PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Devoted To Prayer

01/04 Devoted To Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150104_devoted-to-prayer.mp3

As I began my readings for the new year, a word in Acts 1 intrigued me. It is translated ‘were devoting themselves to’

The Greek word behind the English ‘devoted to’ is [προσκαρτερέω proskartereo]. Here is how some of the dictionaries define it:

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G4342 προσκαρτερέω proskartereo (pros-kar-ter-eh’-o) v.

1. to be earnest towards

2. (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent

3. (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises

4. (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor)

[from G4314πρός pros (pros’) prep.1. forward to, i.e. toward and G2594 καρτερέω kartereo (kar-ter-eh’-o) v.1. to be strong 2. (figuratively) to endure]

[Thayer] – Original: προσκαρτερέω; Transliteration: Proskartereo; Phonetic: pros-kar-ter-eh’-o

– Definition:

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

This is a strong word. It appears only 10 times in the New Testament. What is it that the early believers were devoted to, what were they earnest toward or constantly diligent or steadfastly attentive to; what is it they gave their unremitting care to? As we evaluate the successes and failures of a past year and look forward to a new year and seek to re-prioritize and re-purpose for the new year, it would do us well to look to what the early church was passionately committed to. Twice we find this word connected to another word. In Acts 1:14 and in Acts 2:46 we find the word translated ‘devoted to’ with the word [ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon], which is translated ‘together’ or ‘with one accord’ or ‘with one mind’

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G3661 ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon (hom-oth-oo-mad-on’) adv.

1. unanimously

[adverb from a compound of the base of G3674 and G2372]

Whatever it is that the early church was unanimously constantly diligent and steadfastly attentive to, is probably important for us to resolve to devote ourselves to as well.

Let’s look at some of the verses, see if we can pick up some themes, and think together about what we should do about it.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

The early believers unanimously constantly diligent in prayer. Acts 2:42 adds three things to prayer.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

They were earnest towards the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayers.

Acts 2:46 has both of these words together.

[ESV] Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

It comes through more clearly in the Lexham English Bible, another literal translation.

[LEB] Acts 2:46 And every day, devoting themselves to meeting with one purpose in the temple courts and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their food with joy and simplicity of heart,

They unanimously gathered to meet together in public, and they gathered in homes to break bread and to eat together. The next verse is telling.

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

As the early church was passionately committed to these things, God was saving people and connecting them with the growing church. There seems to be a connection between the unanimous devotion of the believers and the fruitfulness of the gospel in their communities.

Here is why the Apostles appointed others to oversee the charitable activities of the church:

Acts 6:2 …“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. …4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The same word is used in Romans 12 and Colossians 4.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

So we see repeatedly that the early church devoted themselves to prayer. We also see that they devoted themselves to preaching and hearing the word, to breaking bread, to fellowship, to eating together. If these are things the early Christians were earnestly and unanimously devoted to, these are things we to ought to be faithfully passionate about.

Why These Things?

But why have the followers of Jesus throughout history been committed to hearing and teaching the word, to table fellowship with the believers, to remembering Jesus in the breaking of bread, and primarily to prayer? What is it about these things that captured the heart and the attention of the church? What is it about prayer that is so clearly foundational and central to the Christian life?

Prayer

First, what is prayer? Simply put, prayer is our communication with God. When we address God with worship, with thanksgiving, with confession, with requests, that is prayer. Prayer is our side of communication with God. Jesus had much to say about prayer. He exhorted his disciples to pray, he taught them how to pray (and how not to pray), he told them parables about prayer, and he modeled for them a life devoted to prayer.

Prayer, the way Jesus taught it, is humbling. If you think of the four aspects of prayer, worship is telling God how awesome he is, that he is greater than all else, including me. Worship is telling God all the things I admire about him, most of which are not true of me, and those things that are true of me in some degree are true in me only in an imperfect and flawed reflection of who he is. Worship is turning my attention away from me an to God, paying attention to him, celebrating and enjoying him for who he is. Confession is agreeing with God about the perfect standard and acknowledging how far I fall short of that standard. Thanksgiving is looking at the good things he gives that I don’t deserve and couldn’t earn and expressing gratitude as a humble recipient of great and glorious gifts. Requests are an expression of my need and his overwhelming generosity, of my emptiness and his fullness, of my brokenness and his wholeness, of my lack and his infinite supply. Being devoted to prayer means being constantly humbled in his presence.

And yet the privilege of prayer is amazing beyond comprehension. I can approach the all holy God in prayer because he so loved me that he gave his only Son to die in my place, pay my price, and purchase me as his own prized possession. Jesus opened to me the way of prayer through his own blood. I have been forgiven and cleansed and made new, and I can stand before him as a saint, a holy one. I have been adopted into the family of God, and can now address him as Father. He has taken me into his confidence, and I can address him as Friend. I have been granted bold access to the throne of grace. That is a humbling amazing reality that I am reminded of when I pray.

Prayer is our necessary connection to Jesus. Jesus used the metaphor of a vine with branches. He said:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

We must stay constantly connected to Jesus in order to be alive and to bear fruit. The circulatory system must carry away waste and deliver nutrients to the branch and or the branch will die. We are to pray as if our life depended on it, because it does! We are to be devoted to prayer. A branch disconnected from the root will not last long. Prayer is to be as natural and constant as breathing; taking in life giving oxygen, exhaling to carry away dangerous waste. Our connection with Jesus is directly related to our life and fruitfulness. A Christian who is not constantly connected with Jesus will not grow or produce fruit.

The Apostles,

Acts 1:13 …Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

These men had been with Jesus. When Jesus had called them to follow him, they gladly left everything. They enjoyed being with him. They had spent time with Jesus. Jesus had poured into them, invested in them, spent time with them. He taught them, trained them, answered their questions, calmed their fears, assuaged their doubts, prepared them for the future. When Jesus told them that he was going away, ‘sorrow filled their hearts’ (Jn.16:6). They wanted nothing more than to be with Jesus. They longed to spend time in his company, being part of what he was doing, remaining connected. Jesus said:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. …24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus was crucified and his disciples scattered. But he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. Their hearts rejoiced and no one could take their joy. Before Jesus ascended bodily to the right hand of his Father, he said

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We abide in Jesus, we maintain that intimate connection with Jesus through prayer, through worship, confession, thanksgiving and requests. We depend on him. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him and his word abides in us, we will bear much fruit.

The Word

Our side of the communication is called prayer. God’s side of the communication is called divine revelation, and this happens primarily through the preaching and hearing of the word. This is why we see an unswerving commitment to the proclamation of biblical truth among the followers of Jesus. We want his word to abide in us. Jesus said to the religious leaders,

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Apostles were Jews who had heard the Scriptures read all their lives. But they had met Jesus, and he created in them a new appetite for God’s word. When Jesus appeared to his disciples,

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Because we have been with Jesus, because we have experienced him as the Word made flesh, we have a new appetite for Jesus, a hunger for his words. We want to hear him speak. His words are life and they are light. We are to be devoted to, steadfastly attentive to the Apostles’ teaching.

The Gospel

The early followers were devoted to the breaking of bread. Jesus broke bread and said ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19). Remembering Jesus by breaking bread is a way to keep our eyes fixed on the gospel. We must not lose sight of the gospel, the good news that Jesus died to save sinners. Jesus took bread.

1 Corinthians 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus intended for us to remember him by breaking bread together. The early church was constantly diligent to break bread together. We too, should be devoted to the breaking of bread whereby we remember Jesus and keep our focus on the gospel.

Table Fellowship

The early church was devoted to fellowship. They ate together. They took food with joy and simplicity of heart. They ate at one another’s homes. Why eating together? The Corinthian church was rebuked for the way they ate together, each one going ahead with his own meal, not sharing and not waiting for one another. The purpose is not food, the purpose is building relationships. Eating together with joy and thankfulness is a way to build relationships. Having a meal together is a way of loving one another, and it can be a way to care for the needy. Discipleship, as Jesus did it, happened through the daily routines of life, walking, talking, traveling, fishing, eating, spending time caring for broken hurting people. The early church was devoted to table fellowship because our vertical relationship with God must bend outward to other people. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

The early disciples were earnest toward eating together as an expression of love. We too must be devoted to fellowship with other believers.

Devoted to Unity in Community

The early church was unanimous in their devotion to fellowship, breaking bread, the word and prayer. These were not only individual exercises. They were together devoted – praying together, listening together ‘with one accord’, eating together, ‘house to house’. The early church was devoted to unity in the context of community. They were together in public, and they were together in their homes. The early church valued one another. Their relationship with Jesus found expression in their attitudes and actions toward one another.

Hindrances to Unanimous Devotion

Why aren’t we devoted to the same things that the followers of Jesus passionately committed themselves to? What keeps us from being earnest toward the things of Christ? If we can identify some of the things that prevent our devotion to Christ, we can begin to weed them out and cultivate a deeper devotion to the things that we are called to be devoted to.

We live in an individualistic society. Our culture does not encourage us to spend time face to face with other human beings, interacting, doing things together, caring for one another, being involved in the lives of others. We have been trained with a consumer worldview, where we ask the question ‘what can I get out of this’ and ‘how does this benefit me’ rather than, ‘what can I give’ and ‘how can I benefit others?’ If we can root out the individualism and self-focus that prevents us from living in genuine community with others, we will be more free to devote ourselves to these things.

Sin clearly will hinder us from being devoted to the things of Christ. When we fill our souls with counterfeit food, we ruin our appetites for that which gives life. Our desires need to be transformed. We have an empty gaping hole in our souls, and we seek to cram it full of stuff to satisfy our longings. We need to unpack the junk so that we can recognize that our true longings can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. When we crowd our lives with busyness we are simply being pulled in too many directions to be devoted to anything. When we fill our lives with noise, it drowns out any opportunity to listen to his voice. We need to take a hard look. Some things may have to go so that we can devote ourselves to prayer, to the word, to the gospel, to love.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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January 4, 2015 - Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I enjoyed your expression on prayer. I keep trying to deepen my understanding & persistence in prayer. I struggle often with the lack of desired results in what I pray about. Actually at times I feel only capable of a desperate lament. But I don’t know what tragedies May have been averted through my feeble prayers.

    Comment by stevemidkiff | January 7, 2015 | Reply


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