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"O sovereign Lord, thou art God, who madest heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that is in them who saidst also by the mouth of thy servant David, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the people imagine vain things? Why did kings of the earth stand up, and why were the rulers gathered together against the Lord, and against his anointed?' For in truth, against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together in this city, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all freedom they may speak thy word; by stretching forth thy hands to heal; and by the doing of signs and wonders, through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.' Here then is another unquestionable instance of social prayer; nor is there any pretence for affirming that this was an inspired prayer, or "among the supernatural gifts," for at the conclusion of it we are informed that, "when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were filled with the holy spirit, and spake the word of God with freedom." So that they were supernaturally assisted to teach, but not to pray.
a In this and the 30th verse the Greek word is the same as that which the translators of the common version have properly rendered servant in the 25th.
When the number of the converts was greatly multiplied in Jerusalem, so that the apostlés found the daily distribution of alms interfered with their other duties, they called a general assembly of the disciples and directed them to choose seven deacons to superintend this business; and the disciples having chosen them, "they set them before the apostles; who, when they had prayed, put their hands on them." This of course was social prayer. And the reason, moreover, which the apostles gave for the appointment of these officers for such a purpose was, that they themselves might continue "steadfast in prayer, and in the ministry of the word;" so that prayer is here connected with preaching, the former consequently being public as well as the latter, and both of them constituting the chief employment of the apostles.
We are afterwards informed ", that whilst Peter was kept in prison, "earnest prayer was made by the church to God for him." The natural and obvious sense of these words is, that the united prayers of these Christians on this occasion were offered up to God in behalf of Peter, when they were assembled together; and this signification of the passage is further confirmed by what is said in the 12th verse; "And when they had considered the matter" of Peter's enlargement," he came to the house of Mary,
a Acts. vi. 1-7.
b Acts xii. 5,
the mother of John, surnamed Mark; where many were gathered together, and were praying." What could this be, if it were not social prayer? Certainly it was not closet devotion; and it manifestly shows that the former instance was social too.
In the next chapter we are informed, that at the time when Barnabas and Saul were separated for the ministry, "When they," that is, the other prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch, “had fasted and prayed, and put their hands on them, they sent them away." The putting on of hands and praying, on this occasion, were evidently, both of them, public and social
And when Paul and Barnabas, on a subsequent occasion, had appointed elders over the different churches which they had visited, "and -had prayed and fasted, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed." The evident probability is, that this also is an instance of a similar nature.
But one of the most remarkable instances of social prayer, as practised among Christians now, is that which took place at the close of the discourse delivered by Paul to the inhabitants of Miletus, when, it is said, he kneeled down and prayed with them all. No preposition, it has been observed, could have been selected, that
b Ibid. xx. 36.
a Acts xiii. 3.
would have conveyed the idea of union more clearly than that which is made use of here: and by these expressions every unbiassed person would immediately understand, that a prayer was delivered by Paul, in which the assembly silently joined. The meaning of such language is determined by general consent, which is here unequivocal 2.
A similar act was also performed by the same apostle and his companion Luke, in conjunction with the Christians of Tyre". "When we were departing," says the writer, "they all conducted us on our way, with their wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down and prayed;" which was of course social prayer.
To these instances may be added the account which is given of what took place at Philippi c. "On the sabbath day," says the historian, "we," that is, Paul and his companion Luke, "went out of the city by a river, where prayer was wont to be made and we sat down and spake to the women who resorted thither :" and from the 16th verse it is generally inferred that they prayed with them. It is probable, however, from the form of expression in this passage, that here was a proseuche, in which Paul both prayed with those
a Pope's Answer to Wakefield.
b Acts xxi. 5.
c Ibid. xvi. 12.
d It is contended that this passage ought to be rendered, "We went out of the city by a river, where according to re
who were present, and taught them in the manner in use in the Synagogue 2.
However, should this instance be considered as equivocal, it it is perfectly unnecessary. The others already adduced, are clear and satisfactory; and, if we consider the conciseness of the history in which they occur, and the extremely unsettled state of Christians at that time, they will certainly appear to be as numerous as circumstances would permit. It was immediately after the ascension of Christ that they began, or rather continued, the practice of social prayer, and nothing can be more evident than that they were afterwards constantly in the habit of using all occasions proper for this purpose as they occurred. This will further appear from the passages in the epistles that refer to the subject.
To the Corinthians the apostle gives directions on the subject, which prove indisputably that prayer was not confined to the closet, but that Christians were then in the habit of using it in their assemblies for religious purposes: the man whilst praying was to have his head unco
ceived custom, or, as was allowed by law (vouito), there was a proseuche. See Jennings's Jewish Antiquities, vol. ii. book ii. ch. ii. p. 69.
a When the law was read, out of respect the reader stood; but when any person taught the people in the Synagogue, he sat, as Paul did on this occasion. Hence Prideaux and others think the proseuche here was used for religious purposes similar to those which were practised in these places of worship. See Conn. part i. book vi. page 388, the note.
b 1 Cor. xi. 4.