They prayed a lot, together.
Our third observation about the Early Church is that they prayed, a lot, together. One might think this would be a no-brainer, but it was an eye opener for me. I pray a lot (at least I think I do). But it says that they prayed constantly, and together.
I’ve been tempted at times lately to be discouraged about our efforts to help our little church to grow. My wife reminds me frequently that I can’t change anyone, that that is the work of the Holy Spirit. She’s right.
(Husbands, we need to all stop what we are doing right now and thank God for giving us spiritual women to keep us on track. And if you don’t think so, then you need to pray for humility to see who God has given you to help you.)
I’ve missed another significant characteristic of my spiritual predecessors that is so responsible for the transformational impact of the Church. THEY PRAYED. All the time. Constantly. Together.
The Greek word you often find when it talks about how they prayed (it’s in Chapter 1, 2, and 4) is “homothymadon.” It’s loosely (very loosely) translated as “together”. That’s kind of like translating “gargantuan” as “big.” Homothymadon from its root words literally means “the same passion.” In Acts 1 we find the small group of one hundred and twenty believers all together constantly praying this way. With the same passion. Together. While they wait for what Jesus and the Father are going to send them. (Or rather Who they are going to send them.) In the beginning of Acts 2, they are all still together. Although it doesn’t explicitly say this, the implication from Acts 1 is that they are still praying together – that that’s why they were together. They are praying together when the Holy Spirit comes. Later in the chapter, after people are filled with the Holy Spirit, we find them passionately addicted to, among other things, praying together. In Chaper 3, Peter and John are going together to the place of prayer. And in Acts 4 when they are hauled in before the Sanhedrin, and threatened, what’s their response? To go back to the rest of the believers and to pray together.
It’s convicting enough what they don’t pray about. Jesus told them before the cross in John 16 that they should ask the Father for anything in His Name and it would be done for them. I think of what I would ask for if Jesus promised me that and it’s not what they asked for (see our second observation in an earlier post).
Prayer wasn’t just a personal, private thing that each of them did with the Father. Prayer was something they shared, and something they all did with the same passion and zeal. Does that describe my church? Is that how I think about church? Maybe the reason more isn’t happening at our church is because we don’t pray enough together.
Most of the models of church I see are primarily about one person up front doing most everything (I’m guilty of this), and not so much about what they all did together. In fact, when I think of church, usually the next thing I think of are sermons and Sunday services. Other than the fact that they did meet together (much more frequently than on Sunday mornings), the Book of Acts offers us almost nothing about their “services”. The only sermons we hear about are the ones preached not to the congregation but to unbelievers to help them to believe.
We do, however, hear lots about how much they prayed together.
I’m further convicted because I don’t think the early Church prayed because that was good church growth strategy. At least that’s not what I see in the book of Acts. They prayed so fervently and so often together because they shared a common understanding of how desperately they needed God, and His Holy Spirit. They knew that it was God’s Church, and God’s battle, and so they beseeched Him together. With passion. With the same passion. All the time.
What about us? Hmmm — again.