“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14).
We can only guess at the emotional state of the apostles as they walked back to Jerusalem after they’d witnessed the Lord’s ascension and encountered the angels – joy, elation, anticipation, confusion, exhaustion – possibly all the above and more. But they returned to the place where they’d been staying, an upper room, evidently belonging to some untold disciple of Jesus.
Having been instructed to wait until the Holy Spirit was given them, the eleven disciples (minus Judas Iscariot), along with the women who’d accompanied Jesus, devoted themselves to prayer; that is, they remained in a constant state of prayer. Now, don’t imagine that they assumed a mannequin challenge while kneeling with heads bowed, eyes closed, and hands folded. Rather, they communed together with Christ continually, which is, essentially, what prayer is – communion.
Prayer is intimate conversation with God our Father. In prayer, we draw close to Him. Yes, we tell Him our needs, but we also delight in Him. Jesus taught His disciples that prayer begins with praise of God: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Mt. 6:9). Genuine prayer brings us into intimate fellowship with God, not as some austere stranger, but as Daddy or Papa. Paul wrote, “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15).
As the disciples waited for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, they came together in prayer. In prayer, they encouraged and supported one another. Prayer was integral to their fellowship together. It wasn’t something they did to open up their fellowship meeting. Prayer was their fellowship. They communed together as they communed with God.
We short-change ourselves when we treat prayer as a soliloquy of wants and needs (whether ours or others’) that we dutifully recite in short order before moving on to other, more interesting activities. We also cheat (as it were) God when we fail to extol Him as He is due.
Prayer is essential to worship. The healthy Christian prays. A prayerless Christian is anemic and weak, if even truly a Christian at all. The merely religious see prayer as a thing to do, but not as a means to worship God. It’s something to be gotten through, but never the destination nor a delight.
Hypocrites see prayer as a means to get something from God, a formulaic ritual or incantation that must be conducted in a precise manner in a specific place, and most often performed by a certified person. God’s children see prayer as a means to get God. It’s the way to approach Him and be near Him. It’s also the way we become like Him. In prayer, we submit to Him, learn from Him, and rejoice in Him.
In 1866, Samuel John Stone penned the opening line of a hymn, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.” Just as Christ is the church’s foundation, He is the church’s passion. Prayer sharpens our focus on Christ.
Christ’s church is passionate about prayer because we love the presence of Christ. The resident Spirit of Christ teaches us and convicts us and assures us that our salvation is secure in Christ. When tragedy strikes, the church prays. When blessings fall, the church prays. When life is on an even keel, the church prays.
May the Lord strengthen His church today to pray in accord with His will as revealed in His Word for His glory.