In recent months I have been attempting in both practical and formal ways to learn better how to pray and how to create a prayer culture within our church.
The needs of today’s church demand that we learn dependence upon God through prayer. History tells us that every move of God has been accompanied by renewed commitment to meaningful prayer.
What does a healthy, biblical prayer culture look like? Although there are some wonderful modern day examples, none is better than the inspired record of the early church.
Here are just a few of characteristics of the prayer culture in the book of Acts that I have noticed.
1. Prayer was done in Community.
In the early church Christians prayed together. Corporate prayer is everywhere in the book of Acts. (Chap 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21) Several of these references are speaking of their pattern of going to the place of prayer together. We have taken Jesus reference to the “closet” in Matthew 6 and assumed that private prayer is more important than corporate prayer. One thing is for sure the early church prayed regularly and corporately. Our independent mindset when it comes to prayer has robbed the church of power in prayer. If we want to pray like the early church we must pray together.
2. Prayer was focused upon Communion with God.
Notice the prayer of Paul and Silas at midnight (Acts 16). The only thing mentioned about it is that they were singing hymns and praises to God through prayer. Why would that be there first approach in prayer? Shouldn’t they be begging God for deliverance? They understood, spending time with the Lord, offering praise to him, worshipping his name all of these build faith, witness to others, unleash God’s power and reveal His will for our life. The great privilege in prayer is not what I get in return, it is WHO I get in return. If we want to pray like the early church the focus of our prayers must be on God not us.
3. Prayer was their first resort in Crisis.
The culture of prayer in Acts was spontaneous and powerful. In Acts 4 when the church was threatened and Peter was arrested the scripture says, “When they heard this they lifted up their hearts to God”. They didn’t call their religious freedom Attorney, they didn’t go on cable news complaining, they simply cried out to God. If we want to pray like the early church our prayers must be spontaneous and powerful.
4. Prayer was their Compulsion for ministry.
The early church was born in a prayer meeting. In Acts 2 we see the result of the Holy Spirit who descended after they followed the command of Jesus to “wait and pray”. Most of us want to be an Acts 2 church without having an Acts 1 prayer meeting. In Acts 4 they prayed in the time of Peter’s imprisonment, when they finished their praying “they spoke the word of God with boldness”. Too often prayer is used as the icing on our already planned idea. In the early church the directions, ministries and their accomplishments were born out of prayer. If we want to pray like they our time in prayer must move us.
5. Prayer was Confirmation to the world.
When the early church prayed things happened, this caused the world to take them serious and in many instances believe. The time of prayer and singing in jail brought the Philippian jailer to saving faith. He and his entire house became followers of Christ as a result of the prayers of God’s people. The effect of the prayers of God’s people always serves as confirmation to an unbelieving world that God’s power real. If we want to pray like the early church our prayers must change things.
What characteristics of a healthy prayer culture do you see? Lord, teach us to pray.