Summary: To lay out the vision and strategies for becoming a prayer centered and prayer driven church.
[S] I went to visit members in the hospital on Thursday when I ran into one of older members strolling the hall with his walker and his physical therapist. So, I joined the journey. We walked up and the down hall together and then entered a series of short hallways that wrapped around the elevator shaft. Each time we went around that square corridor he got a little confused as to which way his room was. But once the therapist pointed it out he was just fine.
Last week I started a series titled Forging The Future which is designed to point out where the room is. I shared revealed a set of three goals that I and the Church Council believe is the direction God wants us to travel for the time being. The three goals are: 1) to become a prayer centered and prayer driven Church, 2) to help everyone associated with Asbury to belong to a small group of people who will love them and help them grow in their love of God and love for others. And third, is the goal to enable everyone associated with Asbury to find their place to serve Christ. These three goals are summarized in three words: Pray, Belong, and Serve. Today and the next two Sundays I’m going to define and describe each of these goals in more detail.
The scripture that drives the goal of becoming a prayer centered and prayer driven church is found in Isaiah and Mark.
[S] “And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Sovereign LORD declares-he who gathers the exiles of Israel; I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56.6-8, NIV)
[S] “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11.15-19, NIV)
[S] A prayer centered and prayer driven church is a community that reflects the image Jesus had of the Temple ministry as a house of prayer. The Temple ministry was to be a place where everyone, Jew and Gentile, could draw near to God. As such, praying was the dominant activity of everything that transpired. Praying was the thread that held all the rites and activities together. Whenever a person went to the Temple they would see and hear people and priests praying. And that’s because praying wasn’t just private and quiet, it was also public and corporate.
We can tell from Jesus’ reaction that praying had become compromised. People’s ability to draw near to God not what it should be. And so in a very memorable display of passion Jesus tells the people that praying will be re-established as the dominant and driving principle in God’s house. And God wants the same for us. Our model or example for this is nothing less than the prayer directed life of Jesus. Why? Because we’re his disciples and disciples desire to be just like their Rabbi.
[S] As a first century Jewish Rabbi Jesus’ life was immersed with the practice of praying.
That means his day revolved around certain hours of prayer. Several times a day he would stop, drop and bow. He would pause from his labor, drop to his knees, and bow as he prayed facing the Temple.
Much of Jesus’ praying would have been liturgical. That is there were certain prayers to be recited at certain times of the day or for certain occasions. For example Jesus would have recited the Shema (Shma) every morning upon waking and every evening before going to sleep. The Shema is the reciting of Deuteronomy 6.4-9 which begins with the words, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord alone.” Why not do the same thing Jesus did?
Jesus would have prayed the Amidah at least once a day but most likely as a Rabbi three times a day, morning, noon and evening. “Amidah” means standing and is a series of eighteen benedictions that are traced back to the days of Nehemiah which were recited while standing up. It’s likely that when we read about Jesus going out to pray in the morning or in the evening that this was one of the prayers he literally prayed. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to pray at different times of the day, morning, noon and night.