Do you remember a time in your life when you prayed about a specific request and God spoke to your heart? Maybe it was God’s Spirit who spoke. Maybe it was a child of God. Or maybe God spoke through His Word.
Once my wife Shelley and I were wrestling with what seemed to be an open door in ministry; but we were struggling with what we were hearing and experiencing. I knew I needed to clarify God’s call so I spent a day in prayer, fasting, and reading God’s Word, seeking God for His clear direction. I prayerfully read through select portions of Scripture, asking God to speak as I read. As I was reading through 2 Corinthians, God spoke clearly through His Word. Paul was writing to the Corinthian believers and he told them that although a door was opened to him by the Lord, he had no rest in his spirit so he said good-bye and left (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). That was my answer and it was an incredible moment. God had spoken to my heart through His Word as I prayed.
In Acts 1, we enter one of the early church’s prayer meetings. During the prayer meeting, Peter addresses the need to find someone to take Judas’ place as an apostle (Acts 1:13-14, 21-26). They needed a leader, so the apostles and disciples prayed together. In their prayer they acknowledged that 1) the Lord is omniscient, He knows everything; and, 2) that the Lord is sovereign, He is in charge. Since God knew all things and since God was in charge, they asked Him to show them who He had chosen. Matthias was God’s chosen apostle to replace Judas.
In Acts 6, Luke records a time when a need arises in the church (Acts 6:1-7). In short, a problem arose because the Hellenistic Jews believed their widows were not getting their fair share of the food that the church provided for their care. So the Apostles called the church together and charged them with selecting “seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Luke doesn’t tell us whether or not the church prayed about this specific decision, but based on the account in chapter 1, and the church’s commitment to prayer in chapter 2, I’m inclined to believe the church prayed. Once the seven men were selected, Luke tells us that the apostles “prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6).
I love the Apostles’ commitment to prayer and preaching. While it was important to them for the widows to be cared for, they couldn’t be responsible for this ministry because it would take them away from their God-given calling. Therefore, the decision to select seven men for this work. As a result of the Apostles’ commitment to prayer and preaching, “the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). God blessed His church. And what God did then, He can do again.
There’s another time when the early church was in God’s presence (Acts 13:1-3). They were worshiping Him, fasting, and praying. And once again, God speaks. He tells His people to set apart Barnabas and Saul to the work He had called them to.
In the first century church God’s people prayed and God spoke. When they prayed about a replacement for Judas, God spoke. When they needed to appoint seven men to serve the church, God spoke. When it was time for the church’s first mission trip, God spoke. The early church was committed to prayer. And Luke is clear: both the church’s leaders and the church’s members prayed. They prayed together. They prayed together continually.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” God may not answer like we want Him to, but since He knows everything and since He’s in charge of everything, we can trust Him to do what’s best for our good and His glory.