The book of Acts was written by Luke, Paul’s longtime partner in the ministry. Acts was written as a sort of epilogue to the Gospel of Luke: “Here’s what happened while Christ was with us, and now here’s what happened in the weeks, months and years following the Lord’s resurrection.”
It’s why the book starts off with the words:
(1) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
(2) Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen…
Acts is also an apologetic written to a man named Theophilus. “Apologetic” comes from the Greek word apologia, that means “a speech given in one’s own defense.” So, in the case of Luke and Acts, this is a work written in defense of our belief in Christ.
Scripture does not say a whole lot about who Theophilus is, but given the personal nature of Luke’s address in the beginning of his gospel, it appears that the man was a personal acquaintance of Luke’s and someone of some sort of influence or importance. At any rate, because of Luke’s apologetic to this man, we have been blessed with both a wonderful gospel account and an inspired first book of church history.
The full title of this New Testament book is The Acts of the Apostles, but given that all the action in the book can be traced to working of God’s Holy Spirit, some have suggested that this book might be more aptly named The Acts of the Holy Spirit.
I think they’re right. But the question is: “Why was the Holy Spirit so active in this book, and why does He not seem so active today?”
The Holy Spirit was active in Acts because the early church actively prayed. Prayer wasn’t just something the church did as an “add on” to their activities: “OK…We have this church event planned, so let’s pray real quick that God will bless it.” The early church’s attitude was much different regarding prayer. It was their primary activity. It was what fueled everything they did: “We need to pray so we know what to do. We need to pray while we’re doing it. And we need to pray after it’s all said and done so we can do more!”
Why did they pray so much? Because that’s what Christ did. He prayed to His heavenly Father all the time: Early in the morning, late at night, all through the day. The early church was simply following in the Lord’s footsteps!
The modern church has become so much about the work (programs and activities) that prayer seems more of an obstacle than a necessity. But prayer is the work. We tend to mistake activity for life. But that’s like mistaking a windup toy monkey for the real thing. Is it any wonder why the church is so anemic, and the world fails to take us more seriously? Prayer to our living Savior is what breathes life into what we do. Otherwise, what we do is lifeless and mechanical.
God has been convicting me about this, about the fact that I do not pray enough. Lately, I have even forgotten to pray over meals because I have gotten too focused on the business of life and the blessings I have rather than on my God.
So, to remedy this, I have decided to study prayer as it is described in the Book of Acts so that I can learn what real prayer is and what real Holy Spirit power is. My hope is that it will become more than just a study, but that it will become a way of life for me.
“Lord, teach me to pray!”