“And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:13-14).
A familiar proverb says,
“For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”
The idea behind this proverb is that the smallest causes can have a far reaching effect. A more modern presentation of this concept is called, the Butterfly Effect. “A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.” –Good Omens, Neil Gaiman In other words, small causes often have larger consequences.
When this idea is applied spiritually, it illustrates in a lovely way the importance of prayer. Christians testify to the importance of prayer. No true believer would deny, or downplay the significance of prayer, and yet the least attended religious service is the prayer meeting. Perhaps one reason is that there is secret uncertainty as to whether or not prayer is really effectual. The story of the Upper Room in the opening chapter of the Book of Acts, teaches that prayer is powerful. The gentle breaths of prayers going to heaven by a small group of people produced the Day of Pentecost, and the world was changed forever. Consider then, the following truths from the Upper Room.
First, the disciples of Jesus who met to pray discovered there is power in collective prayer. There are so many needs in life, so much to plea to God about, so many issues to discuss with Him, and so many praises to offer, that many tongues are needed.
“O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and king,
The triumphs of His grace!
My gracious master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.”
Second, the disciples of Jesus who met in the Upper Room discovered there is power in harmony.
Harmony in the Church comes when individuals do not compete with one another in Christian ministry, but serve together, and pray together. One of the most problematic areas in modern-day Christendom is the practice of territorialism, reflected in the various denominations. The Church has gone from being a living organism, to a corporate organization competing for new members to join their unique expression of Christianity. It is no longer enough that God has called out His own people to be a member of His own body, the one true ekklesia, the Church.
Things are much different now than what we read about in the early church. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). Today the rallying cry might very well be, “Us four and no more!” Christian harmony is lost when love is turned away. Division is often preferred to discussion, assimilation, and prayer. Identity politics has found its way into Christendom. “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3:4). Perhaps one day Christians will rediscover there is power in harmony. True harmony comes in loving the Lord God with all of our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves.
The world has pressed the Church into its rigid mold demanding submission to rules and regulations, documents and decisions, that far exceed the lighter burden Jesus offers His disciples. Passions grow strong to enforce what is decreed must be, only to be surprised, and disappointed, at the equally strong passion in others who resist that which violates the conscience, or argued is contrary to sound doctrine. The early disciples of Jesus were men and women of strong passions, but they redirected their emotions and thoughts to pray together for the power of heaven to fall on them. “And I will pray the Father,” said Jesus, “and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
Third, the disciples of Jesus learned in the Upper Room there is power in prayer when it is according to the will of the Lord. We know what the disciples were praying for. They were praying for the power from on High. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
The gentle voices of people in prayer, or even one person in prayer, can cause a cosmic shift across the globe with eternal repercussions.
There is a wonderful illustration of this truth in the life of Hezekiah, the twelfth king of the kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah was a godly king, and did much good for his nation. Toward the end of his reign, Hezekiah became seriously ill. His kingdom was being threatened by the Assyrians. He had no heir. Hezekiah prayed that his life might be spared. Isaiah, the prophet of God, came and told the monarch his prayer had been heard. He was to be granted fifteen more years to live. Hezekiah died peacefully in 686 BC.
Had Hezekiah not whispered his soft butterfly prayer, had he not pleaded with the Lord, with tears, had God not answered his prayer, there would have been no son, Manasseh, no great-grandson, Josiah, and no greater son of David, Christ, for each came from his lineage.
The principle is confirmed: small causes often have a larger effect. A small prayer for better health and life changed the world.
Let the Church pray collectively, in harmony, and according to the know will of God. Our prayers are like the smoke in the Temple, a sweet savour ascending up to heaven. “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2).
“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!”