Prayer that Changed History:
7 Brief Studies of Prayer in the Early Church

One of the most dominant features of the New Testament church was that they prayed - the church was known as a church of prayer.

Following the ascension of Jesus, the followers of Jesus were left in Jerusalem.  Even thought they were no longer in the physical presence of Jesus, spiritually they were still in contact with Him because they prayed.

Acts 1:13 names all of the disciples who returned to Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus.

Acts 1:13
[13] And when they had entered, they 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.

Acts 1:14 tells us what they were doing - devoting themselves to prayer.

Acts 1:14
[14] All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Examples of the need for prayer include:

1.When the disciples were selecting the replacement for Judas they prayed - the decision was too great for them to make by themselves.

Acts 1:24-25
[24]And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen [25] to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."

2.Following Peter’s sermon on Pentecost that resulted in many new believers, they were instructed in spiritual growth tools -- among those tools was prayer.

3.Prayer was such a way of life that they took time out each day, even in the
afternoons, to spend time in prayer to God.

Acts 3:1
[1]Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.

4.Prayer was so important to the apostles that they set aside other servants to care for the physical needs of the widows, so they could spend extended periods of time in prayer.

Acts 6:4
[4]But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

Do you see the picture?

Prayer is not to be:
1.Some function tacked on at the end of a service as a formality.

2.An agenda item that if we get to it then we will pray as if it does not matter or it has no value.

Prayer is to be:
1.Prominent in the life of the believer.

2.Primary in our relationship with Jesus.

3.Prestigious in the life of a church and its members.

Our prayers should move beyond the walls of the church and embrace the concerns and needs of our communities with the power of God.

Study 1: The Indispensable and Distinguishing Feature (Acts 2:42)

For the disciples, prayer became one of the most distinguishing features of their lives.
1.After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were instructed to wait.

Acts 1:4
[4] And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.

2.While they waited they prayed.

Acts 1:14
[14] All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.

In the midst of their first prayer meeting the Spirit of God visited them in such a dramatic way that they were not only changed but 3,000 additional souls where brought into God’s kingdom.

Acts 2:41
[41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

1.This was the first victory of the beginning church.

2.The enemy suffered a major defeat when these souls entered the kingdom.

3.Prayer became a major thrust of their lives and ministry.

The early disciples devoted themselves to prayer.

Acts 2:42
[42] And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Because of this the church continued to take territory from the enemy. 

Acts 2:47
[47] And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

These men leading the charge in this spiritual battle “were unschooled, ordinary men”.

Acts 4:13
[13] Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.

However, the enemy recognized “that these men had been with Jesus.”

Acts 4:13
And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

They were spiritual warriors advancing the kingdom of God

The opposition “charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18) but they “cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

1.What gave them the boldness to speak in the face of opposition?

2.What gave them the power to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders?

3.What gave them the courage to assault a formable foe with limited resources?

The answer is simply because they prayed!

Acts 4:31
[31] And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

And, the result:

Acts 6:7
[7] And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

1.In answer to their united and earnest prayers, the place where they were meeting was shaken, but the disciples themselves were not shaken - rather they were strengthened!

2.They spoke the word of God boldly resulting in more of the enemy’s territory taken as the church continued to expand beyond its walls and more people were saved.

3.Even some of the most hostile of opponents, the priests, were converted to Christ!

Prayer was not always such a part of the apostles’ lives though.

1.They had to be taught how to pray.

2.They had to learn the practice of prayer and make it a regular part of their daily lives.

3.They had to test the principles of prayer and grow in their faith.

4.There was much trial and error - but they did not give up.

5.But eventually they got it.

At the outset of their ministry, the apostles were fearful, but eventually they became men of faith.

1.They were impotent, but became stewards of power.

2.They were dumbfounded, but became creative geniuses.

3.They were cowards, but became profiles in courage.

What made the difference?  In a word: prayer.

1.When we work, we do the work; when we pray, God does the work.

2.Prayer is the means God has ordained by which he will work on earth and meet the needs of his people.

3.If you and I don’t pray, if prayer is not the indispensable and distinguishing feature of our lives, we will not see the hand or the movement of God.

Dig Deeper

Below you can use the following links to:

1. Print this lesson