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Ministry and prayer do not function apart from each other. Prayer serves as the catalytic agent for change. “Your entire ministry reflects your prayer life.”[1]  In keeping with the effects of prayer, rephrase this statement to address the multicultural church.  If ministry leaders seek to reach and unify a diverse population as one in Christ, then, what role does prayer play to this end? This essay reviews four heating pad prayers from the early church that support unity through intentional actions.

Jan Paron/February 18, 2013

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:20-23 KJV).

Premises of Unity.2

John 17 Premises for Unity

Scripture mandates the Body to reconcile and unite as one in Christ. One finds the very core of unity in John 17:20-23.  As part of the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prays for oneness:

  • Vision of Purpose and Knowledge.That believers may be joined together in “one fold and one shepherd” with “unity of purpose and knowledge through Jesus” (cf John 10:30; 17:21a).
  • Bearing of Witness. That believers abide in the one Shepherd and as one fold to bear unified witness in one accord to the identity of Jesus as the Sent One (John 17:21b).
  • Reflection of God’s Glory. That they may be kept in solidarity as one fold, transformed into His likeness to reflect His glory (John 17:22; 2 Cor 3:18).
  • Perfection of One in Him. That they may be made complete and full as one, believers collectively abiding in Christ and Him dwelling within every believer (John 17:23).[2]

SMC.Intentionality in Practice

Intentional Reaching for Unity

Intentional ministry purposes a twofold action: open access to the elect for reconciliation with God by reaching across the cultural milieu to the multitudes and bring this collective Body into one fold with the one Shepherd.  Jesus exemplified intentionality in His earthly ministry. In an earlier work, I listed eight biblical, intentional actions that support unity for a multicultural church[3]

  1. Reconciliation. Giving opportunity for reconciliation with God to the multitudes;
  2. Invitation. Inviting and welcoming the multitudes into all facets of ministry;
  3. Shared Power. Involving diverse team members in the decision-making process within the circle of power in your ministry;
  4. Diverse Team. Bringing together a diverse team of like-minded people in your ministry staff;
  5. Brotherhood. Living in brotherhood and esteeming culture;
  6. Relationships. Developing relationships with people from other cultures; as well as creating opportunity for cross-cultural fellowship;
  7. Measurements. Using spiritual growth measures to assess progress for unity within your ministry and
  8. Community. Blueprinting, architecting and inspecting the surrounding and outlying communities to guide inward and outward focuses.

Prayer Chain.Three

Prayer Basics

Prayer in its most basic form entails calling on the name of the Lord. You see this in both the Old and New Testaments (cf. Joel 2:32; Rom 10:9, 12-13). The New Testament verb for pray includes two meanings:

  • proseuchomai (προσεύχομαι) takes on multiple actions in which one offers up prayer or addresses a direct discourse to God containing a prayer; while
  • deomai (δέομαι) refers to requesting or supplicating to God in a direct discourse for something, either individually or communally.[4]

While people prayed two different ways in the New Testament, both involve direct individual or communal address to God.

Heating Pad Prayer for Unity

How does prayer influence ministry? Dan Willis refers to prayer as “the heating pad for love to grow.[5]  Wikipedia says you use a heating pad to warm parts of the body to manage pain. When you apply the heating pad its warmth opens localized vessels that enables blood to flow into the surrounding tissue. The increased blood flow carries more oxygen and nutrients that, in turn, support healing in the damaged muscle tissue. [6] Using this same analogy, prayer in the Name opens a pathway for the blood of Jesus to travel to the Body. As the blood flows to the different members it transforms with renewing, restorative and reconciliatory nutrients that heal for a united whole in Christ. A story about Charles Spurgeon illustrates this heating action.

Five students went to hear C.H. Spurgeon preach.  As they waited, a gentleman greeted them and asked if they would like to see the church’s heating plant. Though it was a hot day, they followed so not to offend him. The gentleman took them to another room and showed them the heating plant. To the students’ surprise they saw “700 people in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above.” That gentleman was none other than Charles Spurgeon (Our Daily Bread, April 24).[7]

Prayer, then, activates conditions for oneness, spreading Jesus’ message of love and unity throughout the Body. The New Testament models intentional, heating pad prayer that Jesus Himself prayed for in John 17:20-23: Vision of purpose and knowledge; bearing of witness; reflection of God’s glory and perfection of one in Him. Let’s look at four types of prayer that create a culture of intentionality. All four originated during the early church’s inception as told in the Book of Acts.  These prayer forms are Upper Room, Koinōnia, Ninth Hour and Shake the Foundation.

Heating Pad Action 1: Upper Room Prayer (Acts 1:14)

After Jesus’ ascension, His disciples go to an upper room as He commanded them to wait for promise of the Father (Acts 1:4) until they “were endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). There, 120 male and female disciples continued steadfastly in “one accord and supplication” (1:14).[8] They were in unity as one. Gospel author Luke often used the word homothymadon (ὁμοθυμαδὸν; cf. one accord) to reflect the spiritual unity of believers (cf. 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 8:6; 15:25).[9] Oneness transpires while the disciples assume a prayer posture characterized by persevering, enduring and prevailing.  Luke does not tell how long they prayed, but steadfast prayer suggests a longer time span.

Intentional Actions: Diverse Team and Wide Circle of Shared Power

Unity runs through Acts 1:13 — one mind, one posture and one place. The disciples’ obedience launched the upper room prayer, resulting in a sequence of events. Think about it. The upper room prayer cut through hierarchical structure, as well as gender and age to break exclusionary boundaries for a wide circle of power. Everyone there focused intently on the one purpose of waiting for the promise of the Father. Due to the obedience of their actions, they were filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Endued with power, these same disciples’ witnessed among the gathered. Later, the “Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” reconciling both Judean and Hellenist Jews (Acts 2:47). The gathered included Jews from the 12 nations: Parthia, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya near Cyrene (Acts 2:9-11).

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  • Does your church practice unified, upper room prayer in a heating plant?
  • Do church leaders regularly model, teach and provide access to upper room  prayer for all congregants?

Heating Pad Action 2: Koinōnia Prayer (Acts 2:42-47)

Koinonia translates to fellowship. Its root, koinos, means “to hold something in common. So, the first commonality was being partakers of Christ through baptism in the name of Jesus and baptism of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:6). The awaited infilling of the Promise brought them as partakers into the fellowship of the Body of Christ (Luke 24:49).[10] In this context, koinōnia takes on a second commonality, with the partakers themselves joined together in spiritual unity. With the combined two, koinōnia reflected partakers in shared communion with God and each other in Christ. Further, once joined partakers brought further spiritual unity to koinōnia by “steadfastly continuing” (Acts 2:42 INT) engagement in the “apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (2:42b NKJV). The descriptor steadfastly continuing (Greek: proskarterountes, προσκαρτεροῦντες) illustrates these four actions (v. 42). Written in present participle active, steadfastly continuing means “to give constant attention to a thing,”[11]  In the context of prayer, it describes an ongoing devotion (cf. 1:14), daily occurrence (2:42) with a one accord posture (v. 42).

Intentional Actions: Reconciliation, Brotherhood and Community

The church formed during Pentecost when both Jerusalem Jews and scattered Hellenist Jews gathered together for the feast. This gathering merged cultures influenced by geographic location, even though all were Jews. Prayer cut across these variances through continual prayer with unity as the binding agent. Their unity in koinōnia prayer formed relationship and strengthened community. It also brought about another result, which was “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (v. 47). In sum, koinōnia prayer supports reconciliation, brotherhood and community.  One other point about prayer brings internal and external aspects. The early Jewish Christians still attended temple services and prayed there, which gave witness of Christ to others.

REFLECTIONS QUESTIONS:

  • Do partakers join in unified fellowship to steadfastly continue in koinōnia prayer on a daily basis?
  • Does your church open intentional access to koinōnia prayer for people from diverse backgrounds?
  • Does your church hold koinōnia prayer in different internal and external locations using different formats and taking into consideration community culture and felt needs?
  • Is koinōnia prayer practiced in a way that invites and welcomes people from various cultures?
  • Do you have a middle-door strategy to prevent newcomer and mature Christian departures through the back door away from koinōnia prayer?

Heating Pad Action 3 Ninth-Hour Prayer (Acts 3:1-9)

During the formative years of the early church, the Jewish Christians interacted with Jews in the temple. Acts 3-4 (approximately, A.D.  6-7), shows no exception. Peter and John enter the temple for ninth hour prayer, a Jewish prayer service for confession and gift offering.[12]  A lame man asks the two for alms.  Peter explains that “such as I have give I thee: and commands the lame man ‘In the name of Jesus to rise up and walk’” (Acts 3:6 KJV). Showing compassion to the man’s needs, Peter evokes the name of Jesus and commands[13]  healing. This act of care and generosity brought the man reconciliation to God through the New Covenant gift offering of spiritual wholeness by means of Jesus’ authority.

Intentional Actions: Reconciliation, Invitation and Spiritual Growth Measures

The intentional action of ninth hour prayer for unity accomplished several purposes. First, it gave access to the new temple of the living God for someone who had no past opportunity to do so. Right above the fifteen steps to the Nicanor Gate, “neither women, nor maimed and unclean could pass.”[14] This access resulted in reconciliation. Further, Peter and John bore collective witness (John 17:21b) of Christ with outward expression of the resurrected Messiah, the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15). As they participated in ninth hour prayer and taught among the people, the apostle’s intentional actions sparked 5,000 who heard the word to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (4:4). Thus, you seek measurable results of this action by visible numbers.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  • Does your church actively seek the lost for ninth hour prayer?
  • Does your church purposefully pray ninth hour prayer in the Name outside the four walls of the church?
  • Do church ministries go to different places within the community for ninth hour prayer in a planned way?
  • Does your church study communities for ninth hour prayer by architecting, blueprinting and inspecting them for spiritual strongholds.
  • Does your church intentionally adapt ninth hour prayer structures to the multitudes for their access to reconciliation with God?

Heating Pad Action 4: Shake the Foundation Prayer (Acts 4:23-31)

Continuing with this account from Acts 3-4, the author of Acts tells that Peter and John annoyed temple rulers to the point of the apostles’ arrest (Acts 4:3). The rulers and council members summoned Peter and John and told them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (4:18), but ended up releasing them because “all men” glorified God over the man’s healing after 40 years of lameness (vv. 21-22).  The apostles went to their own company and told all that occurred (v. 23). They did not return to their immediate family, but spiritual family of faith. The following verses play a critical role in illustrating unity that further spread the Gospel message.  In Acts 4:24, Luke writes that they lifted their voice in praise to God, with “one accord” (4:24) – All members of the spiritual family of faith.  They petitioned [15] God to declare His message fearlessly, while He stretched His hand “to cure and to perform signs and wonders through the authority and by the power of the name of Your holy Child and Servant Jesus (vv.29-30).”

Intentional Actions: Shared Power and Diverse Team

They prayed together, in one accord and equality in approaching the throne for boldness. When they did, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). The coming together of the saints in prayer opens a channel for the power of the Holy Spirit to give boldness (Greek: parrēsia, παρρησία) that enables speaking freely in an unreserved, unconcealed and unambiguous way. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they went out and spoke the Word with boldness as requested (4:31). The word they (v. 31) implies everyone who prayed. After speaking the Word of God boldly, the company of believers joined in one heart and mind, had great power for witness and experienced great grace resting on them (vv. 32-33 AMP). They shared what they had, and no one was needy (vv. 34) – Shake the foundation prayer served as the agent for momentum in bringing a diverse body together. When a company of believers pray together in one accord, they break down existing cultural nuances and hierarchy. God is no respecter of persons (10:34).

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  • Does your team practice regular, shake the foundation prayer for boldness to teach, proclaim and heal in Jesus’ name?
  • Does your church seek shake the  foundation prayer with every tribe, nation and tongue?

Close: Living Out Unity in Acts 29

Though the Book of Acts concludes at chapter 28, it requires us to live out the same intentional unity from the early church. Karel Marek highlights three words from Acts: witness, Pentecost and prayer. He recommends that we write Acts chapter 29. [16]  God equips us for Acts 29 with the Promise. Through the infilling and anointing of the Holy Spirit we are endued with power to witness and represent the authority of the Name to all nations, resulting in growth of the Body in the same proportions as the early church. This same fulfills the vision Jesus prayed for His Church in John 17: Following vision of purpose and knowledge (v. 21a), bearing of witness (v. 21b), reflecting God’s Glory (v. 22) and perfecting of one in Him (v. 23).[17]  Thus, we return to the original question, if ministry leaders seek to reach and unify a diverse population as one in Christ, then, what role does prayer play to this end? It’s time to let heating pad prayer fire up and show the Light, to extinguish darkness and bring renewed life to every kindred, tongue, people and nation for the time is near for a new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem! (cf. Rev 7:9-17).

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To Ponder…

  • Quote from Verbal Bean: “Your entire ministry reflects your prayer life. Your walk with God, your testimony, even your countenance witnesses if you’ve prayed like you ought. [18]
  • Quote from Martin Mittelstadt on Karel Marek: “To encourage a person/church in the writing of Acts 29, Marek weaves a connection among three words in Acts: witness, Pentecost, and prayer. In order to write additional chapters to Acts, he believes churches must start with the prayers in the upper room (Acts 1).”[19]  What is the relationship between upper room prayer, church growth and unity of a diverse Body?
  • What role does prayer play in your church to bring growth and unity for a multicultural church?

Endnotes

  • [1] Steven G. Carrier, ed., Verbal Bean: Prayer 6th Printing (2009), 11.
  • [2] Jan Paron, The Mandate for Unity, Cited 18 February 2013. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/seeking-the-m-o-s-a-i-c-church-the-mandate-for-unity/
  • [3] Jan Paron, M.O.S.A.I.C. Church Framework: “M” Intentionally Ministers to the Multitudes. Cited 20 February 2013. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/m-o-s-a-i-c-church-framework-m-intentionally-ministers-to-the-multitudes/</span
  • [4] Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009). 545, 129.
  • [5] Dan Willis, 20/20 Turnaround Conference, Nashville: Life Way Conference Center, 2012. Dan Willis is senior and founding pastor of the Lighthouse Church of All Nations at thelighthousechurch.org.
  • [6] Wikipedia, “Heating Pad,” n.p. [cited 23 February 2013]. Online:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
  • [7] Christian Prayer Quotes. n.p. [cited 23 February 2013]. Online: http://www.christian-prayer-quotes.christian-attorney.net/
  • [8] Ben Witherington notes that Codex D adds σὺν γυναιξὶν to include “along with women,” referring to the wives and children of the apostles. This indicates a merging of familial households into the Christ of faith. Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1998), 113. Darrell Bock agrees with this same structure adding that Luke highlights the role of women in spreading the Gospel in Acts. Darrell L. Bock, Acts: Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2007), 78.
  • [9] Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1998), 113. Witherington tells that Luke is the only New Testament author to use ὁμοθυμαδὸν to illustrate the spiritual unity of the early community of believers. He describes oppositional unity with the same word but with a different connotation (7:57; 12:20; 18:12; 19:29).
  • [10] Daryl Cox, “The Last Supper,” PerSpectives 12. n.p. [cited 25 February 2013]. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/the-last-supper/
  • [11] Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 352. See also, Bob Gilliam, The Importance of Fellowship in a New Testament Church. n.p. [cited 25 February 2013]. Online: http://bible.org/seriespage/importance-fellowship-new-testament-church.
  • [12] Ninth hour is the second hour of prayer (Acts 3:1; 10:9) according to temple services. Michal Hunt explains that is the hour of prayer for “Minchah” (gift-offering), known as the “hour of confession” (Cited 19 February 2013. Online: http://awarenessministry.org/biblicalhoursofprayer.htm.
  • [13] The verb here for prayer is didōmi, indicating a petitionary prayer form. Daniel Harrington defines a petitionary prayer as “requests to God on behave of the one making the prayer, either personal or communal in context.” In Jesus and Prayer: What the New Testament Teaches Us, Frederick: The Word Among Us, 2009, loc 63.
  • [14] Craig Keener, The Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 19910, 331.
  • [15]  Greek: deēthentōn for pray, which is a request or supplication.
  • [16] Martin William Mittelstadt, Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (Cleveland: CPT Press), loc. 998.
  • [17] Jan Paron, The Mandate for Unity, Cited 18 February 2013. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/seeking-the-m-o-s-a-i-c-church-the-mandate-for-unity/
  • [18] Verbal Bean, 11.
  • [19] Mittelstadt, Reading Luke-Acts, loc. 998. Karel Marek remarks come from his article,  “Acts 29,” published in The Pentecostal Testimony 70 (December 1989), 24.