The applause of heaven
A few years ago pastor and author Max Lucado wrote an astounding book entitled The Applause of Heaven (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999). The promotional lead in explains the context Lucado intended in the writing---
It comes from God and it is within your reach … The applause of heaven. A joy that can’t
be quenched? A peace that can’t be broken? A happiness that can’t be threatened? There
is such a joy. It is a sacred delight, a holy gladness. You can’t open your Bible without
reading about it. You can’t live a truly satisfying life without it. And it’s nearer than you
think. Jesus describes that sacred delight in the astonishing mountain message we now
call the Beatitudes. And Max Lucado, in this classic exploration of enduring joy, shows
you how this familiar but revolutionary prescription for living can bless your life beyond
your wildest imagining.
It's not accolades earned by a strong performance or the cheering of God because we're done well. It is the promised character of God visited upon his people, what he provides to those of us living under his guidance and care. Those who experience the sum phoneo of prayer know the encouraging lift of being united heart and soul with others when we approach God in prayer. This kind of prayer is a union of agreement that runs deep in the lives of those called to him. And, there are many evidences of the ways agreement beyond the veneers touches those who experience it. Let me comment on a couple of them---
The Acts of the Apostles is a historical account of the birth and multiplication of Christ's church. Throughout are notations of their singleness of mission, that united spirit that propelled them from Jerusalem to the corners of the known world. There are many examples. Here are a few---
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the
women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Acts 1:14, ESV
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.
Acts 2:1, ESV
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their
homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.
Acts 2:46, ESV
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief
priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted
their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven
and the earth and the sea and everything in them.
Acts 4:23-24, ESV
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was
shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the
word of God with boldness.
Acts 4:31, ESV
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the
hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico.
Acts 5:12, ESV
And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip
when they heard him and saw the signs that he did.
Acts 8:6, ESV
It has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send
them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul.
Acts 15:25, ESV
In these verses Dr. Luke used very descriptive language. In many versions his words are translated "in one accord", to signify their physical proximity but also, at a deeper level, the unity of spirit. The ESV renders that same term "together", and it generally signifies that same quality of being in sync beyond their bodily closeness. They worshiped, prayed, studied, taught, shared fellowship, evangelized, and multiplied because they were living and praying as one. Luke summarized this spiritual union when he wrote---
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no
one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had
everything in common.
Acts 4:32, ESV
Those words are thrilling---one heart and soul, they had everything in common. They were joined, Jews and Gentiles, Romans and Greeks, male and female, slave and free, at a level much deeper than could be seen in their cultural diversity. And, they prayed with power.
We've adjusted our expectations of church and reduced influence in this dark world because we no longer believe such union is even possible. It is thought that our differences are too great and our opinions too strong to form such partnership. In many ways we've lowered the bar of unity that has hindered the force and joy of sum phoneo prayer.
But, there is the applause of heaven, to borrow Lucado's title. In my mind I think it can be summarized with this word of Simon Peter---
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by
which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through
them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the
corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason,
make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with
knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness,
and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and
brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,
they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord
2 Peter 1:3-8, ESV
Look what he's given us. That is the applause of heaven. Everything we need to live, serve, influence our world, and pray in sync.