We have begun a series looking at characteristics of the founders of the first church that we should emulate in our churches today.
The first characteristics that we should seek to emulate is described in verse 14:
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1:14).
As these followers of Christ waited for the promise of the Lord, what did they spend their time doing? They prayed.
Prayer was a hallmark of the early church. For instance, a little further down in verse 24 we find these founders of the Church praying. In chapter 2 verse 42, 3.1, 4.24, and 6.6 we find the early church praying. Prayer is a non- negotiable for those who want to experience the blessings of being used by God.
And this prayer had two characteristics that Luke lists:
Their prayer was fervent
The first characteristic is that they prayed “constantly.” This word means more than just “all the time,” though. It has the idea of giving your full strength to something. They gave their full strength to prayer.
I noted last time that these characteristic occur over and over throughout the book of Acts as patterns of the early believers, and this fervent prayer is no exception. For instance, in chapter 2 verse 42 Luke says that they “devoted themselves” — that’s the same word translated here as “constantly” — to prayer. In chapter 6 verse 4 Luke says that they “gave themselves constantly” — same word again — to prayer.
This must have been a fearful time for the followers of Christ. They were banking their lives on someone who was not even there anymore, and threats of persecution and even death were all around them. And so what did they give themselves fully over to — dependence upon the Lord expressed through prayer.
They waited on the Lord; they trusted in His promises. And they prayed to Him as an expression of that dependence and trust.
Their prayer was unified
But their prayer was not only fervent, but Luke says also that they “joined together.” The word Luke uses here that is translated “joined together” reoccurs as another pattern of the early believers through the book of Acts. It literally means “of one mind.” These founders of the first Church were unified in their prayers.
Unity characterized these early believers. For instance, in 2.46, Luke says that they continued in the temple “with one mind.” In 4.42 we find them once again praying “with one mind.” In 15.25, the early church made decisions “with one mind.” We see this kind of unity over and over again in this book.
But specifically here we see what they were unified about — they were unified around fervent prayer. It was their priority. They had one heart beating together about this — they were unified.
This kind of unified passion about fervent prayer isn’t something you necessarily organize or manipulate or set limits for. It is something that rises naturally out of hearts that truly depend upon the Lord and trust in the Lord.
So let’s measure the church today by this. What are we unified around? Are we unified around fervent prayer? We need to unify around those things that we know God would have us to do, and this is one of them — fervent prayer.
We cannot underestimate the power of unified, fervent prayer. We have many examples throughout history of God supernaturally using unified, fervent prayer to accomplish His purposes. I’ll give you just one example.
In 1857 America was characterized by significant immorality. Even churches were marked by major spiritual decline. That sounds very much like today, doesn’t it?
But one man named Jeremiah Lanphier was so concerned about this moral decline that he decided to start a noon prayer meeting for New York businessmen. Jeremiah was not a pastor; he was just a laymen who recognized the power of unified, fervent prayer. At the first prayer meeting on September 23, 1857, only six people came. But by spring, daily prayer meetings sprang up in many locations and daily attendance grew to 10,000 per day. Even the hardest criminals and most debase unbelievers soon came to these meetings and were converted after hearing the gospel. Within six months, one million converts were added to the American Church. And all because one man knew the power of unified, fervent prayer.
Do you want to be used of God? Do you want to see marvelous things happen in your church? Then we need to join together with one mind in fervent prayer!
This was a characteristic of these men whom God so mightily used. And if we want God to use us in the furthering of His Kingdom, we must be united around fervent prayer.