The Productive Prayer Life of the First Century Apostolic Church
Prayer • Sermon • Submitted • 59:44
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The book of Acts provides many accounts of the first century Apostolic Church’s utilization of prayer.
The term apostolic refers to the first century Christians who were under the authority of the apostles.
We will discuss the first account of prayer by the members of the Apostolic Church in detail, which occurred in Jerusalem as they waited for the promised helper, God the Holy Spirit, to come upon them after the ascension of the Lord (Acts 1:14).
Acts 1:13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (NASB95)
This passage provides a very general description of the activities of the apostles (and the broader group of disciples) during this ten-day waiting period.
They go back to Jerusalem, as commanded, and to the upper room, where they, the eleven (v.13), along with the women who followed Jesus (Luke 8:1-3; 23:49, 55-56; 24:1-10), Mary, the mother of our Lord, and His brothers (v.14) waited.
These men, who did not believe in Jesus during His life, had now come to faith.
There, in that upper room, a group of about one hundred and twenty believers devoted themselves to prayer (v.14).
In Acts 1:14, we are not told what the Church prayed for, but we can assume, they were praying for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, which occurred on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
The next instance that records the early Church gathering together for corporate prayer is in Acts 2.
The three thousand souls saved, as a result of Peter’s communication of the Gospel, were “continually devoting themselves” to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the Lord’s Supper, and prayer (Acts 2:42).
Thus, prayer was a regular activity of the early Church.
Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (NASB95)
We can also see from Acts 2:42 that corporate prayer was one of the four essential elements to their corporate worship.
The others, as we noted, included the teaching of the Word of God, fellowship among believers, and the Lord’s Supper.
Other accounts of the prayer life of the early Church are recorded all throughout the book of Acts.
In Acts 3, Peter and John prayed in the temple (v.1).
They prayed for boldness in communicating the Gospel after receiving persecution for doing so, and they were heard (Acts 4:31).
Saul, later the Apostle Paul, was in prayer after his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus and awaited instructions from the Lord from Ananias (Acts 9:11).
The Roman centurion, Cornelius, prayed to God the Father and, as a result, Peter was sent to him and the Baptism of the Spirit took place among the Gentiles for the first time (Acts 10).
The early Church prayed for guidance in making decisions (Acts 1:15-26) and for courage to witness for Christ (Acts 4:23-31).
Prayer was a normal part of their daily ministry (Acts 2:42-47; 3:1; 6:4).
Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), and Saul of Tarsus prayed after his conversion (Acts 9:11).
Peter prayed before he raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-43).
Cornelius prayed that God show him how to be saved (Acts 10:1-4), and Peter was on the housetop praying when God told him how to be the answer to Cornelius’ prayers (Acts 10:9).
The early Church prayed in John Mark’s house for Peter when he was in prison, and the Lord delivered him both from prison and from death (Acts 12:1-11).
The Church at Antioch fasted and prayed before sending out Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13:1-3; cf. 14:23).
It was at a prayer meeting in Philippi that God opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:13) and, at another prayer meeting in Philippi, that he opened the prison doors (Acts 16:25).
Paul prayed for the pastors at Ephesus before leaving them (Acts 20:36; 21:5).
In the midst of a storm, Paul prayed for God’s blessing (Acts 27:35) and, after the storm, he prayed that God heal a sick man (Acts 28:8).
In almost every chapter in the book of Acts, there is a reference to prayer.
The book makes it very clear that God is moved to action through prayer, especially corporate prayer.
This is certainly a good lesson for the Church in the 21st century.
We should, therefore, learn from the early Church and devote ourselves to prayer as a corporate unit.
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. (NASB95)
Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (NASB95)
The Church’s chief occupation, in its infancy, was praise.
Luke 24:51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God. (NASB95)
The early Church demonstrated their unity before the world (Rom 12:16, 15:5; 1 Co 1:10).
Philippians 2:2 Consummate this happiness of mine, namely that all of you may keep on thinking the same by all of you possessing the same divine-love, united in soul. All of you keep on thinking the one thing. (Author’s translation)
We learn from the early Church that prayer is both the thermometer and the thermostat of the Church today because the “spiritual” temperature is entirely dependent upon how God’s people pray.