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What Happened When the Early Church Prayed?

The apostle Peter preached a powerful sermon on the day the church was born. Referring to the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he said, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). All of this had been foretold centuries before, Peter told them.

He talked to them of Jesus, whom “God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33). He went on to say, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you [the Jewish leaders] crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

Those were powerfully anointed words, and when Peter’s listeners heard them:

they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2:37-41).

Three thousand souls! What a tremendous ingathering for the Kingdom in that one day on that grand birthday of the church! But that wasn’t all. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

“And in prayers.” That became the watchword of the first-century church—prayer. What was the result of all this?

Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:43-47).

Jesus had taught His disciples well. He had given them His model prayer. Then He had trained them to go out to teach, to preach, to cast out demons. He had taught them how to pray, and they remembered. After He had taught them for forty days after His resurrection, He told them the Holy Spirit would come upon them in just a few days.

“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). And for the next ten days “these all [the disciples] continued with one accord in prayer”(Acts 1:14). No wonder there was such a harvest of soulsduring those first few days after the church was born.

Acts of the Apostles/Holy Spirit

That harvest continued. They prayed; God answered. They prayed; men were healed. They prayed; God sent them unto the uttermost parts of the earth to tell the good news that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah. Throughout the book of Acts (which really should be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit, because of the way the Holy Spirit moved through the lives of those disciples), God honored His word, and miracles happened.

The Acts of the Apostles/Holy Spirit go on, providing a book that will never be finished or closed. Those heroic men and women made church history and provided a model for the present-day church. God did it then. He will do it again, when we learn to pray as they did.

Those early believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). They enjoyed the company of other believers. They went to the temple together. They went from house to house sharing the Word and building up each other in the most holy faith. They fellowshipped together. They ate together. They partook of the Lord’s Supper together. They listened to the apostles’ doctrine together—the teaching, the ministry of the Twelve.

And they prayed together.

Prayer brought predictable results. “Then those who gladly received his word” (Acts 2:41) were a joyful bunch of people, as all believers ought to be. Here’s a principle you can count on: Where there’s joy in serving the Lord, there will be power. These people were so joyful and happy that thousands were drawn to hear the message.

The devil often tells prospective believers, “If you become a Christian you won’t have any fun. You’ll have to wear a long face and be sad all the time.” But these are lies. I have discovered that Christians are the happiest people on earth. This was evidently the case as de-scribed in this particular Scripture, because joyful, happy believers transmitted their joy to others who then “gladly received” (Acts 2:41) the Good News and became themselves partakers of the faith of Jesus.

This multitude of joyful people was baptized in one day and was added to the growing number of followers of the Messiah!

In my ministry I’ve seen plenty of sad sinners. I’ve seen them in jails and prisons, in brothels and mental institutions, in night clubs and in gambling houses. Yes, there is plenty of sadness in the hearts of those who follow the devil.

But those who love the Lord are filled with gladness. “He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God” (Ps. 40:3). Prayer in the early church had a strong place in bringing this new joy and “new song” to pass in others.

Prayer in These New Believers’ Decision-Making Process

Many books tell you how to make decisions, but the best decision-making book of all is the Bible, God’s Word. These early Christians found it so on numerous occasions. In line with Jesus’ instructions, they spent ten days in prayer before the Holy Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost.

Their decision in selecting Judas’ successor was made after prayer (see Acts 1:24). As they met in each others homes daily, their decisions were directed by prayer. They prayed and praised God for all of His goodness to them in every situation.

The believers spent regular times in prayer each day, with the men praying at the temple three times daily. No doubt Peter’s and John’s actions in chapter three of Acts were dictated by the Holy Spirit. On that particular day, a great miracle of healing took place when the lame man at the gate begged for money. His healing set in motion a chain of events that resulted in beatings and imprisonments for Peter and John.

Some of the Jewish hierarchies were hard put to suppress the exuberant manner in which these new believers were spreading the gospel of Jesus. After they had imprisoned Peter and John they brought them before the council.

And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go (Acts 4:18-21).

What did Peter and John do then? Did they quail in fear? Did they complain about their hard life? Did they ask, “God, what are You doing to us?” They did none of these things. “And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God’” (Acts 4:23-24).

How did they decide their next move? They prayed and God directed them to decide to keep right on doing what they were doing.

But wasn’t that in defiance of the law?

No. It was in defiance of the decisions of men who were themselves in defiance of God. There is no law higher than God’s law. The greatest, fairest, most comprehensive law book in the world is the Bible. The Bible comprises the total law. So when a law is made that is contrary to God’s law, believers are not obligated to obey it. This was the disciples’ conclusion as they prayed. Then they acted upon the decision that God had helped them to make.

On another occasion, Peter was imprisoned. What were the people to do about it? How were they to conduct themselves when the life of one of their leaders was in danger? Again, their decision was to pray. And this time, God sent an angel to Peter and delivered him from the guards’ hands.

What about your own decision-making? Do you always seek the Lord’s guidance before you make decisions? Or do you, as many are prone to do, make a decision, and ask the Lord to bless it and cause it to succeed? God is interested in every decision. Make it a rule of your life to seek His guidance in all your actions—large or small—and you will find your life richer, fuller, and more effective.

In the Early Church, Prayer Led to Praise

Those early believers prayed daily. They prayed in each others’ homes. They prayed in the temple. They prayed alone. They prayed together. It seemed they were always praying, and their praying usually led to praise. They did all of this “with one accord” (Acts 2:46).

When Peter and John went to the temple to pray (see Acts 3:1), their time of prayer led to praise when the lame man was healed. Peter and John praised the Lord. The formerly lame man praised God. The witnesses in the temple praised the Lord. All the believers praised the Lord. The only ones who didn’t praise the Lord were the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, none of whom were happy with the new faith and power of the believers.

When Peter and John were forbidden to speak in Jesus’ name, they went to their people for a prayer meeting. “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Prayer led to praise. Praise led to bold witnessing with great power. This witness led again to praise.

Those early believers had no corner on praise. The same principles work today. If you will spend regular time in prayer, you will soon find yourself in praise. It’s an automatic chain reaction that always works. If you haven’t learned it yet, try it. It will work for you as it did for them.

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