I am calling this message: “The First Prayer Meeting” even though that is probably not quite true. It was the first church prayer meeting after the departure of the Saviour. And we are looking at the first prayer meeting in the Book of Acts. So depending on our point of view, we can call it the first prayer meeting.
And like the people of this scripture, tonight, we make up one of the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. And our gathering this evening is supposed to be primarily a prayer meeting. So these things make this message particularly appropriate. I thought about calling it “The Theology of Prayer,” but I think that I may have used that title before.
There are three points to this expository message: Come apart, come together and come agreed.
First: COME APART.
“Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room.”
Of course these verses come on the heels of the Lord’s ascension into Heaven from the top of Olivet. A couple of weeks ago I asked you about the distance contained in a sabbath day’s journey. I’ve done a little more research on that subject, and I think that we can be a little more dogmatic – a little. Forget about the commentaries’ talk about 5 furlongs or 7 furlongs, or the difference between English miles and American miles. A sabbath day’s journey was 2,000 cubits or 2,000 medium size steps. It was the distance that Israel was supposed walk behind the Ark of the Covenant, when they were traveling through the wilderness. And it was the distance that encompassed the suburbs of Jewish cities. Numbers 35:5 – “And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side 2,000 cubits, and on the south side 2,000 cubits, and on the west side 2,000 cubits, and on the north side 2,000 cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.” So a sabbath day’s journey was about 3,000 feet – or a little over half a mile – American
A sabbath’s day’s journey was a unit of measure, and not simply a walk that was taken on the sabbath. Did Jesus’ ascension take place on the sabbath? If Jesus ascended on the 40th day after His resurrection, what day was it? (He arose on Saturday evening, 5 weeks and 5 days later would make the ascension day – Thursday.) Why hasn’t someone started calling that “Great Thursday” to go along with “Good Friday”?
Do you suppose that the disciples thought that the ascension a good thing or a bad thing? I suppose that they had mixed feelings about it. Some may have had their hearts broken by the departure of the Saviour, while others heard what the Lord and the angels had said and were thrilled thinking about what was coming up next. In either case those people “returned unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, and when they were come in, they went up into an upper room.” And shortly thereafter a prayer meeting began.
A very important aspect of prayer and prayer meetings, must be a coming away from both the joys and the sorrows of our daily lives. The Lord speaks about entering into our closet to pray. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” – Matt. 6:6. When was the last time that you went into a closet to pray?
Were all those hours that you spent in prayer in your bedroom wasted, because of your disobedience? What about those prayers uttered in your living room, or here at church? I believe that what the Lord was teaching was a matter of separation. In this case as in many others, it’s not the letter of the law, but its spirit that we need to consider.
Any place can be a “sanctuary” – a holy place, a closet, a place of separation to the Lord. The disciples met in an upper room in this case. And the truth is that we can meet the Lord in our own hearts and make that a sanctuary even in the midst of a traffic jam or a hospital waiting room. What is important is the separation and coming away from the things of the world whether good or bad. What is important is bringing our focus upon the Lord.
And what about this upper room? It would be foolish for me to tell you dogmatically where it was. It might have been in the family home of John Mark, the penman of the second gospel. That was where the church was gathered in prayer for the release of Peter in Acts 12. Or it might have been the room where the apostles observed the Lord’s supper with Jesus. It might be one of the upper rooms along the walls of the temple. We don’t know where it was, and it would be pure speculation for someone to say otherwise.
That brings me to point two: Prayer meeting means a COMING TOGETHER.
“And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”
This is the same list of disciples or apostles that we had at the establishment of Jesus’ church in the early chapters of Matthew and Mark, with one notable exception, of course. And we also realize that a couple of these people have more than one name. We are not surprised to find the apostles listed as present at the first prayer meeting of the Baptist church of Jerusalem. These are the key figures of the church; they make up the primary teachers, preachers, deacons, trustees and other officers of the church. We expect them to be at this prayer meeting. What would you think about Thomas, if he missed another of the important meetings of the church?
Do you think that Peter would have been the preacher on the Day of Pentecost, if he had been absent from this meeting? Especially those who lead the Lord’s church should participate in the Prayer Meetings of the Lord’s church
But it wasn’t just apostles present that day, the ladies were there as well. Which ladies would that have been? I’m sure that all of the Marys were there: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joses, and Salome, and maybe Mary the sister of Martha. I’m sure that there were even ladies there whose names were not “Mary.”
Some of you ladies learned a new word last Sunday, “Ishi” (husband). My wife called me ‘ishi” all the rest of the day.
I think that she likes it because it rhymes with “squishy.” Would you like another word? Let’s try “gune” (goo nay).
This word is translated “woman” 129 times and “wife” 92 times. In other words, the disciples who were married, most likely, had their wives there for this meeting. And that being true, there may have been children there as well.
And then there were some of the members of the Lord Jesus’ earthly family as well. Have you ever tried to put yourself in the sandals of Mary or one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters? Imagine growing up with the Messiah as your older brother. Imagine playing together, teasing one another, doing chores together, competing against each other.
Imagine what it must have been like for Mary to learn to worship her Son. And now these people were praying to the Father in Jesus’ name, and even praying to Christ Himself. Somehow they had to divorce themselves from what they first knew, or thought that they knew, about Jesus.
There, at this first prayer meeting, were the apostles, their wives, and perhaps their children along with other ladies, Mary and some of the siblings of the Lord Jesus and about a hundred other disciples.
They came apart, they came together, and they CAME IN AGREEMENT.
“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” What do you suppose that the Holy Spirit meant when He said that they were all in one accord? The first and obvious thought would have to be that they prayed about the same things, but is that really all? To be in accord like this, all these people, perhaps over a hundred of them, had to be in agreement in other ways as well.
They had to be in accord about Christ and His doctrines. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Of course they can walk together. when it comes to a great many things. agreed or not agreed. But walking into the throne room of God is something special.
Everyone in that upper room had to be agreed about the Lord Jesus. They had to put away what they once thought that they knew about Him. They had to agree that He was indeed the Christ, the Messiah. They had to agree that He was the fulfillment of dozens and dozens of Old Testament prophecies. And they had to agree that He was going to fulfill dozens more. And they also had to agree on the things that He had been teaching them over the last 42 months. They had to agree on the nature of sin and the substance of salvation. And they had to agree, 100%, on the resurrection and ascension. In other words their faith had to walk in agreement with their minds.
And with that proper back ground they could then “come boldly to the throne of grace.” I wonder if they prayed about the coming of the power of God? Nearly every commentary that I consulted said that they prayed about the coming of Spirit. But I wonder. Was there any doubt about the soon coming of the Spirit? I think that they might have prayed that they would be worthy of His coming. “A vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” – I Timothy 2:21. They might have prayed that when the power came upon them that they would be lead of the Spirit enough to know what to do next. But they didn’t have to pray that the Father’s promise would be fulfilled – of course it would be fulfilled. Did they pray for safety from the Jews? I suppose that some of them might have prayed that way. But that, too, was guaranteed by the words of the Lord Jesus: “And ye SHALL be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” I think that they prayed for the Lord’s will, and they prayed for tender hearts. They prayed for wisdom as to what to do with their families and belongings. And along with their supplications they uttered their profoundest thanksgiving.
You, know, I don’t think that I have ever experienced true revival – Holy Ghost revival – Pentecostal revival. And probably neither have any of you; certainly not in the twelve years that I have been here. I think that most Baptists have the wrong idea about the source of revival. Most of us have been taught that revival is the Lord’s response to powerful preaching. No, it isn’t; revival is the Lord’s response to powerful praying. The week and a half that the first Baptist Church in Jerusalem spent in united prayer, was probably a great time of revival for all of them. They were sitting on the cusp of the most fruitful time of evangelism in human history, and they knew it. They had just witnessed the some of most spectacular miracles in human history. They were filled with the promises of God, about the return of Christ and service for Christ. They had pretty well laid aside the cares of the world.
And they were united in prayer. Everything about them was ripe for revival.
And this is precisely what WE need. They were willing to pay the price for that revival. Are we?