Study 6 THE DISCIPLES’ PRAYER IN THE UPPER ROOM
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
by Francis W. Dixon
(Scripture Portions: Acts 1:13-14; 24-25)
Just as in the life of every Christian there must be the shut door, so in the life of every Church there must be the upper room. The Christian must know how to pray privately; the Church must know how to pray together. The Church was born in the upper room. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was to mark the birth of the infant Church; and for ten days this company were gathered in the place of united prayer, until the heavens were opened and they were all “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). It is in such upper rooms that the greatest business in the world is transacted by the Church, under the presidency of the Holy Spirit, where humble believers meet and bow before the Lord ready to do His will. In many respects, this eve-of-Pentecost prayer meeting was a model one, and it will help us to note some of its characteristics mentioned in Acts 1:14.
- (1) Notice the word “all”. The reference is to the eleven apostles, the women, Mary and our Lord’s brethren – and verse 15 tells us that altogether there were about 120 present. The lesson is simple: it is the privilege and the responsibility of all to attend the prayer meeting. Here were men, women, young people and older people – leaders in the work of God and new converts – all were present together in the upper room.
- (2) They “all joined…constantly in prayer”. Their praying was persevering and steadfast. There was no suggestion that they all lived in the upper room, but the Holy Spirit does record the fact that they were constantly in prayer. We have a great illustration of this in Acts 12:5-17!
- (3) They prayed “together”. They prayed with one mind and one heart. There was unanimity about the matters for which they prayed, and there was perfect harmony between them. Love filled their hearts, and they enjoyed the unity of the Spirit – see Ephesians 4:3, and compare Matthew 5:23-24 and Psalm 133.
- (4) They “joined together … in prayer”. The use of the word ‘prayer’ here reminds us of its comprehensive nature, for it includes praise, worship, thanksgiving, adoration, confession and intercession. Frequently in our praying the note of confession is missing, or maybe the note of thanksgiving.
History is full of illustrations of the results of such prayers, all of which show the willingness of God to hear His Church’s prayers and to answer. What is the result of such meetings of the Church for united prayer?
1. The first result is true fellowship with and in the Lord.
This is emphasised in Acts 1:14 by the repetition of the word ‘with’ (the word denoting fellowship) – look up and compare 1 John 1:7 and Revelation 3:20. What ‘togetherness’ Christians experience when they meet in the upper room!
2. The second result is guidance in the administration of the Church.
Some think that Peter and the others acted in the energy of the flesh in appointing Matthias to take the place of Judas (verses 14-26); but verse 24 suggests otherwise, and it is significant that in Acts 6:2 we read of “the Twelve”. Evidently the Holy Spirit recognised the presence of Matthias with “the eleven”. The lesson for us is obvious: only where there is united prayer on the part of the members can there be the accomplishing of God’s will in and through the Church. Without such praying, wrong decisions will be made, man’s wisdom will be exalted and God’s work will be hindered. With such praying the work of God will go forward and the will of God will be accomplished.
3. The third result will be the release of the power of the Holy Spirit.
After this prayer meeting came Pentecost, and the result of every prayer meeting should be the outpouring of the Spirit of God (Acts 2:4; Acts 4:23-31). More prayer on the part of the whole fellowship of God’s people means more of the convicting and converting power of the Holy Spirit in the personal and public preaching of the gospel, and more power in the lives of God’s people, enabling them to show forth the beauty of the Lord Jesus in their daily walk and witness. Historically there will never be another Day of Pentecost, but experimentally all God’s children need to know His filling and empowering. This is the greatest need in the Church, and in all the work of evangelism at home and abroad.
4. The fourth result will be the special activity of Satan.
As soon as the Spirit of God began to work in the Church the Adversary began also. A prosperous prayer meeting is the guarantee of the presence of two great personalities: the Holy Spirit and Satan. Thank God for the truth in 1 John 4:4! The Devil is a defeated foe, and when a Church knows how to “pray through”, the Spirit of the Lord will soon put him to flight (Isaiah 59:19 KJV). There are some Churches which the Devil leaves alone. He certainly does not attack the kind of Church which is filled with worldliness or which places no great value on the preaching of the Word, the ministry of prayer and the desperate need of sinners. The Church he attacks is the one in which the Holy Spirit is at work. The fact that Satan is on the warpath is not necessarily, therefore, a cause for discouragement; and where the people of God know how to pray through, the powers of darkness will not only be held back but Satan’s devices will be used by God for the furtherance of His purposes.
5. The fifth result will be the mighty spread of the Gospel.
Within a few days of the conclusion of this prayer meeting the whole of Heaven’s machinery was set in motion for the spreading of the gospel (Matthew 9:38; Acts 1:8; Acts 8:4; Acts 17:6). Every great missionary outreach began in an upper room! Think of Paul’s great missionary journeys or the work God did through Zinzendorf, Wesley, Whitefield and Moody, and of the work He is doing through a great host of His servants today. When we pray, it is not long before we hear the cry, “Come over and help us” – look up Acts 16:9-10; and see how many souls want and need to be saved – look up Acts 18:9-11.