Community has become such a buzz word in the larger conversation of humanity—both broadly and the church more specifically—that we are somewhat numb to it. The definitions of community that exist are legion because community has largely become whatever the speaker, writer, or “expert” says it is. Contrary to popular opinion, community is not a fluid idea that changes. How its applied from place to place or culture to culture may be varied to match norms and mores, but with regards to foundation, community is essentially an objective idea. Christian community is certainly an objective idea because there are a few things that the Bible says will be unmistakable marks of the church.
Again, we find in Acts 2:42 one of those objective identifiers of Christian community. Dr. Luke tells us, And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Central to Christian community is the worship of God as is made explicit here. Not only is the preaching of the word central, but so is the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (which is one of the implications of breaking bread together) and the prayers which people make. That is, the community on display here was a community founded upon the worship of the Lord. Community doesn’t simply happen, and it is not built on a contrived idea. Community is intentional and is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and the cross.
Of the 4 things mentioned that sum up the community of the early church in verse 42, it is significant that Luke mentions the practice of prayer. It is unfortunate that many often fail to realize just how intimate prayer actually is. When we pray for others, we are entering into their struggle. We are standing with him/her, and shouldering the weight of their burdens with them. We are entering into a spiritual battle with a brother or sister, fighting a war against the world, the flesh, and the adversaries of the church. It is often true that where community is hollow, the prayer life of that community is hollow. Dead community can be linked to prayer habits that are inconsistent or that are nonexistent.
The temptation to complicate the issue of community is great. The great enemy of our souls would try to convince us that we must have a complex system of programs working in order to achieve community. Often times, the very things that we create to enhance our community tear it apart. People who pray for one another, know one another. People who pray together, trust each other because they are walking shoulder to shoulder in a battle with the power of darkness. Prayer certainly draws us closer to God because it demands that we trust in Him alone, but it also draws us closer to one another because we are following the Biblical mandate to bear one another’s burdens. How well do you know those in your community? Ask yourself, how often you are seeking to pray with them and for them. Through prayer, we not only come to know our community on a deeper level, we also show them great love as we walk them to the throne of grace helping them make their petitions known.