The upper room was a place of
miracles, and today our intercessory prayer groups are invited into this upper
room experience. In the upper room on the night before his death, Jesus spoke
forth into common bread and wine the miracle of his "Eucharistic Love": "This
is my Body for you"; "This is my Blood for you." The upper room was also the
place of the miracle of Pentecost when the words of Jesus-- "You will receive
power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" (Acts 1:8)--and the overshadowing
and penetration of the Spirit brought forth the visibility of the Body of
Jesus, the Church, in its members as new, living stones.
Several days before Pentecost, before
his Ascension, Jesus spoke to the Apostles and disciples these words: "In a
few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5). There was a
grace present for them to be led to use these "few days" as a time of prayer to
prepare for the miracle of the descent of the Holy Spirit that would change
their lives forever. So too, intercessory prayer circles are invited to embrace
this as a paradigm on how to prepare for a new empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
A print of one of the traditional
paintings that depicts the moment of Pentecost is found in the Roman Missal
used in our Catholic celebration of the Eucharist. The painting depicts Mary as
situated in the center of the upper room with everyone else gathered around
her. She is at the "heart" of this inner space, in its "innermost recesses", "Like
a fruitful vine in the recesses" of the upper room (Ps. 128:3). There she
mentored them in the "hidden life" of prayer to prepare them for the coming of
the Holy Spirit who "is the hidden God who is Love and Gift" ("Dominum
et vivi ficantem", encyclical letter; Pope John Paul II).
In the scene of the 'Baptism of the
Lord', we see Jesus in prayer before he is anointed by the Holy Spirit:
"[After] Jesus also had been baptized
and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him"
say that this preparation time in prayer in the upper room was an "extension"
of this mystery of the Baptism of the Lord (see JP II, general audience, June
Mary's presence in the upper room
assured that those with her would live in a "climate of prayer" with prayer at
the center of their lives. No doubt, her presence in the upper room helped to
create an atmosphere of expectation in the minds and hearts of those gathered.
She prepared them for the indwelling presence of her Spouse, the Holy Spirit.
Mary could teach them how to "receive" power from on high, to make sure that
all those present were fully receptive to the "Gift", the Promise of the
Father. She who waited in prayer for the birth of Jesus at the Nativity waited
in prayer again during the time leading up to Pentecost (see Collection of
Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, vol. I, p.126).
Mary, the Apostles and disciples were
in prayer during the time between the Ascension of the Lamb and Pentecost: The
time in between the promise and fulfillment. This is where intercessors
pray from: The "middle place" between the promise of God and its fulfillment.
Having been informed by the Lord as to how to pray, we engage in committed and
sustained prayer--persevering prayer that is oriented towards fulfillment. Like
Mary and those gathered in the upper room, we kneel and pray at the "praedo
of promise": "Pray[ing] always without becoming weary...call[ing] out to
him day and night" (Luke 18:1,7).
We are told that "All these devoted
themselves with one accord to prayer together with some women, and Mary the
mother of Jesus, and his brothers" (Acts 1:14). Even before Pentecost, change
had already taken place in their hearts:
"Their prayer was already a fruit of the
interior action of the Holy Spirit. For it is he who urges to prayer and
helps one to be devoted to prayer...the Holy Spirit was already at work in
the "secrecy of prayer" (John Paul II, general audience, June 21st,
The word, devote, means 'to give or
apply (one's time, attention, or self) entirely to a particular activity,
pursuit, cause or person'. The fact that those gathered devoted themselves to
prayer implies a sacrifice and a willful intention on their part. After
Pentecost we read in Acts, "We shall devote ourselves to prayer and to
the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). Here even before the miracle of the
descent of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was at work within them in this
devotion: "A prayer of the most complete dedication not only of the heart
but also of the Will" (JP II, general audience, June 21st,
1989). The witness of Mary's 'devotedness to prayer' in the upper room could
only have helped to encourage and urge onward those gathered with her.
We are told that those gathered were
praying in "one accord". The word, accord, means 'to cause to conform or
agree; to be in unity'. The root meaning of this word means "heart", and two
words that share this same root meaning are the words, "courage", and
"according" ("May it be done to me according to your word"--Luke 1:38);
("Let it done for you according to your faith"--Mt. 9:29). Hence, their
hearts were already engaged before Pentecost. Lastly, we are told that they all
prayed with "one accord". Even before the descent of the Holy Spirit,
one can begin to observe amongst them the fruit of Jesus' "priestly prayer"
found in John's Gospel:
"That they may all be one, as
you, Father, are in me and I in you...that they may be one; as we are
one" (John 17:21,22).
I aware of an area within my heart where I struggle to be able to receive from
I living an "entirely devoted" lifestyle as an intercessor?
Any scripture from the text; 1Kgs.8:61; Mt. 6:6; Luke 11:5-8
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