Acts 2:42 outlines essential convictions that must be ingrained in the fabric of a man's soul if he is to effectively "guard this man” (1 Kings 20:39). In the first quarter of this year, we saw that we must "guard this man," so he is "sound in doctrine." A second reason we must "guard this man" is so he will be "strong in fellowship." A third reason to "guard this man" is so he will be “steadfast in prayer.” Luke says the early church “devoted themselves to . . . the prayers” (Acts 2:42, ESV).1
The early church was an Acts 2:42 church. They had the proper content. They were a saved church who "devoted themselves." They were a studious church devoted "to the apostles teaching." They were a sharing church devoted "to the fellowship." They were a spiritual church devoted "to the breaking of bread," and they were a supplicating church devoted "to the prayers."
The church at Jerusalem was predominately Jewish, consisting of newly-saved Jewish believers or Messianic Jews. Their culture and custom as Jews became evident in their observance of prayer. The Jewish people observed times of prayer, typically in the morning, afternoon, and evening. These prayers were known as "the sanctification of time."2 Devotion from the heart is considered essential to true prayer, implying concentration, worship, and single-mindedness. Prayer without devotion is like a body without a soul, meaning the attitude of “service of the heart” is required when praying.3
Luke says, “they (plural) devoted themselves (plural) to the prayers.” 4 In other words, they prayed together. Pastor Brian Bill says, “It strikes me that the early church was born not out of a time of preaching, or fellowship, or even evangelism. God launched His church while His people were in a prayer meeting."5 Acts 2:1 records, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” 6 Prayer is mentioned at least 30 times in the Book of Acts.7 The early church prayed together, believing the Father would hear their prayers and answer according to His will in every instance.
James reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 8 Jesus underscores the exponential effect of God’s people agreeing together in prayer. Matthew 18:19 (MSG) states, "When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.”9 Jesus teaches us to pray in the context of community with the model—Lord’s—prayer. He instructs us to pray, “Our Father…give us…our daily bread…forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven…lead us not into temptation but deliver us.10 When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he used no singular personal pronouns. Nowhere do we find the word me. This is not to suggest we should not pray individually (see Matthew 6:6), but rather, it is to underscore the power of corporate prayer offered by God’s people who are sound in doctrine, strong in fellowship, and steadfast in prayer.
Having walked with the Lord since I was a five-year-old boy, I have fond memories of my praying parents. They led by their example, teaching my younger brother and me the power of prayer around the family altar. They reinforced the adage, which says, "The family that prays together stays together."11 As a teenage boy, I remember praying with other believers at a weekly cottage prayer meeting held in the home of Mrs. Ethelyn Rumley. She has been with the Lord many years now. That weekly prayer meeting in Greenville, NC taught me that prayer—a personal and individual discipline—is simultaneously a corporate expression. Offered in small groups, God meets with His people as we call on His name (see Matthew 18:20). Indeed, God would meet with us while convicting, challenging, and comforting us with the clear sense of His presence, power, and glory.
The power of faithful praying people followed me to Holmes Bible College in Greenville, SC. I discovered young adults my age in love with the Lord, hungry for His presence, welcoming daily opportunities to engage in the concert of prayers offered in faith. I graduated from Holmes Bible College in 1985 having been taught the discipline of a personal daily quiet hour and small group prayer. My next assignment was in London, England, serving on a team of 12 college students from Holmes and Emmanuel. We were called SAM (Summer Action Ministry) workers. We never left home base without first gathering to bathe our day in prayer, asking for divine appointments, the presence of the risen Christ, and the manifest power of the Holy Spirit to be with us. We testified in the public square and coffee shops confident the Lord was working with us. I witnessed many amazing answers to prayer in those formative years of my young adult life.
Early in my pastoral ministry, I recognized the need for prayer partners. Taking my cue from John Maxwell,12 I implemented pastor's prayer partners in the local church. I recruited men and women who would intercede privately and corporately together for the church, the worship services, and the preaching of the Word. Without a doubt, any success I had as a pastor came from the faithful intercession of God's people who sought the Lord for His divine favor. Men's Ministries offers an excellent resource for pastors to implement pastor’s prayer partners in the local church. It can be downloaded at the Men’s Ministries webpage here.13
My late wife’s illness of four and a half years became a poignant reminder of the beauty, privilege, and power of faithful, praying people. We were encouraged daily by the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. We witnessed many answers to prayer. There were ample opportunities for sharing our faith, and in every instance, an occasion to trust in the Lord with all our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding but acknowledging Him in all our ways (see Proverbs 3:5-6). Rhonda's promotion on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, reinforced the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:14-15. "I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” This verse is a reminder to me that the prayers of the church militant on earth are met with the echo of the church triumphant in heaven.
I am encouraged in my current role as the Director of IPHC Men’s Ministries when I see brothers in Christ praying together as a “band of men whose hearts God has touched” (1 Samuel 10:26). In the words of Sidlow Baxter, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers."14 Let us, therefore, "Guard This Man" by being steadfast in prayer, praying in our closets of prayer, praying in small groups and corporate gatherings, entreating the Father for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is heaven (see Matthew 6:10).
1The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2016.
2https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Prayers/Introduction/introduction.html. Accessed 18 June 2019
4Acts 2:42, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2016.
5Sermon Central, https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/praying-with-faith-brian-bill-sermon-on-church-purpose-of-57658. Accessed 18 June 2019.
6Holy Bible, New International Version, Biblica, Inc., 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011.
7Warren Wiersbe, Something Happens When Churches Pray, Back To The Bible, 1984.
8James 5:16, Holy Bible, New International Version, Biblica, Inc., 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011.
9The Bible, The Message, Eugene H. Peterson, 2002.
10Matthew 6:9-13, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2016.
11Fr. Patrick Peyton, 1947, Family Theater of the Air Radio Drama
12John Maxwell, Partners In Prayer, Nelson, Thomas, Inc. 1996.
13https://iphc.org/discipleship/men/pastors-prayer-partners/. Accessed 18 June 2019.
14Sidlow Baxter, https://www.azquotes.com/quote/544758. Accessed 18 June 2019.