“My house shall be called a House of Prayer”

Catholic church praying

I remember as a kid, being brought up in the Catholic church, the peaceful quiet times I spent in the church–praying. The above picture brought back memories of those times.  I also remember the church doors being open many times during the week, both day and night. Today, as I look back upon the customs of our friends , the Catholics, I wonder who it is that has the real  light concerning this ” house of prayer” injunction. We as  SDA  claim to be those obeying the  Lord’s Commandments and teaching His prophecies but are we lacking in an overlooked  declaration of the Lord concerning the purpose of His house? Let us look into this most important aspect of His house of prayer.

As we  come together each and every Sabbath into the house of the Lord we in fact walk into His house of prayer. In Scripture  we read,  “I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”(Isaiah 56:7)

And our Lord specifically said, “He said to them, the Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matt 21:13).

Recently a church friend had stopped by for a bible study and she had mentioned how the Catholic church keeps it’s church doors opened for “prayer” and she wondered why we aren’t. This got me thinking –what’s going on with our own church in this regard?

As SDA we come together every Sabbath to study and worship in His house. We have services for roughly 3 to 3 and a half hours each Sabbath. But what about praying in His house? To a large extent it doesn’t exist! This is the sad fact. At no time throughout the whole week do we ever have our church doors open to allow us to enter to silently pray to our Lord.

Is this not a gross oversight to us as Seventh Day Adventists?

Ellen White explains, “”Bible religion is not made up of theological systems, creeds, theories, and tradition, for then it would not remain a mystery. The worldly would understand it through their own natural abilities. But religion, Bible religion, has a practical, saving energy, elements proceeding wholly from God—a personal experience of God’s power transforming the entire man.” (Manuscript Releases Volume Sixteen, page 236.)

And what could be one of best “personal experiences” than to be in God’s house praying? A while back a close friend of mine had been involved in a personal and emotional experience with her parents. She was left distraught one morning and wanted to drive down to the local church (SDA) to go inside and pray. She was to find out that no such possibility existed. Nothing was open.

We understand that today with the increase in crime and homelessness, the church is vulnerable to some mischief if it were to be left unguarded. However, is not our church able to open at least a few hours during the week for those who would want to be in His house to pray? If our Lord said that His house is a house of prayer, then would it not be a great and special thing to pray in His house to Him?

In the days of old His house was a true sanctuary and the believers felt His presence and were likely to be there even into the night. “Behold, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD!” (Psalms 134:1-2)

Then we see that even in Jesus’ day there were some who stayed in the temple praying. ” Then  she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.” (Luke 2:37) As SDA we often criticize the Jews of old as being wrong in many aspects but we certainly have much to learn from them in the — house of prayer custom.

Today during our services we have a short and formal “garden of prayer”. It’s usually 3 to 5 or 6 minutes. And we listen to someone else pray rather than spending quality time praying to the Lord and King ourselves. But are these few formal minutes  a fulfillment of being His house of prayer? Far from it!

We are woefully in need of revival and reformation in SO MANY areas and this house of prayer issue is right up there near the top in importance. This is something that should be looked into and changed. Our worship has become a timed scaled model of cold formalism.

In reviewing information for this week’s post I happen to come across a fellow church goer’s personal testimony as to the rigid and cold services he found. Although he belongs to a different church and religion, look at how similar his experiences are to what we see in the SDA.

In explaining why he quit the church, he says—

“I often found the worship services to be very structured and rigid, and therefore predictable. Here’s a typical Sunday worship service at OWC:

  • The choir sings
  • Opening prayer
  • The choir sings again
  • The congregation sings
  • The scripture passage is read
  • The choir sings again
  • The sermon is preached
  • Closing prayer
  • Congregation sings again
  • Tithes and offering
  • Benediction (always by a pastor)
  • Lord’s Supper (once a month only!)
  • After each service, people typically gather into their own little circle of friends (ie., “cliques”).
  • After socializing, most people either go home; have lunch with their friends; or go to Sunday school, and… that’s about it!

Notice how there is:

  • no time for group prayer
  • no time for sharing
  • no time for getting to know one another
  • no time for spontaneity and for the Holy Spirit to take part in the service
  • no time to hear testimonies or sermons by people in the congregation (mostly)

In other words, there is no time for true fellowship. This lack of involvement by people in the congregation also serves to deprive them of using their gifts and talents, thereby denying them their share in the priesthood (according to the NT, all believers share in the priesthood 1 Peter 2:9).”

____________________________________________________

This should awake us to the fact that as SDA, and claiming to be the “remnant” people of God, are we really showing the world we are? What difference do we see in our worship service  as opposed to the Sunday keepers above? From the description above , we see little except the day of service. Both them and us leave out true quality prayer before, during,  or after service. We seem to forget that the Holy Spirit is alive and should be allowed to “move” the people during the service, just like the early Christian church.  The people should be allowed to pray in His house without distractions.

One of the most practical ways we could change this error, is to open the church from say, 8 am to 9 am for early morning prayer. Then those who value the privilege of being in His house to pray–can do so.

In closing we have the promise that soon “all” things will be restored and that even our true worship and prayer in His house will be brought back to its beauty, glory,  and holiness. LET US PRAY FOR THIS.

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One Response to ““My house shall be called a House of Prayer””

  1. Wilfred. Says:

    Tank you for this good lesson

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