Key Principle #15: Prayer
It is important to remember the importance of prayer. Suppose Peter had not been praying at Simon’s house. Apparently Peter was still so prejudiced that God had to show him a vision three times about what He has proclaimed as “cleansed”. Had Cornelius not been in prayer, he may not have heard God either.
It is not surprising that that the Gentiles were able to be brought into the Christian community as a result of prayer, since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2 as a result of the disciples staying in Jerusalem and praying.
Have you ever noticed the church was born as a result, not of preaching, singing, fellowship, witnessing, but as a result of prayer? As they were praying, the Holy Spirit fell down on them and the church was born. Do you recall what incensed Jesus when the money changers were in the temple? It was because, as He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” In Acts chapter four, Peter and John are arrested and beaten and then released. They didn’t protest; they didn’t file a petition or grievance with the administrators of the synagogue. They prayed. They didn’t file a lawsuit; they went to a prayer meeting. They didn’t cry out for justice, they cried out for boldness to be found faithful.
A key principle for the church from early on was this instinct to pray. When they were in trouble, they prayed; when intimidated, they prayed; when persecuted, they prayed. When Ananais was afraid to go and talk to Saul who persecuted the church, God said, “No behold he is praying.”
When Timothy is charged to begin a church, Paul said, “First of all, I want supplications to be lifted up for leaders.” Later on, he said “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands,” not in charismatic singing, not in response of powerful preaching, but to lift up holy hands “in prayer.”
Where did they learn this? Jesus didn’t just worship in the house of prayer. He was a man of prayer. In Jesus’ life and teachings, we see ten attributes of prayer that the early church copied and that we should likewise imitate in our lives. We see the following practices laid out for us in Jesus’ two major teachings on prayer, found in Luke 11:1-13 and also in Matthew 6.
1) Privately– “As He was praying” See Luke 11:1; Matt. 6:5-8, “Go into your room (closet)”; Matt. 14:23, “He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray”; Mark 1:35 “He went out and departed to a solitary place”; Luke 9:18, “He was alone praying”.
2) Personally–“Our Father” / “Abba, Father” See Luke 11:2-4, Mark 14:36
3) Persistently– “because of his persistence” See Luke 11:5-8, 18:1-8; Matt. 7:7-11; 15:21-28; 26:41-44
4) Powerfully–“Ask, and it will be given” See Luke 11:9-10; Matt. 21:21-22, John 5:4-7; 14:13-14, 16:23
5) Positively– “How much more will your Father give to those who ask” See Luke 11:11-13, 7:1, 8:48; Matt. 8:5-13
6) Penitently–“When you fast” See Matt. 6:17-18, 17:21
7) Purely– “Do not be like the hypocrites” See Matt. 6:5, 21:13; 23:14; Luke 6:28
8) Purposefully (notice in the Lord’s prayer, there are only 59 words) –“vain repetitions” / “whatever things you ask when you pray” See Matt. 6:7-8; Mark 11:34
9) Publicly–“Father… because of the people who are standing by I said this” See John 11:41-42; 6:11 “Jesus…said,
10) Passionately–“Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit” / “ with vehement cries and tears” See Luke 10:21, Heb. 5:7.
There is a lot which is written in the Bible that encourages us to pray, including and beyond Jesus’ example and teachings. Throughout church history, much has also been written in the great Christian classics which beckon us to pray. This short chapter could be filled a thousand times over if I simply quoted verbatim the writings by those much more knowledgeable than I am on prayer and much more diligent than I am in prayer. But there is something more important than learning about prayer, reading about prayer, studying about prayer, hearing sermons on prayer.
You know what that is?
It’s important to, well, pray.
Now I am not one who likes to get a lot of compliments about my sermons or what I write (which is actually a good thing, because I rarely get compliments about my sermons or what I write!). But if you were to remember anything about this chapter when you finish this book, I want nothing more to resound in your ears and echo in your hearts as you close the final chapter and return this book on the shelve (or turn off your personal device or finish listening to it on audio).
Remember simply this: Pray.
Before you do anything, PRAY.
And when you can’t do anything else, PRAY.
And when you’ve done all that you can do. Pray. Pray. And then pray again.