II CHRONICLES 6:32-33: “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, 33 hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: Why do I go to church? What do I expect when I get there? Does my church reflect the heart of God? These are important questions to ask. They were important when Jesus walked this earth, and they are equally important today.
One of the most startling accounts of Jesus’ ministry is when He cleansed the Temple. It almost seemed out of character. In the Gospel of Mark we read – “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:15-17 ESV)
When Solomon dedicated the Temple upon its’ completion, he knelt before all Israel and prayed. This prayer was more than simply a prayer of dedication, it was a divinely inspired and prophetic prayer. In this prayer Solomon declared the very heart of God for His people. Solomon declared the very purpose for the Temple, the gathering place of God’s people. It was to be a place of prayer for all, including the foreigner. It was to be a “,,,house of prayer for all nations.” It did not take long for the nation of Israel to forget this. This neglect began with the first Temple, continued with the reconstructed Temple, and persisted in Jesus day – until the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D..
The question I have asked myself over and over again is – “What would Jesus do if He physically walked into our church on a given Sunday?” Would He be pleased? Would He see a house of prayer for all nations? Or, would there be some house cleaning to do? It goes deeper than that. What does Jesus see when He enters the temple of my heart? Is it filled with contraband and things that are competing with His desire and will for my life? Or, is it surrendered and humbled in prayer and worship? Is my devotion and service for the Lord focused more on the benefits it will bring me, or is it focused on the honor I can bring Him, and the blessings I can bring to others?
Today, many churches have become shopping malls. We have fostered and created a consumer mentality in both our approach to worship and prayer, and in the expectations of our congregations. Truth be told, although we don’t want to admit it, many times our churches resemble more of a place of business than a place of prayer. We have all the trappings, but many times we lack God’s power. One of the evidences of this is the growing percentage of unchurched people in our communities. No longer is the unchurched (foreigner) walking through the threshold of the church looking for answers. The authenticity of prayer and a people of God devoted to prayer that used to draw them is hard to find.
Is it hopeless? Not by any means. All you need to do is read the letters to the 7 Churches in the Book of Revelation. This problem is nothing new. It is the tendency of human nature to begin well and to slowly begin to drift away from God’s original intent. To the Church of Ephesus Jesus says – “Repent and do the first works…” I believe this is a call to the Church in America today. We need to return to our first love, to our first call. We need to become a “…house of prayer for all nations.” The authenticity of our prayer, worship, and Christian service is far more important than our marketing, music, and management style. God can do more through a few completely surrendered and humbled hearts than He can through 1000 finely polished professional churches. True revival never started from the masses, it always started with an ember burning with passion. True revival came from a gathering of people (church) that were devoted to prayer and surrendered in worship!
Lord, let me be an ember of Your passion in the days ahead. Call me back to intent and purpose of Your heart. Call me back to prayer. Let the authenticity of my prayer and worship to You be foremost in my heart and life. Let me run to You, not for what You can do, but simply for who You are! Turn over the money tables in my heart and make my life a “…house of prayer for all nations.”! In Jesus Name!