“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” (Acts 1:14)
Before a soul was added, before a lame man was healed, before a mouth was fed, before a sermon was preached or the Spirit poured out, they simply prayed together. The resurrected Messiah had just given His church leaders His last command before He ascended to His heavenly throne saying, “Wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). The disciples were confused because they thought it was “go” time (Matt. 28:19). They were ready for Him to restore the kingdom to Israel and rule as the Great King from the throne of David (Acts 1:6). Why should they waste time sitting in a room waiting? It must have sounded so counterproductive, but still they have been with Jesus enough by this time to know that they should listen. Just as He taught them the power of secret prayer and fasting as individuals (Lk. 11:1- 13), He was then teaching them the importance of what could later be recognized as their “first work” together as the Church: A Prayer Meeting.
The culture of prayer that was among the early church is mostly foreign to the modern Church in America. While corporate prayer was foundational to their daily church life (Acts 2:42; 3:1), it has since been shoved into a small side room for a few old women intercessors. The apostles gave themselves “continually to prayer and ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), and today they give themselves continually to the promotion of themselves and their ministries. Take one look at how the average American church budgets their time and money, and you will see where their heart is. The gospel of grace used to produce abandonment to God now it gives excuse to live half-hearted toward the things of God, calling everything that requires sacrifice, legalism. The believer who longs to live radically in love with Jesus is deemed an outcast. Others are so distracted with much serving that they neglect the good part (Lk. 10:40-42). The American church is surely active but rarely productive according to God’s standard, as “the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine” (Jn. 15:4).
This is not an either or issue, it is a first things first issue. The first works will inevitably lead to great exploits of missions, discipleship, works of justice, salvation, anointed preaching and teaching, power, signs, wonders and more. It was from the context of a prayer room with corporate worship, prayer and fasting that the Holy Spirit launched the church’s first missionaries into the harvest (Acts 13:1-4). Jesus had told the disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out (ekballo) laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:35-38). This is the same word used to describe Jesus casting or sending out demons, thus it is used here to emphasize God’s zeal to violently launch laborers like arrows from the bent bow of His praying church to confront the enemy opposition.
It was through the praying church that Peter was set free and justice was released (Acts 12:5; Luke 18:7). Remember how Herod harassed the church and killed James the brother of John? He then sought to bring the same fate upon Peter for the sake of popularity with the Jews. The same spirit lives today desiring to kill the apostolic leadership, lifestyle and message because it is a threat to mainstream church culture (religious order), but that will soon change. The prayer movement that God is raising up in this hour will rescue and restore His true Church. Sent ones will come forth out of remote prayer rooms all around the earth as bold voices rooted in love, grounded in truth, and ready to prepare the way of the Lord.
When the early church prayed, “the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). God released great grace on them all, and the result was supernatural love, unity, boldness, giving, joy, servant hood, signs, wonders, and more (Acts 5:12-16). There was a perpetual fear of the Lord among them because they so valued His presence (Acts 2:43; 5:11; 9:31). They were constantly strengthened by the joy of the Lord, continuing on together in fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer with gladness and simplicity of heart always praising God (Acts 2:42-47; Ps. 16:11; Isa. 56:7). They actually operated in the gift of discernment, exposing false prophets and apostles that crept in among them. The church’s consistent prayer life empowered them to endure hardship, embrace persecution, and enact the Kingdom of God on earth. The unified prayer songs of Paul and Silas would even shake the foundations of darkness, opened locked doors, loosed chains and led to the salvation of an entire family (Acts 16:25-26, 30).
God has given His church royal authority in prayer that is too often forfeited (Matt. 16:19). As the ecclesia of God intercedes in agreement with His Word, the kingdom of heaven is permitted to invade earth (Matt. 18:19-20; 6:10). The unrighteous governmental leadership was dealt with when the church interceded (Acts 12:23-24; 1 Tim. 2:1-5). If anyone is aware of America’s present spiritual condition, then they know that this nation needs a church that will fervently bombard principalities and powers of darkness with intercessory prayer, releasing angelic air strikes from heaven (Jas. 5:16-18; 2 Chr. 7:14). Seeing Israel’s corrupt leadership, God “sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before [Him] on behalf of the land” (Ez. 22:30; Isa. 62:6-7). Some ask, “Where is the God of Elijah,” but I ask, where are the “Elijahs of God” in this hour that will unashamedly rebuild the broken altars in their homes and churches alike (1 Kings 18:30)? Where are the men and women who will blow the trumpet, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly, and gather the people that they might weep together between the porch and the altar on behalf of this land (Joel 2:12-17)? If your heart is burning as you read this, then God may be calling you to help lead this prayer charge in your home, church, city and region.
Genuine revival must be birthed and sustained by prayer. God filled the same church with His Spirit multiple times as they chose to return to their first work of prayer. He always gives more to those who ask. It was always His intention that we should do ministry with Him and not just for Him. He wants a Bride that will do the work of the Kingdom alongside Him through the interaction of unceasing prayer. Authority in the Spirit is given to those who are intimate with His Spirit. The Promise of the Father enables us to operate in divine power while increasing our appetite for unbroken communion with Him. It gives us a foretaste of what is to come, when we will reign with Him as His suitable partner (Eph. 1:13-14).
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5).
God is still pleading with His Bride to return to her first love. It is the calling of all callings to burn with holy love for Jesus, but in a society such as ours, it is hard for us to accept that this is the height of success. “Remember,” He says. What if we don’t remember? Do the first works and keep them first. The Holy Spirit will meet us and remind us if we ask Him (Jn. 14:26). One of the grandest products of being filled with the Holy Spirit is that we can actually know the love of God from the inside out (Rom. 5:5; Eph. 3:16-19). The First and Great Commandment is not only a command but also a prophecy, that those who keep saying yes shall one day love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength by the power of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 17:26).The Church must collectively and intentionally make prayer the focal point of all other ministry for her first love to be fanned into flame, and it must be kept burning (Lev. 6:12; Mal. 1:10). Every relationship is started and sustained by active communication. It’s not enough to call the Church to return to her first love if we don’t remind her how she found her first love. The first works are the gateway to our first love.
Jesus is a Bridegroom who is jealous for all of our affection. He who zealously holds His messengers in His hand will take away our authority and influence if we don’t keep the first things first. Hear me weary pastor! He will always choose your heart over your ministry. Stop trying to find validation in having more ministry influence, more money, more people, more notoriety, and remember what He is looking for. He wants our love. Whether you have everything or nothing, He wants to be enough. Set Him as a seal upon your heart (mind, will and emotions) and upon your arm (actions; SOS 8:6). He is calling the Church to come back to doing ministry through intimacy with Him, as friends of the Bridegroom. He wants our work to be about relationship with Him as it was in the Paradise of God (Adam walked with God in the cool of the day as he named the animals and tended the garden).
Those one hundred and twenty could always look back to those ten days before Pentecost where all they did was seek the Lord together in prayer – tarrying, watching, waiting, and holding onto His word in a hot upper room. It may have been weak, inconvenient, and uncomfortable, but God answered by fire. The Church was born in a prayer room, and she will live on forever as a house of prayer for all nations. Church history will culminate as the people of God gather in prayer rooms across the earth as one global upper room crying out as one who is lovesick in one accord, “Come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:17)
“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa. 56:7).