Isaiah 56:7, 8 is often used to describe the house of prayer function of the local church: “Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: … for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD Who gathers the outcasts of Israel says, ‘Yet will I gather others to Him [the Messiah, Jesus] besides those who are gathered to Him.'”
In context, these verses are about the temple in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ millennial reign upon the earth. They speak of God joining Jew and Gentile together in united adoration of Jesus.
Communion with God through prayer and worship, both individually and corporately, is one of the central themes throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul said we are to “rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, [and] in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
The early church took corporate prayer quite seriously. One hundred twenty disciples gathered together in the upper room, waiting according to Jesus’ instructions for the coming of the Holy Spirit. What did they do while they waited? “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14).
In Acts 4:24-31, with the threat of persecution hanging over them, together they cried out for the Lord to give them boldness to preach the Gospel with healing, signs, and wonders following. Their prayer was answered. The Lord responded by physically shaking the place where they were gathered, filling them all afresh with the Holy Spirit, and giving them the boldness they had desired of Him.
When Peter was in prison awaiting execution, his situation looked hopeless, “but prayer was made without ceasing by the church to God for him” (Acts 12:5). In response to their prayers, Peter was supernaturally released from prison by an angel. We know that this was not only individual prayer going on, because Peter then went to one of the homes “where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12).
Jesus gave us an encouraging glimpse into what can be accomplished through group prayer in Matthew 18:19, 20: “…If two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father Who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Worship is a vital function of any house of prayer. In John 4:23, 24, Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
True worship is not an activity we engage in just because it is part of the “order of service.” It is not a preliminary to get through so we can move on to the sermon. It is not a set of songs calculated to stir our souls because of the catchy beat or the excellent abilities of the worship team. Many churches engage in praise at that soul level, never getting to true worship, which brings heart intimacy with the Lord. But if we do focus on the Lord, worshiping Him from the heart, it draws Him to manifest His presence among us in ways wherein we know we have touched God. Indeed, those of us who have tasted of His presence find it hard to be content with anything less thereafter.
While prayer and heartfelt worship are not the only things which the Church is meant to do, if we are to be the people God intended, we must shift worship away from being an entertainment activity back to that true worship of the heart in our gatherings. And, we must turn prayer from a lukewarm, obligatory part of our services to something we look forward to with expectancy, having faith that God will answer us. I am so encouraged that this change is already beginning to take place in many church gatherings around the world. I believe the momentum will continue to build, and as a result, God will release powerful miracles through His people. House of prayer > house of presence > house of power.
Keep in mind that prayer and worship don’t have to happen only in a Sunday morning service, either. They can be accomplished by meeting at other times during the week, even in homes. A prayer movement is arising throughout the world. Some of these gatherings are connected with particular local churches, but many are not. They don’t have to be. The Church is not confined to official buildings. It is present in power wherever God’s people gather, formally or informally. Perhaps God is even calling you to lead a home prayer group. If so, my book, House of Prayer ~ House of Power, can help you get started.
Next time, we’ll talk about the local church as a healing center.
House of Prayer ~ House of Power,
by Lee Ann Rubsam