Formation of Community – Prayer

Formed on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, this new community of Jesus followers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Teaching, eating, and shared resources formed this new community, and prayer also formed them.

Luke is rather specific. He identifies this component as “the prayers.” Most likely, Luke is referring to the daily habit of Jewish believers to pray in the temple at specified hours. For example, we know Peter and John regularly went up to the temple “at the hour of prayer,” which was three o’clock in the afternoon (Acts 3:1). The early community worshipped in the temple daily, and they participated in those daily temple prayers. Prayer, including the singing of the Psalms, continued as part of their heritage of faith. They continued the prayer practices of their Jewish heritage.

Moreover, they embraced the prayer life of their Messiah. As the Gospel of Luke tell us, Jesus had a regular habit of prayer. He prayed at his baptism (Luke 3:21) and transfiguration (Luke 9:28). He prayed in the temple with other Jewish believers (Luke 19:46) and with his disciples (Luke 11:1-2), and he prayed alone (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18). Disciples of Jesus, like their Messiah, are praying people.

This is what we see throughout the Book of Acts as renewed Israel continues to pray to God. When threatened by the ruling powers in Jerusalem, the church gathered to pray that the good news of the kingdom might have a hearing in their city (Acts 4:31). When threatened by the ruling power, the church gathered to prayer for the release of Peter from imprisonment (Acts 12:5). The disciples engaged not only in a ministry of word but also prayer (Acts 6:4). When they sent people to serve in other places in the world, they prayed over them (Acts 13:3), and when they appointed leaders in various congregations, they prayed over them as well (Acts 14:23). They prayed when in prison (Acts 16:25), they prayed for healing (Acts 28:8), and they prayed in the temple (Acts 22:17).

Prayer was personal, and it was communal. Individuals sought God in prayer, and the community prayed together. It was bold, habitual, and diverse in its circumstances and significance.

Sometimes, it seems, the church is more focused on the teaching than prayer, even the breaking of bread than prayer. But, it appears from the book of Acts, that prayer has a persistence presence that exceeds even the teaching, fellowship, and the breaking of bread. Prayer, we might say, is the glue that held the church together through its many trials, persecutions, and growth spurts. Through prayer, the church depended upon God’s work among them and for them. Through prayer, the church cast a vision for the future and trusted God with that future. We might say, the church co-created the future with God through prayer, and that is the power of prayer itself.

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