Lesson 10 - The First Local Church cont.

We have been studying those things which characterized the first 1ocal church which was located at Jerusa1em. So far, we have noted that these first Christian believers "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread." They also

5. "CONTINUED STEDFASTLY ... IN PRAYERS"

These first Christians were Jews with a rich religious heritage. Their Scriptures were filled with references to prayer. However, like so many other matters of divine reve1ation, prayer had suffered at the hands of unspiritual religious leaders. Our Lord Jesus in His earth ministry had given much corrective and new teaching on prayer. These "who1esome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 6:3) were ministered to these early believers, together with such new revelation as the Risen Lord gave to and through His apostles.

The history of the first Christians and churches, recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles, indicates that prayer was an important and constant factor in their many faceted spiritual life. They prayed:-

  • in the midst of persecution (Acts 4:24-31; 12:5,12; 16:25)
  • when appointing church servants (Acts 6:6)
  • in preparation for ministry (Acts 6:4)
  • when imparting the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15)
  • during the conversion experience (Acts 9:11)
  • for physical healing (Acts 9:4O; 28:8)
  • for direction (Acts 10:9,30; 11:5; 22:17)
  • when sending out missionaries (Acts 13:3)
  • at the ordination of elders (Acts 14:23)
  • and when bidding one another farewell (Acts 2O:36; 21:5)

It is little wonder that the early Christians became known as those that "ca11 on the name of the Lord" (Acts 9:14; Rom. 1O:12; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 1:17)

a. WHAT DID THE LORD JESUS CHRIST TEACH ABOUT PRAYER?

1 How to Pray

a) Sincere1y (Matt. 6:5-8; 23:14)

Hypocrites pray. They "1ove to pray." However, their motives are wrong. They pray to make an impression on men, not to importune God." They pray "that they may be seen of men." And that is as far as the whole matter goes. "They have their reward." Their total satisfaction is realized in impressing men. They "pretend" to be talking to God but in reality they are insincerely repeating words, dishonestly laying claim to being something they are not.

The heathen pray. The insincere religionist is hypocritical and pretentious, while the heathen is superstitious and wordy. The heathen "rattle off long prayers" thinking "they will be heard because they use so many words" (JBP).

The true disciple of Christ is to avoid both of these errors. His personal praying must be sincere and private, and intended for the Father alone. He may repeat things in honest and ardent entreaty, but the repetition will not be "vain" Nor will the reward for such praying be the fickle approval of men but the all wise "reward" of "thy Father." Our Lord is not ruling out united praying for He approves it elsewhere. He is condemning wrongly motivated and improperly practiced personal prayer.

b) Unitedly

Matt. 18:19 (Amp.) - "Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree (harmonize together, together make a symphony) about anything and everything — whatever they shall ask, it will come to pass and be done for them by My Father in heaven."

Prayer in the strictest sense is asking with a view to receiving. We have seen that proper personal praying is rewarded by the Father. Now we are instructed how to pray in company with other disciples. We must "agree." The Greek word translated "agree" is "sumphoneo" from which we derive our English word "symphony." The dictionary tells us this word means "harmony of any kind." So we see that getting our united prayers answered depends on our "harmony." It stands to reason that if there is not a basic unity in a body of believers, there is little chance of agreement on some specific matter.

The location of this scripture is extremely significant. It is spoken in connection with our Lord's second mention of the church and is immediately followed by the promise of His  presence among us. "For where two or three are GATHERED TOGETHER IN My Name, there am I in the midst of them." Our united praying is only effectual as we are GATHERED TOGETHER IN AGREEMENT.

c) To the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2; John 14:13-14; 16:23; 24; 26)
In the Old Testament, God is prayed to as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." He was the God who had entered into covenant with "our fathers." with the coming of Christ a new order is inaugurated. His precious blood ratified a New Covenant and we now "bow our knees unto THE FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST" (Eph. 3:14).

During the time of our Lord's earth ministry, the disciples did not pray in Jesus' Name. He did however, move them toward the new revelation concerning prayer which would characterize the New Day. They watched Him praying on one occasion (they probably had done so often), and when "He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY." "And He said unto them, when ye pray, say, OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN, HALLONED BE THY NAME." This became the disciples' model prayer, which they used verbatim and as a pattern for the composition of other prayers.

Prayer as it was to be in the New Gospel Day was taught to the disciples in the upper room just before our Lord's death. "Hitherto have ye asked nothing IN MY NAME" (John 16:24). "AT THAT DAY ye shall ask IN MY NAME ... whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in MY NAME, He will give it to you" (John 16:26,23).

"A prayer in Christ's Name is a prayer that is in harmony with whatever Christ has revealed concerning Himself." Only such can pray in His Name who are vitally related to Him through faith and obedience. The righteous Person and redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ has made it possible for all who savingly trust Him to have access into the presence of God. "Because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of FREE ACCESS — AN UNRESERVED APPROACH TO GOD WITH FREEDOM AND WITHOUT FEAR" (Eph. 3:12 - Amp,). To pray in Christ's Name is to pray in compliance with what He is as our Saviour and what He desires for us as our Lord.

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #1O

  1. How prominent was prayer in the early church?
  2. According to our Lord's teaching how should Christians pray?