An Introduction to the Book of Acts - The Book of the Action of Prayer

Acts 1.1-14 - NKJV

1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Matt Chandler says about Acts 1 - As the Spirit empowered them to witness, prayer united them to God...From the waiting on Christ’s promises in the Upper Room to the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church, the Apostles and disciples were marked by prayer.

We see a prevailing theme in the background of the Book of Acts - prayer. Prayer is mentioned at least 40 times in the first half of the book. But the mention of prayer in the first church does not end there.

Warren W. Wiersbe, in his Bible Exposition Commentary, notes - “In almost every chapter in Acts you find a reference to prayer, and the book makes it very clear that something happens when God’s people pray.”

Harry A. Ironside, in his Lectures on the Book of Acts, states “... when God is going to do some great thing he moves the hearts of people to pray; He stirs them up to pray in view of that which He is about to do so that they might be prepared for it. The disciples needed the self-examination that comes through prayer and supplication, that they might be ready for the tremendous event which was about to take place …” - wow, let’s stop a moment and ruminate on this...

So let’s go back to vs 14 - These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication - The apostles in vs 14 gave themselves to prayer waiting for the fulfillment of what Jesus had promised that would take place shortly in 1.8.

In a quick exegete - there is a definite article in Greek “The” before the word “prayer" suggesting that they may have been praying at the Jewish designated times of prayer. But we cannot stop there because prayer in that upper room was more than scheduled prayer, the Greek word “proseuche” sometimes has the wider meaning of worship, and it may mean that here in this passage -  indicating a greater sphere of prayer - waiting in prayer, worship in song, making petitions together in prayer, individually and corporately listening to God’s voice, meditating on his word and promise.

As they pray and worship this way in verse 14 - Luke here stresses their unity, a mark of the early Christians that Luke noted frequently in Acts - an inseparable relationship between prayer and unity and the will of God. The disciples were one in their purpose to carry out the will of their Lord.

J. Edwin Orr, in his book "The Fervent Prayer” points to the powerful relationship of prayer and revival. In that book - he writes about the worldwide impact of the great awakening of 1858 in the Northeast USA.

Prayer is historically directly related to the Spirit of God moving in specific geographic locations.

For example - it’s interesting to note what Hudson Taylor’s wife - Maria Jane, said in hind site regarding the churches birthed in China during her husband’s ministry - it is clear to see the difference between those churches that were born in the labor of prayer and those churches that were - with little prayer

So it is evident to us and any reader of Acts that prayer in our personal lives and corporately is the key for any move of God. The great move of God in the birth of the first church begins in a small room of men praying about 1 km or 2/3 of a mile from where Jesus ascended.

Let’s bring this in to context of a practical application for us as a church planting team. It is in our constant thoughts about God and prayers toward God that we hear from Him...God speaks into our inner person. He is addressing us through our thoughts, in our spirit.

We see the role of our spirit - the inner person described in Proverbs 20:27, "The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the inner depths of his heart."

Therefore - God, speaks to our thoughts, sheds light on our lives and guides our way. A Christian’s thought life is a channel for communicating with God— in the inner person, the inner sanctum - there we hear from God and respond to His call on our lives - this is a continual process defining what Paul meant when he told the Thessalonian church “pray without ceasing" in 5.17.

This continual communion was beautifully penned by a Seventeenth-century monk named Brother Lawrence, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”

So to sum things up in this short intro of the book - The Book of Acts is an historical account of what God does through men and women that seek His mind and wait for His enabling grace to empower. Empoweringto pour out - loving on people the Gospel. Let's be challenged to wait, listen and hear from God in prayer - to discern His will for us individually on the team and cooperatively as a church plant.