Just as every room has five key elements—a doorway, an atmosphere, walls, floorboards, and a ceiling—these same five elements are useful in describing the upper room.
1. The Doorway of humility and obedience
The only way to enter the upper room is on our knees. No one struts into the upper room with an arrogant heart. Neither is there posturing or a self-absorbed swagger. Those in the upper room are clothed with humility and the fear of the Lord.
The first upper room disciples in Jerusalem were given a command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). This command proved to be transformational. Obedience to this command is one of the factors that changed these disciples from being people who were unable to pray one hour into those who could pray ten days.
Pride and prayerlessness go hand-in-hand. Whereas on their fateful night of betrayal, when the disciples evidenced levels of arrogance, pride, and self-reliance that proved to be part of their failure, they have now been humbled. It seems as though the disciples’ failure, and Peter’s failure in particular on the night Jesus was betrayed, contributed to their humility. They know that they were incapable of fulfilling Christ’s mission without supernatural help, and they entered their upper room in humility and obedience.
2. The Atmosphere of unity
When you walk into any room, you are first struck by the prevailing atmosphere. The upper room is dominated by an overwhelming, palpable sense of unity. It is not surprising that when the first upper room was described, the dominant characteristic was unity. The absence of pride and self-importance makes possible an atmosphere of unity.
3. The Walls of separation
It is worth noting that in the Middle East the upper room normally did not have a full wall that runs floor to ceiling, but rather a stem wall that rises four feet tall. It was not built to support a roof, but only to keep people from falling off. In the same way, our upper rooms of prayer require walls of separation that are not intended to isolate us from the world around us, but rather to provide safety within and protect us from outside evil influences and distractions.
You will never become an upper-room disciple until you take dominion over your daily schedule and build walls of separation to protect your private times of prayer. Upper-room prayer is focused, intentional, and strategic. Upper-room disciples plan their schedules around their time in the upper room. An upper-room disciple schedules personal time in the upper room, as well as corporate times of prayer with other upper-room disciples.
4. The Floorboards rattle with anticipation
It is fair to say that the floorboards in the upper room are rattling with expectation and anticipation. For the upper-room disciple, there is no more exciting place on earth than the upper room. There is no more thrilling experience than to encounter the manifest presence of Christ. This encounter in the upper room is the highest reward.
5. The Open Ceiling
There is no place closer to heaven on earth than the upper room. This reality is illustrated by the fact that the typical upper room in the Middle East has no ceiling. The upper room sits under an open heaven. While some Middle Eastern upper rooms are covered by a cloth canopy, the typical upper room has no ceiling at all. Heaven and earth come together quickly in the upper room. While a roof is built to protect the home from rain, sleet, snow, or other natural elements that come from the atmosphere, those who meet in the upper room want nothing more than to encounter the presence of Christ; they want heaven to come to earth. An upper room has an open heaven.
Parts of this article have been developed with permission using material from Author and Rev. Fred Hartley, International College of Prayer.