Corporate Prayer (Acts 1:12-26): In the book of Acts we see Jesus beginning to fulfill the promise he made to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
One of the ways in which the ascended Christ continues to build his church is through the corporate prayers of his people.
God certainly hears his people pray when we meet with him as individuals. However, Jesus promises to be in our midst and bless us in a special way when even “two or three gather” in his name for prayer (see Matthew 18:20).
As John Franklin puts it, “Focusing on the personal prayer life only would be equivalent to trying to fly a plane on one wing.”
God ordains, esteems and mysteriously works through the good ole fashioned prayer meeting for the edification of his church and the glory of his name. Let us consider three facets of corporate prayer.
First, consider the precept of corporate prayer. Throughout the Old and New Testaments God calls his people to seek his face in corporate prayer.
Here in Acts 1, just before his ascension, Jesus gives his disciples the specific command to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father – the outpouring of the Spirit. The disciples knew that “waiting” meant praying – seeking God’s face in unified, humble, expectant dependence upon him. And that is just what the disciples did.
We read in Acts 1:14, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” Thus, the corporate prayer meeting has been called “Christ’s last command and the church’s first responsibility!”
As D. A. Carson puts it, “Prayer meetings were the arteries of the early church. Through them, life-sustaining power was derived.” Indeed, prayer was such a characteristic of the early church that we can say that a church is never more like the New Testament church than when it is praying.
Secondly, consider the precision of corporate prayer. In addition to general praise and adoration, these disciples thanked God for specific blessings and offered up specific petitions – for the filling of the Spirit (1:8), for the provision of leadership (1:24), for boldness to proclaim the Truth in the face of opposition (see 4:29).
C. H. Spurgeon writes, “There is a general kind of praying which fails for lack of precision. It is as if a regiment of soldiers should all fire off their guns anywhere. Possibly somebody would be killed, but the majority of the enemy would be missed.”
As we lift up specific ministries, situations, people and burdens to the Lord, he makes over his promises to us and works in specific ways such that he gets the glory as the great Answerer of prayer.
Finally, consider the privilege of corporate prayer. Jack Taylor writes, “The early Church exerted the privilege of prayer. The Church of today is in danger of deserting the privilege. With all of our technology, invention and innovation, let us emphasize, centralize, and prioritize prayer – life’s limitless reach!”
J. B. Torrance defines prayer as “the privilege of participating through the HS in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.” What greater privilege can you imagine? Let us enjoy this privilege together and watch God work “far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
Mantle Nance is the pastor of the Newberry Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (newberryarp.org). He holds a bachelor of arts degree in religion from Furman University and a Master of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He lives in Newberry with his wife and two sons.