‘UPPER ROOM’ GATHERINGS

(June 1, 2022) Brian Bell shares some precious and pertinent points regarding that first  Pentecost Sunday prayer gathering…

This short meditation is drawn from my recent re-reading of Luke’s Holy Spirit-inspired record in Acts chapters 1-2.

For those from a Jewish background, prayer was a regular and disciplined practice – often using ‘standard’ or written prayers – and this is a practice with which I would not disagree, while often we tend towards ‘spontaneous’ prayers.

Many years ago, I worked with a colleague from the Anglican tradition (Church of Ireland, based in Willowfield Parish, Belfast). In conversation one day he explained the ‘rationale’ for their prayer book, which among other things was to try and prevent error. I could not argue or disagree with anything he shared and indeed, having attended several Anglican services, I’ve found the practice of reciting or even using responsive prayers, quite refreshing.

I believe Luke, guided by the Holy Spirit, recorded for us the first prayer meeting of believers following the ascension of the Lord Jesus; and I share five pertinent reflections relative to ‘Upper Room’ Gatherings

1. The nature of gatherings
In Acts chapter 1:14 we are told several key facts using the description ‘all met together continually.’

My understanding of continually is that it was an ongoing practice, not that they never left the room. However, their example is still seen in our practice today when we meet together as a group of believers. It makes no difference where we meet, not even our preferred posture, whether we stand, kneel, or sit is not of primary importance.

The real emphasis is on meeting together.

2. The inclusivity of gatherings
Verse 14 also tells us that Peter and the other apostles were joined by ‘Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.’

This again points us to a good practice, not that there is never any scope for men or women to meet for separate or specific gatherings. The point is that when we meet as ‘the church’ we meet on an inclusive basis.

3. The unity of gatherings
The gathering as we think about it here in Acts signified a unity and acknowledgement of the need for prayer in accordance with the Lord’s direction – even though in a relativity short period issues of disunity would arise (see for example Acts 6).

I often feel there is a tendency to confuse ‘unity’ with ‘uniformity.’ Our unity as believers is in our common saving relationship with the Lord, our desire to serve Him and see others come to faith. So, when we gather for prayer, we may not all share the same doctrinal/theological viewpoint, but with our diversity we are still meeting together in Jesus’ name.

4. The necessity of gatherings
As we move close to Pentecost Sunday, some 2,000 years after this first recorded prayer meeting of these early believers, I am sure we can agree about the continuing need and purpose of prayer.

Gathering together wherever you call your spiritual home, we can encourage others by our presence and even if we are not among those who pray audibly, we can pray along with those who do – and add our ‘Amen’ in agreement with their prayers.

Even if we feel we can’t find the ‘right’ words to speak, the Holy Spirit can help us to pray. He can use our prayers to speak into the needs of others – perhaps you’ve had the experience of someone coming to you after a prayer gathering to say how your prayer touched their heart.

5. The versatility of gatherings
I sometimes feel the prompting of the Spirit to speak a verse of scripture or the words of a song – even to sing it. The Holy Spirit is not restricted in how He will move in us and through us at these gatherings!

What took place on that first Pentecost was not just some random event, it was the deliberate and well thought out plan of God.

I close with some words of an old song –

‘Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me’

I can say that I really need this to be ‘real’ in my life, not just a ‘one off’ but an ongoing daily refreshing (Ephesians 4:16).

May you also know the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in your life, not only on Shavuot – Pentecost Sunday, but as you seek to walk and live for the Lord each day.

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Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. He describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’ Links:Links: Christian Pentecost – the Feast That Never Ended / Pentecost Sunday- Shavuot

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