A Praying Church
by Jon Quinn
IN THE DAYS FOLLOWING His resurrection, Jesus affirmed that the eagerly anticipated, though often misunderstood, Kingdom of God was about to arrive on the scene. According to our Lord’s parting instructions, the apostles were to wait in Jerusalem for the promise; and so, along with 120 other disciples, they remained in the city (Luke 24:44–49; Acts 1). During the ten day wait, these disciples were with one mind “continually devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). Certainly, the Kingdom was given a high priority in these prayers. It had been the main topic of their final conversation with Jesus. They could remember that in Jesus’ “model prayer” He had put Kingdom matters first, right after His opening address to the Father (Matthew 6:6–9). Will they be worthy of their mission? How will God turn their weakness into strength? How will the rest of Jerusalem react? Disciples everywhere need to realize the priority of the kingdom in both their prayers and their lives.
The Kingdom Arrives
As one considers the growing Jerusalem church in the days immediately following the powerful display on Pentecost, he again sees the words “continual devotion” used with reference to the prayers of the saints (Acts 2:42). These were happy people filled with gratitude for their salvation, praise for their Lord’s greatness and awareness of their dependence upon the Father. It was not long until their need for divine protection and care became all too apparent. Peter and John were arrested and threatened not to speak any more about Jesus. The two apostles then returned to the brethren and reported what had taken place, and an audible, public prayer was spoken which can be found in Acts 4:24–31. The prayer begins by addressing God in the most reverent of terms; He is the Lord who made “the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them.” Next comes an acknowledgement that the Gentiles, people, kings and rulers would take their stand against the Christ (Psalms 2:1–2). Recent events are seen as fulfillment of this prophecy and all was according to divine plan. A three-fold request is then made. First, “take note of their threats.” Notice that it was left completely up to God as to how to handle the situation. They know that He will take whatever action is called for and trust Him to do so. Second comes a request for boldness of speech in the face of what will be growing opposition. The final request is that God will continue to confirm His word with “signs and wonders” as it was being delivered through the apostles. It was a very practical, timely prayer dealing with the circumstances they were facing. Certainly our own prayers need to be fresh and deal with present-day realities rather than the “canned” all-purpose variety said by rote.
The Kingdom Continues
In the midst of increasing persecution, the church at Jerusalem continued to grow and pray. Problems arose in the body which were dealt with and prayer was included in the remedy. One problem was that some of the widowed sisters were being overlooked in the matter of benevolence, so the apostles gave instructions for the church to select seven men “of good reputation” to see that the problem was corrected. When the seven were chosen, the apostles appointed them only after prayer to the Father (Acts 6:1–6). Again, we would do well to consider the same course as we deal with our own problems and make our own appointments today. We also notice that the apostles sought to devote themselves to two primary tasks: prayer and ministry of the word.
One of the seven, Stephen, became the first disciple to die for the Faith. His final words formed a short prayer of two requests: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:59–60).
In the persecution that followed, the disciples were scattered from Jerusalem, leaving only the apostles behind. The twelve continued their work and converted still more to Jesus. They seemed intent on remaining in the city as long as possible, though all knew it would not be long. Always on their minds was that they were living in the generation that would see the utter destruction of Jerusalem. As the persecution mounted, they clearly saw that the time of which Daniel had spoken was drawing nearer. We can imagine them praying for their city and neighbors. And, trusting in God, they were constantly looking for the signs and praying that God would make their flight as easy as possible. Jesus had told His disciples to “pray that your flight may not be in winter, or on a Sabbath” when the gates would be closed (Matthew 24:1–22).
James, the first apostle to die in the hope of eternal life, was executed by order of Herod. The king intended to do the same to Peter. The church, however, fervently prayed for the imprisoned apostle who was miraculously delivered. He found some of the Jerusalem disciples gathered in a private home for the purpose of prayer (Acts 12:1–17). That evening, the prayers of the saints changed from ones of humble supplication to those of happy gratitude. Come what may, they would remain true to the Lord.
The church at Jerusalem was certainly a praying church, led by men who had spent three years with a praying Savior. Though we live in a different century, the need for prayer is not diminished. We, like they, are pilgrims headed for home. Apart from prayer, we cannot complete the journey.
 Quinn, J. (1987). A Praying Church. In S. Hall (Ed.), Christianity Magazine: September 1987, Volume 4, Number 9 (S. Hall, Ed.) (20). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 22.11; November 2015