The Praying Church (Part 2)
The writer of the book of Acts is, by all accounts, a brilliant author.
In fact this Luke, who also wrote the gospel that now bears his name, is widely regarded as one of the best historical writers in all of antiquity. His details and descriptions are so full and yet never embellished. He is always incredibly accurate, and yet this isn’t just cold precise analysis; his writing is so warm and rich and real that the people in his writing seem to leap off the page! For example, just take a look at the way he introduces us to Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:6-7
Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
In just two verses we feel impressed by their integrity and yet saddened by their situation.
Or Mary, later in the same chapter:
…a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
Before we even learn her name, he has told us twice that she is a virgin… preparing us for the miracle that is to come!
Similarly with Simeon and Anna in chapter two, his introductions (though brief) are so clear and colourful:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
So, interesting stuff – but why am I telling all this in a blog post about “The Praying Church”?
Good question – thanks for asking!
I’m telling you this because, when it comes to Luke, his writing is not random – he knows what he is doing. He knows how, in an incredible economy of words, to introduce people, places and problems with accuracy and love.
Which leads us to the next question:
So, how this world class biographer of the early church introduce us to the church itself?
Check it out below – this is just after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the very first description of the church:
When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Five words to introduce the movement that will go on to “turn the world upside down…” (Acts 17.6):
Just read that phrase a few times – “joined together constantly in prayer…”
What an introduction!
Remember, Luke knows what he is doing, he is not random – nor is he flowery… when it comes to introducing the early church he is quite clear that if you were able to splice open their DNA you would see prayer running right through the centre of them!
The Bonding Agent of the Church
The primary function of prayer is that it connects us with God… but when we pray together there is a secondary benefit, we find ourselves being connected deeply together with others. We hear their passion for God, their pain, their needs, their hopes and we join together with them in crying out to God – and deep bonds of love are forged between us.
Prayer is one of the most powerful, pure ways we can love others.
It may not seem like enough, but prayer is one of the greatest things we can do.
And the more we share that journey into God together, the deeper and stronger that connection can become.
Luke tells us, with no exaggeration, that they joined together constantly…
It’s easy for the rhythm of our own prayer life to become sporadic… we pray in fits and starts, or our in a reactionary way to major moments of crisis or celebration. We need others to help steady and strengthen that rhythm – until our prayer life is more long distance than those occasional sprints that leave us exhausted.
If you want to go fast, go alone.
But if you want to go far, go together.
Who do you pray with regularly? Who could you pray with regularly?
A Powerful Legacy…
I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie: War Room – but the central character, “Miss Clara” has a prayer space in his downstairs closest that she calls her “war room…” The Miss Clara character is (rather loosely!) based on someone called Molly Bruno. Her daughter, Marie, wrote a book in honour of her mum after she passed away. The book is called: The Audacious Molly Bruno: Amazing Stories from the life of a Power Woman of Prayer.
Like Luke, Marie has chosen her words carefully to introduce us to her mum: “a Power Woman of Prayer.”
How many people do you know that you would describe as a “person of prayer”?
Could people describe us in that way?
“Can we pray about this?”
The challenge I have set myself at the moment is to try and pray with one person everyday – either physically or over the phone, and both people I know and people I meet… would you join me in setting yourself that challenge?
Try and muster the courage to let these 8 small little words come out of your mouth: “Would you like me to pray for you?”
You might just find others are more hungry for it than you realise – and you might just find your world getting turned upside down as we journey deeper together into the power of prayer!