A Conspicuous Omission of Prayer
Dr. Jay Worth Allen
Much has been written about prayer in the New Testament. Numerous books have been penned on the subject of what is usually called “The Lord’s Prayer,” which I consider more of a “Family Prayer.” Browse through any Christian bookstore or seminary library, and you’ll find a cornucopia of exegesis, analysis and commentaries on the high priestly prayer of Christ in John 17, but I can find only a handful of treatises on the prayers of the apostles. Strange indeed.
So I decided to investigate this conundrum for myself. As I began to survey the recorded prayers of the apostles, two things impressed me and surprised me at the same time:
First off, in the book of Acts, which supplies us with the most information about the apostles, not one prayer of theirs is recorded in its twenty-eight chapters. I suppose this omission is in full harmony with its character because the book of Acts is much more a historical, rather than a devotional book - consisting of what the Spirit did through the apostles, rather than what He did in them. Acts records the public actions of the Lord’s ambassadors, rather than their private practices. The book of Acts does show these men to be men of prayer: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). And we see them engaged in this holy exercise: “Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed” (Acts 9:40); “Peter went up on the housetop to pray” (10:9); “And when he had thus spoken, he knelt down and prayed with them all” (20:36); “And we knelt down on the shore, and prayed” (21:5); “Paul entered in, and prayed” (28:8); yet we are not told what they said in any of these prayers. The nearest we come to a documented prayer is in Acts 8:15: “Who when they were come down, prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit,” but what was said in this prayer is not recorded. The prayer of Acts 1:24 is a prayer of the hundred and twenty, and Acts 4:24-30 is a prayer of “their own company,” neither of these are an individual apostle’s prayer.
The second conspicuous omission - in all of the apostolic prayers - is that which occupies so much prominence in many Churches today. Not once do we find any of the apostles asking God to save the world or to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Neither did the apostles pray for the conversion of a city in which a particular Christian church was located. They, as we should, conformed their prayers to the teaching of Christ, instead of the belching of men. “I pray not for the world,” He said, “but for them which You have given Me” (John 17:9). Now some may argue that He was praying for His immediate apostles or disciples, but He extended His prayer to His believing people to the end of time. “Neither pray I for these alone,” He continued, “but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word” (John 17:20). The Lord’s prayer was not for the world, not for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on all flesh, not for the conversion of a city or a community or a particular street, not for unbelievers, but only for His believing people.
Before anyone’s neck-hairs are raised in furry, I will admit that the apostles did exhort that prayers “be made for all (classes of) men; for kings, and for all that are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) - in this, most of us are woefully lax - yet this exhortation is not for these individual’s salvation but, “that we (the Church) may lead a quite and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (v2).
As the sweetness of honey is best known by the eating, so the ambrosia of the divine and spiritual are realized in the portion in which we are actually and actively engaged in them. May we all garner prayerful skills from the object lessons of the prayers of the Lord and His apostles.
A Conspicuous Omission of Prayer
Published: 2 June 2010 on Freed In Christ! blogsite.
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© 2012 dr. jay & miss diana
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