Summary: The Jerusalem Church in Acts 2 "devoted thesmelves to ptayer." This messages presents to our local congregation how God is calling us to follow in their steps today.
Becoming a Church of Prayer
Sam Walter Foss was a New England poet in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His wife was a minister’s daughter, and their Church was College Avenue Methodist Church in Somerville, Massachusetts [SOURCE: http://www.ethicalstl.org/platforms/platform071199.shtml]. Many of his, matter-of-fact poems still speak vividly to us today. I have always especially appreciated “The Prayer of Cyrus Brown”:
“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees.”
“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes.”
“Oh, no, no, no,” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud.
A man should pray with eyes fast-closed
And head contritely bowed.”
“It seems to me his hand should be
Austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.
“Well, I pray while resting every day,”
Said Mr. Henry Pack.
“So I should think you say your prayers
While lying on your back.”
“Last year I fell in Murphy’s well—
Headfirst,” said Cyrus Brown.
“With both my knees a’stickin’ up
And my head a’pointin’ down.”
“And I made a prayer right then and there,
The best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A’standing on my head.”
“So, if your prayers come
From mouth and not from soul;
God may just someday let you
Fall into a hole!”
The New Testament Church knew and practiced “the proper way to pray.” After the revival fires fell in Jerusalem that Pentecost Sunday, Luke attests in Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
A vibrant prayer life and ministry in a local congregation is fundamental for any church to remain dynamic in their witness and outreach for Jesus Christ and the effective making of disciples for His kingdom. Spirit led and spirit filled prayer is a must for the local Church to remain effective in her ministry and to grow in our post modern, post Christian society in which we life today.
Luke stresses in our text that the Church in Jerusalem after Pentecost, among other things, “devoted themselves to . . . prayer.” What exactly does that mean? The form of the verb “devoted” as used by Luke conveys the message that the Church was continually devoting themselves to the ministry of prayer. Prayer was not something they could take or leave at will. It was a spiritual discipline in which they were constantly diligent, one in which they continued to persevere. Prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Acts 1:14 testifies that the 120 in the Upper Room “all joined together constantly in prayer.”
They never stopped continuing in prayer once they had been filled with the spirit but followed Paul’s charge in Romans 12:12. They were “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” As a result of their faithfulness in prayer “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The New Testament Church’s motto when it comes to prayer appears to that of our own Marines, “Semper Fidelis.” They were always faithful in prayer.
I want praise the Lord and affirm today that Trinity United Methodist Church is on the road to “Becoming a Church of Prayer” but also challenge us to make even more progress toward that goal by allowing the Holy Spirit total leeway to work in and through us. My heart has “been strangely warmed” these past weeks and months as we see more and more people in our congregation begin to pray verbally during our prayer time. God is truly present in a visible manner when so many of us verbalize our prayers of praise and petition during our time of prayer in public worship.
I want to encourage everyone to “let go and let God” lead you in following the same course of action in praying out loud. No one needs to be bashful or frightened to pray out loud in public. Prayer is simply a childlike conversation between God and His children. We don’t have to worry we will stutter over the right words to use, for the Holy Spirit will “give us the words to pray every time.” It is not the words we use that matter to God but the condition of our hearts when we come before Him in prayer.
God is not concerned with using the right vocabulary in prayer, and your brothers and sisters in Christ are not either. If you still hesitate to pray publicly in worship, block out all thoughts of anyone around you but God Himself. He is the Only One who matters. You are not praying to any of us, but to Him alone. What counts with God is that your words come from your soul.