Prayer and Pentecost
January 9th, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
PRAYER AND PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-9-77 7:30 p.m.
The service tonight, in its message, is actually a doctrinal study of the Holy Spirit. It is entitled Prayer and Pentecost, or Prayer and the Holy Spirit. We are preaching these days through the Book of Acts, and because of the vast unfathomable depths of the spiritual revelations in the book, I have decided where I left off Sunday morning, to start Sunday night. And where I leave off in the Book of Acts Sunday night, we shall start the next Sunday morning.
These days and months that lie ahead, Sunday morning and Sunday night, we shall be preaching from the Book of Acts. Now this morning, we were in the eleventh verse: as the Lord ascended up into glory and as the shekinah, the brightness of the garments of God enclosed Him and hid Him out of their sight, those disciples on the top of the mount stood transfixed, gazing up into heaven into which the Lord had gone [Acts 1:9-10]. And two messengers from glory, angels in white apparel said to the apostles: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which was taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:11].
And that was the message this morning, “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner [Acts 1:11]. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet [Acts 1:12] —from which mount He ascended—which is a Sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem—just beyond the Kidron River. “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room.” And then are named the apostles [Acts 1:13]. These all and the following verse, this verse, the fourteenth verse is our text. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” [Acts 1:14].
When the Lord was crucified His brethren did not believe upon Him [John 7:5]. But raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:3-6], the Lord appeared to James [1 Corinthians 15:7], His eldest brother, and through him won all of the family in the days of His flesh to the faith. Therefore, in this pre-Pentecostal prayer meeting, there are the apostles, and there is His mother, and there are the women who followed Him from Galilee, and there are His brethren [Acts 1:14]. They are together, numbering in the whole throng of them something like one hundred twenty [Acts 1:15]. Now, they are giving themselves, the Scripture says and our text, with one accord. They are pouring out their souls before God in prayer and supplication [Acts 1:14].
Now there is an amazing amount of doctrinal study in that one verse that you do not realize when just summarily or casually, you read through it. Why should they be praying and supplicating, interceding, knocking at God’s throne of grace when Pentecost was as set in the programming of God as any other great day in the life of our Lord?
There was a set day when the Lord was to be born, “in the fullness of time” [Galatians 4:4], Scripture calls it. There was a set day when the Lord was to be crucified [Matthew 27:32-50]; He is the Lamb of the Passover [1 Corinthians 5:7]. There was a set day when the Lord was to be raised from the dead—three days after His crucifixion [Matthew 28:1-7]. There was a set day when the Lord ascended up into heaven, taking captivity captive [Acts 1:9-10; Ephesians 4:8]. There is a set day known to God when the Lord is coming back to this earth again [Acts 1:10-11]: now, just as set is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-4].
The Lord has said to His disciples: “It is expedient for you that I go away. But if I go away, I will send Him unto you” [John 16:7], explaining His Word. “I will pray the Father, and He will send you another paraklētos, another Helper and Comforter,” One who will walk by your side, “even the Spirit of truth that He may abide with you forever” [John 14:16-17]. “I will pray the Father” [John 14:16]. Do you see that? The coming of the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with the praying of these people in this earth [Acts 1:13-14]. The coming, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is an answer to the prayer of Jesus Christ [John 14:16]. That is why it is called the Promise of the Father. “Wait,” says our Lord, “in Jerusalem for the Promise of the Father which I spake concerning unto you” [Luke 24:49]. All of the outpouring, the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit of God, is something that Christ has done for us [John 14:16].
Pentecost is an ascension gift [Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8]. It is something that our Lord won for us when He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3], was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], and ascended up into glory [Acts 1:9]. It is a gift that God gave to Him, and He poured it out upon this earth [Luke 24:49]. It is an answer to the prayer of Jesus, not our prayer, the prayer of Jesus that the Holy Spirit is given to the world [John 14:16-17].
Now you look again, the Holy Spirit marks a new dispensation, a new era, a new age, a new grace. This is the age of the church. This is the age of the building up of the body of Christ. This is the age of the preaching of the gospel. This is the mustērion that the apostle Paul is speaking about in the third chapter of Ephesians—hid from the eyes of the prophets [Ephesians 3:5]. They never saw this age; they never saw this day; they never saw this dispensation. They never saw the church—any time anyone finds the church in the Old Testament, he is finding something that is not there—therefore, he doesn’t find it. It is a mustērion, Paul says, that God kept in His heart, hidden away, a secret until He revealed it unto the holy apostles, until the Holy Spirit came to gather together out of the Jews, out of the Gentiles, from all of the families of the earth, a new body; a new creation which is called the church [Ephesians 3:1-11],.
Now this is a set time in the economy of God, in the dispensation of the Lord. And our praying has nothing to do with it. It is something that God in His sovereign and elective grace has brought to pass: this marvelous day of Pentecost, of the outpouring of the Spirit, of the gathering together of the saints, composing the body of Christ [Acts 2:1-4]; then why this praying and supplication? [Acts 1:14].
Now there are those who say that such praying and such supplication is extraneous and peripheral and beside the point; it has no meaning. It has no possibility, for the Holy Spirit is given and we’re not to ask nor are we to pray. Our asking for the Holy Spirit and our praying for the Holy Spirit has no programming and no place in the Christian’s life. There are those who doctrinally avow that. But there is more to it than just that. God has a vast, elective, sovereign purpose that He is working out in pouring out the Spirit of God upon the earth in Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4]. But there is something more than that. There is also something of us. In the elective and sovereign purpose of God, not only is it His glorious gift that the Spirit is poured out in Pentecostal presence and power upon the earth, but there is also something of us.
Now, we’re going to look at the eleventh chapter of the Book of Luke, “It came to pass, that, as the Lord was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray” [Luke 11:1]. And so the Lord taught them the model prayer [Luke 11:2-4]. Then after the model prayer, beginning at verse 5, He talks to them about importunity in praying, just knocking at the throne of grace until God answers from above. And He says it like this: there is a man who had a friend and he did not have any food to set before him. So he goes to the neighbor at midnight and he says, “I have a friend from a long journey and they are hungry and I do not have anything to feed them. Won’t you give me three loaves?” And the man from within says, “Trouble me not: the door is shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot arise and give thee” [Luke 11:5-7]. Isn’t that the funniest thing you ever saw? He’s not with his wife in bed; he’s with his children in bed, “I’m up here in bed with my children and we’re sound asleep. And don’t bother me.”
“I say unto you,” saith the Lord, “though he will not rise and give to that man down there because he is his friend, yet because he . . . [knocking sound] Man! He won’t let him sleep up there, he just keeps knocking, “Yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him every thing that he needs” [Luke 11:8].
“Man, I can’t go to sleep with that guy knocking down there! I’m in bed here with my children, I have to have rest. These kids.” Man alive, get going! What did you say? You want bread? “Here!” just to get rid of him, give him all that he pleases. That’s what the Lord says about importunity [Luke 11:8]. Then He says—now look at the application of the parable, “I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you,” and that’s in the present tense, “keep on asking.” Ask, ask, ask and, “Keep on asking . . . it will be given you; seek” and keep on seeking and you will find; knock,” keep on knocking, “and it will be opened unto you. For all those that keep on asking, receive; and all those that keep on seeking, find; and all those who keep on knocking, shall find the door opened” [Luke 11:9-10].
If a son shall ask bread of you that is a father:
will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If he ask for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?
It is as much in the sovereign, elective purpose of God that we ask for the fullness of the Spirit as it is in the sovereign elective purpose of God that the Holy Spirit be poured out upon the earth. “Lord, fill me, give me power. Let me have the presence of the Lord from above. May the Spirit of Jesus be seen in me!” And it pleases God; the same God who elected Pentecost before the world was made, it pleases the same God that we ask for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Just like Elisha. As he walked with Elijah, “Master, he said, “grant that a double portion of thy spirit may fall upon me” [2 Kings 2:9]. Ask, open your heart, pray! That’s what they did; though Pentecost was a set date, they gave themselves to prayer and to supplication and continued asking in importunity for ten days [Acts 1:14-15]. What a prayer meeting!
Now I have one other passage. I have one other passage that also avows the same thing but in a far different context. If you would like, turn to the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John:
That same day at evening—
this is the day that He was raised from the dead—
being the first day of the week,
the first Easter—
when the doors were shut, Jesus came, stood in their midst, and said: Shalom, peace be unto you.
And when He had said that, He showed them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
Then said Jesus to them again, “Shalom, peace be unto you. As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you.
And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit.
Now, there is a turn in that word that is hidden in our English translation. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]. Now the word is labete. Labete, translated here: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]. Now there is a far more poignantly and rugged and unchiseled rock in that word than we understand when it is translated “receive,” labete. Labete is an imperative form of lambanō, “to take,” to take. So He says to them: “Take ye the Holy Spirit.” Look at that word. In the eighteenth chapter of this Gospel of John, the word is from Pilate: “Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law” [John 18:31].
In the nineteenth chapter of this same Gospel, you have that labete again, “Take Him, and crucify Him” [John 19:15]; labete, “Take Him, and crucify Him.” Now in the next chapter, the twentieth chapter, He breathed on them and said labete, “Take the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]. Take Him, take Him!
God has poured out without measure the Holy Spirit in this earth [John 3:34]. But I also am to take Him. I am to seize Him, labete; take Him. I also have a part. And these in my text tonight, they prayed. They bowed in supplication, and after ten days [Acts 1:14-15], they were ready to labete, to take, and Pentecost came down! [Acts 2:1-4].
It is thus with us in our praying and in our supplicating. We are preparing to take from the hands of God, His most wondrous and precious gift: the fullness of the Spirit. And without the praying and without the supplicating, I don’t know whether we would ever be ready for the filling, the fullness of the Spirit. You see, we also have a part. God’s sovereignty pours out upon us in this earth the Spirit of God [John 14:16-17], but I also have a part in my praying and supplicating; I am ready to take [John 20:22]. And oh, what God does with the people who thus pray and intercede, and yield themselves to the fullness of the Spirit of Jesus, what power there is in it!
In my reading, I came across an incident in history, but the part that I read did not identify the contestants, just told the story of what happened. It must have been somewhere in the Middle East. There was a tyrant who proposed to vanquish and lead into subjection a free people. But the people whom he was attempting to subdue were godly and praying people. So this tyrant gathered his army together and was invading the land of this free people. And those people, seeing the tyrant coming to subdue them, gathered their forces together to confront the tyrannical invader. And when the armies faced each other, before the battle was joined, those people who were defending themselves, the free people, all bowed down to the earth. And the tyrant said to his generals, “Look, they are already cowering! They are already surrendering.”
And one of his wise counselors who knew the people, said, “Sir, they’re not cowering. They’re not surrendering. Before the battle is joined, they are praying to their God.” And when the battle was over, the tyrant and his armies were destroyed. It pleases God for us to pray.
Even though in God’s sovereign, elective grace, clear to the end, to the ultimate and final consummation, He has His hands on this world. The whole world is in His hands, and we’re in His hands, and all of history and destiny are in His hands. But the same elective purpose of God also includes us on our faces, down on our knees in prayer and in supplication. “And these all continued with one accord, in prayer and supplication” [Acts 1:14]. And when Pentecost was fully come, they were fully prepared [Acts 2:1].
I don’t know whether the imagery is very appropriate or not, but sometimes I think of us, how we ought to be. We ought to be, we ought to be like little new-hatched birds in a nest. Did you ever look in a nest and see a new-hatched bird? It is all mouth. When he opens his mouth, he’s just all mouth, ready to receive from the mother bird or the father bird all of those things that they gather up and feed their little ones. And that little new-hatched bird that is all mouth is just so yielded and ready to receive. The imagery may not be particularly beautiful, but it is certainly apropos for us.
We’re just all mouth. We’re just all open hearts. We just are all just yielded and surrendered. “O Lord, fill me. Every day of my life, every step of the way, every part of me, Lord, fill me,” continuing in prayer and supplication [Acts 1:14]; and Pentecost came [Acts 2:1]. It will for us. It will for our church. It will for your heart. It will in your life. Praying, opening your heart to the Lord, “Fill me, Lord” And He will do it.
Bless us, sweet people, as thus we yield ourselves and all of our members to the use and blessing of the Holy Spirit of Jesus. In this moment now, we’re going to sing a song of appeal. Is there somebody you here tonight to give himself to Jesus? [Romans 10:9-13]. Somebody to put his life in the fellowship of our church, “I want to confess my faith in the Lord [Ephesians 2:8], I want to be baptized” [Matthew 28:19-20]. Or, “I want to put my life in this church.” Or, “I want to answer some call from heaven to my soul.”
And to the great multitudes who have listened to this service on radio, if God has spoken to you, where you are, bow your head and say, “Lord, may there be less and less of me and more and more of Thee, until there be nothing of me and all of Thee. I give myself, Lord, unto Thee.” Where you are, may God speak to you in a new and a wondrous way. And in our sanctuary here, if there is someone you to respond to God’s word of appeal tonight, come and stand by me, while all of us stand and we sing our hymn of appeal together.
I. Pre-Pentecostal prayer meeting (Acts
1:14, 1 Corinthians 15:7)
A. A set time for the
outpouring of Holy Spirit
B. He came in answer to
prayer of Jesus (John 14:16-17, 16:7, Luke 24:)
C. One Pentecost – a
1. Age of the
church (Ephesians 3:3-6)
II. More than the gift at Pentecost
A. Importunity (Luke
11:5-13, Matthew 7:7-8)
B. Pleases God that we
ask for fullness of Spirit (2 Kings 2:9)
III. We are to pray for Him, desire Him,
A. “Take ye the Holy
Spirit” (John 20:19-22, 18:3, 19:15, 20:22)