My House Shall Be a House of Prayer

May 15, 2016 Speaker: Josh DeGroote

Topic: Prayer Passage: Mark 11:17–11:17

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Jesus burns with great zeal that we would be a house of prayer. Not a house of play, but a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7, Mark 11:17). From the beginning, the people of God were marked as people of prayer. Genesis 4 says that after Abel was killed, Eve gave birth to another son name Seth who fathered a son named Enosh and “at that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 4:26). We have an entire book in the bible – the largest, with 150 chapters – devoted largely to teaching us how to pray. Prayer is so central to the Christian faith that Tim Keller says, “To neglect prayer is not to fail some religious duty. It is to fail to treat God as God.”

It is undeniable that prayer was a priority for Jesus. Furthermore, after witnessing his prayer life and ministry, his disciples said to the Lord, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Apparently they learned because we see throughout the book of Acts that the church was a praying church. God wants us to follow our forefathers into prayer.

For Real Life Church to be a house of prayer, we need to consider: the superior promises, supernatural power, and enormous privilege of prayer.

God’s Superior Promises Given to Those Who Pray
God is always inviting us, always beckoning us to pray. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). God speaks through the Psalmist in Psalm 91, “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him” (Psalm 91:15). Jesus, in one of key biblical teachings on prayer says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For whoever asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). In John chapters 14 through 16, Jesus is together with his closest friends, and much of what he teaches them is about prayer. For instance, John 14:13-14 Jesus says,

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Later in his conversation, he says this:

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full. – John 16:23-24

Supernatural Power Accessed By Those Who Pray

Prayer accesses the resources of heaven. Prayer lays hold of an omnipotent God. God can do in a moment of answered prayer, what we couldn’t accomplish in 50 years of planning, preparing, and doing.

Consider what James 5 says regarding Elijah. James first invites to pray. Next he says that prayer can accomplish powerful things. Then he points us to Elijah:

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. – James 5:17-18

The point is clear – our prayers can have powerful effects in the earth. There is great power in prayer – not because we are powerful, but because prayer lays hold of a almighty God. In Exodus 32, Moses, when God was provoked at Israel’s idolatry, interceded for the people of Israel that God would not destroy them and prevailed. Andrew Murray, a South African minister in the 19th century, wrote a lot on prayer. Listen to these words he wrote:

Christ actually meant prayer to be the greatest power through which his church should do its work, and the neglect of prayer is the reason that the church does not have great power.

Enormous Privilege of Partnering With God in Prayer

Have you considered the enormous privilege of partnering with God in his work through prayer? One might ask, “If God is God, how can my prayers have any effect? He will do what he wants, when he wants to do it.” We see over and over again, however, that it is through prayer (and other means) that God does his work on the earth. In other words, God says in effect, “Pray, and I will do things.” God says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” One story that I love is in Acts 12. Peter is in prison. The apostle James has just been executed by King Herod and Peter is next. Check out these words,

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5)

What happened? The Lord dispatched an angel who released Peter from his jail cell. Peter was in prison, BUT the church was praying.


Plan to pray. Make prayer a priority

There must be intentional, grace-based effort and planning to pray. DA Carson, said, “Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray. We do not drift into spiritual life; we do not drift into disciplined prayer. We will not grow in prayer unless we plan to pray. That means we must self-consciously set aside time to do nothing but pray.”

Are you going on a trip this summer? Have you done any planning? Well in prayer you are pulling on heaven for the benefit of earth; should it not have a larger priority in your plans than vacation? Some might say, “I pray throughout the whole day.” Well that is fine and good. But there is something about deliberate, focused, intense prayer that God loves and responds to. Jesus would withdraw into a desolate place to pray (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16). Not only did Jesus practice this, but he taught the disciples to do the same (Matthew 6:5-6). Come to prayer meetings, commit to pray at home. Figure out a time that works and stick to it. Jesus got up early in the morning, to be by himself and pray.

Believing prayer

Do you come in prayer believing God hears you and is willing to answer? David calls to God this way in Psalm 65: “O you who hear prayer.” What a way to approach God! Jesus says this in regards to prayer in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that lasts, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” God chose us to bear fruit in prayer or as Terry Virgo says, “we are hand-picked askers.”

How would it change your prayer life if you approached him conscious that he is a hearing God and that he appointed you to bear fruit in your prayer life?

Prayer as Engaging with God

I want to try to help create a new theological category in your mind today. It is this: Trinitarian Engagement. Prayer includes engaging with all three Persons of the Godhead. Ephesians 2:18 says “For through him [Christ] we have access to the Father in one Spirit.” We are engaging with all three Persons of the Godhead in prayer. We approach God (the Father). Think of how Jesus prayed and how he taught us to pray. He would address God as “Holy Father”. An entire chapter is dedicated to giving us a sneak peek into the interaction of the Father and Son in prayer in John 17.

We approach God the Father through Jesus. Jesus Christ alone gives us access to the Father. We are able to draw near to God through him because of his atoning work (Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 10:19-23). And we pray “in the Spirit”. Christian praying is prayer in the Sprit (Jude 20) – in the Spirit of sonship.

Samuel Chadwick – The basis of prayer is sonship. Prayer is the privilege of sons and the test of sonship. If a mental picture helps, we are traveling to a destination – which is the Father, through an open road – which is Christ, in a vehicle – which is the Holy Spirit.

Be Persistent in Prayer

Prayer requires an earnestness, intensity, and persistence. Jesus teaches two parables regarding persistent prayer. In Luke 11, the disciples approach Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray.” He does. First he gives them a model prayer – what we call the Lord’s prayer. Next, he tells a parable about going to a neighbor’s house at midnight and waking him up for three loaves of bread. The man is persistent – even annoying and the neighbor says, “I won’t get up because he’s my friend, but because of his boldness, I will.” Finally in Luke 11, Jesus famously instructs his disciples to “ask, seek, and knock.” But the verbs are in the present continuous tense and therefore could be stated, “Ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking.” I am so glad he tells us to pray like this, because coming to God quietly and with proper manners is unfitting. This kind of persistence is essential for true prayer. PT Forsyth, a Scottish minister, in his book “The Soul of Prayer said,

”Lose the importunity of prayer… lose the real conflict of will and will, lose the habit of wrestling and the hope of prevailing with God, make it mere walking with God in friendly talk, precious as that is, yet you tend to lose the reality of prayer at last.”

We see this kind of prayer throughout the bible. Jacob wrestles with God, audaciously saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he prevails (Genesis 32:22-32). Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. The great prayer feat of as he argues with God in Exodus 32:7-11. God is not a reluctant neighbor. But in his wisdom, he responds to persistent, earnest, persevering, fervent prayer. How did Elijah pray according to James 5? Fervently. We might ask “Why?” It seems like we would be saved a lot of time and God too if he would just answer our prayers immediately. Adoniram Judson, the missionary to Burma, I think gives a great answer when he says,

“God loves persistent prayer so much that he will not give us much blessing without it. And the reason that He loves such prayer is that He loves us and knows that it is a necessary preparation for our receiving the richest blessings that He is waiting and longing to bestow.”

What do you feel desperate for God to do for you? Be relentless is coming to him. Be a “persistent pleader” as EM Bounds says, “who refuses to let go until your petition is granted.”

Has God changed? No. Let’s take him at his word and be a people of prayer. If we boiled over with zeal for God’s house, like Jesus, and entered the school of prayer with Jesus, we would be amazed at what God would do.

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