In the book of Acts, we see a vibrant young church. We see the early saints lifting each other up in prayer. Why did they choose to do this? What was their motivation? Prayer is a vital part of any believer’s life. Essentially, it is the outpouring of our love to a faithful God who loves us and takes care of us. This week and next, we will look at prayer then and prayer now.
Prayer Then, Part 1
“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
(Acts 1:14 ESV)
Let’s set the stage. The disciples of Jesus have just witnessed His ascension into heaven. They have been given a mandate to evangelize the world and wait for the Holy Spirit to come as their aid. In the meantime, they gather to pray. What I find so striking about this verse is that Jesus’ earthly family was among those who were praying. They did not look to place themselves into a position of honor, they simply devoted themselves to prayer. We see as well in Acts that the temple was a vital center of prayer for believers. This of course would change in AD 70 with the Roman destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Dr. Clinton Arnold tells us this about prayer in the early church, “Their prayers probably centered on blessing and praising God as well as asking Him for guidance and for boldness in proclaiming the Gospel.”1 In fact we see this type of prayer being exhibited in chapter 4 where we read, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31 ESV). Imagine that kind of boldness! Being able to go anywhere and proclaim the truth of God in Christ was the result of this prayer. That’s a kind of boldness that we rarely see in today’s world. When was the last time any of us were that bold? Personally speaking, those times are few and far between. But imagine the impact of such a prayer! God granted them what they prayed for, boldness to proclaim the Gospel. Are you praying for that today? Do you wish to have boldness to proclaim the truth of God in Christ? This church did, and look at the results.
Prayer Now, Part 1
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
(Colossians 4:2 ESV)
All throughout the New Testament, we see the call to pray. Do we follow that call? How is our own prayer life? Let’s take a moment to dissect this verse from Colossians. What does steadfast mean? A good definition is resolved or unwavering. It speaks of a duty. As believers, we have a duty to be in prayer. This should be our desire. Do you desire to pray? Do you see it as your duty to pray on behalf of others? Paul says we are to continue in such a way. Now what does “being watchful in it with thanksgiving” refer to? The Puritan theologian John Owen suggests that it refers to a warning against “sleepiness of body, and to coldness and indifference of mind, to all careless airs and negligent manner of performing it” and points to “intenseness of mind, an application of thought, and fervency of devotion, and affection in it.”2 This speaks to a dedication to focus. How often do our prayers become repetitious and emotionless? I fall into this trap all the time! I want my prayers to be focused, and not filled with “careless airs.” I pray you will desire to do so as well. Lastly, we are to be thankful. What good is our prayer if we are not thankful for who God is and what He has done? Owen points out that “ungrateful spirit, is highly resented by him,”3 that is, by God. He desires a thankful and pure heart. The psalmist proclaims, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalms 106:1 ESV). Paul reminds us that in all our prayers to be thankful. Overall we see here that our prayers are to be a) continuous and unwavering, b) focused and devoted and c) always thankful. Is this how you pray? I invite us all to analyze the manner of our prayers to see if they match this model from Paul. I know our prayer life would be greatly enriched if we chose to do so.
The believers in Acts prayed. They prayed for boldness. They did so in private and in groups, both in homes and in the temple. This is our example for today. Paul as well, gives us a short model of how prayer is to be conducted. Prayer is often overlooked by believers today. Prayer is so vital yet many times we feel like we already have what need. If our needs are met, prayer is pushed to the side. But we must pray! We must pray for one another. We must pray for boldness in sharing the Gospel. We must be in pray for the world and believers worldwide. Prayer changes us and allows God to see our faith in action. Faithful prayer is the outpouring a believer’s love for God. God will honor our prayers and we will be changed in the process. I invite us to take the call to pray seriously and become a praying people just as the early saints who went before us.
Peace in Him,
1) Clinton E. Arnold. Acts. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002). 31.
2) John Gill, John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/colossians-4-2.html, accessed online 1/25/2010.