I’ve encouraged the congregation I serve to study the book of Acts for the next several weeks. This study is centered on the early church’s use of prayer. As we read through the book of Acts, we might discover that the early church was a people devoted to prayer. There are so many instances of prayer in Acts (2:42, 6:4-6, 10:9, 13:3, 28:8) which conducts itself like a prayer journal for the early church.
The importance of prayer for the disciples is seen in Acts 1.
Luke picks up the story right where he left off in his previous book, the Gospel of Luke. In the introduction, we see Jesus ascend and teaching the disciples that they will receive the Spirit of God. The story transitions though, towards the disciples and the life of the early church. Acts teaches us about what the Disciples and Church are up to, now that Jesus is raised from the dead and ascended to the throne of God.
At first, they can’t help but stare up in the sky, but some white robed men told them that Jesus will return as he left. Suggesting that they won’t know when Jesus will come back, so don’t spend the rest of your life staring up!
In 1:12, the disciples make a hop, skip and jump, a mile and a half away journey to the Mount of Olives. When they entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. The same disciples minus Judas, introduced in Luke 6:14-16, plus many others, including women and Jesus’ own mother, gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer.
Our first instance of prayer in the book of Acts, comes off the tails of the risen and ascended Jesus. What will come of this ragtag group of believers in Jesus? About 120 people are there. A great first start to a church, for sure. What are they to do? What would God want of them?
Some of them like looking up, hoping that Jesus would return. The white robed men rhetorically suggest that it isn’t about looking up. Jesus will come back as he left.
Thus, the activity goes from looking up, and transitions towards prayer. In one single verse, we see the great Christian hope of prayer.
The people leave the city of Jerusalem, arrive in the Mount of Olives, and devote themselves to prayer. The church transitions from hoping for the Messiah, to recognizing, “We had him here with us” (That’s what Peter will highlight in the following verses). Now that they had their Messiah, and he will return as he left, unexpectedly and at his own volition. The disciples bow in prayer.
From standing and gazing, the disciples now have a posture of prayer.
It’s a transition we all need, and will all go through as Christians. As we gaze and wonder at the beauty, grace, mercy and love revealed us in Jesus. As we find ourselves longing and gazing for the return of Jesus as well, I suggest we heed the advice of the two robed men. “Why do you look up?” and I suggest, “When you can kneel in prayer?” The transition should be a natural one for Christians. We now have access to God the Father, through the Son Jesus Christ. Why look for the return of Jesus when we can share with him and talk to him today?
Why stare to the sky when you can kneel in prayer? Be a people, devoted to prayer this day.
My prayer for us:
Lord, teach us to pray like the early church, in an earnest daily devotion for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.