The Prayer of the Disciples and The Power of the Spirit
John Lightbody, Uddingston
(2) THE PRAYER OF THE DISCIPLES.
Consequent to the Lord’s announcement to the disciples, that their future activity was to be one of witness bearing, He was taken up from them into Heaven, from whence (so they were instructed by the angelic messengers) He would again return. Their movements now command our attention; it is stated by Luke, “Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath's day journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John. . . . These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” The order here is important, for no effective witness to Christ can be raised unless it is preceded by prayer. The prayer meeting we observe continued for ten days and was attended by “about one hundred and twenty believers.” We may well pause here and compare. When was the reader last at a gathering for prayer with so many saints present? We acknowledge that many assemblies are not so strong numerically, yet even so if anything of a social character is being convened, the attendance at such gatherings often outnumbers the total on the assembly roll-book, as believers of neighbouring assemblies are not slow to swell the numbers. The writer is not of the number who say that such social gatherings are unscriptural, but we are persuaded that a similar interest in the prayer meeting with the same enthusiasm would see us well on the road to revival. Brethren, have we lost our sense of spiritual values? The present day is noted for its innovations, the aim being to arrest the decline and dearth that increases with the passing of the years. We may multiply these a thousand fold but we have no substitute for prayer. If we want apostolic results we will have to adopt apostolic procedure which was noted for large and powerful prayer meetings. We had the pleasure within recent months of sharing in a real work of God where not a few turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, not because of the presence of any brilliant preacher or emotional entertainment, but because a band of young men and women thought it worthwhile to meet nightly for a number of weeks and pray. The slogan that “modern men can only be won by modern methods” will doubtless produce “modern results.” The Book of the Acts is universally admitted to be a book of power, and one of the chief reasons is that it is saturated with the atmosphere of prayer. It is said of this praying company in the upper room at Jerusalem, that “they continued with one accord,” an expression which occurs no less than eleven times in the book. It signifies not merely a gathering in the same place but rather an enjoyed unity existing between each and all. Here again we may learn another of the reasons for the success of the early disciples—there was a complete absence of division, a condition which is sadly apparent to-day, and consequently renders the local testimony ineffective. The value of a company of witnesses in fellowship with each other, gathering for prayer, is beyond our estimation.
(3) THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT.
The second chapter of Acts is one of the most important in the Bible. In the second chapter of his gospel, Luke describes the coming into this world of the Son of God; in the second chapter of the Acts he describes the coming into this world of the Spirit of God. The effect of His coming so far as the disciples were concerned is indicated in Acts 2. 4—“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Let us remind ourselves again of the order of events; it was the company who had been together in prayer for ten days that first enjoyed this new experience. Prayer then Power. We are not suggesting that the Spirit's advent was dependent on the prayer of these saints but their exercise was undoubtedly preparing them in a moral way to be filled by Him at His coming. The condition described (“filled with the Spirit”) is the highest obtainable for any saint. That such is not always true of us is apparent from the apostle's exhortation, “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5. 18). The gospel by Luke is the history of a Man filled with the Spirit (Luke 4. 1). The Acts of the Apostles is the history of many men filled with the same Spirit. That being so, it is consistent to think that the characteristics of the One will be demonstrated by the many, and so it is. A comparison of the two books will reveal a remarkable analogy. We learn from Luke 4. 32 that the Spirit-filled Man was noted, for “His word was with power.” It is likewise stated in Acts 4. 33, “and with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” We learn from Luke 4:40 that the Spirit-filled Man healed all that were sick and diseased; so also we read in Acts 5. 15, “They brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” Then again, in Luke 8. 54, we learn of the Spirit-filled Man raising a maid from death, while Peter exercises the same power in raising Dorcas from the same domain (Acts 9. 40). Other instances of this display of similars are not lacking, for as already stated it is the same Spirit operating through different persons but producing the same results. This experience of being “filled with the Spirit” is again one of the reasons why this book is one of power, for the condition of the one hundred and twenty was true of both individuals and companies as the following examples will prove. (Acts 4. 8, 4. 31, 7. 55, 11. 24, 13. 52.) Another has very aptly penned these words:—
A city full of churches,
Great singing, grand success,
The finest of equipment,
But these things do not bless;
God wants a pure clean vessel,
Anointed lips and true,
A man filled with His Spirit,
To speak His message through.
When Elijah was caught up to Heaven his mantle became the garb of the young man who saw him go, Elisha by name. In like manner, when the Lord Jesus was received up from Olivet, those who saw Him go received His mantle ten days later. Thus we learn that a necessary requisite for successful Gospel activity is a company of men and women who are “filled with the Spirit.”