Verse 14 indicates a third item in the disciples’ preparation. Not only did they practice obedience and fellowship by joining together in Jerusalem during these ten days; they also joined together “constantly in prayer.”
What do you suppose they prayed for? We sometimes talk about prayer in terms of the “ACTS” acrostic: “A” for adoration, “C” for confession, “T” for thanksgiving and “S” for supplication. I can imagine that they did each of these four things, certainly adoration. After all, God had worked among them in a great way. God had sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die for their sins and then rise again from the dead. When they prayed in those days, they must have praised God for the wisdom, love, power and grace by which He had accomplished such a great plan of salvation in their time.
It must have been a time of confession for them, too. They were getting ready to do the work Jesus had for them. They must have been conscious of their inadequacy and sin. Peter was there. He had denied his Lord on the night of Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane. He had begun by following the Lord at a distance. Then he had hung out around the campfire of Christ’s enemies. One of them had asked him, “Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?”
“Oh, no,” he said.
They noticed his accent. “You have a Galilean accent. You must be from Galilee. You must be one of his disciples.” They began to press him, but Peter denied that he was Christ’s disciple even, we are told, with oaths and cursings. As Peter gathered with the others on this occasion, he at least must have been confessing his sin. He must have been saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for denying you as I did. Forgive me for denying that I was your disciple.”
The others had not denied Jesus, but they had scattered. When the Lord was arrested they must have fled away from Jerusalem in the direction of Bethany where they had been staying each night of that final week. They knew that Jesus’ enemies had come from Jerusalem. He was being taken there for trial. They would not have fled toward Jerusalem. They would have fled the other way. They were not even in Jerusalem when Jesus was brought to trial and crucified.
These men must have had their cowardice to confess before God. “We can hardly believe that at the crucial moment we were so fearful that we ran away to save our own skins,” they must have said. The Lord had chosen them to be apostles. He had said, “You are going to be my witnesses in this very city of Jerusalem to those very men who arrested and then crucified me.” They must have wondered how they could be Christ’s witnesses, especially since they had failed Him so grievously the first time. They must have confessed their failures and sought His strength and grace.
They must also have given thanks: thanks to the Father for what He had done, and to the Lord Jesus Christ for all He had accomplished and taught them during the previous forty days; thanks for forgiveness, restoration, work to do, each other, life, health and other things.
They must have made abundant supplication, too, asking God for the necessary faithfulness and strength to do the task before them.
They must even have prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had told them to expect. Sometimes people get hung up on situations like this. They say, “If God is going to do something, if it is in His sovereign will for Him to accomplish a certain thing, why pray for it? He is going to do it anyway.” This is a bad misunderstanding of how God works. It is true that God is sovereign. God does what God wills to do. God accomplishes His purposes. The disobedience of man does not frustrate him. But when God accomplishes His purposes, He does it through means. And that means, if He is going to save someone, He usually does it by leading someone else to go to him or her with the Gospel and speak about Jesus Christ. Similarly, when God sends revival, He almost always does it by leading His people to pray. Prayer is not superfluous. The disciples knew this. Jesus had taught them. So they must have prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and for blessing when the Holy Spirit came.
Those who have studied the history of revivals in the church point out that they have always been preceded by times of great prayer by Christian people. It has not always been a large number who have prayed, at least at the beginning. Often a small number gathered. But there was always prayer as the people of God come together to ask for God’s blessing.