Prayer and advancement of the Kingdom in the Book of Acts – Part 16
A study of the Book of Acts leaves one in no doubt that prayer played a major role in the birth and growth of the Church. The book is a manual on the importance of prayer in the advancement of the Kingdom. Prayer is no less strategic to the mission of the Church today.
In chapter 1, we see the disciples in prayer at the Upper Room, culminating in the outpouring on Pentecost day. Then, there is the prayer for guidance in choosing a replacement for Judas who drifted away. After the day of Pentecost, the disciples continued steadfastly in prayer. The word “continued steadfastly” shows how unrelenting they were in prayers (2:42).
Following the release of Peter and John, the believers prayed for boldness (4:29). So intense was their prayers that the place where they were physically quaked. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke the word with boldness and “great grace” came upon them all – doubtless the results of prayer.
In chapter 6:3-4, the disciples decided to focus on prayer and the study of the word. Then in 6:6, the apostles prayed and laid hands on the seven. In 7:6, Stephen, the first martyr prays, as he was being stoned to death. In 8:15-17, Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans who believed, with the result that they received the Holy Spirit.
The prayers of Cornelius and Peter dominated Acts chapters 10-12. In 10:4, the prayers of Cornelius went up as a memorial before God. An angel appeared to him in a vision, instructing him to send for a man named Simon Peter (10:5). The next day Peter prayed (10:9). His prayer was answered by a heavenly vision that prepared him to open the doors of the kingdom to Cornelius and other Gentiles (10:10–48). When Peter was imprisoned, the Christians prayed for him earnestly (12:5). God answered by miraculously delivering him from jail—much to the astonishment of those who were praying (12:6–17).
Some believe that Paul’s conversion was as a result of prayer. Once he encountered Christ, prayer became central to his life and ministry. In 9:14, we find him praying in the house of Judas. In 13:1-3, he was in the company of other disciples ministering to God in prayer and worship. Paul’s missionary journey was born in prayer, sustained in prayer and triumphed through prayer, which explains why his missionary journeys made great impact on the world. On a return trip to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, Paul and Barnabas prayed for those who had believed (14:23).
In Philippi (16:16), while in prayer with Silas, a girl with the spirit of divination came to them. Their casting out of this spirit led to their arrest and being thrown into the prison. While they prayed and sang songs in prison (16:25), a great earthquake took place forcing the doors to open and they were released.
Paul prayed with the Ephesian elders at Miletus (20:36); The Christians at Tyre prayed with Paul on the beach (21:5), and these prayers doubtless followed him to Rome and to the executioner’s block. Just before his shipwreck, Paul fasted, prayed and gave thanks to God for the food. This brought great deliverance to the crew and passengers (27:35, 36). On the island of Malta, Paul prayed for the governor’s sick father. The result was that the patient was miraculously healed (28:8). Thus, prayers were the life and breathe of the Church at its infancy. The Church must return to prayer to advance!