Role of Prayer and the Holy Spirit in Acts

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I love the book of Acts. It is action packed and so inspiring on how driven those men were to do the will of God. I love that we get so much great information from it on the church, church leadership, fellowship, giving, and all kinds of wonderful examples that we can follow today. As you read through the book of Acts there are two things that you just can’t miss. They are the Holy Spirit and prayer. What is also interesting is that when you see these two things working together you find God’s people filled with boldness to do what God has asked them to do. In fact, the word bold or boldness is used more time in the book of Acts than any other book of the Bible.

The word that comes to mind when you read about the Holy Spirit and prayer in relation to the people of God in the book of Acts is dependence. They realized that the mission they were on could not be accomplished by their own power and ability. It all depended on God. It all depended on God showing up and using them in ways only God can do.

Creation of the World & the Church:
The creation of the church in Acts was very similar to the creation of the world that we find in Genesis 1. In Genesis 1 we find God the Father speaking the world into existence. We see the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters and we find Jesus Christ present as the Word that was the powerful agent of creation in the beginning (John 1). The same is true in Acts when it comes to the start of the church. In Acts 2 we see the presence of the Holy Spirit come among the disciples (Acts 2:1-6). A few verses later in Peter’s sermon we hear about how all that had happened was the work of God and Christ. The result is the start of the church. It is a God initiated event.

The Early Church’s Dependence on the Holy Spirit:
When you read through Acts you can’t miss their dependence on the Holy Spirit for many things. We find it empowering the apostles with words to say (Acts 4:8), ensuring believers to speak boldly against the powers of the world in the name of Christ (Acts 4:31), encouraging the Christians (Acts 9:31), speaking to them specific instructions of what they were to do (Acts 13:2), and warning of trouble ahead (Acts 20:23). They depended on the Holy Spirit for the mission to be a success.

The Early Church’s Dependence on Prayer:
You also can’t miss their dependence on prayer. They prayed when making major decisions (Acts 1:14, 24), when they faced persecution (Acts 4:18-31 & 7:59), when faced with prison (12:5, 16:25). What is more, the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s kingdom had prayer on both sides. Peter was on the rooftop praying (Acts 10:9) and Cornelius was praying at the same time (Acts 10:30-31). There is no doubt about the fact that the early church was a praying church.

The result – boldness:
The result of this dependence was boldness. Again, that word is used more in Acts than any other book of the Bible. They could be bold because they had the Holy Spirit and were in fervent prayer for them to be in God’s will and for God to guide and lead them through what they were doing. One of the most interesting verses where the Holy Spirit, prayer and boldness come together is found in Acts 4:23-31. Peter and John had been chastised by the chief priests and elders. They had been told not to “speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). How did they respond? They prayed. They prayed for boldness to speak anyway…”Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (4:29-31).

Message for us today:
I believe it is essential for our success in God’s mission to depend totally on God for our guidance. We have to realize that the Spirit dwells within us and plays an active role in our relationship with God (Acts 2:38, 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19, Rom 8:26ff). I wonder how many times we try to figure out why a ministry is not successful when all the while we were just depending on ourselves and not on God. Maybe it is time we look at the early church again for an example of how to depend more fully on God for the directions we take and the decisions we make.

0 Responses

  1. I’ve often wondered why it is that the Holy Spirit is so often referred to as a “thing” and/or an “it” whereas that virtually never happens when people speak of either the Father or the Son…

    Do you believe it has been easier for Christians to manifest love, joy, peace, etc. than it was for the Old Testament saints?


  2. In his book “Prayer and Providence,” Homer Hailey made this statement (which I’ve copied onto a blank page of my Bible):

    “As we…consider the majestic greatness of God, His love that passes understanding, His readiness to hear our petitions and His infinite power which enables Him to answer them, why should it be necessary to urge people to continue steadfastly in prayer?
    Add to this man’s weakness and constant need for divine help in meeting the problems of life, it becomes all the more difficult to understand our neglect of this marvelous privilege and power available to us. Does it not then become a sin if we omit this great responsibility and essential to spritual life and growth? Let each ask himself, ‘do I really pray?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ from this moment make a change in this exercise of infinite spiritual value.”

    I, for one, ought to reflect on that statement more often!

    Thanks Matt.

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