Study 3 SEVEN MARKS OF A PRAYING CHURCH
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 4 – 7)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 4:23-37
There is only one real problem in the Church these days – the prayer-life of the church. Other problems might include getting the outsider to attend services, securing spiritual results from our ministry, finding right leaders for various activities; the problem of finance, and the problem created by the lack of love and unity which so often prevails among Christians. But these are secondary matters. The real problem is the prayer-life of the Church, and if that is solved every other problem at once finds solution. Prayer is the very life of the church; it is the life of the church’s individual members; it is the life of the church’s worship, and it is the life of the church’s varied activities. In Acts 4:23-35 seven marks of a praying church are indicated. Let us consider these and ask: Is my church a praying church?
1. In a praying church there will be a recognition of the importance of prayer, and therefore there is a spontaneous desire for prayer
Peter and John had been imprisoned and as soon as they were released they joined the Christians in Jerusalem to report on all that had been happening to them (verse 23). When the Christians heard their report, what did they do? Did they hold a conference? No – see verse 24. They prayed. They recognised that prayer was fundamental, and they all felt the same about it. Do we recognise the supreme importance of prayer, and have we a spontaneous desire for it?
2. In a praying church faith looks towards the Lord
Notice verse 24. They turned their eyes away from man and from the problems at hand, and they turned to the Lord who could solve every problem and who is in control of every situation (Psalm 62:5). Whatever problem faces us it is God who matters – not the meetings, the preacher, man or money. These are always secondary. The eyes of a praying church are upon God who is:
- 1. The Sovereign Lord (verses 24 and 28). God is the all-powerful creator and sustainer and He is the One who knows the end from the beginning.
- 2. The Self-Revealing Lord. Verse 25 tells us that God has spoken, and verses 26-27 tell us that He has spoken not only through the prophets and in His Word, but finally and primarily by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
- 3. The Seeing Lord (verse 29). God does see all and waits to intervene and to accomplish His will in answer to the prayers of His people.
3. In a praying church there is obedience to the Great Commission
See how they prayed (verse 29). Notice that they did not pray, ‘Please keep us safe’ – ‘Keep Peter and John protected’ – ‘Lord, don’t let it happen again!’; they prayed, ‘Lord, help us to get on with the job of proclaiming the gospel!’ (Matthew 28:19). In a praying church the overwhelming desire of the members will be to make Christ known to a lost world. Does this characterise our church? Is there a constant effort being made, not to organise, but to evangelise?
4. In a praying church there is faith to demand miracles
Where the importance of prayer is realised and where prayer is really put into operation, God breaks in with His supernatural acts, His ‘signs and wonders’ (verse 30). They prayed that God would perform miracles. Some people say that the apostolic signs are no longer required, and since the canon of scripture is closed we must not expect to see miracles performed; but often when we say these things we are excusing our lack of prayer. When the church really prays then miracles take place – in the spiritual realm, when souls are saved and even desperate people are converted. In the physical realm also God is often pleased to heal the bodies and minds of His children.
5. In a praying church the Holy Spirit manifests His presence and power
Prayer is the secret of every pentecostal outpouring; but notice, we are not considering what happened on the Day of Pentecost. This happened after Pentecost and it can happen again and again! There will never be another Pentecost dispensationally – but there can be one experimentally (verse 31)!
6. In a praying church there is mighty power in gospel preaching
What happened after they had prayed? – see verses 31 and 33. This always happens in a praying church; people are stricken down by the power of the Word and many are saved; but in every case where great things have been accomplished through gospel preaching it has always and only been in answer to the prayers of God’s people. Conviction and conversions follow the preaching which is backed up by a praying church.
7. In a praying church there is much grace in the lives of God’s people
In verse 33 the operative words are “much grace”. This grace means Christ-likeness – and it was seen in four ways:
- 1. There was the grace of unity – verse 32.
- 2. There was the grace of renunciation – verse 32.
- 3. There was the grace of fellowship – verse 32
- 4. There was the grace of generosity – verses 34-35.
These are the marks of a praying church, but a church is constituted of men and women. A praying church, therefore, is a company of Christians who pray, not only individually, but corporately as a church. Will you do your part, God helping you, to make your church a praying church?