What do you think of, when you hear the word stretch? There are a variety of definitions on M-W.com for stretch. Here are some of the words that are used to describe stretch: “To extend, to reach out, to enlarge, to expand, to amplify, and finally- an exercise of something (such as the understanding or the imagination) beyond ordinary or normal limits.”
This fast may be a stretch for you. You may be struggling, but you also may be (and I pray this is true) experiencing growth that comes from the exercise of spiritual muscles that haven’t been used before. (or very often) The Lord has so much he wants to pour into us- so much he wants to reveal to us, so much he wants to grow in us and through us. God is so good! He loves us and is ready and willing to work in those who love him. Are we ready to be stretched?
No stretching is pleasant initially, but after the maturity develops, the fruit from the stretching can be very pleasant, indeed.
When the word stretch came to my mind for this day of study, I looked up the word STRETCH on my bible hub app. I found a wonderful collection of scriptures centered around this word! Some examples?
- In Matthew 12, Jesus commands a man to stretch out his hand to prove he is healed.
- In Exodus, God commands Moses to stretch out his hand to work wonders against Egypt.
- In Job, Satan asks God to stretch out his hand against Job. (God doesn’t, but does allow Satan to test Job.)
- Moses was told to stretch out his hand over the Red Sea so the children of Israel could cross over on dry land.
- More often than naught, God stretches out his hand in judgement.
So, basically, we see the word used in cases of miraculous signs and judgements. The word stretch implies that it goes above and beyond normal circumstances. It also requires and extension and an intentional act- whether it’s a person reaching out in faith for healing, or God stretching out his hand to do wonders or acts of judgement.
Here is a lovely account of when the early church called on the Lord to stretch out his hand to perform miracles in Acts 4!
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
1The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11Jesus is
“ ‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’ a
12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
The Believers Pray– (Here’s where they pray for stretching!)
23On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“ ‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
I want to put this little amazing scene into perspective. First of all, Peter and John are experiencing real life persecution. I always think it’s incredible that when a miracle happens, even today, people are incredulous and literally put the people on “trial” who worked the miracle. These men are standing on trial and they are experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to give them the words and the authority to represent Jesus before the Sanhedrin.
The Lord allows them to be let go and what is the next thing that happens with the believers? They pray and worship God! Here is the exact text of their prayer: “
“Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
- They acknowledge that God has been in control all along!
- They asked the Lord to compensate for the threats and the persecution with Holy Spirit boldness.
- They asked for God to stretch out his hand to perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.
Now, some people teach that it’s wrong to ask for signs and wonders, based on Jesus’ comment to the pharisees who asked him for a sign to prove himself, right after he had fed the 4000 (Matthew 16). Jesus wasn’t against miracles, he was against a religious spirit that always wants some physical proof of God, even when God is revealing himself. A religious spirit is uncomfortable with the movements of God and things that can’t be regulated and controlled. But, here in this passage in Acts 4, the apostles ask for miracles to grow the kingdom. Their goal was not their own exaltation, but the lifting up of the name of Jesus.
What I find amazing is this- the real purpose of signs and wonders is not just to do some tricks. The real purpose is to reveal Jesus to the world. God’s heart is for Jesus to be lifted up and for all men to be drawn to him for salvation! So when the apostles prayed, they were asking God to STRETCH -or extend- do more than normal to glorify himself in the middle of persecution and to bring the harvest in of lost souls.
They prayed for God to STRETCH out his hand to give them boldness to meet the level of threat. In this way, they would glorify the Lord in their persecution and see many people come to the Lord. Also, the Greek tense for STRETCH is the Greek present tense that means a continual action. They are not asking God for a one time boldness or one time miracle. They are asking for a continual miraculous movement of God in the midst of persecution.
Let us ask the Lord to STRETCH out his hand while we are being STRETCHED! Let’s get used to adding this apostolic prayers into our own prayers. I figure these men and women knew Jesus one on one. They prayed with Jesus for 3 years. They saw him move and they were used by God to bring the gospel to the world in the middle of extreme opposition. Let’s use their prayers as an example for us!
Let’s Pray- If you pray each of these points for 2 minutes (adding your own prayers in with my content), then you will be praying for 20 minutes. If you take extra time for the part of listening to God and worshipping- you could easily be praying for 40 minutes! (This may be a big stretch for some of you- so GOOD JOB!)
- Abba Father, you are my daddy. You are my father. Your name is holy. You love me so much and I love you. You have chosen me from the foundations of the earth. Your call on my life is such an honor. Thank you for calling me to be your child. Thank you for sealing me with your Holy Spirit! You are amazing! You are generous! I glorify your name in all the earth! Praise you great and mighty God! There is no one like you, Oh Lord.
- Lift up the name of Jesus. Spend time worshipping and declaring the name of Jesus. “Jesus, I worship you! I praise your name. Your name is holy, Lord Jesus. You are my redeemer. Your name is Emmanuel, God with us. Your name has authority and power. I am blessed by you, Lord. You are my delight and my heart. At your name, Oh Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The enemy cannot stand when I confess your name, Oh Lord. Praise you! Your name will ever be on my lips, Lord Jesus. I will declare it out loud.
- Your kingdom come! Your will be done. Lord, build your kingdom in my life and my family. Bring your kingdom and overthrow the prince of the power of the air, Oh Lord. I defy his strategies and attacks against me and my family in the name of Jesus. The Lord is God over my family. I commit my life and family to you. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! Bring your kingdom to our nation. Build up your body of Christ all over this nation. Raise up the leaders. Raise up the people of God to do your will. May your will be done in the church as it is in heaven. Bring repentance Lord and restore the broken down walls protecting the church, Oh Lord. Our sin has broken down the walls of protection. Rebuild your church through repentance, Lord. Build your kingdom, Lord, Jesus! Praise you!
- Give us this day our daily bread. Give us provision through the storms. Provide for all of our needs according to your riches in glory. Take away my anxiety about the times we are living in. I cast all my cares upon you. I trust you completely. Forgive me for not trusting you for everything. I want to be led by you, Lord. I know you are a good Father and you care for me.
- I repent for sin in my heart and in my life. Lord, I know there is sin in my life that I am unaware of. I harbor unknown sin. Forgive me for things that do not please you, even when I don’t know what I am doing. Keep me for willful sins, Lord. (Spend time giving the Lord your sin in the name of Jesus.)
- I forgive! Forgive and release those who have hurt you- intentionally or unintentionally. We do this in obedience and faith. Spend time here until you get release.
- Lord, stretch out your hand! “Now, Lord, consider their threats and the hatred of the world against Christians and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, Oh Lord! Glorify yourself here in my life, Oh Lord!”
- As I am being stretched with this fast, refine me, fill me, and glorify yourself. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. Give your temptations to the Lord.
- Spiritual warfare prayer:
STANDING IN THE PROTECTION OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS
When we open our mouths in declaration, confessing that we are covered by the blood, we are protected! Here are some suggestions of ways to do this. Say these confessions about the work of the blood of Jesus aloud! It should bring you great freedom to do this regularly!
- Through the blood of Jesus, I am delivered from the hand of Satan!
- Through the blood of Jesus, I am cleansed from all my sin!
- Through the blood of Jesus, I am protected from the destroyer!
- Through the blood of Jesus, I am made righteous before God, and declared not guilty of my sin!
- Through the blood of Jesus, I am whole, delivered, saved and redeemed.
- Through the blood of Jesus, I have a place in the family of God.
- Through the blood of Jesus, I triumph over the devil!
- Thank you, Lord, that the blood of Jesus speaks a better word for me than the blood of Abel.
- Thank you, Lord, that through the blood, I am being sanctified, made holy and brought near to you!
In Jesus’ name, I praise you because you are glorious. I praise you for Jesus Christ your Son, our Sovereign Lord.
I ask that you fill me with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that I may know you and understand this battle that I am living in. Open the eyes of my heart so that I may see you and the hope that I have in you, in Jesus’ name. I need to know that I have hope in the battle, Lord. Right now I acknowledge that my battle is not against flesh and blood. I am not battling people in this world. I am not battling against my spouse or children. I am not battling against non-believers or family members. I am battling against spiritual rulers and authorities in my life. I am battling against things seen and unseen that raise themselves up against the knowledge of Christ Jesus.
I stand against lies and darkness that come against me in Jesus’ name. No weapon formed against me shall prosper, in Jesus’ name. I acknowledge the power of Jesus and I praise you that I am seated with him in heavenly realms above all rule and power and authority.
I know that in Christ and his resurrection power I am victorious. So, I stand in the armor of Jesus right now. I put on the helmet of salvation. I praise you for my salvation, in Jesus’ name. I thank you for your protection and that you protect my head, my life, my authority through Christ. I rejoice that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
I stand firm in the truth of Christ. I buckle your belt of truth about my waist. I pray that your truth will secure my life. Defend me against the lies of Satan, in Jesus’ name. I know that I am vulnerable apart from you, Lord. I ask in Jesus’ name that you will reveal to me any lies that I am believing and allow me to walk in your truth.
Today, I thank you for the righteousness that is imputed to me in Christ Jesus. I ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in that righteousness. I pray that the righteousness of Christ and the power of God to live a life of holiness will protect my heart. I put on that breastplate of righteousness. Teach me to submit to and obey your truth in the grace that God provides me, oh Lord, in Jesus’ power and holy name.
I also pray, in Jesus’ name, that you will ready my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Everywhere I go, oh Lord, may I be ready to bring your message of good news. Do not let me lose my footing in this area. May my feet truly be the beautiful feet that bring good news to those who are lost and need to find their way. Use me, oh Lord, to bring your salvation to the lives of those who are not in your family. Bring people into my life, in special moments, who need you. Ordain for me opportunities to minister the gospel of Jesus to them.
Father, fill me with faith, in Jesus’ name. I pray that your Spirit will ignite faith in me that I can fight against the devil and be protected from his diversions and lies. I take up your shield of faith, Father. Hide me in the shadow of your wing, oh Lord. Build up my inner spirit in faith. Minister faith to me and help my unbelief, in Jesus’ name!
Also, I take up your Holy Word, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I ask that daily I will be filled with your Word. I ask that the truth of your Word will work like a mighty weapon in my hands. Teach me to fight the enemy with your Word, oh Lord. Develop in me the spiritual gifts and abilities you want me to use in this battle, in Jesus’ name!
Fill me with your Spirit’s power right now. None of this is possible in my flesh. I trust in your Spirit. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
10. Speak, Lord. Fill my heart with your truth. Teach me to hear your voice. You say that your sheep know your voice. Train me, Oh Good Shepherd. Train me to hear your voice! Give me guidance on what I need to know and how you want me to pray. Lead me and guide me. Lead me into all truth in your Word. Give me wisdom. Speak Lord. (Spend time sitting in God’s presence listening for his voice.)