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Prayer In The Early Church

Acts 1:24 (ESV) … “And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen…”

All too often we make our own plans, pursue them to the best of our knowledge and ability, run into a quandary, and then ask God to bless what we have done and show us how to get out of the corner into which we have painted ourselves. Is that what Peter and the others had done here? Maybe so, but, on the other hand, the whole band of disciples had been continuing “with one accord in prayer and supplication” (1:14) for days, so perhaps the whole thing was of God after all.

However, they had now come to the crux of the matter. Only God knew the hearts. Outwardly, both these men had the qualifications, but only God knew which one had the inner spirit and strength to assume the awesome responsibility of apostleship. So “they prayed.” Not just Peter. They all prayed—another mark of their unity—and they told the Lord the problem.

No higher office has ever been held on earth than that of an apostle of the Lord Jesus. An apostle had unique power with God and man. In the first place, he had the unique privilege of having kept close company with Jesus during the days of His earthly ministry. To the apostles was given the task of writing the greater part of the New Testament and, until such times as the writing should be finished, to be the custodians of New Testament truth. It was to be the work of an apostle to lay the foundation of the church and guide it upon its proper path. The history of the world for the past two thousand years has been keenly influenced by the ministry and apostleship of those humble ordinary men, chosen of God for the greatest work of all time.

These men were troubled by the dark shadow of Judas. He had gone “to his own place,” but his ghost haunted them yet. These were their last recorded words ere Pentecost: “Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And Jesus had chosen Judas. Were they suddenly afraid that they might choose just such another—a man who was outwardly impeccable but inwardly unsuited for the task and trust of apostleship?[i]

Acts 1:24–26 (ESV)

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

In sovereign selection, God chose Matthias to become the twelfth apostle. Some commentators criticize these believers for rushing too quickly to fill the vacancy Judas left. Paul, not Matthias, they argue was the choice for that important role. We can’t ignore the simplicity of the text. They prayed directly for God’s will, and he gave it. At no point in Luke’s narrative does he suggest even the slightest hint of wrongdoing in this process. Furthermore, as Acts unfolds, we discover that the number of apostles was hardly confined to twelve since it will include both Paul and Barnabas as well as others.[ii]

Prayer plays a significant role in the story of the church as recorded in the Book of Acts. The believers prayed for guidance in making decisions (Acts 1:15–26) and for courage to witness for Christ (Acts 4:23–31). In fact, prayer was a normal part of their daily ministry (Acts 2:42–47; 3:1; 6:4). Stephen prayed as he was being stoned (Acts 7:55–60). Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans (Acts 8:14–17), and Saul of Tarsus prayed after his conversion (Acts 9:11). Peter prayed before he raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36–43). Cornelius prayed that God would show him how to be saved (Acts 10:1–4), and Peter was on the housetop praying when God told him how to be the answer to Cornelius’ prayers (Acts 10:9).[iii]

What does the church today need more of today? Prayer! Let us, the church of the Lord Jesus, be a people of prayer! Let us fix our faith upon God and call out to Him in one voice, knowing that God will hear and answer as we bring our petitions to Him.

[i] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring Acts: An Expository Commentary (Ac 1:24–25). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

[ii] Gangel, K. O. (1998). Acts (Vol. 5, p. 14). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[iii] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 404–405). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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