Monday, February 23, 2009


This is a post on some of my own journey with the house of prayer and things the Lord has laid on my heart regarding it. I hope you will take time to read it.

The theme for this year's week of prayer is "I am . . . you are . . . we are . . . the house of prayer." The term "house of prayer" has really morphed and grown for me over the last number of years. I think, quite honestly, that at first it didn't have much meaning for me. I was hearing it everywhere, at all the prayer events, etc., and even though I am passionate about prayer, it had about as much heart connection for me as, "smile, Jesus loves you," or something along those lines. But over the space of several years, God began to draw me into the scriptural references to it, and it became more real: to take shape, to woo me to Jesus, to stir my heart for spiritual community, to make me passionate for us to know the beautiful reality of another truth that is very real and precious to me . . . that Jesus actually resides in me.

As I studied the Bible passages on the house of prayer,* I found such a sense of welcome, unity, joy, purpose. In Isaiah 56:7 God resoundingly declares the nature of His house, of where He chooses to dwell -- "My house shall be called a house of prayer." It is characterized by and identified with prayer. The very nature of it is prayer. But it goes beyond that. It talks about a welcome for and acceptance of "foreigners," which means me, and you, and everyone else, unless you are Jewish, and already part of the "in" crowd. It feels like God is saying, "I set things up a certain way, with My chosen people, to make a point. Now, I am shifting the paradigm, not because I have changed, but because it is time to reveal new things about Myself to you." This passage talks about these welcomed ones finding joy in the house of prayer, which immediately brings to mind the Lord's Presence, the source of joy (Ps. 16:11, 21:6). It also talks about this house of prayer being for ALL peoples. Again, a place of welcome and acceptance.

Let me jump ahead to the Acts and Epistles. Did you know there is no mention of the phrase "house of prayer" there? God does call us His building (I Cor. 3:9), His house (Hebrews 3:6), and in I Peter 2:4-5, which provides an interesting parallel to the Isaiah passage, He says, "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." Anda even though it doesn't say, "house of prayer," we see the early church so explicitly and powerfully living it out together in all they are and do -- they ARE being built together as a synergistic, Holy Spirit-indwelt community of prayer, with that lifestyle of vibrant trust and interactive communion with God being their modus operandi.

In the Gospels, Jesus emphatically re-declares what God has already stated in the Old Testament, and He does it very personally -- "My Father's house shall be called a house of prayer . . ." It is interesting that He does this in the court of the Gentiles -- the place reserved for and associated, again, with "outsiders." The thing that has so deeply captured my heart in this passage is, first of all, Jesus' passion regarding the nature of the temple. It is as if He is saying, "this place is My Father's, and it has a designated purpose, which is being polluted, violated. Anything that is incongruent with that purpose must be cleansed and cast aside; THEN the true nature of what is to happen here is free to happen." And it does; read Matthew 21:12-14. This is the second thing that captures my heart: as soon as the temple's true purpose is declared and cleansed of distractions, Jesus' ministry of compassion pours forth: "And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he he healed them."

As I have prayed and pondered this passage, the Lord keeps drawing the eyes of my heart to that central point in the scene. To me it is epically pivotal. And as I "see" it, it is as if I am watching special effects in a martial arts movie! I am an onlooker, standing in the temple court. At first, I am seeing the temple being cleansed -- tables being turned, money-changers recoiling, Jesus' hair and robes swinging with the motion of His body, the birds being sold for sacrifices flying up out of broken cages, the money boxes spilling open and coins rolling every which way. All of a sudden the motion becomes that high-tech movie slow-motion freeze frame -- coins, birds, people freeze -- all except Jesus, who continues to move in real time. From the center of the scene, He turns to me and looks right into my eyes from across the courtyard: "Are you getting this?" He kindly and pointedly asks. And then, wham, the action resumes -- the blind and lame move forward and He turns from me towards them and begins to minister and heal.

If the passage in Isaiah is God's way of declaring a paradigm shift, then this passage in Matthew seems like a paradigm tsunami. Something radical is happening, all because of this Jesus, this Son of God and Son of Man; because He is at the center of it all; and pretty quickly past this scene in the Gospels, it will be revealed that He is at the core and spiritual center of those who belong to Him . . . meaning you, and me. The narrative of history rushes toward the book of Acts, towards His indwelling of us as believers and as the church, and nothing will ever be the same.

What does this all mean? What is Jesus wanting to say to me, to us? I am not sure, not totally sure I AM "getting it," at least not all of it. I know it is about Him; and about me; and about us; about His passion to see His Father's purpose and design of us, individually and corporately, be fulfilled, that we understand and live out of His indwelling, that the living, right-now ministry of Christ might flow powerfully in and through us. He is wooing and calling us to draw nearer, and to understand deep things about "His Father's house," and about prayer, and about ourselves as His dwelling place, and about Himself, Jesus, alive, passionate and compassionate, at the very center of it all.

The house of prayer is not a physical place or an initiative; it is not a movement or a catch phrase. It is a "spiritual place" of welcome and acceptance and joy and purpose and unity. It is a vibrant realm manifested by the indwelling Spririt of God as He inhabits us individually and in community; as we earnestly and authentically seek and fellowship with Him; and as we live out of the posture of heart of trusting we are who He has truly already designed and called and equipped us to be -- a house of prayer.

* Isaiah 56:6-7; Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:45-48; I Corinthians 3:9; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:4; as well as verses about the Lord abiding and dwelling in us; and verses from Acts and the Epistles on the NT church's lifestyle of community in prayer.

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