Olsen Park Church of Christ

What the New Testament Says About Congregational Prayer

Introduction.  (Acts 12:1-5) Notice: “Constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” The New Testament often describes times in which the church as a whole devoted time in prayer to God. If we seek to do all things according to the pattern of Scripture, it is fitting for us to consider all things that the Lord’s church did in the New Testament. This morning let’s consider the subject of Congregational Prayer in the New Testament.

I. Types of Prayer. First let’s consider some things about prayer in general, with a view towards its application in the local church. It is clear from Scripture that different types of prayers can be made...

A.      Adoration or Praise (Acts 4:24-30). When opposition first began over the gospel, after Peter and John were released from prison they praised God for who He was. Heb. 13:15 speaks of the “fruit of our lips” as a “sacrifice of praise.”

B.      Confession: faith and sin. A prayer of praise is in itself a declaration of faith. James teaches to “confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another” (Jas. 5:16).

C.      Thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 2:1 mentions three types of prayer we will consider: supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks (Col. 4:2-3). Note: continue “earnestly”—“with thanksgiving.”

D.     Supplication or Petition. 1 Timothy 2:1 speaks of “supplications.” Paul uses the same term in Philippians 4:6 where he urges Christians to let their “requests be made known to God.”

E.      Intercession (1 Tim. 2:1-3). This is prayer for others.

II. Congregational Prayer. Let’s consider some of what the Holy Spirit has recorded for us about the reasons the early church engaged in congregational prayer.

A.      The church prayed in difficult times. We noticed at the beginning that the church prayed for Peter while in prison (Acts 12:5). When he was released he came to the house of John’s mother, Mary where “many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12).

B.      The church prayed in times of decision, change, and farewell. When they appointed the seven to care for the widows, they prayed about their selection (Acts 6:6). Before Paul and Barnabas were sent away to preach they prayed about it (Acts 13:1-3). Before Paul left brethren after working with them they prayed together (Acts 14:23; 21:5).

C.      The church prayed for Paul (2 Cor. 1:9-11). Note: In prayer they were “helping together in prayer.” Paul taught the Ephesians to pray for his work (Eph. 6:17-19). To the Thessalonians he gave the simple charge “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5: 25).

D.     The church prayed for all the saints. Paul taught the Ephesians not just to pray for him, but “all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

E.      The church prayed for all men and leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We looked at this text in talking about intercession (or prayer for others). Notice who it specifies that we should pray for—“all men” (v. 1) and “all who are in authority” (v. 2).

F.      The church prayed with thanksgiving (Col. 3:16-17).  Remember we noted Paul’s charge to pray earnestly “with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).

G.      The church prayed regularly (Rom. 12:10-12).  Peter teaches that an awareness of coming judgment should lead to constant prayer (1 Pet. 4:7).

III. Precautions in Prayer. In some respects congregational prayer should be no different from private prayer—while some content may be different, the same attitude of reverence and respect, yet familial love and devotion should be present. In all prayer, however, we must remember a few precautions.

A.      Do not pray with hypocrisy or to be seen of men  (Matt. 6:5-6). Jesus warned of the scribes who were said to make long prayers “for a pretense” (Luke. 20:45-47)—NASB says “for appearance’ sake.” Paul told Timothy that Christians should pray “lifting up holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:8), i.e. not saying one thing, while our life show something far different. John teaches that we can only expect to receive our requests when we “keep His commandments” (1 John 3:22).

B.      Do not pray with empty words or vain repetitions (Matt. 6:7-8). This doesn’t mean we can never say the same things, but it does teach that it must never come just by rote, with no thought. That is when it becomes “vain” (or meaningless).

C.      Do not pray with self-righteousness (Luke 18:10-14).

D.     Do not pray for selfish pleasures (Jas. 4:3).

Kyle Pope 2014
Modified from a lesson
by Chris Reeves

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