TGOC Bible Class Curricula - The Church of Christ (1st Quarter) - Lesson 13 - God's Pattern For Worship: Prayer (Lesson 5)
God's Pattern For Worship: Prayer (Part 5)
The first century church was a praying church! Prayer was an important part not only of the worship of the early church, but also of the daily life of each Christian.
Acts chapter one: The disciples of Jesus were joined constantly in prayer.
Act two: The church devoted itself to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship and prayer; and the Lord added to the church daily those being saved.
Acts three: The apostles went to the temple at prayer time.
Acts four: Members of the church prayed, and the house where they gathered was shaken.
Acts six: The first deacons of the church were selected after a prayer service.
Acts twelve: Peter is miraculously released as the church prays for his release.
Acts thirteen: The first missionaries were commissioned from Antioch after prayer and fasting.
Acts fourteen: Elders were appointed and ordained with fasting and prayer.
Acts twenty: Paul's final goodbye to the Ephesians was with prayer.
Mankind, in general, is a praying species. From the earliest times, man has prayed to something or someone. Man has an innate belief in some form of higher power somewhere. They do not always know what or who it is, man has a need and the urgency to talk to a higher being.
Our major concern in this chapter is public prayer, or prayer in the worship of God.
I. What is prayer? Prayer is the means that God provided for His children to communicate with Him. It is, simply put, talkig to God. Even though the Bible tells us that God is all-knowing and all-seeing and is aware of all our thoughts before we speak them (Matthew 6:8), He still wants us to communicate those thoughts and desires and needs to Him by means of prayer. It has been said that prayer is man expressing the thoughts, wishes, and desires of his heart to God.
II. Why did first century Christians pray? God required the early church to communicate their wants and needs and their adoration and praise through prayer. Look closely at the following passages.
Luke 18:1, “1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
Ephesians 6:18, “18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
1 Timothy 2:8, “8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”
III.Who were to pray? God commands all His children to communicate with Him through prayer. The commands to pray in the New Testament mare always given to Christians. One of the requirements of acceptable prayer is that the one doing the praying must be right in God’s sight. As Christians, we enjoy the privilege of fellowship with God. He is our spiritual Father, and we are His children. (1 John 3:1; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Romans 8:15) God does not hear the prayer of the person who is not in fellowship with Him; who is not one of His. (2 Timothy 2:19) Who then, could pray?
1. The righteous were to pray. (James 5:16) Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:12: “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”
2. The obedient were to pray (1 Timothy 2:8): “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”
3. His children who do His will were to pray (John 9:31): “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will.” (See alsoMatthew 6:9)
Only the righteous can pray to God with the expectation of God hearing and answering their prayers. Does this mean that God will not listen to the prayer of someone who is earnestly seeking the way of salvation? God can hear everyone, but He only heeds those who heed Him. It is the prayer of the “righteous” that avails much (James 5:16).
IV. For what did the early Christians pray? The early Christians prayed for the same things we as Christians are to pray for today.
1. They praised God in their prayers:
Matthew 6:9, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…’”
2. They gave thanks to God for the many ways He had blessed them:
Philippians 4:4-6, “4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (See also 1Thessalonians 5:16-18.)
3. They prayed for their daily bread:
Matthew 6:11, “Give us today our daily bread.”
4. They prayed for wisdom:
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
5. They prayed for strength in times of temptation:
Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (See also Matthew 6:13.)
6. They prayed to make their requests known:
Philippians 4:6-7, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
7. They prayed for unity (as the Lord did):
John 17:20-21, “20 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
8. They prayed for forgiveness:
Acts 8:22, “Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.”
9. They prayed for others:
John 17:9, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”
2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.”
James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (See Colossians 4:2-3; Hebrews 13:18; 1 Timothy 2:1-2 also.)
10. They prayed for their enemies:
Matthew 5:43-45, “43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of yourFather in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’”
11. Prayed for rulers of all lands:
1 Timothy 2:1-2, “1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, inter-cession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
12. Prayed for all the saints, and for the victory of the Word in lives of hearers:
Ephesians 6:18, “18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” (See Colossians 4:2-4; 2 Thess. 3:1-2 also.)
V. How should we pray?
1. We should pray without ceasing. The first century Christians prayed continually in keeping with the Master’s teachings in Luke 18:1,“Men ought always to pray.” Paul told the Thessalonians that they should“pray without ceasing”. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
When Paul taught the Roman Christians how they should conduct their lives as Christians, one of the things he admonished them to do was to pray continually. (Romans 12:12)
What does this mean? Logic tells us that Paul did not mean pray 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “Without ceasing” is translated from the Greek word ADIALEIPTOS,which is used three other times in the New Testament.
Romans 1:9 – “…mention of you always in my prayers.”
1 Thessalonians 1:3– “Remembering withoutceasing…”
1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “…thank God withoutceasing.”
It means, “do not desert, abandon, forsake, leave behind”. Therefore, Paul was saying we should not desert, abandon, forsake, or leave prayer behind. It should be a daily part of our lives. This is illustrated in Psalms 55:17 where David said, “Evening, morning, and noon I will complain and moan, and he will hear my voice.”
2. We should pray with humility. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:5-6, He told them not to pray after the manner of the hypocrites to be seen of men, but to pray privately with humility. In Luke 18:10-14 Jesus tells a parable that illustrates the kind of prayer that is acceptable to God.
Luke 18:10-14, “10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up andprayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
3. We should pray in the name of Christ. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, He became the mediator for all of God’s children. (Titus 2:5) When we pray, Jesus lays our petitions before the throne of God and pleads to Him on our behalf. Before He left the earth, He told His disciples if they would pray to God in His name, Godwould answer their prayers. (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:24-26)
4. We should pray with expectation. They prayed, believing that God would answer their prayers as taught by the Lord.
Mark 11:24, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
James 1:6, But when he asks, he mustbelieve and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
5. We should not pray pretentious prayers. Jesus condemned the Pharisees when He said in
Luke 20:47, “[You] devour widow's houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater condemnation.”
The merit of a prayer is not in its length, but in its content and attitude. This is not to say that everyone who prays a long prayer is being pretentious. It is to say it is better for our prayers to be brief, to the point, and directed TO God and not AT the congregation.
Ecclesiastes 5:2, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
Our prayers should be sincere renderings to God and not a means of intentionally drawing attention to ourselves
Matthew 6:5-6, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
6. We should not pray with repetition. Some, when they pray, feel it is more effective if they utter their requests over and over again. Our Lord admonished,
Matthew 6:7 “And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
To say the same thing over and over again is to insinuate that God will not answer it otherwise. God is not attracted by our ability to pray long, repetitious prayers. He is attracted by our humility and sincerity.
7. We should pray for things that are not contrary to the will of God. James says that God cannot and will not answer such prayers:
James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
God cannot do anything that is opposed to His Divine will.
8. We should pray so we can be understood.
1 Corinthians 14:16, “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?”
This means our prayer should be one that can be followed and endorsed byall the worshippers.
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