What Did 1st Century Christians Pray For?

This Sunday I’m preaching on Romans 8:26-27 in which Paul brings up the topic of prayer. As I’ve read, thought, and prepared for the message, I’ve been reminded how much I still need to grow in this area. Compared to prayer, Bible reading comes relatively easy for me. If asked whether I’d rather spend an hour praying to God or an hour reading my Bible, the answer would be easy. And yet over and over again the Bible clearly teaches that Christians should pray–must pray.

Why is prayer so difficult? My guess is that there are a myriad of reasons some of which we’ll touch on this Sunday. One of the reasons that I struggle with it is that I feel my prayers easily turn into a laundry list of my personal needs. In some sense that’s okay. After all Jesus told us to pray for our “daily bread” and Paul taught us to pray “for all things.” And yet clearly prayer wasn’t designed by God as a way for me to turn him in to my personal butler bringing me what I need and want in this world.

Several years ago I read Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper. In the book there was a brief section listing the kinds of things the church prayed for. When I compared the subject of my prayers with the subject of the early Christians’ prayers, I was really convicted. Mine were, shall we say, a bit more “me” centered and theirs were a bit (okay a lot) more God centered. My prayers were asking God to build my kingdom and in their prayers they asked God to build his kingdom.

Well Piper later turned that brief section in Let The Nations Be Glad into a web article called What the New Testament Church Prayed For. I call it an “article” but it’s really just a list of verses showing the kinds of things that were found in the early Christians’ prayers.

Over the years, I’ve referred to it as a way of sparking my own prayer life and I thought it might be helpful for you in the same way. My recommendation is that you click on the article, print it out, and let it guide your prayers. Of course you can and should personalize it. Don’t feel like you have to use the exact words found in the Bible.

My hope is that it will do for you what it did for me–renew your desire to ask God to accomplish his purposes in this world and in my life.

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