If you or I were to write the script for the advancement of the gospel after Jesus’s death and resurrection, I dare say it would not unfold quite the same as it did in the book of Acts. Perhaps we would have sent the disciples out on mission immediately after the resurrection or at least after Jesus’s ascension. Jesus did not lay out a military strategy that called his early followers to “strike while the iron was hot.” Rather, Jesus commanded them to wait until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8). The advancement of the gospel would not rely upon the ingenuity of man, but upon the power of God. In fact, Jesus promised the power of the Holy Spirit to carry the call of God to the world.
As Bob Burton notes, “The book of Acts . . . begins with waiting and preparation. For the first-century church, the measure of the effectiveness on the mission field was directly related to the measure of spiritual preparation—praying, waiting, and expecting” (The Spiritual DNA of a Church on Mission, 10). He goes on to explain that the church does indeed explode with growth, but only after a time of preparation (10 days of prayer and fasting). The urgency of the gospel moving mightily through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the nations begins by preparation through prayer. By waiting and praying.
Prayer is always instrumental in the expansion of the gospel in Acts. Burton is correct that “there is always a direct connection between prayer and missions (The Spiritual DNA, 11). For example, in Acts 3 Peter and John enter the temple area at the time of prayer and heal a man who is born lame. As this event creates no small commotion, Peter uses it to preach the gospel to the gathered crowd. This gathering then gains the attention of the religious leaders who arrest Peter and John for preaching Jesus. In Acts 4 the apostles are threatened with death and then released with the understanding that they have been warned. They immediately return to the church knowing what is at stake.
They report to the church what had happened and then begin to pray. They pray not for deliverance from this threat or that Jesus would somehow ease their burden or change their calling. No, they pray for God-given boldness (Acts 4:29). As they pray, God physically shakes the room where they have gathered and fills them with the Holy Spirit. Thus, they continue speaking with boldness about the gospel of Jesus (Acts 4:31; 33).
As we see, “preparation was the foundational missional principle for the church. It all began with a lifestyle of prayer, waiting, and expectation” (The Spiritual DNA, 11). Oh, that the church would rediscover this principle. What might God do with the church today that waits and prays? What might He do with the church that pleads with God to move mightily in and through them by the filling of His Spirit? He did it then; He can do it again. If we can help your church in developing intentional prayer for the Great Commission, then please call on us at [email protected].