Prayer Is Essential

As a church leader I’m often reminded of how much we talk about prayer but how little we actually do it.

My point in saying that is not to make assumptions about your personal prayer habits – I don’t know about them – but I do know how much time we devote to prayer when we meet as a church body. While we always include prayer in our meetings, I’m not sure we are as devoted to prayer as we see exemplified by the early church.

Of these early followers of Jesus it is written in Acts 2:42,

Acts 2:42
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Notice that the early church gathered to learn about Jesus (the apostles’ teaching), to learn about one another (fellowship), share food with one another (breaking of bread) and to pray. The breaking of bread was probably a means of meeting the needs of the hungry, which at least in our society, is far less common than it was for these folks. (It’s unlikely this was a reference to what we call communion since this was immediately subsequent to Pentecost and before any formal teaching on the subject had been put forth.)

So taking food out of the mix, it would seem that Christ followers might always emphasize three things when we meet together: scriptural teaching, fellowship and prayer. That’s a pretty simple list.

It reminds me that sometimes we over-complicate things in the church. That’s not to say that other components could or should not be included. But it does show us what we should consider essential as a general rule. Keep in mind, of course, that binding ourselves to a hard formula in any form is a recipe for bland, lifeless ritualism and ritual always quenches the Holy Spirit. That said, these three actions for gathered Christians can be accommodated consistently without sacrificing variety and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Today, my concern is that we don’t allow prayer to become a perfunctory (routine, superficial, blasĂ©) part of our worship. I believe we work hard to avoid this, yet, it’s easy to fall into routines without even noticing. Therefore, we must be vigilant to guard against such traps.

Prayer is not one more thing to check off a list; it is our lifeline to our Heavenly Father. We die as a church when prayer isn’t a major emphasis.

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