The Book of Acts: In Power and In the Holy Spirit During the Easter Season
“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow…” (Hebrews 4:12)
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul greets his readers with the exhortation, “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit…” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). In other words, the Gospel of God thrust its way into the gentile world. It came in power, accompanied by signs and wonders.
Unfortunately, in the modern world the Holy Spirit is the often-forgotten member of the Trinity. He has been replaced by the power of technology. No longer considered living and effective, and in many ways rendered inactive because of our lack of confident expectation.
A Challenge to Daily Reading of the Book of Acts
The Easter Season which ends on Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit) is an excellent time to reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit. One of the best ways to do this is to make a daily reading of The Book of Acts. And so, I challenge you to take up this practice during the Easter Season in a manner similar to your Lenten resolutions.
The book of Acts or otherwise titled the Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke as a sequel to his Gospel. It begins with the Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven at which time Jesus promises the apostles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit which are the central theme of the rest of the book. Acts chronicles the unleashing of that power, first describing the acts of Peter in Jerusalem, then turning to the conversion of St. Paul, and finally following him on his missionary journeys.
My Own Experience with the Book of Acts
I will never forget my first serious reading of the book of Acts. It came at a point in which I was having some serious personal struggles. Things were beyond my control and I sure needed the “living and effective” action of God in my life.
I had been a committed Catholic for a good many years. I had attended Mass and the sacraments regularly and tried to maintain an active prayer life. Still, my prayers were often shallow. They lacked expectation, and I guess you could say I really didn’t believe that they contained power.
Reading the book of Acts was like shining a light on the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer. The book is one of the most active in the bible. The Apostles became “witnesses” of that power as over and over again the power of God was on display. One really cannot go two minutes in the book of Acts without being awestruck.
Now this is not to say that reading the book of Acts put the Holy Spirit on a string to perform miracles on demand. However, it did restore my confidence in prayer and even in my unanswered prayers.
Why Our Prayers Are So Often Unanswered
St. Augustine once described three reasons why prayers so often go unanswered. All three reasons are discussed in detail in a fantastic article by Fr. Andrew Apostoli at the following link (click here) but I have summarized the three main points below.
St. Augustine says prayers are often unanswered because:
- we pray for the wrong things (things that either will not ultimately draw us closer to God or simply do not align with God’s plan),
- we pray in the wrong state (without preparation or regard to avoiding sin in our personal lives),
- or in the wrong way (without trust or expectation).
While obviously all three of these reasons are involved each time we pray, I believe reason three is particularly relevant to the modern world which has grown so self-reliant that it is easy to fall into the trap of praying out of piety but without expectation. Oftentime we relegate our prayers to the realm of nice thoughts. We empty them of their power of our own accord.
Therefore, I encourage you to let the book of Acts renew and embolden your prayers this Easter Season. Walk alongside the apostles. Experience their witness. Let the Gospel “not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit…” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)