In the latter half of the past century our churches had become houses of preaching and teaching, houses of evangelism and missions, houses of worship and musical production, and houses of sports and recreation. All good things, but they had not become houses of prayer.
Today God is challenging the very identity of the American church. He is showing us that prayer is not simply another ministry to be tacked onto the church’s agenda. Prayer is to be her very identity. Clearly, everything that lies ahead for the church and for this world hinges on prayer.
Christ said, “It is written… My house will be a house of prayer” (Luke 19:46). Perhaps the reason we’ve been so long in seeing this is because we are so blessed of God. The heart of prayer is weakness. Strong people don’t pray. When asked why the Korean prayer movement had lessened in direct proportion to their national prosperity, Dr. David Yonggi Cho explained, “Sadly, God has a problem. He can neither bless us nor leave us unblessed.”
Perhaps prayer in America has been a low priority because we have more faith in what we can do for God than we do in what He can do for us. But now churches are beginning to move beyond building and maintaining prayer ministries to actually becoming houses of prayer!
What would you suggest your church do to become more of
a house of prayer?
What is “a house of prayer?”
Here is a partial list of identifying characteristics of a house of prayer.
- A pastor and church staff who are committed to prayer
- A significant time of prayer in worship services
- Pre-worship service prayer meetings
- Prayer during and for the worship service at another site
- Prayer in committee meetings
- Instruction and training in prayer, including conferences, seminars and retreats
- Prayer communiqués, hotlines and reports of requests and answers to prayer
- A meaningful partnership between pastors and intercessors
- Prayerwalking and on-site prayer
- Prayer cells, triplets and chains
- Prayer vigils, solemn assemblies and concerts of prayer
- Exciting corporate prayer meeting
Prayer Petitions and Requests
The work of prayer often involves pleading a case for our own needs—our personal prayer list. Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).
Everything that exists, exists for a purpose (Rev. 4:11). Our creative God is purposeful. God had a purpose for everything He created. As we look at prayer, we will see that prayer too has a purpose. In fact, prayer has many purposes. We see this clearly in the model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples.
Jesus’ disciple Luke told this story:
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” —LUKE 11:1–4
The Purposes of Prayer
The purposes of prayer include but are not limited to:
- Adoring and thanking God
- Fellowship with God, talking to and listening to Him
- Requesting things from God (daily bread, forgiveness, direction and protection)
- Interceding for the needs of others
- Praying in the kingdom of God
Intercession is prayer moved to another level. It is no longer prayer for oneself, but rather a form of selfless prayer that involves “standing in the gap” to plead the cases of others (1 Tim. 2:1). Every Christian should bear the burdens of others in prayer.
But intercessory prayer is also a high-level ministry calling to which some Christians are uniquely called as their primary role in the body of Christ. Intercessors literally invest their lives praying on behalf of others.
They are God’s activists. They are not driven into the streets with placards to yell slogans. Rather, they are drawn into their prayer closets with travailing prayer and petitions on behalf of others.
There are times when, in the act of interceding, an intercessor is overcome with emotion. In prayer, when passion collides with compassion, the result is travail—a crying out to plead the case of another before the Father. In Nigeria, for example, ladies who are dedicated to prayer are called “the wailing women.”
The Bible gives us many examples of individuals who knew travail in prayer:
- Jeremiah—”Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people” (Jer. 9:1).
- Isaiah—”The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth” (Isa. 22:12).
- Jesus—”And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Intercessors who enter into travail sometimes are misunderstood by those around them.
Read 1 Samuel 1:12–16. Write in your journal what Eli the priest thought of Hannah when she travailed in prayer?
Read Galatians 4:19. To what did the apostle Paul compare the travail of prayer?