Summary: When we pray as the first church prayed, God will empower us as he empowered the first church and our altar calls will look like Peter’s altar call.
“They all joined together constantly in prayer...” Acts 1:14
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day,” Acts 2:41
When he went to the Brooklyn Tabernacle, it was a ramshackle building with only a handful attending. They were outnumbered by the muggers, transvestites, drug addicts, and more in their neighborhood. They did not have enough money to pay the preacher who had a second congregation in New Jersey. Jim Cymbala was ill-equipped, under-educated, and overwhelmed by his own inadequacy.
In his search for answers, the Lord impressed deep within his soul that God would be with them in power, if he and the church learned to call on the Lord to supply their needs. In desperation, he put aside his planned message and called on the church to pray. The prayer meeting, not the Sunday worship, became the focal point for the Brooklyn Tabernacle. They began to see God work in their sin sick world. People were accepting Christ. Gang members became leaders for the Lord. Transvestites gave up walking the streets for ministry and marriage.
Today, the Brooklyn Tabernacle hosts 10,000 worshipers and a grammy award winning choir that has traveled the world. They’ve also started other churches in New York. It all began when a handful of people humbly admitted how desperately they needed God’s help and prayed fervently.
They experienced a little bit of what happened in the Book of Acts. In Acts 1:14, the early church “all joined together constantly in prayer.” The word translated “together” literally means “with one mind or passion.” The word translated “constantly” means “resolute, sometimes obstinate, persistence.” Everything we said about persistence as a prayer key applies here. In Acts 2, the church received the power of the Holy Spirit. They prayed for ten days, preached for ten minutes, and 3000 were saved.
The first church needed to pray with one mind, with one passion, with resolute, obstinate persistence. They needed the Holy Spirit’s power.
We need to pray with one mind, with one passion, with resolute, obstinate persistence. We need the Holy Spirit’s power. If First Baptist, Everman, prayed like the first church prayed, he will empower us as he empowered the first church. Bro. Jim’s invitations would look like Peter’s invitation.
Peter Marshall, who served as chaplain of the Senate for 47 years, prayed one day on that floor, “Lord, forgive us for thinking that prayer is a waste of time and help us to see that without prayer our work is a waste of time.”
God is not dead. He has not changed. When we pray as the first church prayed, God will empower us as he empowered the first church.
Martin Luther said, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
Satan should fear the average Baptist church. He should fear our church.
In many Bibles, Acts is called the Acts of the Apostles. I often think of it as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Much of it could be called the Acts of the Praying Church. Again and again, the church prays and God uses them to reach 3000, 5000, multitudes. God adds to the church DAILY those who are being saved.
In Belfast, Ireland, in the 1930’s, a church that ran about 200 experienced revival. Between 12 and 20 people were saved every night. 6:00 every morning found 50 people in the church praying for an hour. It was not singing, Bible study, and prayer, as much as the teacher in me wishes Bible study was the key to revival. They prayed.
J. Edwin Orr described one of these prayer meetings. The prayers were short, simple, to the point. Someone prayed for God to reach her wayward son who had gotten into bad company. There was a chorus of “amens” and “yes, Lords.” One prayed, “Lord, bless the poor woman down the street, the one with the black eye. I’ll try to bring her tonight.” Someone prayed for God to bring conviction and conversion to the man who gave her the black eye.
An hour of prayer like this every morning preceded the 12 to 20 souls saved every night. Orr continued describing this prayer meeting.
“A second year theological student was in the meeting, and these brief, humble prayers ill-suited his idea of homiletics. He decided to show the folks how to pray, and soon was launched upon an oration with introduction, excellent paragraphing, and a theme running throughout the prayer.
“‘We thank Thee, Heavenly Father, that in spite of the disobedience of our first parents, the seed of the woman didst bruise the serpent’s head, and Thy plan didst triumph. We thank Thee, that in spite of the wickedness of the antediluvian world, Thou didst shut the family of Noah in the ark to preserve Thy seed, and Thy plan didst triumph....’