TEXT: ACTS 12:5,9,11-16
A. TEN MEN IN A ROW
1. Story taken from The Pentecostal Evangel:
Back of the home of one family in the Philippines during World War II was the place where the Japanese tortured and killed their victims. They could hear the screams of the tortured day and night. The Japanese liked to throw the babies in the air and catch them on the point of a sword, and the things they devised to torture adults were
Twice the father of this family had been taken by enemy officers and had been returned to them as a result of his wife’s prayers.
The third time the officer told the family, “He has been returned to two times – but don’t you ever think he will be spared the third time. This time he dies.”
The man’s wife spoke to the officer and said, “If you don’t believe in prayer, get out of here.”
The officer left, taking the man with him.
The mother put her five children to bed on grass mats. Then she began her prayer vigil in behalf of their father – her husband. At four a.m., she woke the children saying, “The burden has become so heavy I cannot bear it alone. Get up and help me pray for your father.”
They gathered in a circle around their mother, with the two-month-old baby on the floor in the center. While They were praying they heard footsteps. They were sure the officer was coming for them, and that mother threw her arms around her children as far as she could reach.
As the sound of the footsteps grew louder reality set in. Suddenly she said, “Those are your father’s footsteps!”
Pulling the bamboo door back the father asked, “Are you safe?” They lit the lamp and saw his White shirt splattered with blood from those who had stood near him.
“I understand now why they let me go,” he told his wife. “You were praying.”
He told his family that he had been the last in a row of ten men. A man had gone down the row, slashing off the heads of each with a sword.
“He raised his sword when he came to me, and just as he was ready to bring it down the officer in charge suddenly screamed, ‘Stop!’ Then that officer roared at me, ‘Go home. Quick, get out of here. Go home.’
The father continued, “Then he dived at me, grabbed my arm and propelled me toward the gate and past the guard as fast as he could – and here I am.”
That had been what was happening at the time that mother, his wife, was so burdened that she got their children up to pray.
We don’t know what the officer experienced to make him change the order – but we know why.
THIS WOMAN KNEW THE ABILITY OF GOD, AND EVEN THOUGH SHE HAD DOUBTS, SHE WAS WILLING NEVERTHELESS TO PRAY ANYWAY.
B. THE GREAT PARADOX
1. First of all, my title is the paradox of all paradoxes.
a. How can one pray without faith?
b. Is it really possible to have power in a faithless prayer.
c. THE BIGGEST QUESTION IS, How can one receive an answer without praying in faith?
A. FAITH BRINGS RESULTS
1. The Bible is full of Scripture that indicates that faith brings results.
a. MATTHEW 9:29 – Jesus told the two blind men following Him, “According to thy faith be it unto you.”
b. MATTHEW 15:28 – Jesus told the Syrophenician woman, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
c. MARK 9:23 – Jesus said to the father with a son who had a dumb spirit, “It thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
2. BUT I PROPOSE THERE IS POWER IN FAITHLESS PRAYER.
NOTE: The one thing that we so often overlook when studying these verses of scripture is that the blind men had to follow Jesus many miles before he answered them; the Syrophenician woman had to make repeated requests and suffer two refusals before she received her answer; the father with the dumb son had been let down by the inability of the disciples to generate a miracle, and fight a crowd, before he received his miracle from Jesus.
MATTHEW 7:7 – Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
NOTE: IN THE GREEK, THE WORDS “ASK,” “SEEK,” & “KNOCK” ARE CONTINUOUS ACTIONS.
Much like a child asking for a bicycle for Christmas – they know that to ask just once is sure to bring NO results!
JAMES 5:16 – “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
B. PETER IN PRISON
1. King Herod had already killed James, and seeing that it pleased the Jews he took Peter prisoner to do the same to him.
2. ACTS 12:5 – “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.”
We get all excited about this great prayer meeting, and think surly faith was great in that place; but I find that neither Peter nor any of the church really believed that he would be set free.
a. READ: ACTS 12:9 (PETER’S UNBELIEF).
b. READ: ACTS 12:14-15 (THE CHURCH’S UNBELIEF).
The church prayed, but when Peter showed up they could not believe he was actually set free. WHY?
BECAUSE THEY PRAYED OUT OF DUTY.
They knew that God could set Peter free from prison, but doubted that He really would.
C. JOHN THE BAPTIST
1. “Are you the one, or do we look for another?” a. In the midst of his biggest trial he doubted, yet made request.
D. HELP THOU MY UNBELIEF
1. READ: MARK 9:23-24
a. He knew that Jesus could do it, but didn’t believe Jesus would do it for him.
A. HYMN AND PILL FOR DOOMED SUB
A British submarine lay disabled on the ocean floor. After two days, hope of raising her was abandoned. The crew began singing:
“Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide, The darkness deepens – Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, Oh, abide with me!”
Because searchers did not know the vessel’s position, there was no hope of outside aid.
Sedative pills were distributed to the men to quiet their nerves. One sailor was affected more quickly than the others, and he swooned. He fell against a piece of equipment and set in motion the submarine’s jammed surfacing mechanism.
The submarine went to the surface and made port safely.
THEY WERE WITHOUT ANY REAL HOPE, BUT THEY STILL, OUT OF DUTY, WENT TO THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD HELP.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM A TRANSCRIPTION OF A SERMON BY AN UNKNOWN AUTHOR. THIS MATERIAL MAY BE USED FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.