• The Jerusalem apostles learned a great deal about
ministering to God Himself from their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They had
closely observed His life and ministry and saw that the effectiveness of
Christ's ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel was directly linked
to His ministry to the Person of God the Father. Desiring to be effective as
their Lord was, they followed His model. They were not disappointed. They became very effective in their ministry to believers and
to the lost. Following the example of the Lord Jesus in total dependence on the Holy Spirit, they
soon turned the world upside down.
• The Jerusalem apostles and the early believers in
Jesus Christ devoted themselves to prayer. Their devotion to prayer was the
foundation of their fruitful and powerful ministry. Steadfast commitment to
prayer characterized their lives and ministries from start to finish.
• While waiting in Jerusalem in obedience to the
direct command of the Risen Lord, the apostles and the early believers gave
themselves to prayer.
"These all with one mind were continually devoting
themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and
His brothers" (Acts 1:14).
• Please notice that two things characterized the
prayer of the early believers. First, they were united in purpose. They
"were all with one mind," or in "one accord." Secondly,
they were unceasing in their prayers. The verb translated "continually
devoting" (proskartereo) is a common one that denotes a steadfast
and single-minded fidelity to a certain course of action.
• The disciples were waiting. They were not
ministering to the lost. They were simply ministering to the Lord Himself in
their united and unceasing prayer. The Lord Himself was their primary focus.
They were centering on Him and Him alone. Their eyes and hearts were fixed in
reverence worship of the Lord. Later, we are told that they specifically
petitioned the Lord to show them the one He had chosen to replace Judas (Acts
• After the explosion of the church at Pentecost,
we are told that the three thousand new believers "were
continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). The new converts
proved the genuineness of their salvation by their continual devotion (proskartereo)
to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and to prayer. They also
demonstrated a steadfast and single-minded fidelity to a certain course of
action, in this case, to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and to
prayer. They quickly learned to give themselves wholeheartedly to prayer. In
prayer, they ministered to the Person of God by adoring, worshiping, praising,
blessing, thanking and celebrating Him. They were thus prepared for serving
• As partners in the Gospel, Peter and John
continued to take prayer seriously. Also, as leaders in the early church, they
needed to model a life of delighting in and depending on God. Their delight in
the Person of God and dependence on Him motivated them to go up to the temple
at the time of prayer. "Now Peter and John were going up to the temple
at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1). They were
primarily going to minister to the Person of God Himself. They had no plans
for healing a crippled beggar. But because their hearts were already
ministering to the Lord, He used them mightily in healing the lame beggar
(Acts 3:2-8). It is amazing to note that the first thing the healed beggar did
was to praise God. He began ministering to the Person of God through his
• The ninth hour is actually 3 P.M., at
which time the evening sacrifice is made in the temple. There were three
Jewish times of prayer, namely at 9:00 A.M., 12 Noon and 3 P.M. Peter and John
would not miss the last hour of prayer in the temple. Their "sweet hour
of prayer" called them from a world of care to bow themselves at their
Father's throne and to minister to His Person.
• As a result of the miraculous healing of the lame
beggar and the preaching of the Lord Jesus to the crowd that had gathered to
behold this act of God, the religious leaders of Israel were greatly disturbed
and felt the time had come to put a stop to "proclaiming in Jesus the
resurrection of the dead" (Acts 4:1-2). So Peter and John were
arrested and put in jail for the night. The next day, they were put on trial.
They were strictly warned not to speak to anyone in Jesus' name. After being
threatened, they were released.
• On their release, Peter and John went back to the
rest of the believers and reported all that the religious leaders had said to
them. The church's response to the release and report of the apostles was a
spontaneous outburst of ministering to the Person of God Himself. Their
ministering to God was one of praise, psalmody and petition.
• United in purpose, the believers prayed:
"O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the
earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the Holy Spirit, through
the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, 'Why did the Gentiles
rage, and the people devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their
stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against
His Christ.' For truly in this city there were gathered together
against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius
Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever
Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord take note of
their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with
all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders
take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus" (Acts
• Please take note of this. The believers did not
embark on a protest march through the streets of Jerusalem, condemning the
religious leaders for bullying and threatening them. Rather, they ministered
to the Person of God by praising Him for being what He is; omnipotent, the
Creator of the universe. Certainly, that helped put things in perspective. No
doubt, the religious leaders of Israel had power. But God had almighty power.
• They also ministered to God by recounting to Him
His prophetic word, recorded in Psalm 2, spoken through His prophet, David.
God loves to hear His believing children reminding Him of His prophetic word.
It delights His heart. Of course, God doesn't need a reminder from us, but His
heart is gladdened when we recount His own words to Him. God was not taken by
surprise by Calvary. David (and many others) foretold it through the Holy
Spirit. The believers were simply saying, "God, what You predicted, You
also performed before our own eyes."
• Having ministered to God through their praises and
recounting of His prophetic word written in Psalm 2, they petitioned Him to
enable them to speak His word with ever increasing confidence while He Himself
confirm their word with His deeds of power. It is significant to note that
these early believers were not praying for relief from oppression or judgment
on their oppressors but for enablement to speak the word with great boldness
amid oppressions and for God to act in mighty power through the name of Jesus,
His holy servant. In other words, their concern was for God's word to go forth
and for Jesus' name to be glorified, leaving to God Himself their own
circumstances. Certainly, with such a petition God is well pleased.
• Problems in our lives have a way of either
clarifying or clouding our vision. The church in Jerusalem had several
problems. They were put in prison. They were warned. They were threatened.
They were beaten. In short, they were persecuted. The Sanhedrin of Israel was
determined to stamp out the spread of Christianity. However, their persecution
only helped to clarify and confirm the vision of the early believers.
• In Acts chapter 6, we are told that the Jerusalem
church had an internal problem at the time when the disciples were increasing.
A complaint arose in the church. The Gentile or Hellenistic Jews complained
against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the
daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1). The matter came before the twelve
apostles. Dealing with this internal problem, led to the clearest statement
ever made by the apostles about their most important spiritual mandate.
• After telling the whole congregation it would not
be right for them to neglect the ministry of the word in order to serve
tables, they asked the congregation to choose seven spiritually qualified men,
to whom the responsibility of waiting on tables would be given. Then, they
declared to the believing community:
"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to
the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).
• What we learn here is that, the vision of the
apostles, was not clouded by the internal problem that arose within the church
at Jerusalem. Rather, it resulted in the clarification of their God-given
vision as never before. They were ever more convinced that this was their
spiritual mandate. This was their primary calling. Their lives were to be
committed to a steadfast and single-minded loyalty to prayer and the ministry
of the word. Please notice the primacy given to prayer. Prayer was to be the
foundation of their ministry.
• In prayer, they ministered to the Person of God
Himself and were thus prepared and empowered to minister to the people. There
is no doubt in my mind that, part of their devotion to prayer would have been
spent in interceding for the believing community and for the progress of the
gospel among the unsaved. They knew that the ministry of the word must come
out of a devoted prayer life.
• While I count it a great privilege to minister the
word of God and passionately love to do so, I know very well that without the
foundation of prayer, I will make little or no impact. Moreover, Satan will
not feel threatened at all by my ministry. After all, it makes little or no
impact, and his kingdom will not in any way be threatened. He will rejoice to
see me minister God's word without saturating it in fervent, fruitful and
focused prayer, which involves a ministering to the Person of God Himself.
• Devotion to prayer and the ministry of the word
was the apostles' principle. It was their practice and pattern. They gave
themselves to prayer, in which they ministered to the Person of God Himself
and to the ministry of the word, in which they served believers and
unbelievers. A pattern is set here for us, believers and all those who are
called into full-time ministry. I believe with all my heart that God's work
would move ahead more efficiently were this pattern followed more carefully
• The apostles' principle and pattern of giving
themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word was done
corporately as well as individually. In Acts 10, Peter, the one to whom the
keys of the kingdom were given (Matthew 16:19) is seen devoting himself to
prayer on a roof top in Joppa. Peter would be chosen by God to open another
important door for the gospel - as he did with the Jews on the day of
Pentecost. The door of the gospel would be opened to the Gentiles at Caesarea.
It is interesting to note that several hundred years earlier, in the same city
of Joppa, Jonah would resist God's call upon him to take His message to the
Ninevites (Jonah 1:3).
• Before Peter would be directed to travel to
Caesarea to preach the gospel, he was devoting himself to prayer. Peter was
personally living the principle and pattern of Acts 6:4. He was practicing
what he preached to the church in Jerusalem. The vivid account of Peter's
unique experience on the roof top is recorded for us in Acts 10:9-20.
"Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth
hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat, but while they
were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened
up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to
the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and
crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him,
'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I
have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a
second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' This
happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he
had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having
asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate; and calling out,
they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying
there. While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him,
'Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and
accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself."
• The flat roofs of Palestine, approached by an
outdoor flight of steps, were common places of prayer in biblical times (2
Kings 23:12; Nehemiah 8:16; Jeremiah 19:13; 32:29; Zechariah 1:5). It was a
good place to pray during the daytime as it was separate from the activity of
the house, and the sea breeze and an awning helped cooled the place.
• The main lesson Peter learned from this roof top
experience was not to consider any group of people common or unclean (Acts
10:28). In other words, the point of the vision was that God is not partial to
any one ethnic or racial group. Having prayed and having learned that he was
not to call any person unholy or unclean, Peter was prepared to minister the
word. He did this with great power. The result, the Holy Spirit fell upon all
who were listening to his message. The Jewish Christians who came with Peter
to Caesarea were amazed at the work of God among the Gentiles. These Gentiles
were transformed and began new lives in Christ Jesus. But it all began
with Peter following the principle and pattern of devoting himself to prayer
and then to the ministry of the word.
• This is God's plan for our lives as individual
believers as well as a corporate body. Our main calling is to minister to
the Person of God and allow Him to minister His love and life through us.