Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More on Prayers and Lots

One of the values of blogging is that you can get immediate feedback. Indirectly, a reader who is a minister suggested the post on Apostolic Succession did not properly account for the role of prayer in the selection of Matthias. And I would agree with him. Here's why.

A well documented characteristic of Luke's writing is his emphasis on prayer. A generalizing summary in Acts 1:14 is designed to show the early community's devotion to prayer, and this is followed by another summary in Acts 2:42 that also includes prayer.

Since these summaries do not provide specifics, the historical context and manner of their prayer life is difficult to judge. What did Luke have in mind when he composed these summaries? Did he think of private prayers (Mt. 6:6)? Corporate prayers as in the synagogue? Recitation of the Lord's prayer (as in in Luke 9:2-4)? Temple prayer at the time of sacrifice (Acts 3:1)? All of the above?

Luke surely wanted us to see the devotion of these first disciples. That's what makes the "casting of lots" episode in Acts 1:21-26 all the more interesting. No specifics of prayer are provided other than 1) it is addressed to the Lord and 2) it is offered in conjunction with the casting of lots. And the story concludes with the lot falling on Matthias.

Luke seems to witness to a time when the use of lots was still seen as a viable way of discerning the will of God (Proverbs 16:33), even a community who devoted themselves to God in prayer.

Question: Is the "Lord" in Acts 1:24 a reference to Jesus or God?

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