Jun 12 2022 Developing a Culture of Prayer in the Church

The Lord is my shepherd,
I will not be in need.
2 He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside [a]quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the [b]paths of righteousness
For the sake of His name.

4 Even though I walk through the [c]valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no [d]evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You [e]have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 [f]Certainly goodness and [g]faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life,
And my dwelling will be in the house of the Lord [h]forever.

Even though Psalm 23 is familiar, I hope you will meditate on those verses. As we do silent prayer, think about those things.

Acts 12:5-17

When Peter was in prison, the church was praying for him fervently…

5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made to God [d]intensely by the church.

6 On [e]the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near Peter, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Put on your belt and [f]strap on your sandals.” And he did so. And he *said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and continued to follow, and yet he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 Now when they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 When Peter came [g]to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all [h]that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 When he knocked at the door of the gate, a slave woman named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.” 16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to [i]James and the brothers.” Then he left and went to another place.

While I was reading and meditation on this – the first thing that comes to mind – when the church is gathered for prayer, I feel that I am not capable for that type of outcome. The Greek word here implies stretching out and straining – Striving. Prayer is difficult for me personally – I will start out praying and end up thinking about all that needs to be done that day. It is a chore to focus my mind. Many commentaries indicate that this prayer might be very focused.

For me, in the past, prayer times were for a specific topic – and I’m sure they were focused on Peter then. The most productive times have been when the Holy Spirit leads. I don’t believe striving is for striving, but for fulfilling God’s purpose. The people praying must have never imagined that their praying would be so dramatic.

Ectenos is only used in one other place – 1 Peter 1:22 – love each other deeply – we can only have this type of love and pray this type of prayer through the strength of the Holy Spirit.

MM: Wednesday – Zoom meeting for the start of our next theme – Community. This week and next we’ll be doing prayer – followed by community – planning Wednesday – 6:45.

Prayer – our word of the week is ENGAGE – and we will do that at the end of the service.

When we bring up the subject of prayer – it is probably the best subject if you want to create guilt in people. Several people acknowledged these words – “I do not pray as much as I should” – There is a problem – in a sense of obligation.

Prayer is important to Luke – He talks about it in Acts 31 times.

What they did – and if you remember the beginning – Acts is not a blueprint, but in the context, we need to see their example and think about our context and what that might look like in our situation.

There are two important things the early church did – Chapter 1:14 – in context – Right after the ascension – there were 120 of them – went to the Upper Room – where they had the Last Supper.

All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. (Acts 1:14 NRS)

After Pentecost and Peter preaches his sermon and 3000 were saved – they – all of them -

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42 NAU)

I used two translations to bring out the depth – Constantly devoting – continually devoting – to attend constantly or continual devotion to prayer.

I think of it like the Secret Service. When the president makes an appearance – they are there days ahead of time and every eye is alert the entire time. That is what it means to be devoted to prayer! Now you’re really feeling guilty!

First – they were devoted.

Second – found in the first couple words of each of these verses – all these – They were

They were committed to congregational prayer – praying together was a common activity. That is not the strength for churches today – including us! And now, I feel very guilty, as the pastor of this church.

I’m sure many of us have strong prayer lives – but for corporate prayer – there is a lot more that could eb done.

Christians do a lot of complaining, tweeting – and are sometimes committed to activism – but are we committed to corporate prayer?

How, in our context, do we devote ourselves to prayer?

In acts – there were two ways – formal, and informal.

Some churches have a formal aspect to their praying – we are more informal.

In Acts, they were committed to both.

Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, (Acts 2:46 NET)

Acts 1 – they were praying together after the Ascension – and they realized they only had 11 apostles and realized they should have twelve!

And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen (Act 1:24 NAU)

This is how we pray – we have a specific request – we need to make a decision – God, what do we do? This is informal prayer. At our Small Groups – we have a time for Prayer Requests, and we pray. They did the same thing. They prayed for specific needs. We are comfortable – we know that.

What amazed me, as I was going through this, was the amount of formal prayer, both in the Temple and in homes.

We see what we know.

We do informal prayer – so we interpret it to see that they were doing informal prayer – but maybe they weren’t. We need to get out of what we know.

Formal Prayer

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. (Acts 3:1 NASB)

When we see this – we should ask, what is that all about? Do we have an hour of prayer? The ninth hour was about 3 in the afternoon – and this was the Jewish tradition – to pray at different hours of the day. The ninth hour was the time for the evening offering. They would pray different psalms. They had Temple singers – and a guy playing the piano – a guy with a beard – all the guys had beards… and the church would stay in that rhythm. This does not mean we should open the church every day for prayer – but we should have times where we should pray.

At Men’s Group, after we got out of the guilt – we talked about praying short prayers throughout the day. So, less guilt there.

When you say – Thy will be done – you are praying the Scripture! You did not invent that- some guy named Jesus did.

Heavenly Father – Do you start that way? You are praying Scripture.

By common consent they were all meeting together in Solomon's Portico. (Acts 5:12 NET)

"It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, (Acts 22:17)

When they went to the Temple, there was a lame man – Silver and gold I have none – but what I do have – Get up and walk! And he does, and Peter preaches, and the temple authorities had some issues with this – but then they let them go…

Acts 4: 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord (in unison! – think about that!) and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, 'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? 26 'THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.'

They turned to the Lord in conversation and all prayed together this prayer! You would think that would be a miracle! But maybe not. This was Psalm 2 – so they all knew it.

Our Father… who art in heaven… - we all know that.

We need a collection of Scriptures to pray! That may sound too traditional for some and too radical for others. There is a book called the Book of Common Prayer – we don’t have to use that one – but it has been used for centuries…

Acts 4: 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

Corporate praying of Scripture – they were filled with the Spirit and proclaimed God’s word boldly. There is nothing magical about praying scripture together, but there is something powerful about it.

Peter – after the deacons were appointed to take care of the widows…

Acts 6:4 - But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

I think the apostles were devoted to public, congregational prayer.

Some of the most popular Pastors’ Conferences are about church strategies for growth. Every 5-10 years, an amazing strategy comes up – and everyone wants to go and learn the new thing.

Did the first church have a strategy? Yes – they prayed, they proclaimed the gospel, and they let the Spirit work.

Lord, we ask You, help us, teach us as a congregation to be devoted to prayer together – in Your name we pray.

Something traditional and radical – singing the scripture as a prayer.

And, now may God bless us with eyes that see his glorious and generous works -and ears to hear – and hearts that recognize His image in everyone we meet.

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