In trying to understand the place of prayer in the early Christian Church, we would do well to remember that the Church was born in the cradle of Judaism. Over the centuries the Church has developed its own forms and practices, but it did not have to invent new ones from nothing. The apostles, like their Master, were all steeped in the Jewish faith and shaped somewhat by the religious life of the temple and the synagogue. The first converts were also drawn from this milieu. So it would be safe to surmise that the earliest Christians understood and practiced prayer from a context of Jewish traditions.
Of course, Christianity and Judaism had distinct differences from the start, the most significant perhaps being the centrality of Jesus and His reinterpretation of the Jewish religion. Jesus participated in temple worship, but in some sense He also replaced the temple and the sacrificial system. Jesus attended and preached in synagogues throughout His Galilean ministry, but He called out a new people, which would soon include both Gentiles and Jews, to be the people of God.
In addition to Jesus’ teaching on prayer His own personal example set the tone and pattern for prayer in the early Church. As the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, we can assume that this included Jesus’ instructions on how we should pray (Mt. 28:20; Acts 2:42). We note also that the role of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of the life of the Church, including and especially its prayer life, marks a new age that has dawned with the birth of the Church (Acts 2:1ff; 13:2).
Prayer has been the life-breath of the Church from its inception. From the earliest days believers have devoted themselves to prayer, individually and corporately, just as Jesus intended. In Luke’s history of the expansion of the church as in his gospel, prayer plays a key role. In the pages of Acts we discover all types of prayers— prayers of repentance, thanksgiving, rejoicing, praise and more. We see the Church praying in times of decision making and in times of crisis. We see them fasting, laying on hands, and kneeling. On occasion God spoke to his people through visions as they prayed. Both leaders and members in the early Church were committed to prayer as an indispensable part of the Christian life. Their example has challenged believers of every generation to be a people devoted to prayer.
Lord Jesus, because Your life is prayer, mine is also! Thank You, Father, for creating Your Body for such an awesome and precious relationship. May the Church of today clearly recognize the power at her disposal and be fully devoted to continually seeking Your face!
–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 42, The Place of Prayer in the Early Church by Steve Booth). This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise God that the Christian life includes periods of “complete” and unbridled joy (Jn. 15:11). Thank Jesus for being your joy-filled Savior (Lk.10:21). Confess any sin that stands in the way of your experiencing the fullness of joy which Jesus provides. Commit yourself today to rejoicing in the Lord, to being joyful in God your Savior (Hab. 3:18). Ask Jesus to make his joy in you complete.
Thank God that his kingdom is full of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Commit yourself to being a joyful citizen of that kingdom in all that you do.
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