Over one hundred years ago Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British pastor, said in a sermon, “The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings.”

On our first Tuesday night prayer meeting at Brooklyn Tabernacle, fifteen to eighteen people showed up. I had no agenda laid out; I just stood up and led the people in singing and praising God. Out of that came extended prayer. I felt a new sense of unity and love as God seemed to be knitting us together.

In the weeks that followed, answers to prayer became noticeable. We were joined by new people who had talents and skills that could help us, and unsaved relatives and total strangers began to show up. We started to think of ourselves as a “Holy Ghost emergency room” where people in spiritual trauma could be rescued. So week after week, I kept encouraging the people to pray.

We were not there to hear one another give voice to eloquent prayers; we were too desperate for that. We focused vertically, on God, rather than horizontally on one another. Much of the time we called out to the Lord as a group, all praying aloud in concert, a practice that continues to this day. At other times we joined hands in circles of prayer, or various people with special burdens to express spoke up. The format of a prayer meeting is not nearly as important as its essence—touching the Almighty, crying out with one’s whole being.

In those early days in our church, as people drew near to the Lord, received the Spirit’s fullness, and rekindled their first love for God, they naturally began to talk about it on their jobs, in their apartment buildings, at family gatherings. Soon they were bringing new people.

From that day to the present there has never been a season of decline in the church, thank God. By His grace we have never had a faction rise up and decide to split away. God has continued to send people who need help and often we never find out how they learned of us.

Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.