Snapshots From Acts, Number 5: Prayer
One of the characteristics of the teaching of Jesus and that of the early church was prayer. Jesus set the example in the many hours he spent in prayer. The prayer recorded in John's Gospel, chapter 17 is a great example. Here Jesus prays for himself, for his disciples and for all future believers.
As the Church was established and grew, the members prayed as they took the message out to the lost and as they faced persecution. Prayer is mentioned about 25 times in the Book of Acts. As we look at the way early Christians prayed it will surely help us to improve or introduce a meaningful prayer life in our Christian lives. While the world we live in has changed in so many ways, the need for serious and meaningful prayer remains. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Thessalonian Church, encourages them to pray continually (or pray without ceasing as some translations say).
The Book of Acts reports that when the disciples returned to Jerusalem after the ascension "they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers". (1:14 N.I.V. translation) A confused and scared group of family members and followers in serious, constant prayer. As they made a decision as to who would replace Judas they prayed asking for God's help and guidance. (1:24)
When the first followers were added to the group by God (2:47), they "...devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer".(2:42 N.I.V.)Prayer was then part of their lives and fellowship.
When Peter and John returned to their own people after being warned by the Sanhedrin to stop spreading the good news about Jesus, the people prayed. Luke records that "they raised their voices together in prayer to God". (4:23-26) God answered their prayer in a dramatic way: "After they prayed the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly". Prayer provided the power in the lives of the early Christians to proclaim the message and prayer also included praising God and thanksgiving.
Stephen prayed as he was about to be stoned by the Jewish leaders. (7:54-60) Cornelius, whose conversion is recorded in Chapter 10, is referred to as someone who prayed to God regularly. (10:2) In Caesarea Peter went up onto the roof of where he was staying, to pray. (10:9)
When Peter was put into prison by Herod, after James the brother of John had been killed, the church was earnestly praying for him. (12:5) Then follows the account of Peters miraculous release from prison by an angel, surely an answer to prayers answered. When Peter arrived at the house where the Christians were praying for him one of the really amusing events took place. When the servant Rhoda recognized Peter's voice she ran to inform the others. They refused to believe her, saying "you are out of your mind". Prayer answered but not really even expected to be answered.
As Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church in Antioch, the church fasted and prayed. (13:3) Paul and Silas found Lydia in Philippi at a place of prayer, on the Sabbath. (16:13) In jail, after being arrested in Philippi, Paul and Silas were praying at midnight. (16:25) In saying farewell to the elders from Ephesus, Paul knelt and prayed. (20:36) The sailors taking Paul to Rome prayed as the ship was about to be wrecked (27:29). Paul prayed as he healed the father of the chief official of Malta. (28:8)
Some prayer thoughts from the book of Acts:
1. The early church spent a lot of time in prayer. It empowered them with boldness to proclaim the word.
2. Prayer identified people as being believers in God. but unbelievers also prayed and their prayers were answered.
3. People prayed when in a crises but also in thanksgiving.
4. Prayer then needs to be part of every believers life.
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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