A house of prayer

Jesus calls us to place prayer at the centre of his church

In his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, New York pastor Jim Cymbala describes one of his early messages at the famous Brooklyn Tabernacle. It was a Sunday evening and 15 people were gathered in a dingy meeting room. Just as he was preparing to close, the pew holding five of them collapsed!

That was 45 years ago. Jim decided then that it was time to turn to the Lord in prayer and that the Tuesday evening prayer service would be his primary focus. God has answered beyond all expectations. They now hold three services on Sunday in a beautifully renovated theatre that seats 3,200 and they still meet for prayer on Tuesday evening. But you will spend an hour or longer in the line that wraps around the block to get into any service, including the prayer meeting. What a testimony to the power of prayer.

Jesus put great emphasis on its importance by his example of continual communion with his Father, by his intercession, and by his angry reaction to the busy-ness (and business) of the people in the temple in Jerusalem. In Mark 11 we read how he blocked the traffic and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?” (v. 17 NASB).

Prayer is the sacred ground on which God builds his church and his kingdom. So, while worship and teaching contribute to a healthy church, Jesus stressed the centrality of prayer as the core function of the house of God. Therefore, it should be our first priority, especially when we are about the work of the King and his kingdom. Everything else will arise from that foundation.

Prayer gives us access to the very throne room of heaven and invokes the power of the Almighty. When we call on him, he begins to coordinate schedules and align resources. Since his ways are not our ways, we can expect some surprising changes to our plans. And he will answer in ways that far exceed our greatest expectations because prayer to build his kingdom is at the centre of his will. Our own best work is just a waste unless we draw on the power and love of the Lord, because “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).

Let’s determine that we will set apart time to hear the voice of God, to bow in worship, and to lay our needs and concerns before him, especially when we are overrun with busy-ness. It is then that we truly must find time for prayer so that God can arrange events, solve problems, reveal his will, and indeed, enable us to get everything done that needs to be done.

James Paterson, my good friend in Ontario, makes “prayer machines”—interactive art that illustrates the impact of prayer. A small wheel with a handle on it animates the entire sculpture, putting it in motion through wheels, pulleys, and belts. What a demonstration of the great truth that our often unseen, seemingly insignificant prayers reach the ear of the Almighty and call him to action.

And that’s when mountains move.

An edited extract from an article in SERVANT magazine, a ministry of Prairie Bible Institute (prairie.edu). Used by permission.

By Mark Maxwell, president of Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada.

SERVANT magazine is published twice a year by Prairie Bible Institute (http://prairie.edu/servant). Subscriptions to SERVANT are available for those in North America. For those living overseas, email notification when the magazine has been posted to Prairie’s website is available.

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