All these [disciples] with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:14
German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “It is in fact the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.” And nowhere has this been more evident than in the practice of the early church.
If we pay attention as we read the book of Acts, we will notice corporate prayer everywhere. The Christians prayed together at mealtimes (2:46), in the temple (3:1), when persecuted (4:23-31), when sending out gospel workers (13:1-3), and when appointing church leaders (14:23). We find them praying on beaches (21:5-6), at river banks (16:13), onboard ships (27:35-38), and in their homes (2:42-47). For these saints, praying together was the most normal thing in the world.
Today’s verse describes one of the earliest of these prayer meetings. Just prior to this gathering, the resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving his followers with a promise--“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you”--and a task--“you will be my witnesses” (1:8). And so it is not surprising that we find them praying together, asking God to fulfill his promise and to equip them for the work ahead.
In our day, the church receives the same promise and the same mission from Christ her Lord. Each of our local churches is tasked with gospel-proclamation--witnessing to the perfect life, atoning death, and triumphant resurrection of Christ--and is assured of the Holy Spirit’s help. Like the Christians two thousand years ago, our mission is demanding and urgent. Like the Christians two thousand years ago, we have much to pray about together.
It is important to notice in this verse who was participating in the time of prayer. We rightly expect the disciples to be present, but we also read that “the women” and Jesus’s mother and brothers were there too. Praying together is important work for everyone who belongs to Christ. No matter your age, your gender, or your theological knowledge, you have an important place in corporate prayer.
Finally, we see the foundation of their practice: the Bible tells us Christ’s followers devoted themselves to praying together. At a glance many of the early church’s prayer meetings appear to have happened spontaneously, but the Christians’ inclination to bow together in prayer was first fueled by their intentional devotion to the practice. They prayed together at every opportunity because they were already convinced that it was a priority. We, too, must remind ourselves of our glorious mission and devote ourselves to the important work of prayer that upholds every other task.
Brothers and sisters, let us pray.
Suggestions for Prayer
- Thank God for the example of the early church’s practice of praying together and for the many occasions of corporate prayer in your own life.
- Confess to God the times when you have neglected opportunities to pray with your Christian brothers and sisters.
- Ask God to enable you to devote yourself to praying with others.
Megan Hill is a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter who has spent her life praying with others. She serves on the editorial board for Christianity Today and is a regular contributor to Her.meneutics and the Gospel Coalition. She is the author of Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches.