The highest identity of the church is to function as a house of prayer.
Jesus felt strongly about this. On two occasions, one early on in His ministry (John 2:16) and the other just a few days before His crucifixion (Mark 11:17), He forcefully cleared out the temple. What He observed was that everything but prayer was happening in the house of God. Turning over tables in righteous anger, He drove the people out, saying “Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise.” The Message paraphrase reads “Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall.” Far from being a prohibition on selling books and CD’s in the church lobby, this is a plumb-line for the heart.
Am I coming into God’s house with a heart of worship and devotion or am I coming with a consumer mentality? (“I’m here to check things out and see what might appeal to me.”) As the disciples watched Jesus cleanse the temple, they remarked to one another that what they were seeing was a fulfillment of Psalm sixty-nine, verse nine: “Zeal for your house has consumed me.” Yes, Jesus does feel strongly about what the focal point of our gatherings should be when we meet in His house.
On the second clearing of the temple Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “Even them 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 nations.” (Isaiah 56:7) In between these two public events, Jesus spent many private hours imparting to His followers, by modeling and teaching, what it means to live a life of prayer.
Spending time in God’s Presence is the source of joy and the fountainhead of zeal for our journey. The impact extends to the nations.
We were created to interact deeply with God’s heart. One angle of view is simply this: God speaks and moves our heart; then we speak and move His heart. That’s why relationship is a critical factor. My heart needs to be tenderized and interactive with Father’s heart. Much of this takes place through meditation on God’s Word. He makes His purpose known; it stirs my heart and mind; then I speak it back to Him in the form of prayer. In the end, He gets all the glory for our prayer lives because we can’t effectively pray without the Spirit inspiring us.
One person expressed it this way: “Holy Spirit, pray in me the Father’s will. Father, what the Spirit in me is praying, that is my prayer, in Jesus name.” There is however, no “autopilot” in this process. God takes pleasure in collaborating with us. In addition, our staying connected is equivalent to our staying safe.
Adam and Eve learned a hard lesson of what can happen when we fail to be vigilant in this regard. In a perfect world, with no sin, the absence of consulting God proved devastating. Perhaps Adam and Eve proved to us that autopilot doesn’t work so well.