Here we have the encouraging account of the church immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples were told to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit, and this is what we find them doing. Christians are called to humble obedience, believing the promises of Christ.
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The apostles find a room on the 2nd floor of a private home, and other believers in the Lord gather there with them. There is around 120 of them (verse 15). In verse 14 we read what they were doing: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.”
They were of “one accord.” They were unified in believing Christ Jesus was the Lord of the living and the dead; and that he was seated at the right hand of God. They now accounted themselves as not their own, but belonging to him; for his will, his purposes, his glory.
They had been called by the Lord, redeemed by his death, and were preparing to do what he had told them to do (be witnesses to the end of the earth). As believers, we say to the Lord, “If you would have me do this, I will do it. If you would have me suffer, I will suffer. If you would have me honor you with my goods and my life, you shall have them.” The apostles are the model of this way of life.
They were “devoted to prayer.” They were a small group, given a great task, and a difficult one. They were to bear witness to Christ, beginning in the place he had been crucified (Jerusalem). They knew opposition was waiting. So the first picture of the church is a prayer meeting. Devotion to prayer (and the word of God) characterizes the church throughout the book of Acts.
The believers were undoubtedly praying for the Holy Spirit. The Lord promised, so they prayed. This wasn’t a sign of doubt in the promise, but confidence; it honors God to ask for what he has promised to do.
We see here what sanctified judgment is; when a soul has been enlightened to knowledge of Christ, its first request is forgiveness of sins. Then one, desiring to be faithful to his Savior, asks for the help of the Holy Spirit. We can ask for nothing greater and God can give nothing greater than the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit’s work is to exalt Christ in our souls.
We are never fit for anything, any work, or any trial in our faith without the Holy Spirit. If we judge rightly, this is what we ask for above all. The apostles couldn’t do anything on their own; when you read of their faithfulness in Acts, remember the Holy Spirit is working in them. The more we mature in the faith, the more we learn our dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
We also learn what accompanies prayer. The believers were unified in thankfulness and love to Christ. They loved Christ being honored. Christian unity is founded upon Christ. When we see sin and deficiencies in other Christians, we know that grace is there too, and are moved to forbearance and forgiveness, as the Lord is merciful to us.
This little body of believers persevered in prayer, a sign of delight in communion with God, and characteristic of those in great need and dependent on aid. Christians are descendants of the spirit of Jacob who would not let the Lord go until he blessed him. He knew blessing could come from no other. And God is such a Father that he will not refuse his children when they ask for the Holy Spirit.
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We should note that the apostles, being committed to prayer, were resolute in their intention to do what the Lord commanded. The believers were committed to bearing witness to Christ in this fallen world, whatever the cost. They were putting their hand to the plough and not looking back. Asking for the Holy Spirit meant, as Augustine put it: “Command what your will Lord; give what you command.”
Prayer is offering our desires up to God. God gives his people desires that are agreeable to his good and perfect will. God often accomplishes his sovereign will through the prayers of his people. We see this in the glimpse Luke gives us of the early church. Our desire as Christians is be to be faithful. And to be faithful, we require the Holy Spirt. So let us be like them, and ask specifically for the Holy Spirit, with the intention of honoring Christ.