There are two profound statements made by Christ describing prayer. Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint,”8 and he also said, “It is written, my house is the house of prayer.”9 These two quotes from the Lord are well known and well worn, but let’s take a fresh look at them. They continue to reveal the most rudimentary key to Christian life and Christian activity in this world.
The International Children’s Bible says, “Then Jesus used this story to teach his followers that they should always pray and never lose hope.” Perhaps we might start by observing that the Word uses this absolute word, “always.” Marriage books and counselors teach young couples that two words should be strictly avoided in conflict since they are “never” fully accurate. Nothing in marriage is totally “always” or “never.” Yet the Holy Spirit who knows all vocabulary and its limitations intentionally says men should “always” pray and “never” faint.
There are only a very few mandates in scripture that carry with them the totality of “always.” Few things are all inclusive regardless of the context and with no consideration for the circumstances. Yet, Christ gives this absolute status to the call to prayer. And Paul picks up on this vital key several times as he wrote: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit …”10 and “pray without ceasing …”11 The New Testament is clear that believers should be involved in prayer “always.”
From Luke 19, verse 46, Jesus declares a truth about His house. Nowhere else in scripture will we find Jesus giving a definition of His house. This is the only place where Jesus provides insight, or paints a picture for the coming church of what His house is going to look like. This is His declaration about His house. With this as the framework for the words of Christ our curiosity rises. What is the only descriptive that Christ would use for His house? “My house is the house of prayer.”
Now, this revelation may be surprising to some. There are so many things that Jesus could have said to describe His house. He might have said it was a house of gospel proclamation, or worship, or His Word, or multiple other functions. The fact that He chose prayer is significant. How will the church proclaim the gospel, preach the Word, worship, or spread His Kingdom? The church will only be capable of fulfilling these fundamental calls as they pray.
If in His own personal life Jesus felt the need to pray regularly, repeatedly, and rigorously, how could His church survive, much less accomplish His mandate, without the same? These two small and well used verses focus the call to prayer at the bedrock level. The people of God must be houses of prayer “always” engaged in touching heaven for the Divine provision to carry out the Kingdom mandate on earth. Without prayer there is a weakened connection to heaven. Without a strong connection to heaven there is little flow of Divine provision. Without flowing Divine provision there is little empowerment to achieve the mandate. No wonder Christ said, “Men ought always to pray!”13
The prayerless Christian and the prayerless Church will always encounter great problems with Satan, his weapons, influences and the whole of the fallen world environment.
- Prayer changes everything.
- Prayer is the channel for us to come into God’s presence.
- Prayer is the channel for God to pour his grace upon us.
- Prayer is the agent that transforms.
Can this church become a powerful praying church? Can prayers from this church push back the work of darkness in this world? Can prayers from this church open the windows of heaven and bring down God’s victorious grace and power for ministry and Christian witness? Will this church run into the battle? What could a church fully given over to prayer look like?
Prayer prepares us for the job ahead. And, prayer mysteriously moves the hand of God to work behind the scenes preparing the way. Prayer helps us distinguish between a good idea and a God idea. It helps us make sure that we are in line with what God is up to in the world.
Prayer keeps us looking. It keeps the burden fresh. It sensitizes us to the subtle changes in the landscape of our circumstances. When God begins to move, we see it. Praying helps us not miss the opportunities that come our way.
We are hereby challenging all levels of leadership to make prayer a core value and to insure its continuance through specific prayer-goals and objectives.