Summary: The sermon examines the prayer faith and praying practice of the New Testament as a model for today’s church.
A Praying Church
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
This is a New Testament church. We are part of a heritage commonly known as the Restoration Movement. This means that among our core value is the view that the Apostles Doctrine, the teachings of Jesus’ first followers, is intended to be the pattern of the church for all time. This doesn’t mean that we wear sandals and robes and ride camels or donkeys to and from church meetings. It means rather that we believe a lot of corruption and distortion have entered the life of the church through the centuries and every congregation would be better off, closer to God’s plan, if it restored the doctrine and life of the first church.
Two practical and observable results of that core value are our practices of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We practice believer’s baptism by immersion because we believe that was the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. The vast majority of biblical scholars agree. But because many simply don’t share our core value, they conclude that what the New Testament church taught and practiced is not that important. We disagree.
The same principle accounts for our practice of the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day. That was the norm for the first 1500 years of church history. But the practice became distorted and the doctrine perverted in the Middle Ages. The Protestant Reformers rightly observed the problems, but decided, rather than return to New Testament doctrine and practice. Instead most Protestant leaders chose to de-emphasize the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper. Because of our core value of restoring New Testament Christianity, we have concluded that the solution to the problem is not to abandon the distorted practice, but to restore the practice to its biblical doctrine.
The same core value affects our organization of elders and deacons to lead the church. It also causes us to resist denominational labels and traditions that divide rather unite the followers of Jesus. On and on the list could go.
I am going to assume that we are largely in agreement on that core value of New Testament Christianity. If so—and here is my point for this discussion—shouldn’t we also be concerned about the restoring the faith and practice of prayer that was the heartbeat of the New Testament Church.
I am not suggesting that we don’t pray. We certainly do. But I am raising the question of whether prayer has the same place as in the New Testament Church. Is our praying as dynamic and all consuming as that of the New Testament Church? I think not. Tonight I want to look closely at the prayer practices of the New Testament Church that we claim we want to restore and see what it looked like. I want us to look for areas where we might be more like them.
But first I want us to think about some of the obstacles we have to becoming a more dynamic praying church:
1. We are afraid of sounding or looking like the Pentecostals or charismatics. It is true and it is to our shame that many of these groups have made a much greater emphasis on praying than we have. I have many good friends who are in such groups. I respect them greatly, especially their recovering of prayer and worship. But make no mistake about it, I think these groups have some very serious problems at the heart of their doctrine and practice. I don’t think it is serious enough to disqualify most of them from being considered my brothers and sisters in Christ. But problems there are. We can talk about those on another day. But somebody else’s problems ought have nothing to do with what we do. We are willing to observe the Lord’s Supper weekly even though that is historically a Roman Catholic pattern and rightly so. It is New Testament. We ought not apologize for praying fervently even if it makes us sound more like charismatics than our traditional churches.
2. We also tend to emphasis human responsibility. Rightly so. Scripture clearly teachings that faith must be put into practice. “Faith without works is dead.” We have tended to emphasize this because some churches sound like they teach a passive faith. “God chooses us and acts and we have no part in it.” That view is a distortion. But we easily allow our view to become unbalanced. We act like we are supposed to do church with human resources. This is not the case.
3. A third problem is our secular culture. We are surrounded by a very materialistic culture that has divided life into neat little packages: work, school, politics, home and sometimes a small little bitty pocket for God. We tend to think that as long as that pocket is full we are very spiritual people. Let me say it clearly, that is not what Jesus called us to do. Becoming a follower of Jesus means putting everything in one pocket—His! People with a secular view pray, but only about itty bitty pocket matters and then only with limited expectations.