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April 2017 Issue

The Gift of Intercession

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Devotion for Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Early Church Prays Together

Read Acts 2:1-41

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Many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:11

Sociologist Christian Smith has studied the religious lives of American young adults and found them to be highly individualistic. Many believe “religion need not be practiced in and by a community.” Statistics documenting declining church participation support his findings that Americans increasingly believe that other people are not essential to an individual’s faith.

That idea stands in stark contrast to the communal Christianity we see modeled for us in the book of Acts. After that first Resurrection Sunday, the early followers of Christ did not scatter to their own private spiritual disciplines. Instead, the 120 believers found themselves almost constantly together, especially for prayer. Having received Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, they confidently prayed together for the promise’s fulfillment.

The first church prayed together, and the Lord answered them together. On the day of Pentecost, “they were all together in one place” (v. 1) when tongues of fire came upon them and the prophesy of Joel came to pass: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. . .Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28, 29). As a community, God’s people were blessed.

But the answer to their prayers was not only for their own edification. The coming of the Holy Spirit equipped and empowered the church to proclaim Christ to those around them—and those as far away as the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In a single day, the infant church grew by 3,000 people. Doubtless, those thousands of people who first trusted Christ at Pentecost gave thanks to the Lord for the community of praying believers who had first gathered in one place to intercede for their salvation.

Apply the Word

Private prayer is a priority of the Christian life (see Matt. 6:6), but when we pray together we multiply our thanks to God. Paul encourages the practice of praying together with others for others: “Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (1 Cor. 1:11). Look for opportunities to pray in community.

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