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Read Acts 1:1-14.

Jesus’ advice might be annoying or confusing to action-oriented Americans who live in an instant society. Our cultural wisdom urges us that ... the early bird gets the worm, and we need to strike while the iron is hot, and opportunity only knocks once because time is of the essence and time is money, and we need to give 110% because we can’t just stand there, we’ve got to do something, so we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps with the sweat of our own brow just to get-r-done.

Jesus’ advice is probably more frustrating to us than it was to Peter. There’s work to be done – kingdom business – and sitting around praying is something we can do on our own time.
What if Peter and the 120 had had the attitude we sometimes have? What if they had watched Jesus ascend to heaven and then say to themselves – “Well, Jesus gives good advice but he doesn’t really know what its like in the streets of Jerusalem. There’s a lot of work to be done and only a 120 of us.” What if they had got anxious instead of got down on their knees? I wonder if they had done that would there even be a chapter 2 and the day of Pentecost.

God’s power is at work within us. We don’t channel the power or command the power. We cannot bottle it or manage it to serve us. Even Jesus didn’t do that. His power works among us and our response is to be faithful and follow.
We understand that this power works among us to accomplish God’s mission. Reading the text, our first work should always be prayer – not a perfunctory opening prayer, but the humble recognition that the mission and evangelism is God’s power at work among us and not a do-it-yourself job on our part.

Prayer is vital and it might help us to be more active and devoted to prayer, but our cultural viewpoints may make it so that we have ...

  1. Prayer keeps us from apathy and anxiety

  2. Prayer keeps us from arrogance

Be Still and Know That I Am God
About eight years ago I attended an evangelism conference with an elder and fellow minister of the church I served in Texas. It was a good conference. We were inspired. We left the conference in Ft. Worth buzzing and enthusiastic about all that we could do back home. We were driving along I-45 talking and brainstorming about plans and about halfway home near Fairfield, Texas the van started losing power. I couldn’t understand it. And then I caught sight of the gas gauge. [In 26 years of driving, I have run out of gas twice. And the first time it was the car’s fault. The gas gauge lied to me.] But this time I was so caught up in plans and programs to do the work of the church I forgot something as simple as getting fuel.
The loss of power in our American-built van sort of made all of stop and re-focus. What were we skipping over in all of our high and mighty ideas? Who were we outrunning? We ran out of gas, but God has power that never quits. There was only one thing that we needed to do – and it wasn’t finding gasoline. As the world rushed on beside us at 70 mph, we sat and prayed. All of our talk about plans and programs and busy-ness were put aside. In a van with no gas on I-45 near Fairfield, TX we humbled ourselves before God in prayer. We prayed for the lost. We prayed for the church. We prayed for wisdom and patience and we prayed for power – all in God’s own time.

There were so many interesting things that happened in the months that followed. Things we never would have imagined. Things that we certainly would not have been prepared for if we hadn’t prayed. And things we probably wouldn’t have chosen if we hadn’t prayed.

You and I may not be here today if those 120 folk in Jerusalem had decided to strike out on their own and do their own work instead of pray and wait for God’s work in them. But thank God they did and can you believe what happened next? Sure you can, for here we are today.

So let’s get busy – let’s get busy praying. And we may just be amazed at what happens next.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 5 August 2007

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