Prayer and God’s house

prayer-401401_640 (1)Matthew 21:13: 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 said “it is written” to should us that we need to be careful to follow what is written in the word of God; that is when we will be guided aright. Right and wrong is not left to the whims and caprices of the changing time, or the changing tide of human opinion, it is based on the word of God.  It is not based on the exigencies of the moment.

In the focus verse, Jesus was given the information about the purpose for the house of God. He said it should be marked with prayer; that gives us the idea of the relationship of prayer and the presence of God, which his house typifies.

When we pray we are not just involved in a prescribed religious activity we are engaging with the presence of God, who we do not see. It is therefore a faith-filled activity.

When Jesus taught about prayer the first phrase he said we should declare is: our father who is in heaven… (Matthew 6:9-13).

This precludes praying to any other god or human being, or government; that means there is only one deity worthy of our attention adulation and supplication to be directed to him and that is the Father of our Lord Jesus. No one qualifies to meet our utmost needs but him.

Other gods are not even worthy of mention, talkless of respect and doubtlessly not prayer, or any form of devotion because prayer is an expression of devotion. That means no one or organisation should be deified, in any way and by any means. We are supposed to fear the Father alone and because of that direct our prayer to him.

Jesus said that we should say: our father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. That differentiates God and others deity wannabes. There is only one God in heaven, and who is eternal.

That also means that the act of prayer is about having spiritual contact with God in heaven. Prayer, though done in earth, has impact in heaven. In prayer we relocate to heaven, as it were, and conduct and direct our earthly affairs from there in union with the Holy Spirit.

God is not limited by space and time or in ability and is therefore in the best position to effectively answer our prayer.

What is required is a pure heart. Jesus said that blessed is the one who is of a pure heart because he shall see God (Matthew 5:8). In another place David wrote: who will ascend to the hill of God, and stand in his holy place? Answer: he who has a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-5).

Through the blood of Jesus, we are gifted with a pure heart. A bad tree cannot make itself good, and were bad trees, bringing forth bad fruits (Matthew 12:33). But when we died with Christ and was raised with him, we became new creatures (2Corinthians 5:17), washed in the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ.

With that we can call upon our father in heaven and he will hear us. Paul said God has sent the Spirit of adoption into our heart, and we can cry Abba father, i.e. we have a special connection with God (Romans 8:15). John said as many as believe in Jesus are called sons of God (John 1:12).

Believing in Jesus gives us access to the presence of God, overruling the trouble Adam got us into. Prayer is the activation of that access to enhance our relationship with God, to shift us from the mundane life to the supernatural life.

James talked about Elijah and the fact that through his prayer though he was ordinary, tremendous power is made available (James 5:16). That same power can be operational in us as believers in Jesus.

But human intervention over time can begin to turn things away from the original divine intention. That is why there is need for revival. To revive something is to arrest the process of death, to cause things to function as it should. When it comes to the functioning of the church, the Holy Spirit is the “be all and end all.”

When Jesus was going to heaven after his death, resurrection and ascension, having told the people that he was going to build his church and the gates of hell will not be able to withstand it, he said he was going to empower us with the Holy Spirit so that we can move out to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8).

So revival is about the “reintroduction” of the Holy Spirit to his place in the church, in his full fire and power. When Jesus walked the earth, it was with full cooperation with the Holy Spirit that he operated in his ministry. The church being the body of Christ cannot be less, we are even called to be more. While Jesus was limited in geography we are released to the ends of the earth. We are called to make spiritual impact in the lives of people, bringing them in confrontation with the raw power of God to change lives and to do the miraculous.

After Jesus chased away those who were buying and selling in the temple, showing his rejection of materialism (elevation of Mammon), and made the statement credited to him in the focus verse, then the lame and the diseased came to him in the temple and he healed them (Matthew 21:12-14).

In that, we can see the true mandate of the church, the house of God (Ephesians 2:22).  It is not the place where people are extorted, it is the place where they are freed from whatever limits them. It is not the place where there are oppressed, but where they find Jesus, they find truth and with an encounter with him, they lives are changed.

Nothing is more nauseating than dead religion. Jesus told a church in the book of revelation that you are neither hot nor cold, that “you are lukewarm and I want to spew you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).”

The service of God should be with fervency, red-hot. That was what Paul wrote to the church in Romans. He said, be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).” Jesus asked for total devotion, which prayer stands for.

He said if anyone wants to follow him, he should deny himself, carry his cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24). There is a measure of denying oneself in the place of prayer.

He said he who lays his hands on the plough and looks back is not worthy of him. What he asked for his 100 percent devotion. Since he died for us, we are to no longer live the rest of our lives for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (Galatians 2:20).

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