Summary: Becoming a church that is devoted to prayer...
Prayer: The True Calling of God’s Church
I used to have a picture hanging in the back of my youth room in Ohio. It was over the doors that we came into and out of so it was the last thing that you saw as you left the room. It was a picture of Christ. It was a beautiful picture. He was smiling out at you and it was a picture that, to me, captured the love that Jesus had for His people. It’s the way I like to picture Christ, one of my favorite images of Jesus. All of us have certain images of Christ that stick in our minds, ones that remind us of different aspects of His person and that mean different things to us for different reasons. There are those who relate to the picture of the smiling shepherd with a staff in one hand and a little lamb over His shoulders. We think of the care that He gives us and the protection that He offers and of the fact that He pursued us when we were lost in order to bring us into the fold. That is a powerful image. Others enjoy the softness of the new born baby in the manger. We picture the Christ child nestled down in the straw sleeping peacefully and are reminded of the incredible miracle of His birth. It’s another beautiful image, packed with meaning.
Some picture Him with the children on His lap, taking the time to show that they are important to God and to the growth of His Kingdom. Others would say that their favorite way to picture Christ is as He performed His many miracles. Maybe you picture Him reaching out and touching the Leper, a man no one else would touch. Maybe it’s the image of Him touching the man born blind, or commanding the crippled man, whose friends lowered him through a hole in the roof, to “Take up His mat and Go Home.” Maybe you see Him feeding the five thousand, or (with a tear in His eye) raising Lazarus from the dead. I think one of the most enduring images that will always evoke a response from those who have a relationship with God, through Christ, is the image of Him on that first Easter morning. He has won, death and Satan have been defeated, the pain and penalty of sin has been erased. The morning has come and we see Jesus alive and well against the backdrop of an empty tomb with a stone that has been rolled away. What a picture of triumph and hope, what a contrast to the much harder image to think of, the one of Him on the cross. Very soon we will be celebrating Easter and remembering this picture of the Risen Lord, the Son of God, the Spotless Lamb, it’s is an incredible image of our Savior.
I think that one of the most amazing glimpses that we’re given of Christ, one of the images that sticks out in my mind is one that we find it hard to reconcile with all of the rest of them. It’s the image of an angry God. It’s the image of Christ in the temple courts, consumed with a passion for the house of God, to the point of drastic action. It’s the image of Him running from table to table and overturning them. Money and animals that were being sold for the sacrifices would have been flying everywhere. This is not the Jesus we paint portraits of and hang on our walls. The Gospels don’t say anything about the disciples helping Christ as He tears apart the courtyard and my guess is that they are standing there in stunned silence like the rest of the crowd. There are so many Bible stories that I would have liked to have seen, but this one ranks near the top. It is a very different image of Christ, it’s a picture of passion and zeal. And in the words that He speaks to those looking on, He reveals what it is that brought about this unexpected rebuke of those selling in the courtyard.
Matthew 21:13 "It is written," he said to them, " `My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a `den of robbers.’ "
People had taken God’s house and they had turned it into something that it was not supposed to be. Jesus says that it was to be a house of prayer. It was to be a place where the presence of God could be felt and the lines of communication with God were open. Where people of every nation could come and kneel before the Creator of Heaven and Earth and have their prayers heard. This was to be a part of the foundation of the house of God, part of the plan from the beginning. That standard, that call, extends to the church of today as well. It extends to the House of God, here in this place, this building that is set apart for worship and communion with God. We are called to be a house of prayer. We are not called to be a house of preaching or a house of programs, but of prayer. To be a house of prayer, we have to be filled with people who pray, so this call also extends to each of us in our personal lives as well. Christianity and prayer are not mutually exclusive.