How is it that the apostles were able to keep to their priorities and so many of us are not? It is not difficult to give an answer. We only have to think about what they had experienced in the previous three or four years. They had seen the Lord, spent time with him, listened to his teaching and witnessed his miracles. Some of them had been present at both his transfiguration on the mountain and his bloodied agony in the garden. But none of these things, nor the cross, the blood, the resurrection, the appearances or the ascension had made preachers out of them. For this they had to wait for the day of Pentecost. Every apostle knew that no-one could be a true preacher without being ‘clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
In recent days they had learned the lesson afresh. We do not read that any of them had prayed for Pentecost to be repeated. They knew well enough that this could not be. They had lived through a unique event. But they also knew that if they were left to themselves, they would be for ever powerless. It was essential that they should have the direct and immediate blessing of God. For this they could only pray, which is precisely what they did after it became clear that the Jewish authorities would not tolerate any further preaching: ‘And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the Word of God with boldness’ (Acts 4:31).
Since then, the persecution had been stepped up. No wonder they kept prayer as their first priority! Mere words would not conquer their enemies and win the world. They needed a force by which they could declare God’s truth with ever-loving hearts, fiery tongues and superhuman authority. This power from the Holy Spirit was the one thing to be sought and secured. They could not work this up; but they could call it down, and this is what they set themselves to do A little prayer would not do. No average wave would ever sweep away the resistant Rock of Gibraltar, the unregenerate heart, even though it might throw up spangles of spray filled with rainbows. A resistless tsunami was required. God alone can do God’s work, and we must ask him to do it.
In seeking to put all this into practice, I have found the following suggestions to be helpful... (continued Monday)