This semester I’ve been writing about how prayer and mission are inseparable. Sometimes the “prayer people” can look at mission people and think “you’re all about planning and strategizing, but you need to pray so you’re not operating in a worldly way.” Sometimes the “mission people” can think “you’re all about praying, but you should get out of the prayer room and do something.” I believe both camps (prayer people and mission people) are right because prayer and mission go hand in hand, and there are many scriptures to prove it.
In this passage, the disciples give a great example on how to lead a missional prayer meeting.
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The first thing the disciples do is share the report of what happened. When missional communities get together, the first thing they should do is share what God has been doing, especially as it relates to their mission. Sometimes sharing is thanksgiving and sometimes it is prayer requests.
I recommend the triage approach. Whoever has the greatest joy or greatest concern speaks first. The main thing is to not let the sharing go too long, because the following components are equally (if not more) important.
The first thing the disciples do after sharing is worship, which is amazing given that they had just reported about persecution. Still, the disciples knew that worship is what they needed most.
Worship is the place to start in prayer because it gets our eyes off of ourselves and onto God. When our eyes are on Him, our perspective is renewed. When we focus on the greatness of God, we can pray with great peace and greater faith.
Reflect on Scripture
The disciples reflected on Psalm 2, a psalm that tells about the sovereignty of God over kings and nations. What a passage to consider given the difficult times they were facing with the leaders of Jerusalem. Like worship, scripture focused the disciples on God, not on their problems.
There is always a scripture that is fitting for the needs of the community. While people in a missional community are reporting, others should be thinking of applicable scriptures to each situation. Missional communities should read these scripture, discuss and apply them, and then pray them back to God.
The disciples first pray for themselves. In the midst of persecution, they first pray for their own boldness! They knew that spiritual awakening in Jerusalem starts with the church. Before they prayed for God to change things “out there,” they prayed for God to change things “in here” (their hearts).
Their inward prayers were missional too. They didn’t just pray for God to fix problems. They prayed for God to make themselves the solution to the problems. Sometimes we are the problem, so we need the prayer most.
Last, the disciples pray for God to keep doing the miraculous. 5000 people had just put their faith in Jesus! They ask for more.
Missional communities have to spend time praying outwardly focused prayers. If missional communities stop praying outwardly focused prayers, they cease to be a missional community. It’s the first sign that they have become inwardly focused, existing for each other rather than the lost people among them.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.