When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) … (verses 1-2, 4-5,
Jesus has ascended to heaven and his followers regroup in Jerusalem, readying themselves for a new beginning. They must have been on the edge of their seats. Luke, unfolding the story, is very conscious of who’s who. He lists each of the Apostles by name. He specifically tells us there were also a number of women present, naming Mary, Jesus’ mother, as the most prominent, and then lets us know that Jesus’ brothers, formerly skeptics, were included in the gathering, too. Beyond that, many others were part of the mix, bringing the total number to around one hundred and twenty. (I can’t help myself – I wonder which other characters from the Gospels were part of this group. Nicodemus? Joseph of Arimathea? The formerly blindman, or the Samaritan woman, or the man lowered on his stretcher through the roof, or the alive-again son of the widow of Nain?)
This listing of participants sets us up for a major issue that’s looming, because one former participant of this group is conspicuously absent – Judas Iscariot, who “left to go where he belongs” (verse 25). His betrayal of Jesus has left a gaping hole in their ranks. The “Twelve” is diminished. Everyone feels the need to top up the number. They will deal with this pressing issue shortly.
But first, there is something more pressing yet. “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (verse 14). Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit. They now know that “waiting” implies much more than sitting on their hands. Peter, James and John had learned that lesson poignantly when Jesus found them fast asleep in Gethsemane, three times over.
So they gather to pray. Luke uses two specific words to describe this gathering. The first is translated in the NIV as “joined together”, but it more specifically means “with one mind, one accord, one passion.” This doesn’t mean they thought the same on every issue nor that they were blindly subject to group-think. But it does mean they had a passionately common focus. They had a deep abiding sense that they were in this together. So they stood side by side, hand in hand, undistracted by other things, waiting in prayer. Oh, that we would have such oneness of mind.
The other word is translated “constantly.” Fleshing it out, the word means “to be steadfastly attentive”, “to be devoted”, “to persevere courageously.” This group was “pressing on with passion.” Yes, they were only praying. But that was enough. It was the necessity of the moment. So, with one mind, they were passionately pressing forward in the Lord’s purposes. Later, this same passion, described with the same word, is recorded for us after the outpouring of the Spirit when the gathered believers “devoted themselves” (Acts 2:42) to teaching, fellowship, worship and prayer, and “continued” (Acts 2:46) to meet in the temple day by day. Oh, that we would have such focused intensity.
Lord, may it be. For your glory, may it be.
Lord, the necessity of prayer continues. By your Spirit, work in me the devotion of these early believers, that I might persevere courageously, being steadfastly attentive. And use me as one who engages in the gathered community with this attitude of “one mind”, passionately focused on you, putting aside my own agenda to maintain oneness in you.
Commit: Is there an opportunity in your community to “join together constantly in prayer”? If so, commit yourself to engaging this week. If not, could you create one? (For the Lord to be right in the midst, it only takes two or three.)