Distinct Prayer of the New Testament Church
Prayer is an important theme in the New Testament. It was taught, demonstrated and commanded by both Jesus and the Apostles (Matthew 5:44; 6:5-13; 14:23; 21:22; Mark 6:46; 11:24-26; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 6:28; 11:1-13; John 17:1-26; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42; 10:9; Romans 8:26-27; 12:12; 1 Corinthians 11:1-16; 2 Corinthians 13:7, 9; Ephesians 1:18; 6:18; Philippians 1:9; 4:6; Colossians 1:9; 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 5:13-18; 1 Peter 4:7).
The early New Testament church valued prayer. In Jerusalem they devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42; cf. 1:14; 6:4). The Apostle Paul later commanded the churches in Rome, Corinth and Colossae to do the same (Romans 12:12; 1 Corinthians 7:5; Colossians 4:2).
The early New Testament church understood the effectiveness of prayer. James said, “…the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). As evidenced by their significant influence on the ancient Mediterranean world, the prayer of the New Testament ecclesia was effective.
The early New Testament church was a praying church. Prayer was both a primary and intentional activity. It allowed the ecclesia to cooperate with God on earth in the fulfillment of His eternal plan.
The prayers of the early New Testament church were not self-derived. They originated from God.
The New Testament church was directed to pray “in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20). Prayer “in the Spirit” originates from the realm of the Spirit according to the will of God (cf. Romans 8:26-27; John 14:13; 15:7; James 4:3; 1 John 5:14).
Prayer that originates from the realm and power of the indwelling Spirit of God is in conformance to the will of God. Both heard by God and answered, it is prayer with eternal significance (1 John 5:14-15).
The New Testament includes revelation of prayer originating from the Spirit of God (Ephesians 1:15-19; 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12; etc.). They provide an example of “spiritual thoughts” revealed through “spiritual words” (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13). Rather than earthly, they are heavenly and spiritual by nature.
Prayer is an act of cooperative faith. Therefore, it is not “blind” or presumptuous. It is distinguished by knowledge, agreement and trust.
First, cooperative faith is based on the knowledge of divine truth as revealed in the Word of God, the Bible. Mankind possesses no other source of specific revelation about God in which to exercise its divinely allotted measure of faith (cf. Romans 12:3).
Second, cooperative faith requires agreement with the will of God. It is possible to believe that the will of God revealed in His Word is true, but choose not to agree. Such a choice, however, constitutes a lack of cooperation and, therefore, is contrary to biblical faith. Agreement with the will of God is cultivated from prayerful time spent in the Bible, intimate fellowship with God and the counsel of others (cf. Romans 12:1-13).
Third, cooperative faith not only involves knowledge and agreement, but trust. Trust is defined as, “reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”.1 To trust God means to rely or depend on His “character, ability, strength” without condition.
Fundamentally, effective prayer is an act of cooperative faith. It involves the knowledge of God’s will, agreement and corresponding trust or dependence.