In my message yesterday I talked about the power of God in the local church. We looked at God’s work in Acts 2. In verse 42, it says that they “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Churches have a healthy desire to emulate this early church. We want to be devoted to these things like the early church. We provide much opportunity for teaching and learning. There are classes, small groups, preaching, seminars, books, podcasts, blogs, etc that are devoted to teaching. We also like to be devoted to fellowship. This is living life together. Healthy churches have healthy community where people genuinely love one another. We create many opportunities to connect with each other and live life together. We also are devoted to meals together. For the early church, this was the Lord’s Supper that they observed on a very frequent basis. We don’t do that as often as they did, but we love to share meals together. Whether in homes, restaurants, or church fellowship halls…we like to eat together. I’m a baptist and I can tell you that one could say we are devoted to breaking bread together! In all of our efforts to mimic the church in Acts, there is one item in the list from Acts 2:42 that we are not devoted to – prayer. We, like most churches, have a weekly “prayer meeting.” This prayer meeting takes on different formats. Often the format is that the pastor has a teaching time, a printed prayer list is distributed, other prayer requests are verbalized, and a short prayer is spoken by someone. In most churches it would be a stretch to say we are “devoted to prayer.”
In 1997 Jim Cymbala wrote a book entitled “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire“. It remains a powerful work on the faithfulness of God in response to the prayers of His church. Cymbala tells the story of God’s work, through the people’s devotion to prayer. The Lord has used that church, Brooklyn Tabernacle, to impact many lives for Jesus. He tells the story of the early days in the church when only a handful of people were in attendance. On one Sunday morning, Cymbala challenged the congregation to pray earnestly. He said that God impressed on his heart to gauge the success or failure of the church by the Tuesday night prayer meeting attendance, not the Sunday morning Worship Service attendance. In that same service he introduced a minister from Australia. The minister stood up and made one comment. He said, “you can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning. You can tell how popular the pastor is by who comes on Sunday night. But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.” This is all he said. Such powerful truth.
I believe we must do 2 things. First, we must all be devoted to prayer. It must happen on an individual level and on a corporate level. We must be devoted to spending time in prayer. Second, we must create opportunities for believers to come together for the purpose of prayer. Maybe that means changing the structure of weekly prayer meeting so that more prayer happens… Whatever we do, we need to create the opportunities for God’s people to come together and seek His face in prayer. In the midst of our busyness, prayer is one of the first things we hedge on. The enemy has fooled many believers into thinking that they don’t need to pray. He has many convinced that their prayers don’t matter or make a difference. The reality is that we must pray, and we must pray more.
Looking back at Acts 2:42, Luke tells us that they were devoted to 4 things. The word he used is used 7 times in the New Testament to reference devotion. In 5 of those 7, it speaks of devotion to prayer (Acts 1:14, 2:42, 6:4, Romans 12:12, Colossians 4:2). The noun form is used one time and that also refers to prayer (Ephesians 6:18). This word comes from the word family that means patience and to attend to something. Can you see the connection? Devotion to prayer involves patiently waiting on the Lord! It involves attending to Him and His plan! Devotion to prayer not only means spending more time in prayer, it also means patiently waiting on the Lord. Through our devotion to prayer, we see His hand and His power.
If you were to describe your prayer life, would you use the word “devoted”? If you were to describe the prayer life of your church, would you use the word “devoted”? If not, we must make it that way. Throughout the New Testament we see many things the believers were doing. Almost every time it mentions what they were “devoted” to, we find them devoted to prayer. Friend, pray now. And in a little while, pray some more.