“Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'” – Matthew 21:12-13
Jesus, in Matthew 21:13, gives us the identity of His house. He leaves no doubt or grey area for us to wonder. His house is to be called a house of prayer.
His house, the one He is building, is not the American version of church that is full of church “attendees” who are simply looking to fulfill their moral religious obligation for the week. His house is certainly not the westernized “prosperity” church that is centered on our comfort and our love for luxury and ease. God, in this generation, is not building the Sunday-to-Sunday church that lives disconnected from His heart 6 days out of the week.
God is instead, in this generation, exposing the futility of that system and calling His church, His bride, and His people into a deep covenantal relationship of love and communion. God is building an entire generation not on Sunday sermons but on the voice of the Holy Spirit being heard in the secret place of prayer and fasting. He is calling and entire generation into the wilderness of prayer and fasting in order to, in the decades to come, put them on display to the whole earth for the praise of His glory. God is in a global building project. He is changing the expression of Christianity all over the world. He is removing every false label and identity from His church and He is bestowing on her the noblest calling. He is calling His church back to relationship. He is calling His people back to prayer.
There are so many churches around the nations that pride themselves on something they do well or on something they are known for. Some churches are known for their worship, others for being encouraging, some for having a great outreach program, or for helping the poor. I am in no way against any of these things, in fact Jesus commanded us to do all of these things, but none of these things are suppose to be the identity of the Church. Outreach, serving others, encouraging, is all meant to flow out of the place of prayer.
We cannot replace the role of prayer with other religious activities however good and necessary those religious activities are. Everything we do is to flow out of the place of prayer and communion with God. John Wesley put it this way, “Its seems man can do nothing outside of prayer.” Jesus clearly outlines this for us in Matthew 22:37-39:
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
We all know this passage as the great commandment and the “golden rule”. But we must notice the order in which these were presented to us. Loving God is called the first commandment and loving others is called the second commandment. This is because our service to others is always meant to flow out of our love and communion with God.
I have heard it argued a few times by some people that they aren’t a big “prayer person” because they want to go out and evangelize, serve, and love people. They argue that while others may be called to prayer, they are called to serve people and love on people; therefore they don’t have time to have a deep prayer life. Let me make this very clear, you cannot fully serve or love others unless your first love God and receive His love for you, and both of those things primarily happen in the place of prayer. Having a heart to serve others and love them is great, but you can only successfully do that if you have the love of God in you, which we receive in prayer as we commune with the Holy Spirit.
This is why Jesus calls loving Him the FIRST and the GREAT commandment. Loving Him is the number one priority on His heart for your life. It is what Christ died for. His deepest desire is that you would love Him wholeheartedly. This is also the avenue to greatness in His kingdom. Not only is loving Christ the first thing you should do, it is the greatest thing you could do. A life wasted loving Christ is a life well spent. Greatness in the eyes of eternity is not measured by ministry impact; it is measured by heart connection with Christ. There are many in the body of Christ today with almost no ministry impact but they are great in God’s eyes because their hearts have been faithfully burning with love for Christ for decades.
It is this type of people, this type of church, which Christ is building. His house is one full of a lovesick bride sitting at His feet listening to His word. And it is from this place that He will launch the greatest witness of power and outreach the world has ever seen. The first commandment will launch a generation into the second commandment.
Everything in our lives is meant to flow out of prayer, especially other religious or spiritual activities. Evangelism will not be successful without prayer. Every great move of God in history whether it be the Welsh revival, Azusa Street, or the Great Awakenings were birthed out of a people of prayer, not out of some new evangelism strategy. Their outreach and soul winning was birthed out of the place of labor in intercession. John Hyde, called the “Apostle of Prayer”, a key figure in the church of the early 1900’s, used to pray, “God give me souls lest I die!” This is where revival is birthed and souls are won. Maybe the greatest crusade evangelist to ever walk the earth, Reinhard Bonnke, echoed the cries of Hyde when he would cry out to the Lord, “Father where are the results of your gospel? Where are the souls? Give me souls!”
Unfortunately most of the church in the west has moved away from this identity and calling of prayer. We fill our weeks and years with services and programs but we lack the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and we lack the presence of God in our services. Could it be that our lack of power and presence is in direct relation to our lack of prayer? I believe that is precisely the issue.
This is the house that Jesus is building. This is the house that will overcome the gates of hell; the House of Prayer.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes on the role of prayer to transform a society.
“Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.” – E.M. Bounds