem to be; it doesn’t matter how good the things are, we can pray to God when we are happy or sad... share everything in our life with God.  He will fill you with peace that you can’t imagine in any other way.
It is appropriate for us to end with a prayer, let’s pray: Dear heavenly Father, we know you are the God almighty, we know you have asked us to come together, have relationship with you. Lord, we ask that You would be in our life, and we will receive you. Lord, we seek to know and understand You better. Lord, we pray you will give us the wisdom of Solomon so that we can live a life that is pleasing to you. And Father, we knock on that door, we want you to be in our heart, and we want you to be the Lord and Savior of our life. Please open that door, Lord, and be with us, so that we can live a life that is pleasing to you as a servant. In Jesus’ precious and holy name we pray.  Amen!
Summary by Katherine
Edited by Claire

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