I think we may be at a point in our history where God wants to develop in us as a district a “culture of prayer?” We’re going to go on that journey for a season. Over the coming weeks, I want to focus on what God wants to do in the Central Pacific District through prayer.
An upper room is a gathering of praying Christians who encounter the manifest presence of Christ. Anywhere. Any size. Any time. Anyone. This means that an upper room comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
For our purposes the upper room is merely a metaphor or word picture rather than a literal place. What started in Jesus’ day as being upper in elevation or proximity is now located virtually anywhere hungry Jesus-seekers can gather. In other words, what originally started as a physical location is now a metaphor that represents a significant spiritual reality: The upper room is the place where Christ encounters His people.
Twenty years ago, the greatest tragedy in the church was that the crown jewel of Jesus’ ministry had become the church’s flagrant omission. Churches, particularly in America, had neglected both the upper room and the manifest presence of Christ, but fortunately that is now old news. Things are changing. In fact, it’s fair to say that the greatest movement in the church today is rebuilding the upper room and discovering the unequivocal presence of Christ.
Prayer Meetings: Yesterday and Today
The manifest presence of Christ is what takes the common, every-one-has-one prayer meeting and transforms it into the most extraordinary place on earth. This means that the same manifest presence of Christ can transform your common everyday prayer life into something extraordinary as well.
I need to tell you a secret: I used to hate prayer meetings. They literally gave me the creeps! Sitting still with my eyes closed felt very strange. Listening to people talk in strange voices, as if they were speaking through a synthesizer or trying out for a school play, was definitely not my thing. It made God seem distant and formal, and it made the entire experience of corporate prayer feel phony and awkward.
Perhaps you have had an experience like this and have concluded that all corporate prayer is this way. You can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not even sure God attends prayer meetings like that! The prayer meeting Jesus started in Jerusalem was anything but boring, and the one He is calling you into won’t be either.
Prayer is Where Christ Will Ignite Your Calling
The parting words of Jesus to His disciples not only contained a command; they also contained a mind-boggling promise:
“Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4–5).
To reinforce this promise, only a couple of sentences later, Jesus gave them another promise:
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
This is no small incentive; this is what is called “the promise of the Father,” or the mother lode of all promises. To clarify—this promise of the Father was not a promise to receive something from God; this was a promise to receive God Himself.
Just as in Old Testament days, God’s tangible presence came to Adam and Eve in the garden, to Moses on the mountain, to Israel in the Tent of Meeting, and in the Tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, and the Temple, so now God had chosen to explicitly express Himself in ways that everyone will understand once they get to the upper room.
The command obviously got the disciples into the upper room, but what captured their imagination, invigorated their faith, and filled them with hope was the promise of His presence. Make no mistake about it—the upper room is not just another prayer meeting. While every prayer meeting may have merit, what distinguishes the upper room is the conspicuous presence of Christ.
“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
- Charles Spurgeon
“To be full of the Holy Spirit is to be full of prayer; to be full of prayer is to be full of the Holy Spirit.”
- Armin Gesswein
Parts of this article have been developed with permission using material from Author and Rev. Fred Hartley, International College of Prayer.