Jesus has gone again. He was taken away and put in a tomb, but he came back in a new body. He spent 40 days on earth. Last week on Thursday, a couple of thousand years ago, he left the earth in his new body. The disciples stood there and watched as he was obscured from sight by a cloud.
Jesus had gone, but he left these instructions, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised.” The gift is the ‘comforter’ or ‘encourager’. It means the Holy Spirit.
They walk together back to Jerusalem, a distance just under one kilometer or about half a mile. The distance from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives is described by Luke as a Sabbath Day’s journey. The limit set by the rabbis for a Sabbath day’s journey was 2,000 cubits. This was the distance between the Ark and the Hebrew people while marching, and is assumed to be the distance between the tents of the people and the tabernacle in the wilderness. Hence, it must have been allowable to travel that far to attend the worship of the tabernacle.
In any case, this was not a Sabbath. Then they all gathered in a large ‘upstairs room in the house where they were staying’.
This is probably the room in which the disciples ate the last supper with Jesus. And the room where he appeared to them after his resurrection. It is a significant room and can be seen as the first meeting place of the church. It is a room that is available to them seemingly whenever they want, and so many people suspect it belonged to one of the disciples. The most likely disciple is John Mark’s mother Mary.
Acts 1 says there were ‘about 120’ believers there. Verse 14 says they included the mother of Jesus and his brothers. It says there were several other women among the disciples.
We also learn that there were among them other disciples who had been with Jesus from the beginning when he was baptised by John the Baptist. One of these was chosen to replace Judas and bring the number of Apostles back up to 12.
This is the first meeting of the church after Jesus ascended to heaven. Several important things happened at this time. We should look more closely at them. If you still have your Bible open, please look at verse 14.
Do you see the word ‘all’ there. They all met together. Apostles, disciples, women, brothers, young people, old people, leaders, followers. There were no exceptions.
Everyone was present in that first meeting.
If we are to follow this example, we should see our responsibility to join in the meetings of the fellowship. If we look back at Luke’s Gospel he tells us (24:53) that they all went to the temple as well, taking part in all the regular Jewish prayers.
And they were all ‘constantly united in prayer’. They weren’t lazing around. Waiting for the gift did not mean doing nothing. These founding members of the Christian faith, these men and women who were the first to follow Jesus, spent there time wisely and productively. They prayed and they prayed and they prayed. They kept on praying. They had no idea how long they would have to spend in that room, so they just kept on praying. One day, two days, three days, … six days, seven days, eight days, nine days … Nothing happened!
There are other examples of this kind of determined prayer, such as Acts 12:5 – “While Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” You know what happened. Not immediately, but eventually, doors flew open, chains fell off, and angels led Peter to safety.
The place where they were praying was probably the very same upstairs room. Acts 12:12 says it was “the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.”
It was in that upstairs room that his core followers 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 of course there is the word ‘prayer’ itself. Prayer is comprehensive for it includes praise, worship, thanksgiving, adoration, supplication, confession and intercession. In our praying the note of confession is sometimes missing, or maybe the note of thanksgiving.
What did the believers pray? Perhaps to receive the promised gift. Perhaps for the kingdom to come. Perhaps for guidance. Perhaps for God’s will to be done, as Jesus had taught them.
In their prayer and togetherness and unity they naturally took time to eat. They took time to talk with each other. They took time to share with each other. They experienced and practised fellowship. They told stories about their experiences with Jesus.
At one point in their prayer, Peter stood up and gave a talk. After he spoke they all agreed to choose a replacement for Judas. Part of their prayer was administration. It was all linked.
The very first prayer meeting. The very first worship service. Held by the very first people to follow Jesus, who stayed with him from start to finish. The result was great unity and fellowship. They found true fellowship. We will also find true fellowship in having the same heart and mind to meeting together and praying together.
In this prayer they found guidance. They were guided to acknowledge Peter as a leader. They were guided into what and how to organise. They were guided to Matthias to replace Judas.
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.
Have you ever wondered how they prayed. I mean, do you wonder if they all knelt down and clasped their hands together? Or did they all stand and lift their hands in the air? Did they all talk at once or did they take turns? I have thought about this. There is no way to know.
It would have been normal to recite short passages of Scripture they had memorised, but they wouldn’t have carried around Bibles as we do because they hadn’t invented books yet.
The only clue we have is that when day ten came, “everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking.” They all talked at once. They made a loud noise. It was so loud people came running to see what was going on. It was not what they had been doing for the previous nine days.
This points to another result of praying together in unity. There was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They prayed constantly for nine days, and then on the tenth day they were filled with God’s spirit. Because of their prayer, they were ready to be filled. I think we often give up too soon in our prayers, and we miss out on this blessing.
What followed was an attack by Satan that was terrible. We also can expect an attack from Satan when we pray this way and are filled with God’s spirit. But alongside the attack came so many blessings as people heard the Good News and were saved.
All the great works of God start in an upstairs room with believers joined together in constant prayer. It is how he worked then, and how God works today. Prayer allows God to put power into the words of our messages. Prayer allows God to use us more. Prayer is the greatest need in this fellowship in Jinju, and in all the work of evangelism at home and abroad.
God’s fellowship in Jinju needs our constant prayer. God is calling us to join together in one heart and mind. He is asking us to be devoted in prayer.
God is asking us to met together and be constantly united in prayer. For how long? Until he says stop. There is no limit.