Life is made up of a million tiny moments.
Moments of laughter. Moments of joy. Moments of sorrow. Moments of grief.
At UPPERROOM in Dallas’ creative Design District, moments are what define ministry. Moments of worship. Moments of prayer. Moments of thanksgiving. Moments of adoration. Morning, noon, and night.
Throughout the day, people stream in and out of UPPERROOM’s Prayer Room moving to the rhythm of what the church describes as a “‘In and Out Lifestyle’ of coming in to minster to God and then going out into the world to minister to people.”
UPPERROOM’s morning, noon and night prayer movement began in 2010 when Pastor Michael Miller and his wife began gathering people to pray for the city of Dallas in an area Miller describes as a “church-planting graveyard.” The name wasn’t taken from Acts 2 as one might logically assume. It was called UPPERROOM because that’s how the businessmen who owned the building naturally referenced the empty, original-meeting space upstairs.
“About three months in, we decided to call it a church,” Miller says. “We really kept it simple early on.”
UPPERROOM opened its doors without much fanfare, but today people around the globe are singing their songs. Three times a day, six days a week, 100 vocalists, songwriters and musicians contribute their talents to leading people in daily worship.
“We really wanted to love Him well. We wanted to set a table for Him,” Miller offers. “God has brought some of the most gifted musicians, singers and worship leaders just to help steward this vision.”
Among those gifted creatives are Meredith Mauldin, who leads UPPERROOM’s songwriting efforts, and Elyssa Smith, who leads worship at the church’s second location, UPPERROOM Denver.
“The power really comes from the Prayer Room,” Mauldin says of their artistic inspiration. She leads a writing intensive once every three months, gathering UPPERROOM’s songwriters in one place to expand melodies and lyrics, often spontaneously birthed in worship. “Basically, what we’re doing is stewarding the songs that we’re getting in the Prayer Room,” she explains. “It’s just finishing them out, because we get most of it there in that place.”
Although UPPERROOM has been leading people in worship and prayer for eight years, it was only recently that they began to release their music to the culture at large. Much like dripping medicine from an IV, they slowly began to quietly drip organic moments from their worship sets on YouTube.
“We have a unique worship culture. We’ve been experiencing it for a long time,” Miller shares, “but we haven’t put anything out there, so we decided to prayerfully start releasing these moments, which were just nights of worship from our services. We put those online, and they really went viral.”
To date, UPPERROOM’s YouTube channel boasts millions of collective views. In fact, it was a viral video that propelled a song Smith wrote to new heights, and all around the world, in an unexpected fashion. During a set with her brother and one of the Prayer Room directors, Smith spontaneously began singing what would become the chorus to “Surrounded (Fight My Battles)”: “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.”
“I remember, just in that moment, I opened my eyes; and I was looking at my brother and I was looking at Traes [the Prayer Room director], and none of us could believe what was coming out of my mouth. I was shocked. It was ministering to me,” Smith recalls. “The Lord was doing something.”
From Texas to Tennessee, Michael W. Smith heard the song after his producer discovered it on YouTube. The GRAMMY winner decided to record it as the title track for his 2018 live worship album. Shortly after its release, he performed the song live on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Now people around the world are singing “Surrounded.”
“We didn’t really do anything; and the Lord, He’s just breathing on it,” Smith says of the song that bears her name. “We’re just so humbled by the whole thing.”
A broader glimpse of UPPERROOM’s heartbeat can be heard on the collective’s new five-song set, aptly titled Moments, a collection of live “moments” recorded during spontaneous worship in the Prayer Room.
“I think the title of the album is really indicative of the heart behind the project, which are these moments of a community that’s living this lifestyle around the presence of Jesus,” shares Miller. “We really are just capturing moments from our community that we feel like the Lord is highlighting.”
The songs showcase instances of authenticity and surrender. It’s a poignant snapshot of what’s been taking place behind closed doors in Dallas for some time. It’s just that, now, the world is taking notice.
“We haven’t changed anything,” Mauldin admits. “We’ve just put a camera on what we’ve been doing for the last eight years.”
hat’s the beauty of the music emanating from UPPERROOM. It’s organic and pure; ripe and sweet. Miller hopes the culture of UPPERROOM can one day expand to other major metropolitan cities across the country.
“The church gathers to, first and foremost, minister to and bless Jesus,” he says, “and then if that’s happening, we go out from that place, and I think we can transform the earth.”
The songs from UPPERROOM are simply a natural byproduct of the life-change already taking place. “The music is a fruit of our movement; it’s a fruit of our family,” Miller contends. “Music has never been the focus—Jesus has. We’ve made loving Him our priority.”