“When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:13,14, NIV).
The apostles have recently been instructed by Jesus “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4,5, NIV). And now they have just seen him ascend into the heavens from where He is to return in all glory.
Today, this promise of God in such circumstances would often lead to division rather than Pentecost. In most cases when the leader of a church leaves for one reason or another, the congregation immediately divides into different camps instead of praying with one accord. And yet, such a prayer is by far not the only lesson one ought to learn from this passage.
Before starting to pray, the apostles and the rest of the people with them carefully follow Jesus’ instructions – they simply wait. Lately, however, waiting has been losing its value as a virtue. Most of us own or wish to own a microwave oven, a fast computer, speedy Internet access, fast response to their e-mails… and a fast reaction by others in each and every situation. And all this just because we can’t wait. Sadly, the wasted money and nerves aren’t the only negative consequence of this. The worst is that by learning to require faster speed and shorter waiting time of everything and everyone, we also slowly begin to unlearn how to wait on God’s promise and His answers to our prayers. Sometimes God’s reply comes faster than expected and we’re jumping for joy and singing praises. Yet, other times God’s answers don’t come in accordance with our expectations… Thus, as opposed to microwave ovens and fast Internet prayer does require patience. Those of us who have the patience to wait also do receive God’s answer. Unfortunately, there are also those of us who can’t wait and instead try to fill up their emptiness with whatever little things they can do or provide on their own. Brothers and sisters, let us learn to pray with patience!
Jesus’ disciples did not only pray with patience but also prayed with one accord and constantly. Just as with patience, these two qualities also seem to be not so popular in today’s culture and society. This is the very reason we ought to pay even more attention to them. Today it is fashionable for a person to strive for achieving their individual desires and the less endurance it requires, the better. The proper functioning of Christ’s body – the body of believers cannot be a reality without endurance and harmony. The word endurance itself hasn’t lost all its value yet and this should be to our encouragement. As for harmony – the situation there is very different. In some countries as a result of the still bleeding wounds of communism, and in others – because of a long strive for individualism simply mentioning the word harmony in the context of people living together creates fears and worries. The harmony and oneness mentioned in Acts, however, shouldn’t create fears and worries after one has understood its meaning.
The Greek word ὁμοθυμαδόν (translated “together” in NIV) means “in one mind”, thus expressing what the apostles and the others praying with them had amongst each other. Among all these people there isn’t separation or divisions, there are no personal interests taking over the communal desire for God’s promise… There is no hatred, nor is there mutual or one-sided neglect. All these men and women, perhaps at different ages and certainly of different backgrounds – they all have put their differences behind so that they may turn to God together. And namely such should our prayers be… as well as our lives, if we have the boldness to call ourselves Christians.
May our prayer be: “Lord, help us to wait on your answers. Give us strength to overcome our differences, so that we may bow before your as brothers and sisters in harmony, according to your grace.”