They were continually devoting themselves … to prayer.
One of the essential properties of the local expressions of the body of Christ (the church) is a one-minded body of believers that are giving their strength to prayers – believing prayer to the resurrected Christ Jesus. This is an unusual thought in a self-consumed culture that simply pursues a trouble-free life.
A church is to be maturing in scriptural praying. If I can be too simplistic, the prayers of the New Testament church were either out of the need of poverty or out of the need of promise. Both flow from our deep consciousness of our need. These needs gifted by Christ are His call to prayer.
Our Need of Poverty. Perhaps a great majority of professing Christianity has the spirit of having become wealthy, and has need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). The possession of wealth is not the problem unless it numbs our need, blinding our sight. It is due to man’s sin in Adam that every man and woman enters into this world in need. We leave this world in need. We live in this world in need. We are surrounded by infirmity, heartache, weaknesses, decay, pain, and suffering. We bear inwardly the presence of sin, depressions of spirit, struggles of agonizing nature, and the attacks of our sinful nature. Each of these (and more) takes on differing perspectives and care when people are regenerated.
Surely we know our poverty? In the midst of such poverty we know His love, His power of resurrection, and the joy of His Word. In the midst of our impoverished need we pray for His glory to be known and seen – in our lives, in the life of our churches, and in the darkness of a fallen world. The knowledge of our poverty will heightens and burdens our desire to pray. A need gifted is a call to pray.
Our Need of Promise. Another aspect that should be driving a church to mature in prayer is the wealth of the promises in Christ Jesus. The Lord has gifted to His church precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The infinite wealth of the divine nature combined in fellowship with the Godhead should be sufficient motivation to bow my knees before the Father who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:14, 20). The excellence of this enlightened knowledge of Christ is surely wealth to be petitioned (Ephesians 1:17, 18). The divine strength that is needed to bear the weight and glory of this enlightenment needs to be supplicated (Ephesians 3:16). All of these promises are to be prayed by the gathered people of God. Surely the church should hunger and thirst for such mercies and pray for such?
The wealth of such promises gifted is seen in the warning to the church of Ephesus to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11). Satan is emphatically and directly opposed to a church hungry to live out the wisdom of Christ. Since Satan is moved against the reflection of His glory that should motivate us to pray for our impoverishment is remedied in Christ. A need gifted is a call to pray.
Compatible? An understanding of the need of our poverty and our need of promise are not contradictory. Perhaps early in our Christian maturity we see them distinct from one another. We pray out of poverty. At times, we look at things unseen in order to pray on promise. We categorize them. We view them in isolation and separate. However, as a church body matures the categories collapse and they become one. As the second great command is coupled to the first; in like manner, man’s poverty is coupled to His promise. We learn that poverty of soul are occasions to ask on the basis of promise! The church prays therefore in His will and has the assurance of the things prayed in hope (John 15:7; 1 John 5:14-15).
The early church gave their strength to prayers. There is no greater joy that reflects New Testament discipleship than believing prayer and His merciful fruitfulness to the praise of His glory. A need gifted is a call to pray.