A House of Prayer
I believe that a church can survive with prayer alone; I also believe that God does not want any church to shut down. God wants this church to do more than survive, He wants to bless and prosper it.
I want to begin my message by reading you an actual account of another church, a church who’s circumstances were far worse than yours. This actual account is written up in this book called “My House Shall be Called A House of Prayer”. I believe that every believer can gain something from reading this book. If you’re interested, you can get a copy for yourself directly from the Free Church head office in Langley.
(Read the account directly from the book)
I hope that this real-life example will be an encouragement for you. Yes your numbers are small and yes, you are also in debt, but your situation is not desperate. and you have available to you the same solution that worked at Aldersgate Church – prayer.
Now virtually all believers know they should pray, but many are not clear as to why. Why should we pray in the first place? To some people this question may not seem important, but it should be. Firstly, Jesus told us to pray! That alone should be enough reason. In Mark 11:17 Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
How important was prayer in Jesus’ life? Scripture records that His ministry was saturated in prayer from beginning to end and it records that on the very night He was arrested Jesus went away to a place called Gethsemane and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” He knew what was coming; He knew that this would be His last time with the disciples; what did He do? He didn’t deliver a fiery message or give them last minute instructions, He went aside and prayed! Doesn’t that tell us something of prayer’s importance in His life?
John Wesley, the renowned theologian/evangelist from the eighteenth century said, “ God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” John Vandergrind says the same thing in his 40 day devotional called “Love to Pray. In his two fictional classics on spiritual warfare, Frank Peretti makes it clear that the forces of heaven are powerless to act unless believers are praying. That puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.
In “The Man God Uses”, Henry Blackaby says that “prayer is interactive (in other ways it’s a two-way dialogue between us and God) when you are in relationship with God.
Not everyone can pray; there are prerequisites – First is belief; second is cherished sin, and third is obedience. All are essential ingredients in effective prayer. Time does not allow for a thorough discussion of all three so in this message I will deal only with obedience.
1 John 3:21-22 says:
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. “ (Read twice)
Only those who obey God have the right to come before Him with requests. God delights in the prayers of His obedient children. When we want what He wants and live the ways He wants us to live, then the tendency will be for us to offer up prayers that God will answer in the way we expect. And, in answering our prayers, God is supporting the obedient behaviour he wants from us. If God were to answer the prayers of those who are living lives of disobedience, He would be giving tacit approval to the type of behaviour He does not approve. That would be out of character for God, and even the new believer knows that God never acts out of character.
If we obey Him, He will listen to our requests and grant some, if not all of them because we know that God’s answer will not always be yes – “yes” may not be His will for us. In other words, then, if we expect God to do what we ask, we should be prepared to do for Him what He asks. This principle also explains much of the weakness of prayer – the lack of power, lack of perseverance (Luke 18:1-5 tells us about the value of persevering in the story of the woman and the unjust judge), lack of godliness, and lack of confidence in our prayers all stem from some lack of obedience in our Christian lives. When our prayers are not answered, we assume that the problem lies with God while in reality the problem is really in us.
God does not expect more of us than we are able to deliver, so the level of obedience he desires from our lives is possible. God gives enabling grace, and His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) so that we can live obediently because He is committed to hearing our prayers. By His grace and the infilling of His Holy Spirit, we have both the desire and the strength to do His will.
But if we want to become powerful in prayer, we must be obedient and spend time with God and time in the Word. That’s where we will find His will clearly stated. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” Col. 3:16. Yes, and that TAKES TIME! Jesus reminds us in John 15:7 that “if we remain in Him and His words remain in us, we may ask whatever we wish, and it will be given us.” How will His words remain in us if we’ve never read them? Or, to put it more simply, Do you want to have confidence when you pray and receive from God what you ask for? Then begin by living a life of obedience. That’s the bottom line.
Yes, prayer does make a difference. As James 5:16 tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. “
“Prayer”, said C. Samuel Storms (in Reaching God’s Ear) “ in and of itself possesses no power.” I was astounded by that statement, and didn’t understand it until I read what Storms said next: “Prayer is powerful because God is powerful, and prayer is the means through which that divine power is released and channelled into our lives.” In other words, all the power in prayer is really God’s power activated by prayer.
So when you pray for another person, there is nothing that flows from you to them – no vibes, no force, no energy. Instead, your prayers go heavenward, and the power of God moves from Him to the ones you pray for.
When the Scriptures say that “prayer is ….powerful and effective”, it means that God acts powerfully and effectively through the prayers of His people. Prayer is the instrument by which God has chosen to have His power directed in the universe. Ole Hallesby (in Prayer) provides something of a mental picture of how this works: “This power is so rich and so mobile that all we have to do when we pray is to point to the persons or things to which we desire to have this power applied, and He, the Lord of this power, will direct the necessary power to the desired place.” Isn’t that amazing! – God partnering with human beings to accomplish His purposes!
In “The Power of Prayer”, R.A. Torrey, enthralled by the enormity of this prayer, states, “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All God is, and ….has, is at the disposal of prayer. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.”
Prayer can do what political action cannot, what education cannot, what military might cannot, and what planning committees cannot. All these are impotent by comparison.
Prayer can move mountains. It can change human hearts, families, neighbourhoods, cities, nations, and churches. I feel that the biggest weakness in this country is the church, but let’s not get started on that> Prayer is the ultimate source of power, because it is the power of Almighty God.
This power is available to the humblest Christian. It was a man “just like us” who prayed “that it would not rain”, and God stopped the rain in Israel for three and a half years. Where will the power of your prayers be felt today?
By now some of you may asking, ”when is this guy going to give me something useful, something practical that I can apply to my life? (There‘s no need to say amen at this point). The answer is simple, I have. At this stage in the life of your church, many of you are probably discouraged and wonder where you can go from here. You may ask “what can we do to turn things around?” You may wonder what you can do to fill this building with born again believers committed to turning this community upside down.
There are things you can do, lots of things – some will work, others will fall flat. But what you can do that will work is pray! Did you hear that? What we can do that will work is pray!
In our society we tend to be action oriented. We want to do something decisive that will turn things around immediately! In terms of our society, that’s fine. But in God’s economy, things don’t work that way. Firstly, if our actions could bring about the necessary changes, we would be justified in taking the credit. Secondly, God’s interest is much more in what we are than in what we do. Turn with me to Isaiah 43:10
"You are my witnesses," declares the Lord,
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
He is far more concerned about the quality of our relationship with Himself than He is with the number who come here every Sunday morning.
So, in this as well as in every other issue we may face, prayer is the answer, for it is through our prayers that God acts on our behalf; it is through prayer that we grow in Christ; it is through prayer that He molds and shapes us, preparing us for His service. This doesn’t mean that we do nothing! On the contrary, we are to do lots! But first we are to pray! Our God who is faithful will answer our prayers – He won’t give us everything we ask for, but He will provide everything we need, everything that is good for us, and let’s face it, suffering is good for us!
As Paul says in Colossians Col. 4:2 - 4
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Was Paul suffering when he wrote these words? You bet he was!
Let me close by relating an account from Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” study, an account that illustrates what happens when a church prays and walks by faith:
“When the world’s fair was coming to Vancouver. Our association of churches was convinced that God wanted us to try to reach the 22 million people that would come to the fair. We had about 2,000 members in our association’s churches in greater Vancouver. How in the world could 2,000 people make a great impact on such a mass of tourist from all over the world?
Two years before the fair we began to set our plans in motion The total income for our whole association was $9,000. The following year our income was about $16,000. The year of the World’s fair we set a budget of $202,000. We had commitments that would probably provide 35 percent of that budget. Sixty five percent of that budget was dependent on prayer. Can you operate a budget on prayer? Yes. But when you do that you are attempting something only God can do. What do most of us do? We set the practical budget, which is the total of what we can do. The we set a hope or faith budget. The budget we really trust and use, however, is the one we can reach by ourselves. We do not really trust God to do anything.
As an association of churches, we decided that God had definitely led us to the work that would cost $202,000. That became our operating budget. All of our p eople began praying for God to provide and do everything we believed He had led us to do during the World’s Fair. At the end of the year, I asked our treasurer how much money we had received. From Canada, the United States, and other parts of the world we had received $264,000. People from all over came to assist us. During the course of the fair, we became a catalyst to see almost 20 thousand people come to know Jesus Christ. You cannot explain that except in terms of God’s intervention. Only God could have done that. God did it with a people who had determined to be servants mouldable and available for the Master’s use.
Ask yourself this question, are we the people God has called to serve Millet? Are we? Are we servants determined to be moldable and available for the Master’s use? If we are, then let’s make this a house of prayer.