In October 2003, Tiffany and I went on a tour of the Holy Land led by my father. During our time in Jerusalem, we visited the Upper Room, a site which commemorates the Last Supper and Day of Pentecost. (It is not the original Upper Room, however; it only dates from the twelfth century.) As the tour group crowded into this room, my dad made an interesting comment: “This was the last place the entire church was able to fit into one room.”
Acts narrates the story of a great revival, beginning in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and spiraling progressively outward to Asia Minor and Europe. Acts 1:15 tells us that there were 120 believers prior to the Day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, 3000 people became believers. Today, the Christian encompasses nearly 2.1 billion believers. No room is large enough to hold this entire group.
How did this happen? We will need to read Acts in its entirety to answer that question. But Acts 1:12-14 gives us a clue.
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
The first thing believers did after Jesus’ ascension was gathered to pray. Prayer is a necessary, but not sufficient, precondition of revival. Many things must happen in addition to prayer for a revival to occur, in other words, but no revival occurs without it.
And the praying must be of a particular kind. Luke tells us that “they all joined together constantly in prayer.” Two words stand out from this description: together and constantly.
In Greek, the word translated as together is homothumadon. Eugene H. Peterson writes:
Homothumadon is a compound word: homo means ‘the same’; thumas means a strong emotion of anger; and the final syllable don signifies that the word is adverbial. It is the middle component, thumas, that won’t translate. Thumas is a fiery word, surging with energy—flying off the handle, losing your temper, lashing out. Except that in the context of the resurrection community there is nothing negative in it, no meanness, no violence…
Where does this surging energy come from? Peterson continues, “It is the passion of a consensual, unanimous response to something God does.” If unified prayer is the precondition of revival, God is the precondition of unified prayer. Prayer is how we connect with God.
And it’s not a one-off activity. It must be taking place constantly. Louis Pasteur once said that chance favors the prepared mind. Revival favors the praying community. Let us unite around what God has done for us and be in constant prayer!
Who knows what rooms we will outgrow as a result?