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Sermon #5796

Prayer Without Ceasing

A Sermon on Acts 12:5

Scripture

Acts 12:5 ESV NASB KJV
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (ESV)

Sermon Description

What is the church’s greatest weapon? Some may say organizations or church events, but Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues in his sermon on Acts 12:5 that “our ultimate weapon is that of prayer.” The church has been through hard times since its existence, and Dr. Lloyd-Jones notes that it is helpful to realize how the church has handled it in the past. In verse five, the answer is provided as to how the early church handled persecution — their prayer was made without ceasing. Dr. Lloyd-Jones seeks to deal with two aspects of prayer from Acts 12: “How does God answer prayer?” and “When does God answer prayer?” First, concerning the text, Peter was in prison during the last night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and therefore could not be put to death, but would be executed the next day. In light of this, Dr. Lloyd-Jones takes note of Peter’s ability to sleep— it was a gift from God. Also, God answered through the miraculous, as can clearly be seen by his escape. Dr. Lloyd-Jones challenges the believer to have faith and expect answers to prayers. Second, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues from this text that God sometimes waits until the last moment to answer prayer in order to test and train.

Sermon Breakdown

  1. Herod persecuted the early church without reason. The opposition to Christianity is often irrational and not based on reason or understanding.
  2. Herod was sensitive to public opinion and applause. He proceeded to arrest Peter to please the Jews. Dictators and tyrants claim to be independent but often care deeply about public opinion.
  3. Herod took elaborate precautions to guard Peter, showing he feared the power of the church despite seeing them as helpless. The enemies of the church fear its power and truth.
  4. The church prayed without ceasing for Peter. Prayer is the only weapon and hope the church has, though it is difficult.
  5. God first answered prayer by giving Peter peace to sleep soundly despite facing likely death the next day. God can give us peace in terrifying circumstances.
  6. God then answered prayer through a miracle, sending an angel to free Peter. God works miracles and the impossible. Even Peter could hardly believe the miracle.
  7. The praying church also could not believe Peter had been freed, showing how God answers prayer in overwhelming ways. We must have faith to expect the impossible.
  8. God sometimes delays answering prayer to test us, train us, and make the defeat of our enemies more complete. He allowed Herod's boasting before freeing Peter.
  9. God allowed Herod to boast of destroying the church before freeing Peter to humble and humiliate him. The church has often seemed nearly defeated before God revives it in victory.
  10. We must believe in God, expect the impossible, and see it happen. Without faith, there is no hope of improvement in the church.

Itinerant Preaching

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.