When you think about activities of the Church that reveal its priorities, what comes to mind? Preaching the Bible? Observing Communion? Helping the poor? Healing the sick? Teaching our young the fundamentals of the faith? Evangelism? Foreign missions? Baptism? How about prayer?
After Jesus ascended, Acts 1:14 says of his disciples, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
After the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, Peter’s inspiring sermon on Pentecost, and the subsequent baptism of three thousand, Acts 2:42 notes, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to breaking of bread and the prayers.” Shortly thereafter, Acts 3:1 observes, “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.” Prayer remained an integral part of life for disciples of Jesus as they became his church.
When controversy erupted among the disciples about the failure to feed the Greek-speaking widows, the apostles encouraged the disciples to pick out seven men to oversee the daily distribution of food, so that they might “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
Later the apostle Paul would include within his letter to the church in Rome this admonition, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). He would write to the church in Colossae, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
The practice of prayer permeated the early church. Leaders especially devoted themselves to prayer. Hints of continuing to observe regular times for prayer remain in the book of Acts (3:1; 10:9). In James 5:13, the brother of the Lord associates prayer by elders with care for the sick.
In my @CallFireSeminar tweet today, I asked, “Do you have scheduled times you pray every day, pray for certain events, or pray on the run?” (see the sidebar for the link.) What place does prayer have in your life? What role does prayer play in the rhythm of your religious community’s life? Are you devoted to prayer? Is your church devoted to prayer?
In the passages listed earlier, prayer was linked with fellowship, teaching, preaching, study of the Word, and healing the sick. I encourage you to study the prayers and prayer practices used by followers of God in the Bible. That’s what this blog’s focus is. Make conversing with God in prayer a greater priority this year. As the apostles and the family of Jesus did, devote yourself to prayer.
- Quotations of the Bible are from the English Standard Version.
O Father, If you are like me, you love to converse with your children. Like the people in song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” we sometimes get too busy and devote time in our schedules to talk with you. You protect us with your love. You guide us with your Word. You provide for us. May we recognize the evidence of your care. May we, as did the earlies disciple, devote ourselves to prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.