Prayer Room Debrief | 4.26.21

Throughout our different prayer meetings this past week, the theme for me was the verse out of Zechariah that says:

This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts. “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'”

Zechariah 4:6-7

In my young walk with the Lord, it has been my natural response to rely on my own efforts or abilities to get the job done. My personality is bent toward independence and my pride as a man is crushed when I fail to move the mountain because I want to prove to God and to others that I am strong enough. That mountain ultimately represents my sin and lack, but sometimes it looks like my family struggles, my financial worries, my occupational goals and/or ministry assignments through which I want to make great impact…But whatever our mountains look like right now, they won’t fully move without Him. 

Could it be that the mountain is supposed to look “great” and feel immovable because the Lord wants us to find a different source of strength? Could it be that my struggles to overcome the obstacles of life are not here to make me more self-reliant (as the world often teaches), but Spirit-reliant?

So be constant in prayer and remain diligent in all of your efforts, but let all that you do be infused with faith that trusts in His grace every step of the way! He is the Cornerstone and the Capstone. The Author and the Finisher. The Beginning and the End. The First and the Last. The Alpha and Omega.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it…”

Psalms 127:1

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

In His Service,

Nick Russo

The Community Prayer Room (CPR) is an initiative to host worship and prayer meetings around the throne of King Jesus, unite intercessors, and contend for revival in the Texas Hill Country unto the ends of the earth. We are currently hosting weekly prayer meetings for our community and monthly 24-hour prayer watches based out of Venture Church in Burnet, TX.

Why The Church Needs to Pray Again

THE ASSAULT ON THE APOSTOLIC

Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. 4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

Acts 12:1-4, NKJV

As Luke records the narrative of what the Holy Spirit was doing through the apostles and the first century Church, we see that they had been multiplying at a rapid rate even as persecution increased and a great famine swept across the land (Acts 11:27-30). It was at this time that Herod Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the Great), king of Judea from ~AD 41-44, harasses them, kills the apostle James and seizes the apostle Peter for the sake of popularity with the Jews. Notice that Herod’s persecution against the church begins with harassment or vexation, which means “to weigh down, frustrate or annoy.” Has anyone else experienced how the enemy does this in our lives the more we seek to work together to advance the kingdom of God around us? Much like when Pharaoh appointed task masters to double the load of the growing Hebrew families in Egypt, this seems to be a common method the enemy uses to halt the multiplication of God’s people (Ex. 1). He doesn’t start with the obvious resistance, but instead he initiates his assault with more subtle tactics to distract us with unnecessary worries and fears. Consequently, if we allow our strength to be spent trying to carry all of these excess burdens, then we will have less strength to carry out our kingdom assignments which threaten his position. This has been the case throughout Scripture and Church history, still Jesus’ declaration stands: “I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).”

I am convinced we are still seeing this assault on the apostolic today, as the enemy knows that his time is short (Rev. 12). More and more, we are seeing Christian leaders heavily pressured because they have taken stands for unpopular truth against the narrative of cultural trends. But by looking at this passage of Scripture in Acts 12, we can see a picture of how we are to respond to this kind of resistance as leaders and as a united body of believers.

Most would agree that 2020 has been full of global turbulence from the infamous pandemic, political warfare and economic struggles to the racial conflicts, riots and natural disasters. The stage is being set as evil leaders worldwide become more unified in their rage which will ultimately be revealed as rage against the Lord Himself, meanwhile, I know that the Lord is inviting us as His Church to be unified in the place of prayer and in the harvest fields across society like never before as the Spirit and the Bride begin to say come (Ps. 2; Rev. 22)!

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.”

Psalm 2:1-3, NKJV

A PRAYING CHURCH

5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

Acts 12:5, NKJV

After Herod had imprisoned Peter, he had him bound with two separate chains between two soldiers while two others guarded the door. These four squads of soldiers kept him guarded all day and all night, rotating shifts every six hours. One man, sixteen soldiers. Think about how much threat that Peter had to of stirred up in Hell to warrant this much investment in taking him out. There have been very few men and women like this throughout history who have caused so much panic from the kingdom of darkness, moving Satan to fall like lighting from heaven (Luke 10:18). We desperately need more “troublers” in the Church today who boldly threaten the enemy’s plans by simply remaining faithful and obedient to the commands of Christ in the face of opposition (2 Kings 18:17). I believe the Lord is preparing these ones even now, and He’s using weak and broken people like Peter who were formerly full of fear and self-preservation, but they will rise up in boldness through the power of the Holy Spirit working in them to lay down their lives for the gospel (Acts 1:8; Rev. 12:11). He is preparing a people like Elijah, who was a man with a nature like ours, but he prayed earnestly, effectively, righteously and fervently and power was released (James 5:13-18).

The main point I want to make in this article is that their is a fundamental identity that must be reclaimed by the disciples of Christ in this hour, and it is that His Church should always be a praying Church. God has ordained that His authority be released as we come together in agreement with Him and with one another in prayer (Matt. 18:18-20). Intercession is His brilliant strategy for including the saints in His plans, renewing our faith, protecting our hearts from pride, drawing us into intimacy with Him, increasing our understanding, releasing His power, transforming us in love, leading us into unity, and preparing us for an eternal inheritance. He has forever named His house to be a house of prayer for all nations (Isa. 56:7; Matt. 21:13). That is our high calling, and we desperately need a Church who prays again.

6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.

Acts 12:6, NKJV

Sometimes it is not until prayer becomes our only weapon that we understand it is our most powerful weapon. Prayer was the early church’s first response to every crisis, and here in Acts 12, we see another seemingly impossible situation for them, yet they still chose to pray. Peter, who not long ago was terrified during a storm while on a boat with His sleeping Savior, but now he himself had learned how to “sleep in the storm” (Matt. 8:23-27; Acts 12:6). Prayer trains us to be asleep to what Jesus is asleep to and awake to what He is awake to (Matt. 26:41; 1 Pet. 1:16). There are so many things happening in the earth right now that seem like a storm we need to worry about, but we need to remember that the wind and waves still know His name. There is a much more important story line going on that He is inviting us into right here and right now that begins in the place of prayer.

PRAYER THAT AVAILS MUCH

7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”

Acts 12:7-8, NKJV

As the Church continued to pray, an angel was dispatched, light was released, chains were broken, and the apostolic leader was rescued. Peter was awoken and called into action. What would it look like in the Church today if we turned our unrelenting criticism of our leaders into unrelenting intercession? It’s not wrong to question leadership, but it’s always right to pray for our leadership. There are so many pastors and church leaders across our nation right now who are asleep and bound, and they need the church to be constant in prayer for them — for awakening, deliverance and guidance.

Prayer is not an excuse for inaction, but rather it prepares us to move with Him. We see from this passage that it took a moment before Peter realized that what was happening was actually a reality (Acts 12:9-11). Prevailing prayer unleashes the power of Christ to pull down wicked strongholds, remove demonic principalities and open prison doors that no man can open, making the unseen seen on earth as it is in heaven (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Daniel 10:12-13; Rev. 3:7-8; Luke 11:2).

11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”

Acts 12:11, NKJV

Once Peter returned to the house where the believers had been, Luke writes that “many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12). Secret prayer and fasting from an individual is remarkably powerful all on it’s own, but there is something uniquely effective when many gather together to seek Him. I am so grateful for one-on-one time with my wife, but I am also very grateful for the times we spend together with our whole family. Each relational experience and persepective is special and should never replace the other.

Another very relatable fact from this story is that we see the weakness of the people praying, who didn’t immediately believe that it was actually Peter at the door (Acts 12:13-16). Now we don’t know the actual content of their prayers, but we do see how the Lord still moved in power to rescue Peter even through their short-sighted faith. It’s not the height of our reach that gets His attention, but the authenticity of our reach. Their prayer gathering wasn’t filled with perfect people praying perfect prayers with the right language and protocol. They were weak men and women surrounded by fear, but they didn’t quit praying. They had to learn to rely on the Spirit to help them in their weakness, “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). This is prayer that avails or accomplishes much.

27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:27-28, NKJV

The scene from Acts 12 concludes with king Herod being struck down by the Lord because he did not give glory to God. I believe these prayers played a large part in this removal of ungodly authority, to work all things for good to those who love God and to make a way for as many as possible to be saved in all Judea and Samaria unto the ends of the earth.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Tim. 2:1-4, NKJV

FILLING THE BOWLS OF HEAVEN

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8, NKJV

I do realize that as believers, many of us do not need to be convinced that we ought to pray, but we do need to be infused with fresh faith for today as we see why we ought to pray (Luke 18). In his vision while on the island of Patmos, the apostle John is describing what he is seeing around the throne of God in Heaven, and he points out how the twenty-four elders are each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense. These elders, who most likely represent the humans who have been given governmental authority in Heaven, are seen bowing in worship and singing spontaneous songs with their harps while holding bowls, which are full with “the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8-9). These “throne room” scenes give us great insight into the activity of the governmental center of the universe and how much He values our participation through worship and prayer. When we worship the Lord, we are agreeing with who He is. When we pray, we are agreeing with what He has promised to do. Because worship and prayer are about agreement, what better way to speak in unity from our heart with one another than through the harmonious rhymes, rhythms and tunes of a song. He desires that we all may be one as He is one (John 17:20-26).

Have you ever stopped to think that your prayers of faith are memorialized before God? He has given the human race such nobility and dignity in that our humble petitions are heard outside of space and time, appealing before the highest court in all of existence. Our persistent requests are not in vain. They have eternal impact. You may have forgotten some of the prayers you prayed five years ago, but He remembers. So I urge you Christians, keep filling the bowls! Never stop contending for His truth, His power, His love, His justice and righteousness in the place of prayer! Remember who you are talking to and ask of Him. We know that prayer in and of itself is not the solution, but we pray because we know that Jesus Christ is the only solution. Let’s pray again, Church.

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” 4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.

Acts 10:1-4, NKJV

7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:7-8, NKJV

6 “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” 7 “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

Psalm 2:6-8, NKJV

RESPONSE QUESTIONS:

  • Why does the Church need to pray again?
  • How can I grow in prayer in my own life?
  • How can I be a catalyst for prayer in my church? In my city?

The Works They Did At First

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” (Acts 1:14)

Before a soul was added, before a lame man was healed, before a mouth was fed, before a sermon was preached or the Spirit poured out, they simply prayed together. The resurrected Messiah had just given His church leaders His last command before He ascended to His heavenly throne saying, “Wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). The disciples were confused because they thought it was “go” time (Matt. 28:19). They were ready for Him to restore the kingdom to Israel and rule as the Great King from the throne of David (Acts 1:6). Why should they waste time sitting in a room waiting? It must have sounded so counterproductive, but still they have been with Jesus enough by this time to know that they should listen. Just as He taught them the power of secret prayer and fasting as individuals (Lk. 11:1- 13), He was then teaching them the importance of what could later be recognized as their “first work” together as the Church: A Prayer Meeting.

The culture of prayer that was among the early church is mostly foreign to the modern Church in America. While corporate prayer was foundational to their daily church life (Acts 2:42; 3:1), it has since been shoved into a small side room for a few old women intercessors. The apostles gave themselves “continually to prayer and ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), and today they give themselves continually to the promotion of themselves and their ministries. Take one look at how the average American church budgets their time and money, and you will see where their heart is. The gospel of grace used to produce abandonment to God now it gives excuse to live half-hearted toward the things of God, calling everything that requires sacrifice, legalism. The believer who longs to live radically in love with Jesus is deemed an outcast. Others are so distracted with much serving that they neglect the good part (Lk. 10:40-42). The American church is surely active but rarely productive according to God’s standard, as “the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine” (Jn. 15:4).

This is not an either or issue, it is a first things first issue. The first works will inevitably lead to great exploits of missions, discipleship, works of justice, salvation, anointed preaching and teaching, power, signs, wonders and more. It was from the context of a prayer room with corporate worship, prayer and fasting that the Holy Spirit launched the church’s first missionaries into the harvest (Acts 13:1-4). Jesus had told the disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out (ekballo) laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:35-38). This is the same word used to describe Jesus casting or sending out demons, thus it is used here to emphasize God’s zeal to violently launch laborers like arrows from the bent bow of His praying church to confront the enemy opposition.

It was through the praying church that Peter was set free and justice was released (Acts 12:5; Luke 18:7). Remember how Herod harassed the church and killed James the brother of John? He then sought to bring the same fate upon Peter for the sake of popularity with the Jews. The same spirit lives today desiring to kill the apostolic leadership, lifestyle and message because it is a threat to mainstream church culture (religious order), but that will soon change. The prayer movement that God is raising up in this hour will rescue and restore His true Church. Sent ones will come forth out of remote prayer rooms all around the earth as bold voices rooted in love, grounded in truth, and ready to prepare the way of the Lord.

When the early church 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” (Acts 4:31). God released great grace on them all, and the result was supernatural love, unity, boldness, giving, joy, servant hood, signs, wonders, and more (Acts 5:12-16). There was a perpetual fear of the Lord among them because they so valued His presence (Acts 2:43; 5:11; 9:31). They were constantly strengthened by the joy of the Lord, continuing on together in fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer with gladness and simplicity of heart always praising God (Acts 2:42-47; Ps. 16:11; Isa. 56:7). They actually operated in the gift of discernment, exposing false prophets and apostles that crept in among them. The church’s consistent prayer life empowered them to endure hardship, embrace persecution, and enact the Kingdom of God on earth. The unified prayer songs of Paul and Silas would even shake the foundations of darkness, opened locked doors, loosed chains and led to the salvation of an entire family (Acts 16:25-26, 30).

God has given His church royal authority in prayer that is too often forfeited (Matt. 16:19). As the ecclesia of God intercedes in agreement with His Word, the kingdom of heaven is permitted to invade earth (Matt. 18:19-20; 6:10). The unrighteous governmental leadership was dealt with when the church interceded (Acts 12:23-24; 1 Tim. 2:1-5). If anyone is aware of America’s present spiritual condition, then they know that this nation needs a church that will fervently bombard principalities and powers of darkness with intercessory prayer, releasing angelic air strikes from heaven (Jas. 5:16-18; 2 Chr. 7:14). Seeing Israel’s corrupt leadership, God “sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before [Him] on behalf of the land” (Ez. 22:30; Isa. 62:6-7). Some ask, “Where is the God of Elijah,” but I ask, where are the “Elijahs of God” in this hour that will unashamedly rebuild the broken altars in their homes and churches alike (1 Kings 18:30)? Where are the men and women who will blow the trumpet, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly, and gather the people that they might weep together between the porch and the altar on behalf of this land (Joel 2:12-17)? If your heart is burning as you read this, then God may be calling you to help lead this prayer charge in your home, church, city and region.

Genuine revival must be birthed and sustained by prayer. God filled the same church with His Spirit multiple times as they chose to return to their first work of prayer. He always gives more to those who ask. It was always His intention that we should do ministry with Him and not just for Him. He wants a Bride that will do the work of the Kingdom alongside Him through the interaction of unceasing prayer. Authority in the Spirit is given to those who are intimate with His Spirit. The Promise of the Father enables us to operate in divine power while increasing our appetite for unbroken communion with Him. It gives us a foretaste of what is to come, when we will reign with Him as His suitable partner (Eph. 1:13-14).

 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5).

God is still pleading with His Bride to return to her first love. It is the calling of all callings to burn with holy love for Jesus, but in a society such as ours, it is hard for us to accept that this is the height of success. “Remember,” He says. What if we don’t remember? Do the first works and keep them first. The Holy Spirit will meet us and remind us if we ask Him (Jn. 14:26). One of the grandest products of being filled with the Holy Spirit is that we can actually know the love of God from the inside out (Rom. 5:5; Eph. 3:16-19). The First and Great Commandment is not only a command but also a prophecy, that those who keep saying yes shall one day love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength by the power of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 17:26).The Church must collectively and intentionally make prayer the focal point of all other ministry for her first love to be fanned into flame, and it must be kept burning (Lev. 6:12; Mal. 1:10). Every relationship is started and sustained by active communication. It’s not enough to call the Church to return to her first love if we don’t remind her how she found her first love. The first works are the gateway to our first love.

Jesus is a Bridegroom who is jealous for all of our affection. He who zealously holds His messengers in His hand will take away our authority and influence if we don’t keep the first things first. Hear me weary pastor! He will always choose your heart over your ministry. Stop trying to find validation in having more ministry influence, more money, more people, more notoriety, and remember what He is looking for. He wants our love. Whether you have everything or nothing, He wants to be enough. Set Him as a seal upon your heart (mind, will and emotions) and upon your arm (actions; SOS 8:6). He is calling the Church to come back to doing ministry through intimacy with Him, as friends of the Bridegroom. He wants our work to be about relationship with Him as it was in the Paradise of God (Adam walked with God in the cool of the day as he named the animals and tended the garden).

Those one hundred and twenty could always look back to those ten days before Pentecost where all they did was seek the Lord together in prayer – tarrying, watching, waiting, and holding onto His word in a hot upper room. It may have been weak, inconvenient, and uncomfortable, but God answered by fire. The Church was born in a prayer room, and she will live on forever as a house of prayer for all nations. Church history will culminate as the people of God gather in prayer rooms across the earth as one global upper room crying out as one who is lovesick in one accord, “Come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:17)

“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa. 56:7).