Pray we should. But how should we pray. Are there right and wrong ways? I think there are. Many give up on prayer because no one has ever taught them how to pray. Though not exhaustive in the least, the apostle’s prayer in Acts 4:23-31 gives us some pointers.
This continues a series of articles on the distinguishing marks of the infant Christian church. The infant Christian church’s devotion to prayer comprises its fifth distinguishing mark (Acts 2:42).
In the original Greek, the word often translated “prayer” is pluralized and preceded by the Greek article. Literally, we would render the Greek, “the prayers” and not simply “prayer.” The members of the infant church not only devoted themselves to the act of prayer, but they devoted themselves to regular routine times of prayer. They did not pray only at times they felt moved to pray but established regular times to gather together and pray. A healthy church prays regularly and routinely. Prayers do not simply punctuate the end of a song or fill a liturgical role in the service, but flow from the heart of those who make these times of regular prayer foundational to their lives.
Luke showed us the believers praying before. Before the day of Pentecost, they were in a room praying regularly, likely for the power from on high Jesus promised (Acts 1:14) . Luke will show us again, time after time, the early church praying (e.g. Acts 3:1). Prayer gives the church her lifeblood.
The scholar Dr A. T. Pierson once said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.” Charles Spurgeon was said to have a group regularly meeting in the steam cellar of the church for the sole purpose of praying for the ministry of the church. It was said of John Knox that one day when he went into the room he often withdrew to, his wife followed him. When she entered, she heard him pleading to God in broken sentences, “Lord, wilt thou grant me Scotland.”
The prayer life of a congregation serves as one of the spiritual barometers that measures a congregation’s health. Is your congregational prayer life healthy? Is your individual prayer life for your congregation’s ministry healthy? If you cannot answer in the affirmative, drop what you are reading and fall on your knees. Your Lord calls you; will you listen?
For those looking to pray for our county, I invite you to join a group of us Mondays by the flagpole near the courthouse in Wellsboro at 4pm (or a little thereafter). Many prayers go from that place weekly for the welfare of our community. It matters little your denomination, only your willingness to join fellow brothers and sisters in beseeching Christ for times of refreshing to come to the people in our community.
Prior to the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples committed themselves to prayer in an upper room (Acts 1:12-14). Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift God the Father had promised (Acts 1:4). Never underestimate the power of prayer. God has many times used the prayers of his people to accomplish great things.
If you fasted for forty days and had the power to turn rocks into bread, could you resist? If you could have all the power and prestige in the world by just bowing down to Satan, would you? If you had the ability to leap from building to building, what would stop you from showing off just a little? For forty days in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted in ways that none of us could even dream of. Yet, he did not fall to temptation and sin.
We continue our series on Jesus’ pattern for prayer, by looking at the petition, “Lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:4).”
In 2006, a man entered a single-room Amish school house and violently murdered 5 young girls. One can hardly imagine the heartache felt by this Amish community after the tragedy. Yet, when news media outlets reported the story, the response of the community outshined the gruesome act itself. Without missing a beat, the community choose to forgive the murderer and even reached out to his family in sympathy instead of understandably demanding that he pay for his crime.
My grandparents used to have a woodcut picture in their kitchen based on a famous scene of two peasants in a field. In the background, a church bell rang to mark the end of the day. In the foreground, a small basket of potatoes laid on the ground. The two peasants hovered over it, with heads bowed, thanking God for the fruits of their labor. Though it was small, it was enough. They thanked God for enough.
Last week we looked at the first petition in Jesus’s pattern for prayer, “hallowed be your name.” This week we look at the second petition, “your kingdom come.”
We all desire a world where justice rolls down like water, where sickness and death ceases, where God rules the nations and the nations rule as God would have them rule, and where we behold the face of our Father in Heaven with unveiled faces. Many of us have given up on such a world. We have become too content with moldy bread, when a feast awaits us. God’s Word assures us such a day will come.
Jesus responded to his disciples request to teach them to pray by giving them a pattern for prayer (Luke 11:2-4). You may have noticed that the words Jesus gave his disciples in the Gospel of Luke differ from those in the more familiar version found in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus likely gave his disciples this prayer many times. The words themselves are not as important as the pattern. This reminds us that God does not need our repetitive words. He wants to hear us speaking to him from the heart.
The mid-nineteenth century missionary to South Africa Andrew Murray once said of prayer: “The disciples had been with Christ and seen him pray. They had learned to understand something of the connection between His wondrous life in public and His secret life of prayer. They had learned to believe in Him as a Master in the art of prayer – none could pray like Him. And so they came to Him with the request, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ And in after years they would have told us that there were few things more wondrous or blessed that He taught them than His lessons on prayer.”
Imagine you have been called into the Oval Office, the private chamber of a Supreme Court Justice, or office of some other person of great power. What might your thoughts and emotions be? Someone so powerful, so revered, perhaps someone you greatly respect asked you for a meeting. You likely would prepare for days for that meeting. Nothing like this has ever happened to you. You are about to shake hands with someone who has more power in uttering a sentence than you have in ten thousand words. Yet, this person has chosen to meet with you.