Early Christians prayed together frequently. After Jesus ascended, his apostles met constantly with other disciples, including the mother of Jesus and his brothers, as well as several women, to pray. After the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the subsequent baptism of three thousand, disciples devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). When Peter and John paused to heal a crippled man at the temple gate, they were going to the temple at the time of prayer (Acts 3:1). As I have noted in another blog entry, the apostles responded to persecution by praying together for great boldness in preaching Christ. An uproar threatened division in the early church when some Greek-speaking widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of food; men filled with the spirit were appointed to oversee equitable distribution so that the apostles could devote themselves “to the ministry of the word and to prayer.” Before appointing leaders and missionaries (Acts 1:24; 13:1-3), early Christians prayed.
As we reflect on the significance of prayer in a Christian’s life, we cannot ignore this practice of community prayer in the early church. While we may crave enthusiastic and relevant music, while we may use video and lighting to enhance times of worship, early disciples prayed and studied the word. Yes, they sang, but they spent much time communicating with God.
How can we restore the place of prayer in our Christian practice today? Some take time in worship services to discuss requests for prayer before praying. Others have groups who pray for specific needs during scheduled times. The key point is remembering to pray. Peter and John were going to the temple at the time of prayer; that suggests that early Christians continued the Jewish practice of praying at set times of the day. Prayer preceded important congregational decisions and sometimes went into the night in times of crisis. We may want to have times of worship where leaders pray for specific needs throughout the service, interspersing songs of prayer and praise between the prayers. When husbands and wives pray together, other parts of their relationship improve also (1 Corinthians 7). We will pray effectively when we pray often.
Pray continually. Pray with your spouse. Pray with other Christians. Pray for courage and for wisdom in appointing new leaders. Pray that you will be prepared to lead when needed. Encourage others to pray; ask them to join you. If someone asks you to pray, stop then and pray with them rather than promising to pray later. Praying together builds unity.
Lord, we hurry too much. We like excitement. Help us to hear your voice in the reading of scripture; help us to seek the quietness of a moment praying to you, whether alone or with other disciples. Thank you for hearing. Thank you for acting on our behalf. Help us to wear the armor of God correctly and to fight bravely in the battle against evil. In Jesus’ name, Amen.