In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about the importance of prayer as a means of developing your relationship with God. I briefly discussed my private prayer life. I also talked about the importance of not only praying privately with God, but the idea of praying to God with others. This idea is called communal prayer. If you have not yet read Part 1 of this blog series, you can check it out here.
In our society today, private religion is in. People are believers, but many are choosing to have their own relationship with God and are foregoing going to church and being around other believers. People want to make their own decisions about God and many don’t like hearing other’s ideas about who God is and how we should be worshiping Him.
Individual worship is an aspect of having a relationship with God, but that is only part of it and was never intended to be the whole thing. This idea of individual worship of God is quite the opposite of what the early church looked like.
We see this when we look into the book of Acts and how the early church was described.
Acts 4:32 (NIV)
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
The people in the early church shared everything, even their possessions. If someone was in need of something, the other people would help them out. It was a society that never let someone drop away. They would always be taken care of. It is a really great idea on how to live life, but it is a much different concept of living than the one our world lives in today.
Today, we find that the spirit of the world is crowding our the Spirit of Christ in our daily lives. To live the lives that God intends for us to live, we really need to turn that trend around. Society’s trend towards individualism is not a pattern for the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is all of us as individual believers in Christ untied together to all make up a part of the Body of Christ. A good example of the Body of Christ would be the Church.
This is not a totally new or foreign concept. God designed each of our bodies in the same way. We, as humans, are made up of so many individual parts. We have different parts of the body. We have different organs. We have millions of cells. Each are individual entities, but together, they all make up our own bodies. The eye and the ear, the hand and the foot, all of the organs need each other. When these don’t function as part of the whole of our bodies it leads to sickness. The same is true for the Body of Christ. If believers each have their individual relationships with God, but never come together to function together, the chaos created by the individualism can create sickness in the Body of Christ. It leads to sickness in the church.
Every congregation in every Christian church around the world and all believers everywhere need to be united in both their faith and in prayer. It is true that we can pray privately, but we must also come together with the church and find a common voice in prayer. If we look again to the book of Acts in the Bible, we see that this was the case in the early church.
Acts 1:14 (NIV)
14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Acts 2:1 (NIV)
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
United prayer was a top priority of the apostles and the people. They always seemed to be together. Being united in our prayer is necessary because of who we are as human beings.
Here are some other verses and passages from the book of Acts that supports this idea:
We are related to Christ and to each other like we are related to the different parts that make up our own human bodies. Our head, and more specifically our brains, coordinates the life and action of all of the other parts of our bodies. Just as our heads run our own human bodies, Jesus Christ is the head over all things relating to the Church. Christ is the head over all believers.
We are all one family. When we say the Lord’s Prayer in church, we start, “Our Father.” If we look at any normal family, it would be very unusual for each of the children to meet with and spend time with their dad on an individual basis. It is the natural flow for all the children to spend time with their dad together. It is the same way with God our Father. It is the natural flow that all of us as God’s children would come to Him together to spend time with Him.
All of our individual lives come together to form on holy living temple, which serves as a dwelling place for God on earth. We see this idea discussed in two different places in the Bible.
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV)
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
We are not all Lone Rangers going through this world all alone. We are all one army with one commander (God) facing a common foe (Satan), which has great power.
Matthew 16:18 (NIV)
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Our commander, God, give us armor to put on to defend against our common enemy and He give us strength from within to deny our enemy. The best part is that in the end, we know that Jesus will defeat our enemy and will no longer have to fight him off.
Ephesians 6:10-20 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
United we stand, but divided we will fall and the enemy can snatch up individuals and claim them for his own. That is why it is so important that we stand together as a family of believers. There is power in numbers.
Matthew 12:25 (NIV)
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
The longest recorded prayer of Jesus focused on this very thing. Jesus prayed that all believers might be one as He and the Father are one.
John 17:11 (NIV)
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
The relationship that Jesus has with God and the relationship we are designed to have with each other is a supernatural oneness of spirit. We can’t achieve this by human means alone. Human wisdom by itself only goes so far. We must look up to God in prayer and in faith to experience this type of unity.
This oneness with God is crucial to our testimony to the rest of the world. Jesus prayed that we would exhibit this oneness in how we live our lives so that others would notice it in us and be drawn to us and then through us be drawn to God.
John 17:21-23 (NIV)
21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
This prayer that Jesus prayed was answered in the early church we see described in the book of Acts. They had an amazing oneness with God and with one another. The entire church was filled with the Spirit.
Acts 2:4 (NIV)
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
They were all of one heart and one soul.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
God and the whole church were in the most intimate communion together imaginable. It was with great boldness and power that they spread their message about Jesus the Savior to the rest of the world.
Acts 4:31-35 (NIV)
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
I don’t know about you, but I would like to have that kind of relationship with other believers. Can things ever be like they were in the early church? The answer is yes, but it won’t just happen on it’s own. In the next blog, we will be discussing some of the blessings that God has given the church through His Son Jesus. We will also be talking about some of the things we can do as individuals to help bring these blessings to bear. We will discuss ways that we can create more oneness in our own communities.