An Abridgement
Preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon on July 25, 1875
Originally Published in Metropolitan Tabernacle
Pulpit Volume 21
And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary
the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were
gathered together praying.” (Acts 12:12)

It was a great wonder that the infant church of Christ was not destroyed.
She was like a lone lamb in the midst of furious wolves, without either
earthly power, or prestige, or patronage to protect her, yet, as though she
wore a charmed life, she escaped from the hosts of her cruel foes. With
what weapons did this church protect herself? What was her defence?
Where found she shield and buckler? The answer is, — in prayer: “many
were gathered together praying.” Whatever may be the danger of the times,
and each age has its own peculiar hazard, we may rest in calm assurance
that our defence is of God, and we may avail ourselves of that defence in
the same manner as the early church did, namely, by abounding in prayer.
The new-born church not only escaped, but it multiplied: from being as a
grain of mustard seed, when it could all assemble in the upper room, it has
now become a great tree; lo, it covers the nations, and the birds of the air in
flocks find shelter in its branches. Whence this wondrous increase? What
made it grow? Outward circumstances were unfavourable to its progress;
upon what nourishment has it been fed? The answer is— the fact that on all
occasions “many were gathered together praying.” While praying the Spirit
of God came down upon them; while praying the Spirit often separated this
man and that for special work; while praying their hearts grew warm with
inward fire; while praying their tongues were unloosed, and they went forth
to speak to the people; and while praying the Lord opened to them the
treasures of his grace. By prayer they were protected, and by prayer they
grew; and if our churches are to live and grow they must be watered from
the self-same source.

The Importance of Prayer
My earnest desire is to stir up the church of Jesus Christ to increased
prayerfulness, The first is this, LET US NOTICE THE IMPORTANCE
prayer meetings. Let this be a lesson to us. As soon as we begin to read in
the Acts, and continually as we read on in that record, we note that
meetings for prayer had become a standing institution in the church. We
read nothing of masses, but we read much of prayer-meetings. We hear
nothing of church festivals, but we read often of meeting together for
prayer. It is said that Peter considered the thing: I fancy that he considered
it all round, and thought, “Where shall I go?” and he recollected that it
was prayer-meeting night down at John Mark’s mother’s house, and there
would he go, because he felt that there he should meet with true brethren.

In those days they did things by plan and order, according to that text,
“Let all things be done decently and in order,” and I have no doubt that it
had been duly arranged that the meeting should be held that evening at the
house of John Mark’s mother, and therefore Peter went there, and found,
as he probably expected, that there was a prayer meeting going on. This
ought to be a regular institution of the Christian church. There should be
meetings wholly devoted to prayer, and there is a serious flaw in the
arrangements of a church when such gatherings are omitted or placed in a
secondary position. These prayer-meetings should be kept to their object,
and their great attraction should be prayer itself. Let it be a standing
ordinance in the church, that at certain times and occasions many shall
meet together to pray, and supplication shall be their sole object. The
private Christian will read, and hear, and meditate, but none of these can
be a substitute for prayer: the same truth holds good upon the larger scale,
the church should listen to her teachers, and receive edification from
gospel ordinances, but she must also pray; nothing can compensate for the
neglect of devotion.

It is clear that these friends fully believed that there was power in prayer;
for, Peter being in prison, they did not meet together to arrange a plan for
getting him out. Some wise brother might have suggested the bribing of
the guards, and another might have suggested something else; but they
had done with planning, and betook themselves to praying. It looked as if
they could do nothing, but they felt they could do everything by prayer.
They thought little of the fact that sixteen soldiers had him in charge.
What are sixteen guards? If there had been sixteen thousand soldiers,
these believing men and women would still have prayed Peter out. They
believed in God, that he would do wonders; they believed in prayer, that it
had an influence with God, and that the Lord did listen to the believing
petitions of his servants. They met together for prayer in no dubious
mood. They knew what they were at, and had no question as to the power
which lay in supplication. Let us not say, “What can prayer do?” but

“What cannot it do?” for all things are possible to him that believeth. No
wonder prayer-meetings flag, if faith in prayer be weak; and no wonder if
conversions and revivals are scarce where intercession is neglected.
This prayer in the early church we remark, in the next place, was
industriously continued. As soon as Herod had put Peter into prison, the
church began to pray. Herod took care that the guards should be sufficient
in number to keep good watch over his victim, but the saints of God set
their watches too. As in times of war, when two armies lie near each other
they both set their sentries, so in this case Herod had his sentries of the
night to keep the watch, and the church had its pickets too.

I would fain pause here a minute, and urge my dear brethren to attach as
much importance to prayer as the early church did. You cannot think too
much of it. Believing prayer, dictated of the Spirit, and presented through
Jesus Christ, is to-day the power of the church, and we cannot do without
it. Some look at her active agencies, and prize them, but they suppose that
prayer might be dispensed with. Prayer in the church is the steam engine
which make the wheels revolve, and really does the work, and therefore
we cannot do without it. Never sunder the connection between your soul
and God. Keep up a constant communication with heaven, or your
communications with earth will be of little worth. To cease from prayer is
to stop the vital stream upon which all your energy is dependent; you may
go on preaching and teaching, and giving away tracts, and what you like,
but nothing can possibly come out of it when the power of the Almighty
God has ceased to be with you.

Thus, much on our first point. May the Holy Spirit use it and arouse the
churches to unanimous, intense, importunate intercession.

(To be continued)