“They were all continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What do we do when we don’t know what do to? There are seasons in life when the path forward from where we are to where we want to be isn’t at all clear. The reasons for this are many, but the result is the same: we feel lost and alone and confused and anxious and we don’t know what to do about it. What we see here in the beginning of Acts offers us a good way forward for moments just like this. Let’s take a look at what these folks did when they didn’t know the way forward.
I was band nerd in high school. More specifically, I was a drumline nerd. I loved every minute I spent there, and made some truly great friends to carry me through high school. I remember, though, the transition from my sophomore year to my junior year in band being a really challenging one. The reason for this is that the senior class when I was a sophomore was stacked with talent and leadership. This was true across the whole band, but was particularly true about the drumline. The class one year ahead of mine, though, included only one member of the drumline. This meant that the leadership of the group fell to me my junior year. I had been very comfortable under the security blanket of the seniors the year before and wasn’t really sure what I was doing or how I was going to do it. Eventually I figured it out, but it was a scary time for a while.
I can imagine the group of Jesus followers remaining after His ascension felt a little like that, but on a whole other level. Jesus had been their leader. As long as He was with them, they didn’t have to worry about anything because He had a plan and all the confidence in the world while leading them toward it. But now He was gone. He had told them it was going to ultimately be a good thing for them when He left, but they weren’t feeling it yet. There were only 120 of them. That may seem like a big group – after all, the average church in America right now is smaller than that – but when there are only 120 of your group in the whole world it feels a whole lot smaller. They didn’t know where to go. They didn’t know what to do. They were scared and worried about what the future was going to hold for them. So, they did the only thing they knew to do, which turned out to be the right thing.
The first thing they did was to pray. Luke tells us they were “continually united in prayer.” Uncertainty and fear about the future can create doubt and mistrust among members of a community. Everyone brings their own agenda to the table and is set to advocate for what they want over and against what might be best for the group. Division and disunity bloom quickly in this fertile ground. Far too many churches have faced an uncertain future together and fallen apart because of it. But whether we are talking about a group or just you and me as individuals, the first and best thing to do when we don’t know what to do is pray.
This can’t be a one-time thing. Nor can it be something to which we give only half of our attention. Prayer must be happening continually and in every way we can imagine. We engage in formal times of prayer when our circumstances allow it, but we must go beyond that. We should keep our minds open to our Lord in prayer throughout the day. Every thought we have gets filtered through the lens of what He wants us to do with it. Every decision we make gets the same treatment. God never promises to give us answers that are quick or easy when we are in a season of uncertainty. But He will answer. There is grace in the seeking, so we do it diligently. He will reveal the next step to take at just the right time.
This prayer, though, need not be a solo venture. If you are in a personal season of uncertainty, invite a handful of other mature believers you trust to be praying alongside you. God pays attention when we pray by ourselves. He pays even more attention when we pray in groups. That’s what the group did here. Luke says they were continually united. He goes out of his way to note that the women were involved in this season of seeking wisdom and direction through prayer. Every part of the community was involved. This did a couple of important things. On the one hand, their voices were lifted together with their hearts focused in the same direction. This helped to hold them together as a group. On the other hand, being together like this was a reminder that none of them were alone in their struggles. They had each other to lean on for strength and support. Facing a season of uncertainty is always easier when we have a community facing it with us together.
As important as prayer and community are, though, there is still one more thing the group of believers here did that we would do well to copy. They were patient. Sometimes God uses a season of adversity or uncertainty to draw us to Him. Like I said before, there is grace in the seeking. There is a reason we are exhorted many times in the Scriptures to wait on the Lord. God will eventually make clear what your next step is. He won’t necessarily give you any more than that, but He will make the next one apparent. At that point, it is up to you to take the step. It may be a step of great faith, but you won’t be moving forward until you take it.
Being in a situation where you don’t know what to do can be disorienting and scary. But with prayer, community, and patience, you will be able to stand firm and begin moving forward again when the time is right. Lean into God and not away from Him. He will not leave you or forsake you. As you trust Him and live faithfully from one moment to the next, you will find your way forward.