Tuesday, May 04, 2010
A HOUSE OF PRAYER
A few months ago I began to rediscover prayer in my spiritual journey. I think it started when a friend sat down to share a testimony on MP3 by Lance Lambert. It was about how God touched the hearts of a few young people in England several decades ago and spawned a radical New Testament church. One thing that Mr. Lambert said on this recording stuck with me. He said, “An open meeting requires more prayer, not less.”
As someone who has been hosting an open meeting in my home now for over four years, this statement galvanized my passion for prayer and reignited a desire to draw nearer to Jesus in every way. In fact, before I was finished listening to the entire message I was overcome by an intense desire to fall on my knees and seek God’s face. It was like a spiritual gravity was tugging on my spirit and compelling me to immerse myself in the presence of Jesus.
Because of this, our house church began to meet a half hour early each Sunday to seek the Lord together and to ask Him to be the head over us and to lead us as a Church. Our women were already meeting regularly to pray, but eventually, we also added another weekly prayer time for men to meet and pray every Wednesday evening.
It was at our very first men's prayer meeting together that I was overwhelmed with this simple revelation – “We are not enough. But God is more than enough.” As we fell on our knees before God, it became abundantly clear that we were powerless to affect any change whatsoever in the lives of people around us. In fact, we were equally powerless to change our own hearts.
Apart from Jesus and His Holy Spirit, we knew that we could do nothing to grow, to teach, to evangelize, to make disciples, to change hearts, to restore relationships, or to even “be the Church” in our community. We needed more of Jesus, and we needed Him to lead this Church or we were hopelessly condemned to go through the motions every week. None of us wanted that.
The more I immerse myself in prayer, the more I realize how desperately I need to stay on my knees and continually seek God’s face. Jesus reminded us that “My temple will be called a house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13) and since we are the Temple of God (1 Peter 2:4-5; 1 Cor 6:19), this suggests that the Church should be a place where prayer is continually practiced.
Some people feel as if prayer is not their spiritual gifting and therefore they don’t feel that all of the many examples and commands regarding prayer in the New Testament apply to them. However, prayer is not a spiritual gift. Of all the 28 spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible, prayer is not among them. In fact, many of those gifts can only be released or applied through prayer, (i.e. – Prophecy, Words of Wisdom, Healing, etc.). So, prayer is a necessary function of the entire Body of Christ, not just the chosen few.
Besides, no one argues that they do not have the “gift of prayer” when they discover they have cancer, or they find out their child is in the hospital. Tragedy has a way of reminding us that prayer is for everyone who lacks hope, or wisdom. Prayer acknowledges that we have a need that only God can meet.
I know many people who consider themselves “intercessors” and who believe that they have a ministry of prayer and a calling to pray that is greater than what everyone else in the Body might be called to. However, the word intercession is only used four times in the NT and three of those references describe how Jesus and the Holy Spirit pray for us, (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:26-27). It is only used once in reference to corporate prayer, and not in the sense of any special gifting or quality of prayer practiced by a chosen few. The entire Body is urged to “intercede..on behalf of all men.” (1 Timothy 2:1) So, the ministry of intercession is for everyone in the Body of Christ, even though some among us may feel more passionate about it than others.
Prayer in the New Testament is seen as something that every believer participates in. If we are serious about being people of the Book, and if we are dedicated to practicing the same quality of faith that we see in the New Testament church, then we will begin by praying together and we will continue to pray together for as long as we live. Prayer is like breathing for a follower of Jesus. It is an affirmation that “apart from (Jesus), you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
If we really believe that we are powerless to do anything apart from Jesus, then we would be on our faces and in prayer daily seeking His direction, wisdom and power.
If we really believe that Jesus speaks to his people and that we can hear his voice, then we would be spending as much time as possible listening for that voice and seeking his counsel for our lives.
Often, it is only when we are in need that we abandon our selfish desires and surrender ourselves to prayer out of desperation. As C. S. Lewis so aptly pointed out, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I sincerely hope that the Church would not wait until death, divorce, bankruptcy, cancer or some other great tragedy compels us to enter into His presence. My hope is that God’s people would be drawn to their knees by simple obedience and a sincere desire to humble themselves and to seek His face.
We have been given access to the throne of Grace by the blood of Jesus, our Lord and King. He went to the cross to tear the veil in half and open a direct line of communication. Let us not trample on this awesome display of God’s desire for intimacy with us. Instead, let’s humble ourselves and confess our weakness and make our petitions known to Him.
“Cast all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you.” – (1 Peter 5:7)
"When we work, we work. When we pray, God works." - J. Hudson Taylor
The New Testament on Prayer
Jesus intercedes for us:
“Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)
The Holy Spirit intercedes for us:
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8:26-27)
Prayer is necessary for the health and well-being of the Body of Christ:
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
Prayer is like breathing for a follower of Jesus:
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17)
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Eph 6:18)
Prayer is an alternative to worry and stress:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Jesus taught us to pray at all times:
“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart…” (Luke 18:1)
Jesus taught his disciples (followers) to pray:
"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." (see Luke 11:1-13)
The New Testament Church was devoted to prayer:“These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14)
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Tim 2:1)
Common Christian sayings on prayer that we already know but seldom practice:
“A praying man will stop sinning but a sinning man will stop praying”
“Prayer aligns our will with God’s will. Prayer changes us, even if it doesn’t change the situation.”