Our land is filled with churches that dabble in prayer. At worst, prayer is present as a perfunctory practice, like grace before a meal or token prayer with our children before bed. At best, it is alive in weekly prayer meetings and the nagging sense of guilt and grief that we should be doing more.
But our Lord Jesus has something more in mind for us. He wants us to be a house of prayer for the nations. The health of our relationship with God as His church and the effectiveness of our ministry for His kingdom are directly related to the vitality of local churches as houses of prayer.
Growing as houses of prayer involves more than church programming. It involves the reprogramming of our mentality. It requires a paradigm shift where prayer is understood not as an accessory to ministry or simply a ministry offering itself. Rather, it is akin to an ecosystem complex, alive, working together and providing benefit through dependence upon God in prayer. Prayer is not just something we do, it is something essential and pervasive to our life and function as Christ’s church.
Development as a house of prayer relates to recapturing our identity as God’s covenant people in relationship with Him and responsibility to the nations. “Nations” are not just those people “over there.” They are those without God and with hope at our doorstep.
I had the opportunity to address my Presbytery on this urgent matter. I put together a packet for each church to assist them in growing as the houses of prayer they are.
Below is the cover letter to that packet. I share it here with the hope that this will catch on, that a house of prayer movement will grip the hearts and imaginations of church leaders across the land. Not a house of prayer movement extraneous to the local church, like a para-church organization, but indigenous to the local church, in keeping with our Lord’s purpose for us.
Many churches look to expansion of their facilities. Capital campaigns are launched. Resources mustered. How wonderful it would be if these energies were focused on the inside, in the hard work of cultivating a culture of prayer in the church’s mindset and ministry! This mentality does not take hold on the church all at once, like flipping a switch, but must be nurtured and doggedly pursued with patient perseverance.
I’ve embedded links in the letter below of most of what I included in the packets distributed to Presbytery.
May the Lord our God, who alone can build the house, use the leaders of His church as subcontractors for something that leaves the world in awe, saying “Surely, God is in their midst!”
I have been doing some study on what our Lord’s intention for us is when He calls us to be “a house of prayer for the nations.” What I’ve come to realize is how essential this is to our life and ministry as His churches.
For that reason, I’ve put together a packet for each congregation of the Presbytery to stimulate you toward becoming houses of prayer. The packet includes:
- an article I wrote entitled, “God’s House of Prayer – Extreme Makeover Edition.” This article, published in Covenant Seminary’s theological journal, gives the backdrop and mandate for our Lord’s vision for His church. I suggest each Session study it and develop a plan for implementation.
- a booklet I wrote for P&R’s Basics of the Faith series entitled, Why Do We Pray? It’s my contention that we need to equip our people for prayer, expanding their understand of God’s design for it and stimulating them in its practice. Some in our flock who misunderstand the decree of God may well not see the urgency in prayer. This booklet uses God’s decree to motivate them to prayer in participation with God and with great expectation.
- a guide for using Why Do We Pray? as part of a Prayer Training Module. I’ve found this small group approach effective for exposing people to the breadth of prayer and learning how to enrich their prayer lives, personally and corporately. Growing as a house of prayer involves cultivating a culture of prayer among our people. I’d be glad to send you an article I wrote entitled, “A House of Prayer is Built with Living Stones” if you email me.
- the most recent copy of a newsletter I have been publishing for my congregation to help them grow as a house of prayer. Each edition contains an article to shape their thinking about prayer and report on plans.
- a sample of our prayer calling card. Functioning a house of prayer to the nations involves not only praying for the nations, beginning with those at our doorstep, but being known by our neighbors as a house of prayer. One of the initiatives we have recently launched at my church is the formation of a Prayer Response Team (PRT). This is a sort of special forces unit of the prayer corps that is the church. The PRT is a group of committed individuals who agree to pray daily for the prayer requests of neighbors submitted to them. Those requests are gathering from distribution of prayer calling cards.
I’d be glad to give you greater detail on any of the above. Please let me know if I can be of any help in your development as a house of prayer for the nations.