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Jun
15

What Happens When People Pray Together (Acts 1:12-14)

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It must have been quite a sight! Having given his followers their marching orders, Jesus simply began to levitate into the air and out of their sight. And with that, the disciples began the three quarters of a mile hike back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The Bible says that they returned to “the room.” Because the Greek language uses a definite article (“the”), one could easily suppose that they returned to the upper room where they had observed the Last Supper with Christ.

Their first act of obedience following the ascension was to wait. I don’t know what the disposition of first century culture was toward waiting, but I do know human nature, and if there’s anything we hate to do its wait. What did the disciples do while they waited for the “promise of the Father?”

Using a little sanctified imagination, and trying to put myself in the group, I wonder if they discussed what they had just witnessed. Certainly they had seen Jesus walk on water, but floating away like a balloon would have been a new one! Maybe they talked about that.

Perhaps the conversation turned to the things they had just heard. Jesus had laid out the mission and its resources, explained the strategy, and challenged them to count the cost. Maybe someone speculated as to how 120 people were going to take the message of the resurrection and make it go viral.

Possibly the disciples expressed curiosity about the events of the world. You know, the normal stuff about family, kids, and jobs. Maybe one had a subtle temptation to go fetch a newspaper. But they were told to wait, and somehow in the mix they began to pray about what they had heard and to ask the Father for the promised Spirit.

If you’ve been serious about Christianity for any length of time, you know there is a difference between meetings with prayer and prayer meetings. When God’s people get serious about prayer and pray together, there is an energy and dynamic that is beyond description. Sometimes when God’s people pray together, the Spirit of God moves in a way that evokes relational reality and transparency.

In my mind, as I sit in this meeting of 120 people and pray, I see Thomas rise from his place of prayer to speak. Thomas says something like, “You know, when Jesus first appeared after his resurrection, I wasn’t there, and as you well know, I didn’t believe. I demanded tangible proof before I would believe what Jesus said about rising again, and for that matter, what you were saying about his resurrection. I was wrong to doubt. I should have believed. And for that, I’m sorry.” And he sits down.

The disciples continue to pray, and then Jesus’ brothers stood up and asked for everyone’s attention. “If we could have a moment,” they begin, “as you know, during Jesus earthly ministry we didn’t believe. In fact, we thought Jesus was nuts. We were so embarrassed by his words and actions. We couldn’t believe he was who he said he was. But seeing how he handled himself during the crucifixion, and seeing him alive after he arose, we can’t believe how blind we were! We should have been there for him and for you. We could have helped. We’re sorry, and we’re all in!”

The disciples prayed a little more, then James and John spoke. “We have always struggled with ambition. When Jesus started teaching about his kingdom, we wanted to be recognized and have positions of power. That ambition was unhealthy, and we know our thirst for power and recognition was a real distraction, even on the night of Jesus arrest. We were wrong, and we’re sorry.” And like the others, they sit down and resume their prayers.

Peter, who always spoke first, speaks last. He stands and straightens himself. Clearing his throat to gain everyone’s attention, Peter speaks. “I’ve always been a big talker. I told Jesus that he would never die for me. That if anyone was going to do any dying, it was me for him! I told Jesus I would never deny him. Yet when he was arrested, I was fearful and cowardly beyond levels that I knew existed. I know many of you looked up to me and counted on me, and I let you down. I let the Lord down. He has forgiven me, and I need to ask for your forgiveness as well.”

True prayer always reveals something about who God is, and when we see who God is, then we can come to terms with who we are. God doesn’t use perfect people to conduct his mission. He uses imperfect people who are forgiving and forgiven to conduct his mission. James 5:16 states, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so you may be healed” (HCSB).

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