Do I have more wires on me? I’m not sure. Good morning, everyone. How are you? Good? Yes, I see all of you out there. You’re looking at me thinking, ‘He looks a lot like Kevin.’ I hope I’m more like DeAdra though, right? We’ll see. I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to share the word of God with you this morning. Over the next six weeks, we’ll embark on our new sermon series, ‘Faithful Journey: My Journey of Faith.’ Let’s stick to that name; don’t let dad try to change it, alright?
Today, our focus is on the Book of Acts, Chapter One. This sermon series won’t be a verse-by-verse exposition but will touch upon the crucial points. Our conversation begins with ‘Faithful Journey and Study in Acts’ and extends to ‘Faithful Prayer.’ We aim to understand the early disciples and apostles’ lived reality after Christ’s ascension and how it influenced their prayers and way of life. We’ll also explore central themes in Acts, such as the Church’s role, believers’ expectations, the spread of God’s good news, the Holy Spirit’s role, and the Great Commission’s outworking.
There are two kinds of knowledge: the knowledge of understanding and the knowledge of doing. Our aim is to internalize God’s word and embark on a faithful journey. But bear with me; I’m unaccustomed to modern amenities. It’s been ages since I’ve delivered a sermon in English. If I veer off into another language, nod and say ‘Amen.’ Typically, I preach in a humble brick building with minimal lighting. The women, with covered heads, sit on one side, and the men on the other—both on the floor. Interestingly, where I serve, people don’t watch the clock as they do here. They’re present for the event, not constrained by time. Here, I notice everyone glancing at the clock. That’s new to me.
However, our goal isn’t just to understand the events in the Book of Acts. We aim to discern Scripture’s consistent patterns and contemplate how we can remain faithful to its teachings and to God. Most of Acts is descriptive, not prescriptive. Do you see what I’m getting at?
The text seldom just says, ‘Do this’ or ‘Pray these words.’ There’s very little of that. It’s a narrative. In fact, it’s the second narrative of Luke. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke, detailing what Jesus began to do and teach, and Acts is a continuation of that narrative. So, when we study the Book of Acts, it’s beneficial to read through Luke and then transition into Acts. This approach weaves the narratives together. Indeed, in the beginning of his prologue, Luke states, ‘I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up, after he had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the disciples he had chosen.’ This is a narrative, and our objective is to identify patterns in scripture. We seek to answer the question: how can we be most faithful as a church, as followers of Christ, and as disciple-makers? Is everyone with me? I can’t see any hands because of these bright lights, so please give a verbal acknowledgment if you’re following.
Over the next six weeks, we will explore this together. The Book of Acts holds significant meaning in my life. While serving overseas, I encountered situations unfamiliar to me from my experiences in the Western church. There are certain aspects taken for granted here or things that we simply don’t encounter. In the field, working among different cultures, I faced questions I wasn’t prepared to answer, prompting me to delve deeper into the Book of Acts. For instance, a young man I was discipling once asked if he should eat meat that had been sacrificed. The Bible speaks about consuming meat offered to idols, especially for the Gentiles, but I had never faced that dilemma personally. In the region where I lived, there’s a significant event comparable to Memorial Day, where locals commemorate Abraham. They believe, as we do, that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son but provided a ram as a substitute. We share this belief, though there are some discrepancies in their text regarding the names. They observe this day as Eid al-Adha or ‘Kurbani.’ ‘Kurbani’ translates to ‘sacrifice.’ Annually, they convene to commemorate this event, which is believed to have a role in the absolution of sins.
This good act is believed to wipe away some of their sins for the year. For instance, a cow is worth five people, a camel is worth seven people, and so on. Of course, there are varying opinions on this. The common practice is to sacrifice the animal in remembrance and then distribute the meat to neighbors as a charitable act, feeding the impoverished and sharing with others. Meat is expensive, right? Thus, my friend was pondering, “Should I eat this?” Where do you think I turned for guidance? I referred to the Book of Acts because that’s precisely the dilemma they faced. Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered such a moral conundrum in your life. Only one person? Fascinating.
Here’s another example. Let’s talk about my friend named Jake. I’ll refrain from revealing his actual name this time – thanks for the reminder. Jake is fervently dedicated to spreading the gospel. He’s deeply committed to the Lord. A significant part of his testimony stems from a traumatic event: he was shot in the chest. Jake comes from a Hindu background. While his wife had already embraced Christianity, he hadn’t. One day, while he was at work at a hospital, a violent confrontation erupted outside. It seemed reminiscent of a scene from the movie “Tombstone,” with two individuals facing off, guns in hand. As it turns out, these were intoxicated policemen. Jake tried to intervene, especially since women and children were exiting the hospital at that time, given it was a women’s facility. Tragically, in the ensuing gunfire, Jake was hit squarely in the chest. He nearly lost his life on the operating table – it’s genuinely a miraculous survival story. Whenever Jake shares the gospel now, he confidently displays his scar, demonstrating God’s mercy and power in saving him. On that table, he devoted his entire being to Christ, professing, “You are not just my Lord and Savior but my everything.” Today, regardless of whether someone identifies as Muslim, Hindu, or a nominal Christian, Jake is unwavering in his mission to share the gospel with them.
And so, one time Jake approached me, saying, ‘These Hindu folks have professed their faith in Christ. I believe that they should be baptized. That’s what we’re discussing – we’re discipling them. However, it’s winter in the desert. There’s no irrigation water available. I’m unsure about what to do here.’ Have you seen Star Wars? The classic ones, not the newer editions. You know, like the scene in Tatooine where Luke Skywalker is gazing at the twin suns? That’s reminiscent of where I lived – a vast desert. But there was no blue milk; it was different. During the summer and fall, they flood the rice fields, but in winter, there’s no water. However, there were some wells. Jake then proposed, ‘Why not use a hand pump to pour water over this woman’s head? Would that qualify as baptism?’ Where do you think we turned for guidance? We consulted the scriptures, starting with Jesus’ baptism and John the Baptist. We studied instances like Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, trying to grasp the essence of baptism and the significance of immersion. The Book of Acts was pivotal in our understanding.
Are you curious about our decision? There was a small channel – they termed it a ‘canal,’ but it resembled a gutter. It was so narrow that I couldn’t fit, and it contained a shallow depth of water. Jake believed that if we could submerge at least the woman’s nose – have her lie down and immerse her head – it would adhere, as closely as possible, to the scriptures. Note, I wasn’t directing Jake; we were collaboratively exploring the scriptures, seeking the most faithful approach. Interestingly, Jake is illiterate. Hence, we were listening to the Book of Acts together. Fascinating, right? I even have a video; perhaps I’ll share it with you someday. In it, the woman is baptizing in that tiny channel. It was a heartwarming scene. Both Jake and his wife baptized her. As of now, almost her entire village has embraced Christianity. And as water became more accessible, more were baptized.
We consistently referred to the Book of Acts because of its paramount significance. It was penned by Luke, serving as his second narrative. Within its pages, we witness the transformative power of Christ as He reshaped the world through His Holy Spirit. We observe the dedication of Christ’s disciples, gleaning insights into faithfulness. It chronicles the inception of the Church. Our current endeavors resonate with those events from millennia ago when the Church was established. We learn of its origins in the Book of Acts, understanding the devoted efforts of the early Christians. It also reveals God’s intentional choice of the Church as the instrument to disseminate His Kingdom on Earth.
OK, if you’re going to write something down, write this down: You are the church. Baptized believers in Christ come together to be the church. You are the vehicle that God has chosen to use to spread His Kingdom on earth. And before we become a little arrogant or even complacent about the position that we hold, do realize that God could use rocks and donkeys to do that job. He could use anything as a vehicle. So, to sit and be complacent is not being faithful. We’re going to explore this together. We are going to discuss the church, among other things. But for now, we are studying Acts, Chapter one. We’ll begin reading from verse four through 14. So far, we see that Luke is writing to Theophilus, narrating what Jesus began to do and teach, and how after His suffering and crucifixion, He resurrected. It mentions that He presented Himself alive to His disciples with many convincing proofs, appearing to them over 40 days and speaking about the Kingdom of God. That’s the context.
Now, onto verse four: While He was with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. He said, ‘You have heard me speak about this, for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.’ So, when they had come together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, are you restoring the Kingdom to Israel at this time?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has set by His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After saying this, He was taken up while they watched, and a cloud obscured Him from their sight. As they were staring into the sky, suddenly two men in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is a Sabbath day’s journey from the city. Upon arriving, they went to the upper room where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot, and Judas (son of James).
They were all continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. I’m sorry, I almost did… You know, Stephanie, how in church, whenever we read the Word of God, we always say, ‘Oh yes, this is the Word of God, God’s blessing.’ I almost said that to you all, and you would have wondered, ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s okay; it’s a good thing. But this is the Word of God, and we are blessed by it. But you see verse 14 there? It says, ‘All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.’ This is the verse we want to memorize this week. You’ll see in the ‘Next Steps’ section that there are things you can check off. In your handout there, the bulletin, or what do we call it here… Worship guide? Yes, sorry about that. Six weeks in and I’ll get it right. Anyway, you can see the next steps in there. This would be a verse that we’d memorize because, in this, we see a demonstration of the disciples’ faithfulness in prayer. So, what did Christ’s followers believe, know, understand, trust, and expect in this time of great uncertainty? Look at what’s happening here: Jesus died, rose again, presented Himself with proof, spent 40 days with them talking about the Kingdom of God, and then He’s gone. Do you think that feels comfortable for the disciples? Especially with an uptick in persecution, not knowing what’s next, and being told the Holy Spirit is coming upon them. When in the Bible have these disciples seen the outpouring of God’s Spirit on anyone before? So it’s not like they knew, ‘Alright, guys, in a few days, we’re going to have tongues of fire over us, and we’ll speak in diverse tongues.’ No, they had no idea what that would look like. This was an uncertain time, perhaps even a difficult one. But what was their reality? I’m going to share some points about what their reality was. First, they knew Christ as their Lord and Savior and had faith that He would fulfill His promises. Their faith was one of their realities. That faith in Jesus Christ will produce faithfulness in us. Can you be faithful without faith? The answer is no; you can’t be faithful without faith.
Alright, so these were apostles chosen by Christ. They had seen, heard, and even been used by God. Some of them had been rebuked by Christ, right? Like when Peter doubted, or when the brothers wanted to know who was going to be the greatest and be able to sit next to Christ. These were imperfect men and women following Christ. But that faith was foundational in their reality, which produced faithfulness. In John chapter 6, verses 60 through 68, we see the unfaithful disciples. For a long time, Jesus had many followers, right? Hundreds, if not thousands, were following Him and learning from Him. In John chapter 6, verses 60 through 68, we see them weeding themselves out, those who were not faithful, leaving and abandoning Christ. Why? Because He taught that in order to remain in Him and be His disciple, they must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, implying they must suffer with Him. At that point, they left. Jesus then turned to Peter and asked, ‘Are you going to leave me too?’ The disciples responded, ‘Where would we go? You are the Messiah.’ That was a firm faith, a foundation that produced faithfulness.
The second reality that set in for these disciples at this time was that they knew Jesus rose from the dead. You might think, ‘Well, we just read that.’ But it was essential for me to emphasize: they knew Jesus rose from the dead. In the house where we live, we don’t have consistent power. So, we have a battery system that keeps the fans running when it’s hot, and the power charges the battery. When the power goes out, the battery runs, and we just pray that it comes back before the battery dies, right? That’s been my life for like the last ten years. When the power goes out, I think, ‘Lord, please, we have 4 hours.’ But one day, my battery system fried. I heard this loud pop and saw smoke. It had melted. I thought, ‘Okay, I have to fix this.’ So, I’m there with my screwdriver trying to fix it, while Steph is outside chatting with a lady. She tells this woman, ‘My husband is trying to fix our battery system. We have no power, no lights.’ The woman then yells a man’s name (I won’t say which) the way a wife would yell for her husband. He shuffles out, and she says, ‘Get in there and help Mr. B.’
Mr. B, they call me ‘Mr. B’ I hate it. ‘Help him fix his battery system,’ she said. So, he agreed. This guy is a devout Muslim, very much by the book, you know? He enters, and we start working on the battery system. Neither of us truly knows what we’re doing; we’re just trying to fix it based on what we’ve been told. As we’re discussing, he suddenly asks, ‘So, you’re a Christian?’ I replied, ‘Yes, I am.’ He continued, ‘Well, then you must read the Bible.’ ‘Every day,’ I responded. Then he says, ‘I have some good news for you.’ In my mind, I thought, ‘That’s funny because I also have some good news for you.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Did you know that Jesus is alive?’ I answered, ‘Yes, I already knew that. It’s in the Bible.’ He emphasized, ‘No, you don’t understand. Jesus never died. You’ll be so happy to know that Jesus is alive.’ I told him, ‘Brother, my joy about Jesus being alive is already at its peak. I couldn’t be happier.’ He insisted, ‘No, you don’t understand. You Christians believe that Jesus died and was buried.’ I replied, ‘Yes, but He rose again.
He was adamant, ‘No, no, no, He never died. He was never buried. He was switched out by God at the last minute.’ I replied, ‘Brother, that’s not what God’s word says, but I do believe Jesus is alive. He defeated death,’ and I began sharing the gospel with him. But he persisted, ‘You don’t understand. Jesus is alive.’ We both echoed, ‘Jesus is alive,’ and I countered, ‘I already know that Jesus is alive,’ while he held my battery system in one hand and I had a screwdriver in the other. ‘Jesus is alive,’ he reiterated. I responded, ‘I already know because He defeated death for my sins.’ Growing frustrated, he exclaimed, ‘Oh, you would be so happy if you would just listen to me and understand! This is good news for you.’ I replied, ‘I am as happy as I can be. I am elated that Jesus is alive.’ Unexpectedly, he said, ‘Wait a minute,’ and left with my battery system. When he returned, he said, ‘I’ll call my father,’ because I had challenged him to show me where it says in the Bible that Jesus didn’t die on the cross. He made the call, asking, ‘Where does it say in the Bible that Jesus didn’t die on the cross?’ Then I saw his confidence wane as he realized there isn’t a verse that claims that. He stalled, ‘Give me a minute, just give me a minute.’ Visibly disappointed, he walked into his own house, still in possession of my battery system. When he reemerged, he held a small book explaining objections to Jesus from a Muslim perspective. ‘You must read this,’ he insisted. But I was prepared. I had a little book in my back pocket. I pulled it out, suggesting, ‘Great, I’ll read this if you read that.’ He agreed, taking the book, which was God’s word, and my battery system into his house. I didn’t see either for a couple of weeks. However, the disciple’s reality was that Jesus rose from the dead.
The fact that He died was necessary for our sins. It’s not just that He’s alive; He died for us, defeated death, and then rose again. This reality was clear to them. They understood its significance. His appearance to them for 40 days wasn’t merely about the joy of His presence. They grasped its meaning: He died and rose again for their sins. They comprehended the instructions and expectations given to them by Christ. Jesus didn’t leave them empty-handed, although He didn’t provide them with much detailed information. We see He tells them, ‘Wait in Jerusalem. Wait for the Holy Spirit.’ This is because ‘you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ This directive echoes Matthew 28:18-20, which is the Great Commission: ‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations. Teach them to obey all the commands I’ve given you, like baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ We see this reflected here. They were given specific instructions for this period, which couldn’t have been easy to digest. They were instructed to wait. They might have thought, ‘Oh, Jesus is here. He’s back. He’s talking about the Kingdom of God.’ Hence they asked, ‘Are you here to reestablish the Kingdom of Israel?’ He replied, ‘It’s not for you to know. Your role now is to wait.’ Often, if not always, the most faithful action is simply to wait on the Lord in prayer. Yet waiting is challenging, much like exercising a muscle. If it’s not done regularly, it becomes painful, almost torturous. Waiting isn’t passive; it’s an active endeavor. The act of waiting, filled with anticipation, particularly when instructed to ‘wait in Jerusalem,’ must have been puzzling. But they remained faithful because of the realities we discussed: their faith in Jesus Christ.
My dad and I used to go chucker hunting. A chucker is a mountain bird in Nevada. When I was around 5, 6, or 7 years old, I would accompany him. I can’t recall my exact age, but I was young and fond of Skittles and Legos. I wore an army jacket with many pockets, filled with Skittles and Starbursts. One large pocket held a few Legos. I’d walk behind my dad as he hunted chuckers in the mountains. Once he pointed to a rock, asking me to sit and wait while he walked around. It felt like an eternity to my young self. But I waited without anxiety, amusing myself with Skittles and my Lego toys. After a long while, Dad returned. As I stood up, chucker birds, which had been behind me the whole time, flew away. Dad couldn’t shoot any of them because I had inadvertently startled them. But I had unwavering faith in my dad. He provided what I felt I needed, like Skittles. I trusted him implicitly, knowing he’d never let me down. I wasn’t perturbed about not seeing him, certain he’d return. This childlike faith that I held is what Christ asks of us. The disciples exhibited this too. They knew the instructions: ‘Wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ They believed Jesus wouldn’t abandon them.
I’m going to wait. I will wait on the Lord, and that’s what they did. But they didn’t just wait passively. We see them in verse 14 waiting in the upper room, continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. Another reality is that they knew Christ had ascended into heaven and would return in the same manner. I find it amusing how angels, the two men dressed in white, appear. They question, ‘Why are you guys looking up? How long do you think they stood there? How high do you believe that is? Did you see Him ascend that far?’ Literally, I’m uncertain. ‘Why are you gazing into heaven? He’s going to come back.’ The very fact of being told that He’s returning is comforting. We find solace in knowing that this isn’t the end. Christ will return, and He will be victorious. However, according to Matthew 28, in the Great Commission, which instructs, ‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, teaching them all the commands I’ve given you,’ it doesn’t merely state that. In verses 18 through 20, it mentions authority. He tells His disciples, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’ There isn’t a place we can go where God doesn’t see or exert authority over us and our circumstances. Within the Great Commission, two assurances stand out: the authority of Christ and the presence of Christ. He won’t abandon them. ‘I will be with you always,’ He says, ‘even to the end of the age.’ As He ascends into heaven, they place their trust in that authority, even as He vanishes from their sight. The final realization for them is the knowledge that Christ promised to send a helper, the Holy Spirit. In John, chapter 14, Christ informs them that He will send a counselor, a guide, a helper, who will strengthen their faith, convict them, and ensure they bear witness to Him. He explicitly states in John chapter 14, ‘I will not leave you as orphans.’ Considering these truths that dawned on the disciples during that period, how did such realizations influence their faith and dedication? What did they inspire?
Sometimes I wonder, was it just easier for them because they saw Jesus right in front of them? Did that reality itself make it easier for them to be faithful? However, I also contemplate the Word of God, the miracle of how we have the Bible, and how we possess God’s word in our hands. This is just as significant as Christ appearing to the disciples after His death and resurrection. Its ubiquity, available in almost every language, attests to its significance. But what did that reality produce in their lives? What do we believe and trust about Jesus Christ? Is He the center of our everything? Is He the focus of our prayers? Based on what we observe, I can tell you the impact it had on their lives. The primary outcome, the first fruit of those realities in the disciples’ lives, was that they began living a life centered on Christ. Their lives and prayers were entirely Christ-centered. This will be a recurring theme throughout the book of Acts. Many debate about Paul because, soon in Acts, Luke begins documenting mostly Paul’s missionary journeys, placing emphasis on Paul. Some argue, “I don’t preach Paul; I preach Christ.” However, one cannot discuss what Paul wrote without mentioning Christ. Paul was commissioned by Christ, fulfilled Christ’s will, and was wholly Christ-centered in all he undertook. We observe this even as Paul writes, and in Ephesians 1:20-23, where it’s mentioned that God exercised His power in Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion, and every name invoked, not only in this age but also in the one to come. He appointed Christ as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. This encapsulates Paul’s beliefs. There’s no division in God’s word regarding this. Everything in the book of Acts is Christ-centered. All of the Epistles are Christ-centered because of His authority and power. Thus, we see the disciples, united continually in prayer. And even after verse 14, when they select the next apostle to replace Judas, it was done with Christ at the center. They sought wisdom from Christ on whom to choose. So, the foremost fruit of those realities is that their life and prayer were Christ-centered. Let’s consider another prayer by Paul, for I believe it reflects the essence of the apostles in Acts.
When we read the prayers throughout the Epistles, how do they pray? Another prayer by Paul in Ephesians 3:14-21 says, “For this reason, I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length, width, height, and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Jesus Christ, to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” This is not a prayer of a human-centered disciple, right? This is a Christ-centered prayer. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians—these were all written during the events chronicled in the book of Acts. They were all Christ-centered. As Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15-20, it’s all about the centrality of Christ and who He is, how He holds all things together. He also wrote in 1 Corinthians that if there was no resurrection through Christ, our faith is useless. Everything was Christ-centered.
But if we specifically examine verses 1:12-14, the second fruit produced from this reality was a devotion to committed, continual prayer. Verse 12 says they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, and the verse names all the disciples. Then verse 14 says, “All these were continually united in prayer along with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.” First, I want to emphasize where it mentions “the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus.” This is significant. It’s not just about everybody; it underscores the unity in Christ that every brother and sister in Christ possesses. It represents the true body of Christ. In Pakistan, where we actually reside (I inadvertently mentioned Pakistan, so now you’re aware), there are significant challenges with women coming to know Christ.
Why? Because their husbands often receive the message, but there’s frequently a lack of emphasis or priority on educating women. I have a friend named Steve, who’s in a remote location. He’s been a believer since 1984. To this day, his wife and mother have never heard him proclaim the gospel message. Whenever he wants his wife, kids, or mother to hear the gospel message, he calls me, saying, “Where are you? Come to me. Bring your wife so she can tell my wife about Jesus.” How sad is that? This part of the verse is so significant in our discipleship over there because it demonstrates the body of Christ. That’s one way you can pray for our ministry, as the message often stops right there. That was just a sidebar. I hope you appreciate that.
Back to the main topic. Verses 12 through 14 provide Luke’s initial summary of the disciples’ actions after Christ’s departure. And what are they doing? They’re unified in continual prayer. Prayer permeates the Book of Acts and the Epistles. The early church was devoted to consistent prayer. They prayed for wisdom in Acts 1. They prayed for boldness in Acts 4:31, and the room shook. They prayed for those in jail in Acts 12. They prayed over people they sent off to advance the Kingdom in Acts 13. They prayed over those they appointed as elders in different churches. They sang hymns and prayed while in jail, and the building shook. They also prayed knowingly as they ventured into harm’s way for the gospel. They prayed over Paul and together with him as he returned to Jerusalem, aware it might mean trouble for him. Prayer—consistent, continual prayer—permeates the Book of Acts and should characterize our faithfulness. If our reality is faith in Christ and serving a resurrected Lord, it should produce consistent prayer, as we read in Philippians 4:6. Philippians 4:6 advises, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Colossians 4:2 encourages us to “devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” And 1 Thessalonians 5 instructs, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.
The second fruit, or the outcome that arose from their reality, was their devotion to continual collective prayer. The third element born from this reality wasn’t just constant prayer on an individual basis. It was communal, united through Christ. They were aligned in their commitment to prayer and living a Christ-centered life. We’ll explore this more when we discuss the Church in Acts chapter 2. But for now, understand that this unity was a direct outcome of their lived experience. This aligns with Christ’s prayer in John chapter 17: ‘May they all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.’ Throughout John 17, notice the emphasis on “so that”. This unity wasn’t for the sake of unity alone. It was so the world might recognize that the Father sent the Son, so the world might know Christ. And through Him, they were united in their dedication to prayer and living a Christ-centered life.
As we conclude today and the worship team (excluding myself) gets ready, let’s remember: the disciples’ reality reflected their priorities. Their unified, Christ-centered devotion to each other and to prayer serves as a touchstone, suggesting our prayer life often mirrors our true nature. The presence or absence of prayer in our lives signals whom we trust, our beliefs, our expectations of Christ, and our unity as Christ’s body. If you’re not willing to unite in prayer with your church community, are you truly part of the church? I doubt it.
I have four introspective questions I’d like you to contemplate. Firstly, does your prayer life suggest a human-centric perspective or a Christ-centric view? Secondly, does your prayer reveal faith in a resurrected Lord or merely a superficial faith rooted in tradition and ritual? Third, does your dedication waver in challenging times? Is your prayer life more active when you’re in need or only when life’s smooth sailing? Lastly, does your prayer signify a readiness to heed God’s Word and the Holy Spirit? Often, our reluctance to obey becomes evident in our prayers and intentions.
These are probing questions, and they challenge even me. Now, I’ll spend some moments praying for us, followed by a time of worship. Reflect on these questions during that time.
Father, we’re grateful for Your magnificence. Thank you for granting us direct access to You in Jesus’ name, without needing any mediator. We cherish our bond with You. We earnestly hope our faith, trust, and the acknowledgment that we serve a resurrected Lord will foster unwavering devotion in our prayers and our Christ-centric communal life. We hope to manifest these virtues. Assist us in evaluating our prayer lives, guiding us to recognize areas needing improvement. Through Your Holy Spirit, given to every believer, enlighten us about areas needing conviction and transformation. Lord, may our prayers and our lives centered on Christ reflect true dedication. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.