What the New Testament Says About Congregational Prayer
(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...
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.”
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.
1 Timothy 2:1 mentions three types of prayer we will consider: supplications,
intercessions, and giving of thanks (Col. 4:2-3). Note: continue
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.”
(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.
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
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
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.
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).
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).
church prayed with thanksgiving (Col. 3:16-17). Remember we noted Paul’s
charge to pray earnestly “with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
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.
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).
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).
not pray with self-righteousness (Luke 18:10-14).
D. Do not
pray for selfish pleasures (Jas. 4:3).