One of the first things we know about the early church -- right away, in Acts chapter 1 -- is that they spent time together in prayer. Though personal prayer is important, communal prayer is essential to the life of the church.
Prayer in Jewish Life
Prayer was already an important part of Jewish life. Faithful Jews met several times a day to pray and different rabbis and teachers taught their students different kinds of prayers that were reflective of their theology. So when Jesus's disciples asked him how they ought to pray, Jesus responded in keeping with this Jewish teaching tradition. One takeaway from the Lord's prayer that makes it especially applicable to the church is that it uses plural first person. With words like "us" and "our" in every line, the prayer Jesus taught His disciples emphasizes community. Later, Jesus promised his disciples that where two or more are gathered in His name, He would be with them, too. So Jesus Himself established the importance of group prayer.
Prayer in the Early Church
After Jesus's ascension, the early church continued Jesus's teaching of community prayer. Acts 2 tells us that they were devoted to prayer. And the church grew rapidly as a result. Even today, we can see that in the places of earth where the gospel is advancing most rapidly, believers are actively praying. Prayer prepares us for what God is going to do next -- and when we pray, we can be sure that God will do something!
Prayer in Today's Church
In churches in general and at Highland in particular, prayer is key in preparing our hearts, minds, and spirits for what Jesus wants to accomplish through us. Highland will be integrating many more group prayer opportunities in the weeks to come, and as we do, we hope that each of our members will join in. Sometimes praying out loud with others can be uncomfortable and vulnerable. Remember: prayer is not a performance; it's about speaking out of your heart. If it's too uncomfortable to pray out loud at first, start with just your presence. Then, as you grow more used to the idea, offer your participation. Finally, be persistent. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, and Jesus will answer us.