2010 03 14
A House of Prayer
Reverend Anthony R. Locke
March 14th, 2010
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
John 2:13-17 English Standard Version
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.
15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Psalm 69:9 For zeal for your house has consumed me
A passage in Matthew sounds like a parallel scripture, but isn’t. Jesus cleansed the temple twice.
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.
13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Jesus loved being in the house of God doing God’s business.
Jesus LOVED being in the Father’s house doing the Father’s business.
Even as a teenager Jesus spoke of his passion to his parents when He said in Luke 2:49 “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”
The passage in John 2 is at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. We should be familiar with this chronology as growing believers.
- Jesus is anointed as the Great High Priest by John the Baptist, the Spirit of God descends as a Dove, and the Father says, “You Are My Beloved Son, With You I am Well Pleased.”
- Jesus is then driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days.
- Jesus calls the first disciples and does His first miracle at the wedding in Cana.
- Jesus then spends a few days with His mother, brothers and disciples.
- Jesus then cleanses the temple on the occasion of His first Passover as the Anointed One, the Christ, the Great High Priest and Messiah.
Jesus becomes fully employed in the Father’s business from this fifth event forward.
While John 2 is at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the passage in Matthew 21is at the very end of Jesus’ public ministry.
We definitely should know this chronology.
- Sunday Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem. We call it Palm Sunday.
- Monday Jesus cleanses the temple for the second time and demands that it be known as A House of Prayer.
- i. If our public reputation as a church falls short of this identifying mark then we have stolen the use of the church from God for our own devises.
- ii. God views us as a den of thieves if prayer isn’t our first order of business. Tough words indeed.
- iii. If prayer isn’t central within the church, then from God’s perspective we have hijacked the agenda away from His kingdom and turned church into something that we want for our felt needs. But, the church isn’t here for us. Jesus started the church to provide a visible manifestation of His eternal kingdom. The church works for God to further His agenda to redeem the creation. Our prayers play a central role in that recreation. If we leave off this first priority then we have stolen from God His church.
- Thursday is the Last Supper, arrest and illegitimate religious trials all night long.
- Very early Friday morning Peter denies Him. Judas hangs himself
Jesus goes before Pilate, then before Herod, and then back to Pilate.
Friday morning about 9:00 am Jesus is crucified and hangs on the cross in broad
daylight until noon. From noon until 3:00 pm darkness covers the earth.
Shortly after 3:00 pm Jesus cries out, releases His spirit, dies and is later buried.
- Saturday the tomb is sealed by Roman authorities.
- Sunday He arose. Hallelujah.
We call this the week of His Passion, or the final week of Suffering.
Jesus began and ended his public ministry by cleansing the public worship space, calling it back to prayer, and returning the church to her spiritual foundation.
What was true of the church in Jesus’ day is true today.
Every house of worship needs an occasional reorientation back to doing the Father’s business by using the Father’s methods.
WE need this.
We need to be filled with ZEAL that the Lord’s House stays focused on doing the Father’s business according to the Father’s instructions. We must reinvigorate our corporate prayer life.
God desires to use our prayers for the building of His kingdom. Prayers attract the unchurched.
In Isaiah 56:7 God says that He will use our prayers to bring in the unchurched. 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.”
Our world is in desperate need to be connected to God. Our effectiveness to connect others to God will only happen when we are fervent in our prayers.
We cannot reach out redemptively without the anointing of God’s Spirit which comes through prayer. We must pursue the Father’s business using the Father’s ordained and blessed methods.
God says in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 that though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
If by faith we will pick up prayer as one of our chief activities as a church, then God promises divine power to pull down strongholds and establish His kingdom.
As a community of faith we must pray. We need to be organized for regular prayer. If need be, we must be willing to fast and pray that the strongholds might fall.
It should be our greatest aspiration as a Church to be known as a House of Prayer.
- I would be comfortable being known as a Calvinistic church, but I would rather be known as the church that believes in prayer and prays.
- I like being the First Presbyterian church in this area, but I would rather be first in prayer.
- We should be known for being friendly, for welcoming children, for being joyful in our worship and professional in our music – pursuing excellence to the glory of God in all that we do.
- I would like to be known as the church that does things for others. It warms Jesus heart when we take a cup of cold water to our brother in need. Jesus takes it so personally that He says it is like you did it unto Me.
- There are many programs that other churches run that I think are praiseworthy and exemplary, but our ministry must first be modeled after Christ’s life and ministry and Jesus was a prayer warrior.
We need to major on the majors and minor on the minors – as the cliché goes.
- The holiest passage in the New Testament is John 17 when Jesus prayed for us. We too must engage in intercessory prayers if we are to stay focused on our mission.
- When Jesus cleansed the church He ran off all activity that wasn’t good. We must be willing to replace even good things with the best things.
- Jesus is our model for ministry, and He would rather loose sleep than enter the next day without having paid due diligence in His prayers. He was known for His prayers.
- We need our elders to be known for their prayers: public and private.
- We need our deacons to be known for prayers that get answered as God meets the needs of others.
- Let me continue pressing this point with a question.
- When are we corporately bowing our knees, lifting up our hearts, and pouring out our souls in prayer according to God’s will to reap the harvest?
- There are a dozen ways that churches can fulfill this mandate. I really don’t know when and how we should do it here at Tucker, but we need to have that conversation and put together a comprehensive plan.
- God is worthy of the best plans we can arrange and sustain.
It is my prayer that God would bless us with a community reputation that our church knows how to pray . . .
- in full assurance of faith,
- anointed by the Holy Spirit,
- with humility and yet holy boldness,
- persevering with fasting and continual knocking if the answer is delayed,
- biblically literate enough to be able to pray in His will,
- and emboldened by His love to make even the smallest requests known to God.
We are well fed Christians. We consume well portioned spiritual meals. The Reformed Presbyterian context is very helpful to keep us off spiritual junk food. That’s great.
In truth, we don’t need to increase our intake. We need to increase our use: our exercise if you will. Prayer is exercise. Prayer is work. It is the strengthening of spiritual muscles.
We need to search our scriptures to inform our prayers. Then, we need pray like it all depends on us, and yet have faith that it all depends upon God.
How do we implement these exhortations?
I think we should decide as a group. Here are some ideas for our conversation.
- We could encourage prayer in our sanctuary from 10:30 to 10:50.
- It is my desire that the sanctuary be a quiet place for prayer between Sunday School and worship.
- Maybe we could provide an updated prayer list every Sunday as people come in.
- Maybe our elders could walk with people to their pews and sit down for a minute and lead them in a prayer.
- We need to be in each others homes for prayer.
- We could organize a weekly meeting for prayer.
- We could call it JUST PRAYER.
- No food, no Bible Study, no drinks. Just prayer.
- We could meet someplace different every week.
- We need to pray in public places.
- I used to enjoy meeting a few men at Perimeter Mall to pray in the chairs next to the escalators.
- Right in the middle of all that commotion we would pray out loud for 45 minutes once a month. It was provocative and engaging.
- We must be in the community, assessing it’s needs, the injustices, the inequalities, the oppression and poverty.
- Then we pray.
- Then we act.
- Then God builds His church.
And all these ideas start with us believing in the ordained method God gave us to build His kingdom. Jesus is the head of this church. Let’s let Him tell us how to run it.
I am not asking us to start a new program. I am not asking us to sit for weeks and work on a vision statement. I am so tired of placing my faith in a freshly minted vision statement that is carefully crafted and executed to turn the church around. Abandon these ideas. Let’s embrace Christ’s vision for the church. Let’s return to our spiritual foundation. Let’s return to prayer.
In an attempt to help move this forward I will make this pledge to you as a congregation. With your help, I will pray with each of you for 20-30 minutes before I go to Synod in June. Call me: 770-940-9959. I will go to your school, your place of work, your home, or any other convenient place where we can pray.
God is glorified when we embrace His will for our life. God wills that we pray. May God bless us with the same reputation Jesus so desires for us. May we be known as A House of Prayer.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.