The Spirit Linked To Prayer
The intimate connection between the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit and prayer is seen in Acts chapter 8 at Samaria where Philip had preached with great blessing. Although many had believed, the Holy Ghost had as yet fallen on none of them. The apostles sent Peter and John to pray for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. The power for such prayer was a high gift. It was the work of the men who had been in closest contact with the Lord, the work essential to the perfection of the life that preaching and baptism, faith and conversion had only begun.
Of all the gifts of the early Church for which we should long, there is none more needed than the gift of prayer that brings down the Holy Ghost on believers. This power is given to the men who say: "We will give ourselves continually to prayerÖ" (Acts 6:4).
In the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the house of Cornelius at Caesarea, we have another testimony to the wondrous interdependence of the action of prayer and the Spirit, and another proof of what will come to a man who has given himself to prayer. Peter went up at midday to pray on the housetop. He saw heaven opened, and there came the vision that revealed to him the cleansing of the Gentiles. Three men from Cornelius came with the message from a man who "prayed to God always," and had heard from an angel, "Thy prayers...are come up...before God" (Acts 10:2, 4).
Then Peter heard the voice of the Spirit saying, "Go with them" (10:20). The will of God was revealed to Peter while he was praying. Guidance was given as to going to Caesarea, where he was brought into contact with a praying and prepared company of hearers. In answer to all this prayer a blessing came beyond all expectation, and the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Gentiles. A much-praying minister will receive an entrance into Godís will he would otherwise know nothing of and will receive blessing above all he asks or thinks.
The Christian communityís prayer also has power with its glorified King. In Acts chapter 12, we have the story of Peter in prison on the eve of execution. The death of James had aroused the Church to a sense of real danger, and the thought of losing Peter too, wakened up all its energies. "Prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him" (Acts 12:5). That prayer availed much; Peter was delivered! When he came to the house of Mary, he found "many gathered together praying" (v. 12). Stone walls and double chains, soldiers and keepers and the iron gate, all gave way before the power from heaven that prayer brought down to Peterís rescue.
In Acts chapter 13 are given the names of five men at Antioch who had given themselves especially to ministering to the Lord with prayer and fasting. As they ministered to the Lord, the Holy Spirit gave them new insight into Godís plans. He called them to be fellow workers with Himself. There was a work to which He had called Barnabas and Saul. The privilege of these five men would be to separate Barnabas and Saul with renewed fasting and prayer and to let them go, "sent forth by the Holy Ghost" (Acts 13:4). Men on earth were to have a real partnership in the work of God.
To praying men the Holy Ghost gave authority to do His work and use His name. Prayer is the secret of true Church extension that is guided from heaven to find and send forth God-called and God-empowered men. Through prayer the Holy Spirit will show the men He has selected and set them apart. Prayer is the link between the King on the throne and the Church at His footstool, and has its divine strength in the power of the Holy Ghost, who comes in answer to it.
As one looks back upon these chapters in the history of the Pentecostal Church, how clearly the two great truths stand out: where there is much prayer there will be much of the Spirit; where there is much of the Spirit there will be ever-increasing prayer. So close is the living connection between the two that when the Spirit is given in answer to prayer, it wakens more prayer to prepare for the fuller revelation and communication of His divine power and grace. If prayer was the power by which the primitive Church flourished and triumphed, is it not the need of the Church of our days?
Heaven is still as full of stores of spiritual blessing as it was then. God still delights to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. Our life and work are still as dependent on the direct impartation of divine power as they were in Pentecostal times. Prayer is still the appointed means for drawing down these heavenly blessings in power on ourselves and those around us. God still seeks for men and women who will, with all their other work of ministering, especially give themselves to persevering prayer.
Each of us may have the privilege of offering ourselves to God to labor in prayer and bring down these blessings to this earth. Shall we not beseech God to make this truth so living in us that we may not rest until it has mastered us, and our whole heart be so filled with it, that the practice of intercession shall be counted by us our highest privilege?
Revised from The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray.