July 4, 2014

The church on its knees

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21)

Two important things are important when studying the church. One is that it is made up of genuine followers of Jesus Christ, but there are many imitations. If I study or expect the imitations to measure up to the biblical standards, I will be greatly disappointed.

The second is that the imitations tend to be a lot more visible than the genuine followers. While we are not to “hide our light under a bushel,” the Lord does seem to protect His people from the paparazzi. Perhaps this is because recognition and honor tends to turn our focus from serving Christ to patting ourselves on the back.

This morning’s devotional reading is about one activity that is done by groups of Christians, but often not seen by those outside the church. I’m not sure this is the way it should be, but I do know that when we get together, prayer is apt to happen.

For instance, right after Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples “went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:13–14).

I underlined “being joined together, grows” because these are two characteristics of prayer in the church. If they fall short of being united before they start, prayer unites believers. It also causes spiritual growth in them, and often numerical growth in the Body of Christ.

In the early church, prayer was vital. They prayed regarding decisions: “’You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24–26)

They prayed when trouble came: “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5) . . . . “When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’ When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:11–12).

They prayed with unbelievers who valued the habit of praying: “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us” (Acts 16:13–15) and as a result, some of them became Christians also.

They prayed when saying goodbye: “When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed” (Acts 21:5).

Many other instances are recorded, and I am certain a great deal more were not written in the books. Of everything the church does and is supposed to do, prayer has to be at the top of the list. It is our link and lifeline to the Lord, our avenue of communication, and key to realizing the power of God at work in us and in the world. We don’t need official prayer meetings either. We pray on the front step, over the phone, by email, through social media, walking in the park, and beside hospital beds. We pray in restaurants, our homes, and on the steps of city hall.

I’m not sure what the world would be like without the prayers of God’s people, but I do know that my world is blessed by His answers to the prayers I’ve said and heard. May the church never neglect being together to talk with God.

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