Whenever you are learning a skill, it always helps to have a good model to follow. I've recently been learning a new software package by watching the tutorial videos over and over again. When the tutorials don't work, I turn for help to my 10-year old son. He clicks a few buttons, shows me how it's done, and I'm on my way.
When you're learning to cook, having Emeril on the Food Network is better than figuring out the recipe book for yourself. I learned my golf swing from an 85-year old retiree at the retirement home where I worked while in seminary, and people who see me play are not surprised to learn that.
In his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala reminds us that the church in the book of Acts was born out of a prayer meeting, and there are more than 30 references to prayer in Acts.1 If we as Christians are looking for a role model for prayer, there is no better example than the early followers of Jesus in the book of Acts. In Acts, we see four key features of the early church at prayer.
The Early Church Prayed Dependently (Acts 1:12-14)
Jesus told His disciples to go from Jerusalem to the remotest parts of the world as His witnesses. If twelve apostles and a hundred or so disciples are going to reach the world, they had better get busy. But, the first thing they do when Jesus ascends back to heaven is lock themselves up in a room, shut themselves off from everything, and pray for ten days for the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood that they needed supernatural power for a superhuman work.
The most important lesson we can ever learn about prayer is that we are absolutely dependent on God. Jesus tells us in John 15, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." The tricky part is that we can do lots of things on our own, but the impact and fruit of our work is "nothing" unless Jesus empowers us. Psalms 132:2 says: "As the eyes of a slave look to the hand of their master . . . so our eyes look to the Lord our God till he shows us mercy." A slave is completely dependent on his master, and that's where we stand in our need for the Lord.
Thurman Thomas was the leading rusher in the AFC in 1991 and helped to lead the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl that year. But, on the very first play of the Super Bowl, Thomas wasn't even on the field because he had lost his helmet in the pre-game warm-ups. A football player wouldn't dream of going onto the field without his helmet; and we as Christians shouldn't think of facing life or doing ministry without prayer underlying everything we do.