Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Being a "House of Prayer": Part 1

Last night at Glory of Christ Church we commenced our mid-week service which is wholly dedicated to fellowship and prayer. For the next 6 or 8 weeks I will be bringing a devotional for the service which will try to show why Glory of Christ should dedicate an entire service, every week, to prayer. Below is a summary of the first devotional. I hope to post summaries of each of the subsequent devotionals on Thursday mornings.

Why should Glory of Christ seek to be a house of prayer? Why should every Christian seek to be a house of prayer? Because God’s house is a house of prayer, and we are his house.

I get the idea that God’s house is a house of prayer from Isaiah 56:6-8: “6 ‘And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.’ 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, ‘I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.’”

When Isaiah penned these words, he was referring to a physical “house,” the temple of God in Jerusalem. But now that Jesus Christ has come and that, by his grace, we have believed in him, we are God’s temple. Here are a few passages that show that:

1 Corinthians 3:16-17: “16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Ephesians 2:19-22: “19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

1 Peter 2:4-5: “4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The nature of God’s temple has changed since the days of Isaiah, but his vision for his temple has not: he wills that it be a house of prayer for all peoples, and thus we above all people ought to be a praying people. The aroma of prayer ought to rise from our hearts every moment of every day. We ought to pray without ceasing, as we ever commune with God and call upon him in all circumstances of life.

And as we do, we will know the joy of the Lord because in Isaiah 56:7 the Lord promises to fill us with joy in his house of prayer! What is the source of this joy? It is God himself. As the people of God delight themselves in the being of God—not the blessings of God, but in God himself—they are filled with joy inexpressible and everlasting, and obeying this great and gracious God, even to their deaths, is the thing they long to do.

To put this another way, to build a house of prayer is to build a house of joy. To be a person of prayer is to be a person of joy.

And Jesus Christ was very serious about this joy in the house of God. Look at how he reacted when religious leaders perverted God’s vision for the sake of financial gain:

Mark 11:15-17: “15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’”

Jesus is still that passionate about prayer and about joy in God’s house of prayer. He will protect this vision with fierce vengeance!

In sum, the reason we are dedicating an entire service to prayer at Glory of Christ is because God’s house is a house of prayer. Therefore, it is the nature of a Christian person to be prayerful, and it is the nature of a Christian church to be prayerful as well. We simply must learn what it means to live a life where the admonitions of Scripture characterize our manner of life: “Devote yourselves to prayer,” “pray without ceasing,” “pray and do not lose heart.”

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