5.23.23 | Waiting for the Power | Acts 1: 1-14


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Prayer Guide

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “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.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 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 1:1-14


On the Day of Ascension, 2000 years ago, which the church celebrated last Wednesday, Jesus gave the church (us included) a mission. We are going to carry on his ministry to the entire world as his witnesses. All that he did, we will now do, but rather than through one man in one place – through millions, even billions of believers, across the whole earth. 

Jesus gives a critical instruction to the disciples before he sends them out to carry out phase 2 of his own ministry as his Body on earth. “But wait for the gift my father promised,” he says. “For in a few days, you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.” 

So the disciples went back to the upper room. And they waited. They had no idea how long they would wait…as it turns out, they waited ten days until Pentecost, when the Spirit of God was poured out in tongues of fire, and the city of Jerusalem heard the sound and three thousand were converted and the church was born. But as they went into that upper room, they had no idea what God was going to do and no idea how long they’d need to wait.

We have prayer meetings that go 45 minutes. We set an end time because if we didn’t nobody would come. We’d need to get on with our lives. But what if God told us to start a prayer meeting with no definite end time…as he did for those first disciples? What if that prayer meeting went on 24 hours. 48 hours. 72 hours. A week? How would that feel? What if nothing happened for 7 days, 8 days, 9 days….

Have you ever wondered why God makes the church wait in prayer? In 1906, God put a hunger in an African-American pastor named William Seymour and others to pray for revival and for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They began a prayer meeting in Los Angeles…on March 4, 1906.

It wasn’t until April 9, 1906 some five weeks later, that the Holy Spirit fell on one man. And then others. And others still. And then revival broke out, touching hundreds, then thousands. Today a half billion Pentecostals trace their spiritual roots to that one prayer meeting. Those five weeks of WAITING on God in the upper room in Los Angeles.

Why does God make us wait? Why must we learn to wait in prayer on the things God has promised? God could do it instantly…like with a microwave TV dinner or drive through chicken nuggets…but he doesn’t. For the same reason that the good stuff (ribs, brisket, thanksgiving turkey) always takes time to cook. God is not a God of the drive through, he’s a God of the slow cook.

As it turns out, God had strategic reasons external to the church. On the day of Pentecost, pilgrims were gathered from all over the known world. But in addition, there are things that only happen in us while we are waiting on God and the answer to our prayers seems to tarry.

What is God doing in the waiting? He is preparing the container…the wineskins of our hearts. He is stretching our hearts, softening them. He is crucifying and crushing and mortifying our flesh. So that our hearts and character are actually ready to receive his new wine, to receive the very things we are asking him for. 

Revival tarries at times because we are not ready to steward the gift we are asking for. Maybe our ideas and motives are not yet aligned with his. Maybe our sin and pride and flesh need to lie dead on the altar before the FIRE of God’s presence can consume us. We don’t always know why God makes us wait…but waiting is (as Tom Petty) pointed out, always the hardest part. But it is absolutely indispensable.

Jesus waited. He waited thirty years until his baptism, until he was clothed with power, until the Spirit descended on him. Only then did he enter his ministry. He waited forty days in the wilderness, fasting and seeking God and battling Satah, before he began preaching. During his ministry, he turned aside to lonely places to pray and wait on God. Before he called his disciples. Before he set his face toward Jerusalem. He waited all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He waited forty days before ascending. 

And then he waited ten more days before he asked the Father to pour out the Holy Spirit on the church. In the church calendar, we are celebrating those days right now, as the disciples waited in the Upper Room for the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus made them wait because he wanted the core, defining experience of the church to be that of waiting together in the upper room in prayer. Waiting in prayer is the DNA of the church. If you look through Acts you see disciples waiting on God in prayer over and over and over. Acts 4, Acts 6, Acts 13, Acts 15. Someone said the Book of Acts is the account of what happened in between corporate prayer meetings. 

God makes the church wait in prayer because waiting together in prayer is the fundamental vital behavior that makes it possible for the Kingdom of God to spread in the power of the Spirit. We can run out and do it in our own strength and wisdom and resources and we’ll get a human sized result. Or…we can seek the LORD whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours…and then let him send us out in his power and with his strategies, and we will see a God sized result. As we celebrate the Ascension…this is a moment for us to recommit to a culture and priority of waiting in prayer. Waiting on God in corporate prayer in the upper room.

For prayer/reflection:

  1. Ask God to give you and the church a spirit that is willing to wait on Him in prayer. 
  2. Ask God for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. Fresh empowerment for ministry. Fresh touch of his presence.
  3. Ask God to activate his church as Jesus’ Body to extend God’s Kingdom in our city, state, and region.