Who Should Pray

Title: Who Should Pray

Bible Book: Acts 1 : 12-15

Author: Donald Cantrell

Subject: Prayer; Prayer Meeting


[Editor's Note: All scripture in this sermon contains the KJV.]

Acts 1:12-15 "Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas [the brother] of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty...)"

I like this illustration that came from the mighty man of God, M. Luther: “When Luther's puppy happened to be at the table, he looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes; he (Martin Luther) said, 'Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish or hope.” (Luther's Table-talk)

The first order of business after the ascension of Christ was a prayer meeting. The early church would find spiritual success due to their constant and persistent times of prayer.One of the things our age could learn from the early church is their need for group prayer meetings. I dare say that many of us understand the value of personal prayer, but I’m not so sure we place enough value on collective corporate prayer.

Illustration: “Humorous Prayer Meeting”

The roof of the church hall of a little Swiss church, at the turn of the 20th century, was falling down. So the members of the church held regular prayer meetings in the hall after the service to pray for funds to repair the roof. There was an old man, known to be very tight with his money, who used to attend and sit near the back of the hall. He could sneak out just before the collection plate came round at the end of the prayer meeting. One Sunday, he was held up on his way to the prayer meeting in the Hall by the vicar and could only find a seat at the front of the church. During the prayer meeting, a piece of the roof fell and hit him on the head. Feeling spoke to by the Lord, he stood up and said "Lord, I’ll give $1000.00." A voice at the back of the church was heard to say “Hit him again, Lord"!

The early church was people of fellowship. This word is found 17 times in the bible and 15 of them are in the New Testament. The meaning of this word is as follows:


1) Fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse

a) The share which one has in anything, participation

b) Fellowship, intimacy

1. The right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)

c) A gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship

1 – Fellowship of Personal Believers

2 – Fellowship of Prayerful Believers

3 – Fellowship of Powerful Believers

The early church found power prayerful fellowship. In the New Testament book of Acts we find over 30 occasions of prayer. It would benefit us to become believers yoked together in prayerful group fellowship. In coming together as prayerful believers we can impact this world for God’s glory.

Act 2:42 - And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

1Cr 1:9 - God [is] faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

1Cr 10:20 - But I [say], that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

2Cr 6:14 - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

2Cr 8:4 - Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and [take upon us] the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

Gal 2:9 - And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [should go] unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

Eph 3:9 - And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

Eph 5:11 - And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove [them].

Phl 1:5 - For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Phl 2:1 - If [there be] therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

Phl 3:10 - That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

1Jo 1:3 - That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1Jo 1:6 - If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

1Jo 1:7 - But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Let us consider who should be active and attentive to prayer:

I. Church Members Should Pray

It is funny that when we think about fellowship among church members, it is often related to sitting across the table as we eat and chat. We can deem this as fellowship, but it is not the pinnacle of true fellowship. True fellowship is the fellowship of believers coming together in prayer.

Illustration: “Prayerful not Successful”

In his book Eating The Elephant, Thom Rainer tells of an interview Billy Graham had with an interviewer. The interviewer was fascinated by Rev. Graham’s success and asked if he anticipated being given great rewards in heaven for the millions of lives he had impacted through his worldwide ministry. Billy Graham said that he was not sure of the extent of his own rewards, God is the final Judge, but he was certain that others would have greater rewards than he. He went on to say that there is a faithful elderly woman whom he knows, who is right now on her knees praying for her little country church, her family, and her nation. For nearly 80 years, the sweet lady has been faithful to her Lord. She has been constantly praying, and reading the Bible daily. To Billy Graham, that lady and many others like her will receive the greatest rewards in heaven. At the close of the interview, Billy Graham said these last words: "You see, we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful."

As church members we all have the opportunity to pray, not only to pray; but to come together in group prayer.

A) Group Prayer is a Desireful Fellowship
B) Group Prayer is a Delightful Fellowship
C) Group Prayer is a Daring Fellowship

Illustration: “When a Sunday School Teacher Prays”

A preacher recalls one such instance during the Sunday evening service. When he finished speaking, he asked, "Is there anyone else who would like to say something?" At that, a rather dignified visitor stood up & said, "Yes, sir, I’d like to say something. This is the first time I’ve been back in this church in 35 years. I attended Sunday School in my grade school days, & I see here tonight my old Sunday School teacher, Mr. Alton." And he turned to face him. Mr. Alton’s eyes opened wide as he looked at the stranger, who asked, "Mr. Alton, do you remember me? I’m Hurley." After a moment or two, a smile came over Mr. Alton’s face & he said, "It’s been a long time & I’m getting kind of old & my eyesight is not so good."

The visitor continued, "Mr. Alton, I want to tell you something that I think will make you happy. I traveled a long way to talk to you & ask your forgiveness. We were the meanest boys that ever were in Sunday school, & we gave you all kinds of trouble. I guess I was the ringleader in the mischief & meanness that went on.

"On the Sunday before my family moved away, I was particularly obnoxious. After leaving class I remembered something I had left in the room & decided I’d better get it since it was my last day. So I went back & as I looked in the door I saw you seated up front with your head bowed, & it sounded like you were crying. I heard you pray, ‘O Lord, please help me.’ Mr. Alton, I stayed very still for a long time, & then slipped away.

"For 5 years, I hurt inside whenever I thought of you praying there. One day it suddenly occurred to me that I was on the opposite side of the Lord, & I’d been there ever since I was a boy. I’d upset the class & I’d upset the Sunday school & I’d upset everything. It made me pretty miserable.

"Finally I gave my heart to God. I’m an elder in my church now, thanks to the prayer you prayed that day. I’ve been thanking God for you for many years now, & tonight I’ve come to thank you & to let you know."

In that first prayer meeting, we find a vast assortment of people. This meeting shows us how each one of us has a common bond when it comes to prayer. The room was filled with men, women, apostles, friends, family, and various other types of people. How was this possible? It was through the fellowship of group prayer.

The Women Prayed

This was Mary the mother of Jesus and the other women that he had led to salvation. This would have been the group of women that anointed his body for burial and those that had ministered to him.

Luk 8:2 - And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

Luk 8:3 - And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

The Brothers of Jesus Prayed

If we were to follow Christ and his family during his earthly ministry, for the most part they were unbelievers. It was not until his death, burial, and resurrection that they became believers. I wonder how hard this was on Jesus, knowing his own brothers and sisters disbelieved in his ministry.

Mat 13:54-58 "And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this [man] this wisdom, and [these] mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this [man] all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."

Mark 6:1-6 "And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing [him] were astonished, saying, From whence hath this [man] these things? and what wisdom [is] this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed [them]. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching."

J0hn 7:5 "For neither did his brethren believe in him."

After his resurrection his family did become believers and some were even leaders in the early church.

James Prayed

Act 12:17 - But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

Gal 1:19 - But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

Jam 1:1 - James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

Jude Prayed

Jud 1:1 - Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, [and] called:

The Apostles Prayed

Old Converts Prayed

New Converts Prayed

The Notable Prayed

The Unknown Prayed

The Spirit of Prayer

The Simplicity of Prayer

The Serenity of Prayer

The Surety of Prayer

The Sovereignty of Prayer

When God’s people come together in prayer Jesus Christ becomes the center piece of the service. It is a notable and needful thing for God’s people to allow prayer to bring us together. The unique thing about prayer is that the ground is level. A person does not have to be notable or powerful, all one needs to be is a child of God.

Illustration: “The Power of Prayer”

Jim Cymbala began at the Brooklyn Tabernacle as an ill-equipped, under-educated, time-strapped preacher who led a second congregation in New Jersey. The Brooklyn church had no money to pay him, a ramshackle building, and barely enough attendance to bother with weekly meetings. Today, the Tabernacle hosts around 6,000 spirit-filled worshipers. The difference came when Jim, in a moment of desperation, set aside his planned message and called the church to pray. The weekly prayer meeting, not the Sunday worship, became the focal point of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Jim’s belief that "God can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him" (p. 19) guides his work. It is Prayer, not preaching that brings Revival.

In coming together for a time of corporate prayer it does not matter who the person beside you is, all that matters is that you are fellowshiping in a time of supplication. When Christians unite in group prayer it is one of the most fulfilling and refreshing acts that the church can ever partake in. When we are in one accord, mighty things can happen in our midst.

One Accord in Supplication

Act 1:14 - These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

One Accord in Anticipation

Act 2:1 - And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

One Accord in Continuation

Act 2:46 - And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

One Accord in Adoration

Act 4:24 - And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou [art] God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

One Accord in Association

Act 5:12 - And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.

One Accord in Determination

Act 15:25 - It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

If you belong to a local church, you should be involved in the prayer ministry of that church. It is not only our responsibility to pray for people, but we should pray with people. It is one thing to pray for your pastor but another thing to pray with your pastor. It is needful to pray for your brethren, but altogether more so to pray with your brethren.

Illustration: “Group Prayer”

In his book Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee describes a preaching mission to an island off the South China coast. There were seven in the ministering group, including a sixteen-year-old new convert whom he calls Brother Wu. The island was fairly large, containing about 6,000 homes. Nee had a contact there, an old schoolmate of his who was headmaster of the village school, but he refused to house the group when he discovered they had come to preach the Gospel. Finally, they found lodging with a Chinese herbalist, who became their first convert. Preaching seemed quite fruitless on the island, and Nee discovered it was because of the dedication of the people there to an idol they called Ta-wang. They were convinced of his power because on the day of his festival and parade each year the weather was always near perfect.

"When is the procession this year?" young Wu asked a group that had gathered to hear them preach.

"It is fixed for January 11th at 8 in the morning," was the reply. "Then," said the new convert, "I promise you that it will certainly rain on the 11th." At that there was an outburst of cries from the crowd: "That is enough! We don't want to hear any more preaching. If there is rain on the 11th, then your God is God!"

Watchman Nee had been elsewhere in the village when this confrontation had taken place. Upon being informed about it, he saw that the situation was serious and called the group to prayer. On the morning of the 11th, there was not a cloud in the sky, but during grace for breakfast, sprinkles began to fall and these were followed by heavy rain. Worshipers of the idol Ta-wang were so upset that they placed it in a sedan chair and carried it outdoors, hoping this would stop the rain. Then the rain increased. After only a short distance, the carriers of the idol stumbled and fell, dropping the idol and fracturing its jaw and left arm.

A number of young people turned to Christ as a result of the rain coming in answer to prayer, but the elders of the village made divination and said that the wrong day had been chosen. The proper day of the procession, they said, should have been the 14th. When Nee and his friends heard this, they again went to prayer, asking for rain on the 14th and for clear days for preaching until then. That afternoon the sky cleared and on the good days that followed there were thirty converts. Of the crucial test day, Nee says: The 14th broke, another perfect day, and we had good meetings. As the evening approached we met again at the appointed hour. We quietly brought the matter to the Lord's remembrance. Not a minute late, His answer came with torrential rain and floods as before.

The power of the idol over the islanders was broken; the enemy was defeated. Believing prayer had brought a great victory. Conversions followed. And the impact upon the servants of God who had witnessed His power would continue to enrich their Christian service from that time on. Roger F. Campbell, You Can Win!, 1985, SP Publications, pp. 35-36.


In 1857 there was a 46 year old man named Jeremiah Lamphere who lived in New York City. Jeremiah loved the Lord tremendously, but he didn’t feel that he could do much for the Lord until he began to feel a burden for the lost and accepted an invitation from his church to be an inner city missionary. So in July of 1857 he started walking up and down the streets of New York passing out tracts and talking to people about Jesus, but he wasn’t having any success. Then God put it on his heart to try prayer. So he printed up a bunch of tracts, and he passed them out to anyone and everyone met. He invited anyone who wanted to come to the 3rd floor of the Old North Dutch Reform Church on Fulton St. in New York City from 12 to 1 on Wednesday to pray. He passed out hundreds and hundreds of fliers and put up posters everywhere he could. Wednesday came and at noon nobody showed up. So Jeremiah got on his knees and started praying. For 30 minutes he prayed by himself when finally five other people walked in. The next week 20 people came. The next week between 30 and 40 people came. They then decided to meet every day from 12:00 to 1:00 to pray for the city.

Before long a few ministers started coming and they said, "We need to start this at our churches." Within six months there were over 5000 prayer groups meeting everyday in N.Y. Soon the word spread all over the country. Prayer meetings were started in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington D.C. In fact President Franklin Pierce started going almost every day to a noonday prayer meeting. By 1859 some 15,000 cities in America were having downtown prayer meetings everyday at noon, and thousands were brought to Christ. The great thing about this revival is that there is not a famous preacher associated with it. It was all started by one man wanting to pray. People have been seeking God, and seeking a relationship with God through Jesus Christ for centuries. (From a sermon by Rich Anderson, Seeking The Face Of Jesus Christ 2/18/2011)

II. Church Leaders Must Pray

Act 3:1 - Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, [being] the ninth [hour].

A) Place of Prayer

It is great seeing the church leaders going to a Jewish Temple to observe prayer. The leaders understood the importance of praying and the felt comfortable going down to the temple for a time of prayer.

Jesus had a special place for praying, it was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Often in his ministry Jesus could be found praying in the garden. At times he would pray alone and at other times he allowed the disciples to go and pray with him.

B) Time of Prayer

In this text we notice Peter and John observing a special time for praying. This is not unusual, due to the fact that Jesus often rose up early in the morning to pray. The Psalmist tells us that he prayed evening, morning, and at noon.

Psa 55:16 - As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.

Psa 55:17 - Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

In the Old Testament, Daniel had specific set times for prayer.

Dan 6:10 - Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

If we look through the book of Acts we will see that the early church distinctly noted the specific times of their prayers.

Act 2:15 - For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is [but] the third hour of the day. (This would have been 9 am)

Act 3:1 - Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, [being] the ninth [hour]. (This would have been 3 pm)

Act 10:9 - On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: (This would have been 12 pm)

Act 10:9 - On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: (This was 12 pm)

Act 10:30 - And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, (This was 3 pm)

It is one thing for us to fish together, eat together, camp together, vacation together, but altogether more for us to pray together. In our day and age it is high time for church leaders to come together for prayer.

III. Church Families Must Pray

A) Prayers that are Unique

Act 21:5 - And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till [we were] out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.

B) Prayers that are Unified

Act 20:36 - And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.

I wonder how many families still pray together. How many of our kids will have memories of mom and dad actually praying for them within the walls of their homes? It is a sad indictment upon us that in our modern day society families have lost the art of praying together.

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