Welcome to our annual Prayer Series! No journal required to benefit from the practical tips you’ll find here, but if you’d like to check out our 2021 prayer journal collection, click here!
Today, I was supposed to write about prayer throughout all of history, but y’all, I just couldn’t get past the early church. Their prayer lives were on fire and I think they’re just the kind of people we can all learn from!
In just the first chapter of the book of Acts, we’re told that the earliest Christians were devoted to prayer. And what was the result? “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Teacher, Tim Barnett says, “prayer precedes almost every major event of the early church. Prayer precedes the filling of the Holy Spirit, multiple healings, bold preaching, and comfort for persecuted believers.”
What could happen if we were devoted to prayer like the early church? When I studied the book of Acts this past year, I was so impressed with this story of Peter’s escape from prison in Acts 12:
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists…
Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision…
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me…”
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
The author, Luke, makes such a point of the fact that people were praying. In other words, it was no coincidence. God was hearing the earnest prayers of his people and acted on Peter’s behalf. I included that last part about Rhoda leaving Peter at the door out of excitement because 1) it is kinda funny to imagine 🙂 and 2) it’s such a testament to the fact that God will truly amaze us when we submit to Him in prayer.
Something that is really revitalizing to me in the book of Acts is that they aren’t sitting around in Bible (Torah?) study like, “Um… What do you wanna pray for? Idk… What do you wanna pray for?” Prayer isn’t just a way to close out, a stale mealtime sentiment, or an element of a fluffy night routine. To the early Christians, prayer means action. It means joining the God that they see at work. How do they see Him? Because their minds are spiritually alive to Him in prayer.
And although we see many examples of circumstantial prayers, the early Christians were very much proactive in their prayer lives. Like Jesus himself, his disciples would pull away from their ministry for specific times of prayer. (Acts 3:1, 10:9, 6:16) Because of their Jewish roots, early Christians continued to observe fixed-hour prayer and two weekly days of fasting. Yes, we need to react with prayer, but we also need to be “pre-prayered”.
We can so often get caught up waiting for a good time to invest in our prayer lives, but that time is today! These women of the early church were busy too. In some cases, their very lives were at stake. Talk about stress! And yet, they knew prayer was not only worthwhile but essential.
My big takeaway from looking at the prayer life of the early church is that prayer was central. A decision wasn’t made, a battle wasn’t fought, a soul wasn’t won without it. If we’re serious about being a part of God’s kingdom work (which is the only way to be a real Christian, by the way) we have to get serious about prayer. What could happen if we truly devoted ourselves to prayer?
COMING NEXT: The most urgent prayers
CATCH UP ON:
Why Prayers Go Unanswered
Praying in Community
Prayer terms glossary