This guest post was written by David R. Smith, author of Christianity. . . It’s Like This. He pastors First Baptist Church in Linden, Florida, where he lives with his wife, Jenn, and their son, Josiah. When he’s not preaching, he’s usually looking for great barbeque joints or golfing.
Today’s churches offer different prayer opportunities throughout the week. Some do Wednesday nights while others meet on Sunday evenings. A few even gather on Monday mornings for prayer. But there aren’t very many that offer prayer meetings at 3 a.m.
Yet one church group proved it could be the prime time to pray.
The Early Church’s Late Nights
There’s a fascinating story found in the 12th chapter of Acts that makes a great case for nocturnal prayer meetings. Here’s the skinny: King Herod (Agrippa I) has just killed James and tossed Peter in prison intending to do the same to him. However, Herod must wait until Passover has ended before carrying out his murderous plan. (Hey, you can’t go around killing people while celebrating the goodness of your God.)
But while Herod was waiting for the feast’s end, the very first church was “earnestly praying” for God to rescue him. Consequently, on the last night before Peter was to be killed, an angel of the Lord visits the former fisherman in his jail cell, wakes him from his sleep, and sets him free from his captors. Step by step, the angel led Peter past the guards, through the gates, and out of the prison into the city. Peter then made his way through the dark alleys of Jerusalem and eventually arrived at John Mark’s house where he found his spiritual family in prayer for him. . . in the middle of the night!
There’s much more to this story, but let’s pause in the shadow of the early church long enough to be challenged by their example.
When Peter was imprisoned, the church didn’t turn to Facebook or Fox News to raise awareness. They didn’t petition the authorities or picket Herod’s palace. Rioting in the streets and protesting in the public sector would only have gotten them a matching jail cell (and death sentence).
No, the early church prayed. Earnestly. Through the night.
Granted, they were praying at night, partly because it was the safest time to gather. (This was in the days before it was wise to post prayer meetings on Twitter. #youwoulddie) But they were also praying that night because God hadn’t yet answered their request on behalf of Peter. This midnight prayer meeting was one last effort to bring Peter’s case before God.
As a result of their earnest “middle-of-the-night” prayer they received a miracle: Peter was rescued from prison.
Hear me clearly: I’m not suggesting we discontinue prayer groups that happen during “regular business hours.” Nor am I saying that God can’t perform miracles in broad daylight. I’m merely suggesting that we do what the early church did: pray until God answers . . . even if that means we must pray through the night.
If you think it sounds crazy to pray late at night, consider our preferred method of dealing with trouble: worrying through the night. Yep, the early church willingly forfeited sleep to pray, like Jesus often did; today’s church mindlessly loses sleep to worry.
In the end, both churches lose sleep. . . but only one gets the miracle.
Take a moment to reflect on these questions.
1. When was the last time you prayed until God gave an answer?
2. What’s your first reaction to trouble: worry or prayer? Why?
3. How much more time could you devote to prayer if you cut your TV viewing and Internet surfing in half?
4. How would your life be different if you (and your church) prayed like the early church in Jerusalem?
So, what’s the perfect time for prayer? That’s simple: anytime. God invites us to speak with him about our lives (and those we love) at any given moment. [Click to tweet!]
Check out David R. Smith’s new ebook, Christianity. . . It’s Like This, for an uncomplicated look at what it means to be a Christ follower.
This guest post was written by David R. Smith, author of Christianity. . . It’s Like This. He pastors First Baptist Church in Linden, Florida, where he lives with his wife, Jenn, and their son, Josiah. When he’s not preaching, he’s usually looking for great barbeque joints or golfing. Today’s churches offer different prayer opportunities throughout the week. Some do […]