To a candid pagan it must have been one of the most remarkable points of Christianity, on its first appearance, that the observance of prayer formed so vital a part of its organisation; and that, though its members were scattered all over the world, and its rulers and subjects had so little opportunity of correlative action, yet they, one and all. found the solace of a spiritual intercourse and a real bond of union, in the practice of mutual intercession.
Prayer indeed is the very essence of all religion; but in the heathen religions it was either public or personal; it was a state ordinance, or a selfish expedient for the attainment of certain tangible, temporal goods. Very different from this was its exercise among Christians, who were thereby knit together in one body, different, as they were, in races, ranks and habits, distant from each other in country, and helpless amid hostile populations. Yet it proved sufficient for its purpose. Christians could not correspond; they could not combine; but they could pray for one another. Even their pubic prayers partook of this character of intercession; for to pray for the welfare of the whole Church was in fact a prayer for all the classes of men and all the individuals of which it was composed. It was in prayer that the Church was founded. For ten days all the Apostles "persevered with one mind in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren." Then again at Pentecost "they were all with one mind in one place"; and the converts then made are said to have "persevered in prayer." And when, after a while, St. Peter was seized and put in prison with a view to being put to death, "prayer was made without ceasing" by the Church of God for him; and, when the Angel released him, he took refuge in a house "where many were gathered together in prayer."