“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations…” (Mark 11:17)
Jesus here states the wonderful reality of God’s household. He reveals the nature of His house. The defining characteristic of His people. A house of prayer.
I have pondered recently how often we have made the church about something else. Over the centuries the focus has gone in many different directions, mysticism, singing songs, the Lord’s Supper, even preaching sermons. None of those things are wrong, each has its respective place. But Christ did not say His house would be a house of preaching. He did not say it would be a house of eating and drinking. He did not say it would be a house of heavenly experiences. He said it would be a house of prayer. And the history of the church testifies to this truth.
Studying revival and reformation, it is impossible to miss that prayer always coincided with both. In fact, I would say that the prayer meeting is truly the church meeting of the NT. In prayer there is the ability for people to stand up and preach. In prayer, there is the time for worshipping with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. In prayer, there is the time to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Prayer brings focus to the gathering, while making way for the other beautiful expressions of Christ’s church to come forth spontaneously. And it is because of this that I believe prayer is the central work of the church when gathered.
Now picture this: Gatherings of prayer spread throughout cities. People meeting with God by petitioning and seeking Him. As they pray a few feel like bringing out a worship song. A hymn. A psalm. A new song. Whatever it is. As prayer continues a pastor steps up and preaches a message. After him comes up an elder who brings a teaching. Then fellow believers wish to share as well. Songs, messages, and prayers are offered. Someone comes up and shares that a brother needs to pay his electric bill that month. An offering is taken up. The needs of people in the gatherings are met. At the end everyone finishes by eating together or going out to eat.
Very simple. But prayer makes sure that the gathering stays Christ-focused, and in a place of humility.