The earliest Christians were prayer warriors. And where did they get their zeal for prayer? From Jesus Himself! Look at the Gospels and you will discover that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them only one thing. Not how to preach, how to grow a Sunday School, how to establish a seminary, how to conduct a choir or lead a praise band, how to properly administer the Lord’s Supper, how to build a sanctuary, or how to collect financial offerings. They asked Jesus to teach them to pray. We read in Luke 11:1 – “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’” They did not just ask Him to teach them how to pray, but to teach them to pray. Jesus’ prayer life had impacted them so profoundly they wanted to learn to pray from the Master Himself.
As we saw in Chapter 1, the Gospels show us that prayer was a priority for Jesus. When we read the Book of Acts, it is clear that Jesus’ disciples also understood the significance of prayer.
The Early Church Began in a Ten-Day Prayer Meeting
At the opening of Acts, we see that the church was a relatively small group of people. Their Master (Jesus) had left them and they were lacking the spiritual power they needed to carry out His command to evangelize the world. Just before He went back to heaven, Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem that they might be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that would endure them with the spiritual strength they needed to “make disciples of all the nations” (cf. Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus had said, “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (NLT Luke 24:49). He also told His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NLT Acts 1:8).
The time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was forty days (cf. Acts 1:3). After he went back to heaven, approximately ten days passed before the Spirit came on the believers. That small band of Christ followers gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem fellowshipping, taking care of church business, and, above all, praying. “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus” (NLT Acts 1:14).
When the day of Pentecost arrived, the Spirit came upon the members of that prayer meeting and infused them with heavenly power. They left the upper room and went out among the people gathered in Jerusalem. As they met the many Jewish people who had traveled there from all over the Roman Empire, each of those Spirit-filled believers began miraculously “speaking of the mighty deeds of God” in the languages of the people who were listening to them (Acts 2:11). Soon afterward, Peter preached and three thousand people were saved!
How could something like that happen? They prayed passionately for ten days, the Holy Spirit filled them with power, the people shared, Peter preached the Gospel and gave an invitation, and people responded by repenting of sin, putting their faith in Jesus, and calling on His name to save them. And it all started with prayer. The early church was literally birthed in a prayer meeting! If we want to be like those early believers, we must pray.