Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Super-glued to God in the Act of Prayer

A circle of prayer

Stanley Grenz wrote, in 2004, that "prayer is the greatest challenge to the church today." (Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom, 1) A lot of church energy and effort is placed on raising money and installing programs. Prayer, on the other hand, requires no money and is non-programmatic since it is, essentially, a relationship with God. Poor people and poor churches can pray. Indeed, such communities do pray. When Jesus says, in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, their blessedness lies in their need for connection with God. 

Look at the poor, program-barren, building-less first-century church. "The first-century community is a model of a praying church. The book of Acts presents the early church as a praying people. Already in the days prior to Pentecost, the Lord's disciples were devoted to prayer. Luke describes the upper-room experience as marked by continual prayer. In obedience to the command of Jesus (Acts 1:8), "they all joined together constantly in prayer" (Acts 1:14)."

After Pentecost, the praying community continued. It wasn't like they were thinking, "Well, we prayed. The Big Event happened. Now we can lighten up on this praying-thing since we're so busy we don't have time to pray." Instead I imagine they might have been thinking more like this: "Wow - prayer is a God-relationship that does things." In the language of philosopher J.L. Austin, prayer is a performative speech-act having illocutionary force. (See Austin, How to Do Things with Words)

We read:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer... 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, praising God... (Acts 2:42, 46-47)

These first Jesus-followers were devoted to praying. In Greek Acts 2:42 reads:

ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ, τῇ κλάσειτοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς. 

I've underlined the word we translated as "devoted." Here's the meaning:

προσκαρτερέω,v  \{pros-kar-ter-eh'-o}
1) to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one  2) to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing  3) to continue all the time in a place  4) to persevere and not to faint  5) to show one's self courageous for  6) to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly

To "adhere" to prayer. To be an adhesive, stuck to a life of prayer and praying. Super-glued to God, in the act of prayer. There are consequences.

(If you want to join me for Prayer Summer, shoot me an e-mail - Details forthcoming.)