When Jesus cleared the temple of money-changers and those selling animals for sacrifices, He did so saying, “My Temple will be a house of prayer… (Luke 19:46, NLT). Jesus was quoting from the book of the prophet Isaiah, which says:
I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem
and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices,
because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7, NLT)
Scripture shows us that it is God’s desire for the church to be a house of prayer, a place where people gather to pray together, a place where everything that is done is done in prayer and through prayer.
When you look at the accounts of the early church in the book of Acts, it is clear that prayer was at the center of the life of the gathered disciples of Christ. Acts 1:14 (ESV) says that the disciples were gathered together in unity and “were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.” In Acts, chapter 2, we see that “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer (Acts 2:42, NLT).”
Prayer was a priority for the early church. Decisions such as the selection of leaders were accompanied by prayer. Acts 13:2-3 (ESV) says that as the believers were “worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” The believers prayed when fellow believers were persecuted. Acts 12:5 tells us that, while Peter was in prison, the church was lifting him up in earnest prayer.
The early church also prayed for healing. When a believer named Tabitha became ill and died, the people of Joppa heard that Peter was nearby. They brought him back to the home of Tabitha. Peter sent the people outside, then “knelt down and prayed.” After praying he turned to the body of the dead woman and said, “Tabitha, arise.” She opened her eyes and sat up. Peter’s prayer had been answered (Acts 9:36-40).
The leaders of the early church taught often on the subject of prayer. In Colossians 4:2, Paul wrote that believers should devote themselves to prayer with minds that are alert and hearts that are thankful. He asked the believers in Colosse to pray for the spread of the gospel (Colossians 4:3-4). James stressed the importance of prayers for those who are sick (James 5:14). Prayer was central to the ministry of the apostles. In Acts 6:2-4, they told the other believers to pick seven men to oversee the distribution of food among them so that the apostles, whose task was to teach the word of God, could spend their time in “prayer and teaching the word.”
A praying church is a healthy church, and God’s power will be evident in it. James 5:16 says that the earnest prayer of one righteous man has great power and is capable of producing wonderful results. Imagine the power and results that are possible when a church full of righteous men, women, and children make prayer a priority in their church!