"All these continued in common agreement in prayer and supplication." Acts 1:14.
In all churches that are not fully bound and bound by liturgies and rituals, it has been common to hold meetings for social prayer.
We call them prayer meetings.
Now, it may be profitable, from time to time, to look at some of our institutions, see if they are scriptural to realize their defects, see in what sense they can be improved or observe their merits so that we can be further induced to carry them .
The subject of this message was suggested by the fact that we will meet for a day of prayer tomorrow, it is the prayer meetings assemblies of the people of God for worship of this peculiar kind that consists of each expressing his desire before the Lord. Let me share with you this message
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“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” Acts 1:14.
IN all those churches which are not altogether tied and bound by liturgies and rituals, it has been common to hold meetings for social prayer.
We call them prayer meetings.
Now, it may be profitable, now and then, to look over some of our institutions, to see whether they are Scriptural to notice their defects, to see in what respect they may be improved, or to observe their merits that we may be induced still further to carry them on.
The subject, therefore, this evening, suggested to me by the fact that we are going to meet for a day of prayer tomorrow, is that of prayer meetings assemblies of the people of God for worship of that peculiar kind which consists in each one expressing his desire before the Lord. Let us, then, go through very briefly.
These meetings must have been very common, indeed. They were, doubtless, everyday things, but still there are some few records of the facts connected with them which may be instructive.
The first meeting for prayer which we find after our Lord’s ascension to heaven is the one mentioned in the text and we are led from it to remark that united prayer is the comfort of a disconsolate Church. Can you judge of the sorrow which filled the hearts of the disciples when their Lord was gone from them?
They were an army without a leader, a flock without a shepherd, a family without a head. Exposed to innumerable trials, the strong, brazen wall of His presence, which had been round about them, was now withdrawn. In the deep desolation of their spirits they resorted to prayer.
They were like a flock of sheep that will huddle together in a storm, or come closer, each to its fellow, when they hear the sound of the wolf. Poor defenseless creatures as they were, they yet loved to come together and would die together if necessary.
They felt that nothing made them so happy, nothing so emboldened them, nothing so strengthened them to bear their daily difficulties as to draw near to God in common supplication! Beloved, let every church learn the value of its prayer meetings in its dark hours! When the pastor is dead, and when it has been difficult to find a suitable successor.
When, it may be, there are problems and divisions. When death falls upon honored members, when poverty comes in, when there is a spiritual dearth, when the Holy Spirit appears to have withdrawn Himself there is but one remedy for these and a thousand other evils and that one remedy is contained in this short sentence, “Let us pray.”
Those churches which are now writing, “Ichabod,” on their walls and who sorrowfully confess that the congregation is slowly dwindling, might soon restore their numbers if they did but know how to pray! Brothers and sisters, though they are dispirited, now, defeat would then soon become success, their spirits being revived by drawing near to God! And if any of you are personally afflicted and troubled in your estate, you shall find that after coming up to the house of God, your own private prayer chambre will be peculiarly comforting to you!
And after that, come and unite with the saints of God who have, probably, all of them, experienced assaults like yours. And as you hear them pouring out sighs similar to yours and making requests such as you would make, but scarcely know how to word them, you will see the footprints of the flock and, by-and-by, you shall see the Shepherd, Himself! One of the first uses of the prayer meeting, then, is to encourage a discouraged people.
Again, if you look at the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, you will perceive that the prayer meeting is the place for the reception of divine power. “They were all with one accord in one place,” making their prayers and, as they waited there, suddenly they heard the sound as of a rushing, mighty wind, and the cloven tongues descended upon them and they were clothed with the power which Jesus had promised them.
And what a difference it made in them! Common fishermen became the extraordinary messengers of heaven! Illiterate men spoke with tongues that they had never, themselves, heard!
They began to reveal mysteries which had not been revealed to philosophers or kings! These men were lifted out of the level of ordinary humanity and became God-inspired, filled with the Deity, Himself, who came to dwell in their hearts and minds! The result was that poor wavering Peter became bold as a lion and the impetuous John, who would have called fire from heaven upon the Samaritans, had another fire fall upon him one not to destroy, but to rescue and bless!
Now, the great need of the Church in all times is the power of the Holy Spirit. “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” says the creed, but how many, or rather how few are there who really do believe in Him? There is a mysterious, supernatural energy which comes from the third person of the blessed Trinity which really, at this day, falls upon men as really as when Peter spoke with unknown tongues or worked miracles. And though the power of working miracles is not given now, yet spiritual power is given and this spiritual power is as manifest, and just as certainly with us, today, if we possess the Spirit, as it was with the apostles!
Now, if we want to get this, the most likely place in which to find it is the prayer meeting. I will guarantee you that the best teachers of the school, the men who are of the right spirit, are those who will be found here tomorrow evening. I will guarantee you that the best ministers are those who do not despise the gathering of the people of God! And I am sure that the cream of the Christian Church will be found on the whole of course, other things are to be considered, too among those who most commonly assemble for prayer.
Oh, yes, this is the place to meet with the Holy Spirit and this is the way to get His mighty power! If we would have Him, we must meet in greater numbers! We must pray with greater fervency, we must watch with greater earnestness and believe with firmer steadfastness! The prayer meeting, then, has this second use that it is the appointed place for the reception of power!
The next incident in this apostolic history you will find in the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and there you will see that the prayer meeting is the resource of a persecuted Church. Turn to the 31stverse. Peter and John had been shut up in prison. The Scribes and Pharisees had persecuted the disciples of Christ. They resorted to prayer and we read that “when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” Yes, all the persecutions of the separate members should be recorded in prayer before God, and if the whole Church, itself, should fall into disrepute through misrepresentation, or through the natural hostility of all men to the Church of God, then should it resort to its great friend for its defense!
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