The Early Church’s Prayer Meeting
“Where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12)
These words are part of the story wherein Peter is imprisoned and then miraculously delivered. It is filled with great and solemn instruction that every Christian should deeply consider
1. The early church believed in prayer.
The prayer meeting was a regular feature of the early church. If you and I will take up the book Acts to read, it will not take us long before we see that this is the case. We will find ourselves continually reading about the church praying. From the very outset of her existence, meetings for prayer had become a standing institution in the Church.
Now, I wonder if this can be said of the modern day church and Christian. We find that most Christians think of the prayer meeting as something negotiable. O they do not deny that it is beneficial, but they will deny both its obligation and necessity. At the bottom of it all, there seems to be a trust more in the programs of the church to attract people –especially ones with children so that the parents will come or our home Bible studies with all its personal orientation But the prayer meeting is placed in a secondary position. Also, many are under the impression that if it has been a busy day, or if their children are on a specific sleeping schedule, or if it is simply not convenient with all else, then the prayer meeting is the thing to go. Such thoughts cannot be substantiated from the Word of God. The early believed in prayer to the point that they would do it at peril of life and property!
There are often objections made to this thought. First, we live in a different day with different cares and concerns. Indeed, we do. But the truth is that we live in a day wherein darkness is covering the face of the earth, and things go out only by prayer and fasting –not better programs. Second, some say that life was easier from them than now; they had more time. But this is simply not the case. We live in a point of history were we have more time on our hands than ever. These people simply had no idea of an 8 hour day and 40 hour week. It is a matter of priority.
2. The early church believed in corporate prayer.
If you will take note of the situation, you will see that this a prayer meeting. They had not met to hear a sermon, although that is proper and may have taken place, but praying was the business on hand. “Many were gathered together praying.” The church was praying for him. Spurgeon wrote, “There is a serious flaw in the arrangements of a Church when such gatherings are omitted or placed in a secondary position. The private Christian will read, and hear, and meditate, but none of these can be a substitute for prayer: the same truth holds good upon the larger scale.”
In some ways, this was a special meeting in a special need. Yet, the words before us suggest something more than merely a special meeting for the endangered minister. They also suggest to us that it was a regular prayer meeting. Undoubtedly, the numbers were larger than normal, for their beloved minister needed the protecting hand of God to interpose. But Peter, who would probably have no idea that there was a meeting went to the place where the church often met to meet to pray. Do we meet regularly when the church meets to pray?
3. The early church believed in the power of prayer.
In many ways, this would seem to be without having to say it, but I am not confident that the church does not need to be reminded of the power of prayer. At the bottom, is this not the possible reason why many churches have abandoned the prayer meeting all together? Is it not possibly the reason why many men and woman, fathers and mothers, and young people have given up on the prayer meetings? They feel as if it were not needed, and it was not needed because it really was ineffectual?
But the early church believed that there was power in prayer; for, Peter being in prison, they did not meet together to arrange a plan for getting him out. It looked as if they could do nothing, but they felt they could do everything by prayer. “They thought little of the fact that sixteen soldiers had him in charge. If there had been sixteen thousand these believing men and women would still have prayed Peter out. Let it never be insinuated in the Christian Church that prayer is a good and useful exercise to ourselves, but that it would be superstition to suppose that it affects the mind of God. As surely as any law of nature can be proven, we know both by observation and experiment that God assuredly hears prayer” (Spurgeon).
Do you believe in prayer? Do you believe in corporate prayer? Do you believe in the power of prayer? These are easy to answer, but the proof will be in the earnest and regular participation in the church’s prayer meeting.
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This guest article has been published because an editor has determined its contents to be supportive of the values of Religious Affections Ministries. Its publication does not imply full agreement between its author and RAM on other matters.