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5 Prayers for Pentecost, the Church’s Birthday

What happened when the apostles gathered in the upper room almost 2,000 years ago enriches how we pray today.

Pentecost, the Church's birthday
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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Pentecost is the church’s birthday, Sunday, May 23 this year. The first Pentecost happened almost 2,000 years ago when the disciples gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Think about putting that many candles on a birthday cake. Talk about tongues of fire! Here are some of the lessons of prayer I take from what the apostles learned.

1)  Come together. It’s easy enough to feel disoriented and lost as we come out of this pandemic, and yet, it hardly compares to how the apostles must have felt in those days after the Crucifixion. They had just seen their Lord and Savior nailed to a tree—and then risen from the dead.

They had plenty of reasons to fear what might lie ahead. Would the powers that be come after them with horrendous means of torture? (Yes, indeed.) How on earth would they survive? 

On the 50th day after Easter, they gathered “in one place” as the book of Acts puts it—it was the Jewish festival of Succoth. Jesus hadn’t left any book or building. What He’d given them was each other. What we still have today. Prayer offers tremendous power when we come together.

2)  Ask for understanding. People from all over the Roman Empire were present in Jerusalem for the festival. And they spoke countless different languages. It must have been overwhelming. What would the apostles say to the people? How would they be understood?

That was when there was a rush of wind from heaven filling the entire house. Tongues “as of fire” appeared among them, resting over them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit.

So gifted, they spoke to the crowd, and even though they were humble Galileans the words that came out could be understood by those foreign people in their own native languages.

Two miracles happened that day. First, that ability to speak in a foreign tongue that had never been studied or learned. Secondly, the ability to be heard. That’s always my Pentecost prayer. May I have that gift of hearing and understanding in all I do and say.

3)  Be open to your unexpected gifts. The apostle Peter makes an extraordinary transformation in a matter of days. Remember what he was at the Crucifixion? How from sheer cowardice he denied that he even knew Jesus, not just once but three times.

In the book of Acts, he has been transformed. Who steps forward to address the crowd? Peter. Who will never deny Jesus again? Peter. Who gave a brilliant sermon that day? Peter.

Jesus saw potential in people whom no one else noticed. Lowly fishermen like Peter. My prayer: that we could know the hidden potential He sees in us.

4)  Dream dreams. These words come from right out of Peter’s sermon. “…and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” And it’s not just because I’ve got gray hair and wrinkles, that I love this text.

It’s never too late to dream. It can startle and shock, and you can wonder how those dreams might ever be fulfilled. But dreams must be dreamed. 

5)  Celebrate and give thanks. “Happy Pentecost,” a French friend once said to me. No reason we can’t give each other the same wish, the way we say, “Happy Birthday.” This is a day of celebration. Give thanks for your faith community.

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