Question in too many places these days: what happened to prayer meeting; it should be: what happened at prayer meeting? Church after church has removed mid-week prayer service from calendars, many are doing same with Sunday evening worship. Makes you wonder: why does God’s family not want to spend time together… with one another, with God? Too many treat God like a vending machine: put your prayer in the slot, push the button, get the blessing of choice. Is more about what the individual takes away from the encounter, not enough about glory of God as he carries out his purpose in the world.
10 years ago, LifeWay did survey among mostly Baptist churches – #1 issue facing the church: “The need for more ongoing, passionate prayer in both personal and church life.” If God’s people expect to survive today’s world with biblical worldview intact, must be faithful and passionate in prayer. If God’s people seriously desire revival and growth of Christ’s church and victory over evil, must be praying people in praying churches. How did Lord Jesus, quoting from Isaiah, describe the church: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Mark 11:17)
Was the example of early church, too –
Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
Prayer is one of non-negotiables for a healthy Christian and an effective Christ-exalting church. This portion of John’s vision provides clear picture of how prayers of the saints are essential element of God’s sovereign purpose for his creation.
a. prelude to next “act” v.2
three descriptions John saw – how God’s redemptive plan would play out from Ascension to Consummation, from different perspectives
seals and trumpets focus largely on physical aspects of battle raging between Satan and Church, bowls emphasize spiritual aspects
is primarily spiritual battle, however… we are physical beings living in physical world – must be careful not to neglect giving attention to one in favor of the other
seven angels take places, given trumpets to announce judgment, but… make no sound… yet; God has more to reveal, later
seals show entire scope of his plan, subsequent descriptions get more intense and more focused on the end
meanwhile, trumpets are on hold for three verses – this scene applies to what is described in both prior and following scene
A. prayers of the saints v.3
like something seen before – read Ex. 30:1-6
yet with a difference – read Lev. 16:12-13 – no intervening veil between altar and throne
learn more of practice from story of Zacharias, father of John the Baptist – read Luke 1:8-11
veil no longer necessary: is a Man in heaven who is there by own merits, the God-Man – has earned right to be in God’s presence
all who are one with Christ share in privileges he has earned – privilege highlighted here centers on prayer, no further need for earthly priest to go between people and God
prayers of all the saints – not simply those around the throne, those remaining on earth, those being persecuted for their faith
includes prayers of martyrs: read Rev. 6:9-10; and God’s own elect: Luke 18:7-8 “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
our prayers this very morning are included in that offering as well: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
not only that people would do God’s will on earth, also that God would do his will with regard to his friends and enemies
we could learn from order of things in Lord’s Prayer – yes, requests for Heavenly Father to meet our daily physical / spiritual needs
not where requests start, though: God be glorified, Christ’s kingdom be established, Father’s will be done… then our needs
can be certain that God will answer prayer that he be glorified in the affirmative – not necessarily the way we have in mind!
B. purifying by the Mediator v.3
prayers of even most mature believers not much to write home about, absolutely no merit on their own that God should answer
true of times other than when “in our weakness… we don’t know how to pray as we ought” (Rom. 8:26)
no human being of any status whatever has right or privilege to come to God and expect him to hear on their own merits
is true of local church – collective prayers of faithful church cannot stand on own merit any more than prayers of individual
must have a Mediator – thank God there is one! “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5)
Jesus’ merits applied to us the only way we and our prayers are acceptable to God – Jesus the one with hand on each
for prayers of saints to be pleasing to God, must be accompanied by sweet-smelling incense – “much incense” offered with prayers
considering condition some of seven churches were in, no wonder it needed a lot of incense; can say same today
thank God – not only does God expect us to pray, he has woven threads of our prayers into tapestry of his sovereign eternal purpose, God does all necessary to make prayers acceptable to him
ongoing ministry of Christ our Mediator, the Holy Spirit our Intercessor absolutely essential for God to hear and answer
kind of hurried over it earlier – God expects his people to pray, to cry out to Him: must look to God for help, deliverance, justice
is right, we say it (sometimes glibly) mankind’s greatest need is for the Gospel, to respond in faith to it; if everyone did, no need to write Revelation!
but God must do what God alone can do for anyone to respond positively to Gospel; those bent on doing evil will only do what is right when God orchestrates it
given who/what is at root of evil and evildoers – sin and Satan – God must be one moving to restrain evildoers, overcome evil
C. pleas are heard v.4
if we really believe End is coming, perhaps even soon, is especially important that we be a praying church
when God’s people pray, their prayers made acceptable and sweet-smelling to God rise before his face – can’t and won’t ignore
doesn’t matter if we see immediate results or not – John expects this scene in heaven’s throne room to encourage God’s people to keep on praying
our prayers and our prayer meetings not in vain – God hears and is answering those prayers even if we don’t recognize answers
prayer that God would deal with his enemies and enemies of his people are being answered – Christ is building his church
every new convert is answer to someone’s prayer – for family member, for UPG – and one less enemy of Christ
every revival in the church is answer to prayers of God’s people – in both cases (conversion, revival) – kingdom of Christ gains, kingdom of Satan loses… because God hears pleas of his people and responds
D. power of the response v.5
v.5 = Rev. 11:19; 16:18; final judgment of trumpets and bowls
what is connection John makes? – prayers of God’s people result in God sending judgment on the earth
think that’s overkill? remember how story of Hebrew children leaving Egypt begins: read Ex. 3:7-8
“The purpose of prayer, it has often been said, is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth—even if that will involves judgment.” Wiersbe
do you really want Lord Jesus to come back? if so, we need to get busy praying diligently and passionately to God who hears and answers prayer
What about choice of national leaders, rights of the unborn, marriage and gender issues, opposition against biblical truth, butchering of Christians in other countries, casualties of war and famine and hardship. What should we do first?
And how about increasing numbers of atheists and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and Wiccans and neoPagans in face of declining Christian church? How should we respond?
Too many Christians belly-aching to friends, both real and imaginary, about how bad world is getting, not enough praying to God to change things. God delivered his people from hardship in Egypt when they cried out to Him. He took Hebrew children to Canaan by sending Moses. When we cry out to God he may take us to heavenly Canaan by sending Lord Jesus. Have you heard/said “I guess all I can do is pray about…” Truth is, the first and best thing we can do is pray – to our gracious and powerful heavenly Father that he would move on behalf of his people.
If you have sincere desire to change the world, means God has appointed and given to us is prayer – God’s people gathered together, humbly and diligently pleading with God to act. Is what we do when pray for missionaries, UPG’s, salvation of loved ones, changed hearts of government leaders, spiritual protection for those in dangerous places. Should regularly seek God’s face individually, in our homes, as church family – praying expectantly and confidently. He has promised to hear and answer prayers of his people, exhorted us to come boldly to throne of grace. Our Heavenly Father will be pleased when we do.