All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:14 ESV
Most of us speed by this verse like a neighbor we wave to as we start on a road trip. But this overlooked detail gives us a snap shot of the longest prayer vigil in history. These folks spent ten unhurried days together praying. During that time they became more than just a crowd, they became a family. In my last post I shared about lessons that I learned while my wife and I were part of a Brazilian church for over sixteen years. I do not pretend to be the greatest expert in the world on Brazilian culture, but these are from our own personal experiences. One of the most important differences was in how my brothers and sisters viewed time. They would say in Portuguese “tudo acaba com pizza” (everything ends with pizza!) which very loosely translated means “Don’t worry be happy!” You see, most of us Americans are far more stressed out about time than we realize. This impacts many areas of our life, not the least of which is how we pray. We like a jump start with “Our Father who art in heaven” then step on the gas as if we were in the final lap of the Indianapolis 500, racing to the finish line “Amen.” as efficiently as possible.
We used to joke about “Brazilian time” because church never started at the scheduled hour. A 6 PM worship service (Our main service) sometimes began at 6:25, with people still arriving 20 minutes later! But being perpetually late, came a blessing when it came to prayer and praise. Just as things worked slowly to begin, things also worked slowly so that they found time for all kinds of things we often miss in the American church. There was time to pray for every need. There was was time for a person to weep, while others gathered around to dry their tears. My favorite Prayer vigil service came on New Year’s Eve. That usually began at 10PM and went till mid-night. There were blocks of prayer time, interspersed with worship and testimony, with each segment being devoted to a special subject like families, missions or financial needs.
Everyone, from the oldest member of the congregation to the youngest baby came. When the children were tired, they slept, or if they fussed a bit someone usually came to hold them and give mom and dad a break. Then, at mid-night we would have communion and move down to the fellowship hall, where there was food, music and even funny prizes for the winners of games. We tarried together, lots of time passed allowing God to work in ways that an efficient, purpose driven schedule never gave time for. Those precious, vigílias de oração (Prayer vigils) not only left me with wonderful memories, they changed me forever. Yes I am still a go-getter typical American guy, but I have come to appreciate the lessons God taught me when I learned to slow down, wait for others and become a true part of His big family. Oh yes, there were also plenty of problems in our church, but God works all things together for good to those who love Him: or as they say in Portuguese: tudo acaba com pizza!