Summary: A review of the praying practices of the New Testament Church that make the first Christians a spiritual force to be reckoned with.
A Praying Church—Part II
Various Texts from Acts (Acts 1:12-14)
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Max Lucado, Church of Christ preacher in San Antonio, TX and popular Christian writer has this comment about prayer. “Prayer only makes sense when you have quit trying to do ministry yourself. I’ve learned that as things go smoothly, I pray less. As our goals shrink, I pray less. As things become more manageable, I pray less. But as we reach out, stretch ourselves, and tackle God-sized dreams, I pray more.” (Leadership, Vol. 13, no. 3.) Perhaps this says why we often have trouble praying like the New Testament church. Our dreams are too small; our goals to easily attained on our own. So we think!
Last time we began a look at the prayer pattern of the New Testament church. This is important for us because of one of our core values as a congregation is to be a New Testament church. Let me explain what I mean by that. We believe that the New Testament Scriptures provide the standard of faith, doctrine, and practice for Christ’s church. While we affirm that the whole of the Bible is God’s word, we believe that the New Testament supersedes the Old; and the Old must be understood in light of Christ’s teachings in the New. We endeavor to conform ourselves to what the New Testament teaches. We pledge to evaluate every teaching, tradition, and practice in light of the New Testament’s teachings and do our best to conform ourselves to that standard. Our aim is to restore the New Testament to its rightful place of authority in the church. Our desire is to teach what the New Testament teaches, live the life the New Testament calls for, and practice what the New Testament directs. Where the New Testament is silent, we recognize Christian liberty and seek not to be make personal opinion or religious tradition a matter creed or conduct.
If this core value is valid and our aim is to pattern ourselves after the spirit, teaching, and practice of the New Testament church, then why stop with the baptism and communion? Shouldn’t we also endeavor to be a praying church like the church of the New Testament? What would that mean? What would it look like? Let’s continue our journey through the Book of Acts looking for the prayer life of that New Testament church.
Review. We began last time in Acts 1where the church turned to prayer in an effort to seek the Lord’s decision for an important leadership matter. They continued in prayer for next several days. In fact, it can be truthfully said that the church was born in a prayer meeting.
Think with me a moment about their praying and seeking the Lord’s will for a new leader. That is important. The precise details of how they did it may not matter, but the fact that they did it matters. We ought to want that as well. What I want or you want or the majority of members wants or the elders want is not what ought to ultimately matter. Of course, we want to be considerate of each other and we certainly want to honor the New Testament church practice of seeking input from the people. But most of all, we want the Lord’s vote, don’t we? Who of us would want to get our way in a church decision if that was not what the Lord wanted? As imperfect humans we do not have a perfect “God’s will detection system.” But I know this, however we discern God’s will, it will begin and end with prayer, real fervent, heart-felt prayer.
1. They prayed as a regular part of worship and life.
Look at a few passages that provide a glimpse of normal church life in the New Testament era:
(Acts 2:42 NIV) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Prayer was significant enough to be listed as one of the four characteristic behaviors of the church. It defined what the church was. Imagine if someone were writing a history of our church. Would prayer be one of the top four characteristics noted? Are we a church that is famous for its faith in and practice of prayer? Let’s make it so!
(Acts 3:1 NIV) One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon. We don’t know any more than this. It just seems a matter of fact statement that these two leaders were going to the temple at prayer meeting time.
(Acts 10:9 NIV) About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. The context isn’t important for our point. Prayer was a normal part of life for Peter.