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)

The Number Assembled at the Prayer Meeting

Next, we notice THE NUMBER ASSEMBLED, which is a rebuke to
some present here. The text says, “Many were gathered together
praying.” Somebody said the other day of prayer-meetings, that two or
three thousand people had no more power in prayer than two or three. I
think that is a grave mistake in many ways; but clearly so in reference
to each other; for have you never noticed that when many meet
together praying, warmth of desire and glow of earnestness are greatly
increased. Perhaps two or three might have been all dull, but out of a
larger number someone at least is a warm-hearted brother, and sets all
the rest on a flame. Have you not observed how the requests of one
will lead another on to ask for yet greater things? How one Christian
brother suggests to another to increase his petition and so the petitions
grow by the mingling of heart with heart, and the communion of spirit
with spirit? Therefore, I do earnestly pray brethren to make the
numbers gathered in prayer as great as they can be. Of course, if we
come together listlessly, if each heart be cold and dead, there is only so
much more coldness and deadness; but taking for granted that each one
comes in the spirit of prayer, the gathering of numbers is like adding
firebrand to firebrand, and piling on the burning coals, and we are
likely to have a heat like that of coals of juniper, which have a most
vehement flame.

Now this is not a very common occurrence, and why is it that so many
prayer meetings are so very thin? I know some places in London
where they talk about giving up the prayer-meeting, where instead of
two services during the week they have compassion on their poor
overworked minister, and only wish him to hold forth for a few
minutes at a sort of mongrel service, half prayer-meeting and half
lecture. Poor dear things, they cannot manage to get out to worship
more than once in the week, they are so much occupied. This is not in
poor churches, but in respectable churches. Gentlemen who do not get
home from the City and have their dinner till seven o’clock, cannot be
expected to go out to a prayer meeting, who would have the barbarity
to suggest such a thing! They work so extremely hard all the day, so
much harder than any of the working men, that they say, “I pray thee
have me excused.” Churches in the suburbs, as a general rule, have
miserable prayer-meetings, because of the unfortunate circumstances
of the members who happen to be burdened with so much riches that
they cannot meet for prayer as poor people do. Some of you who have
your delightful villas are very careful of your health, and never venture
out into the evening air at prayer-meetings, though I rather suspect that
your parties and gatherings are still kept up.

Dear friends, this is a personal matter. It is of no use my standing here
or you sitting there and complaining that so few come to the prayer-
meeting: how are we to increase the number? I would suggest to you a
way of increasing it, namely, by coming yourself. If choice blessings
are to be gained by numbers coming together for prayer, the way for
me to increase the number is to go there myself, and if I can induce a
friend to go also, so much the better.

I have a very high opinion of the early church, but I am not sure that
quite so many would have been gathered together that night if it had
not been that Peter was in prison. They said to one another, “Peter is in
prison, and in danger of his life, let us go to the prayer-meeting and
plead for him.” Did you ever know a minister who was often laid aside
by illness and always found his people praying better when he was ill?
Did it never strike you that one reason for his being afflicted was
God’s desire to stir the hearts of his people to intercede for him? If
churches become slack in prayer, those whom they most value may be
laid aside, or even taken away by death, and then they will cry to God
in the bitterness of their souls. Could not we do without such flogging?
Some horses want to be reminded now and then with a little touch of
the whip; if they did not need the lash they would not get it; and so it
may be with us, that we need church trials to keep us up to the mark in
prayer, and if we need them we shall have them; but if we are alive and
earnest in prayer, it may be that Peter will not get into prison, and some
other trying things will not happen besides.

The Time of the Prayer Meeting
I have a little to say about THE TIME OF THIS PRAYER-MEETING.
It was held at dead of night. I suppose they prayed all through the
night. They could say, “We have been waiting, we have been waiting,
all the night long.” After midnight, the angel set Peter free. Peter went
to the house, and they were not gone to bed, but many were met
together praying. Now, as to the time for prayer-meetings, let me say
this. If it happens to be an inconvenient hour, and I should think the
dead of night was rather inconvenient, nevertheless go. Better hold
prayer-meetings at twelve o’clock at night than not at all; better that we
should be accused, as the Christians were of old, of holding secret
meetings under the shadow of night, than not meet together for prayer.

But there is another lesson. The dead of the night was chosen because
it was the most suitable hour, since they could not safely meet in the
day because of the Jews. It becomes those who appoint the times for
prayer-meetings to select as good an hour as they can, a quiet hour, a
leisure hour, an hour suited to the habits of the people. Still let us
remember that whatever hour is appointed, if we come together with
true hearts, it will be an acceptable hour.

Pastor’s Note: Spurgeon’s plea for God’s people to regard the prayer
meeting seriously still rings true today. The church that prays together
will be richly blessed.