They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. – Acts 2:42 NET
Who are the “they” Luke is referring to? All you have to do is look at the preceding verse to find out. “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added” (Acts 2:41 NET). These were new converts to Christianity. Just after the miracle of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Jesus, Peter had spoken to the crowd that had gathered. He presented them with the reality of their own sin and their need for a Savior. Then he shared the good news regarding Jesus Christ. “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NET). And that one sermon resulted in 3,000 people accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.
And these new believers were characterized by an excitement and fervor for their new-found faith. Luke describes them as having an ongoing devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship with one another. As a result of the teaching they received and the fellowship they enjoyed, they regularly ate together and prayed for one another. It’s important to remember that this crowd of new converts would have been made up of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. They had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and, as Luke indicates, “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5 ESV). The text describes them as “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” (Acts 2:9-11 ESV). This was a hodge-podge of people with different ethnic backgrounds who spoke different languages, and who suddenly found themselves sharing a new-found faith in Christ. Many of them would have been visitors to Jerusalem who had only intended to stay in town for the duration of the festival, but who now found themselves compelled to stay longer due to their unexpected encounter with Christ. They needed places to stay and food to eat. And Luke says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:44-46 ESV).
Despite their differences, these people had a sense of community. Their faith in Christ bound them together. They had a shared hunger to learn more about Christ and so they listened intently as the disciples taught them the words of Jesus. They couldn’t get enough. Luke uses the Greek word, proskartereō to describe them. It means “steadfastly attentive to.” They gathered together to enjoy fellowship with one another and instruction from Peter and the disciples. And they prayed. Luke doesn’t tell us what they prayed for, but we have to assume that the content of their prayers ran the gamut. They most likely prayed for one another and for their lost friends and family members. They probably prayed for more converts, for God’s provision of their needs, and for wisdom to know what to do next. Their worlds had been turned upside down and they would have been confused about what all this meant. But regardless of the content of their prayers, the fact is, they prayed – together. It was part of their fellowship together. It was a key element of their spiritual growth. Prayer is not just a private exercise, reserved for those moments when you can get alone with God. Prayer is to be a corporate and community experience.
When we gather together as believers in Jesus Christ, we are to devote ourselves to prayer. We are to make prayer a part of our fellowship with one another. When we have fellow believers in our home, do we take time to pray? Do we share prayer requests with one another? Or do we simply spend our time talking about family, work, current events and other topics of interest? Our times together should be marked by prayer. Prayer invites God into our midst and reveals that we desire not only His power, but His presence. Prayer conveys our mutual dependence upon God. It is amazing to think how little we pray when we gather together with our believing friends. When we have people in our homes, we eat, drink, laugh, talk, and yet rarely take the time to pray for and with one another. We may pray over the meal, but we don’t include God in our conversation. We don’t invite Him into our circle of fellowship, acknowledging our need for Him and expressing our desire for Him.
It’s interesting to note that the closing statement in chapter two of Acts is “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Could it be that this was in answer to their prayers? Because they gathered together, devoted themselves to learning more about Christ, shared all they had with one another and made prayer a regular part of their fellowship, God was growing their number. True Christian fellowship should always include prayer. Conversation about God will never replace conversation with God.