Being Houses of Prayer
by Lynette Woods
All Scripture references are from The Amplified Bible
He turned over the tables of the
money changers and the chairs of those who sold
doves. He said to them, The Scripture says, My
house shall be called a house of prayer; but you
have made it a den of robbers.
Just as Jesus Christ turned over the tables of the money changers of the temple in Jerusalem, we also need Him to do the same with us today. Many of us approach God like money changers; it is about exchanges and deals being made with God either for ourselves or on behalf of others. We are usually not concerned with God's heart or will, but rather our own wills, desires, wants, needs... or the needs of others and we think that God should do whatever we ask of Him.
The money changers in those temple courts were there to "help" the people of God. They had their tables set up ready to exchange ordinary money for temple coins and to sell unblemished sheep, oxen, doves etc to people who did not have any of their own to sacrifice, or who had travelled some distance to get to the temple. We are now the temple of God and the Scriptures are clear that we are also to be a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7).
The money changers were, in fact, robbing both man and God. Yet surely the money changers were needed as part of the temple's "ministry", they were just trying to help the people and God after all! In the same way, some people today are blind money changers too, they think that men NEED their help - they think they are indispensable to both God and man! So they encourage (often unwittingly) people to be reliant and dependent on them for prayer or prophecy or teaching or encouragement or whatever; instead of encouraging people to rely on and to seek God for themselves. This is effectively selling doves (the Holy Spirit) to people and robbing God AND His people. Obviously there IS a sense in which we are needed and in which God ministers to others through us, but the difference is whether we continually point to only One Source of Life or whether we are content to be the source of life for others (which is essentially natural and of the flesh).
Today we are His priests who minister to Him in His heavenly/spiritual temple day and night, yet we often treat this privilege as a light thing even as the priests in Malachi's day did. They were blind and ignorant of how they might be upsetting God in their priestly ministry and in their intercession on behalf of God's people. May our eyes be opened to see ourselves as He sees us so that He can separate the holy from the unholy in our lives and receive the honor and respect due to Him as our Father...
Before reading what God says to us as His priests, we need to first see that the table Malachi speaks of represents our prayers and offerings. John saw that the prayers of God's people were mixed with incense on this altar/table. "Another angel came and stood over the altar. He had a golden censer, and he was given very much incense, that he might mingle it with the prayers of all the people of God upon the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, the perfume, arose in the presence of God, with the prayers of the people of God, from the hand of the angel." Revelation 8:3,4. This is not the table of show bread but the altar of offerings or incense (sometimes called a table, Malachi uses the terms "table" and "altar" interchangeably) which was situated inside the temple in front of the Holy of Holies.
God says to His priests: A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a Father, WHERE is My honor (glory and reputation)? And if I am a Master, WHERE is the fear due Me? says the Lord of Hosts to you, O priests, who despise My name. You say, HOW and in what way have we despised Your name? By offering polluted food upon My altar. And you ask, HOW have we polluted it and profaned You? By thinking that the table of the Lord is contemptible and may be despised... Oh that there were even one among you who would shut the doors (of the temple) that you might not kindle fire on My altar to no purpose, an empty, futile, fruitless pretense! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense (prayers of the saints) shall be offered to My name, and indeed a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when by your actions you say, The table of the Lord is polluted, and the fruit of it, its food, is contemptible and may be despised. You say also, Behold, what a drudgery and weariness this is! And you have sniffed at it, says the Lord of hosts" Malachi 1:6,7,10-12
In what way might we be offering polluted offerings/prayers to God? Firstly by treating the privilege lightly, or considering it a drudgery, as something we HAVE to do; when in fact it is an honor and a privilege. Secondly by offering prayers that stem from self or our flesh instead of that which is from and of God. Our flesh pollutes all that comes into contact with it. Only that which is of Christ - of His Spirit - is unpolluted. Prayer is about Him praying through us, rather than us praying through Him. Christ is Truth, and we must be prepared to see and receive the truth about ourselves and all that comes forth from us.
We need Him to give us discernment between what is righteous and what is wicked within us. We desperately need Him to purify us. To be consecrated and sanctified means to be separated. Separation is a painful thing. Yet judgment begins with the house of God and it must begin with THIS part of the house of God, THIS temple - me (1 Peter 4:17). The root of the Greek word for judgment is 'krino' and it means to separate, to divide, to put asunder and this is what the Truth, the Word of God (Christ) does (see Matt 10:34-39), it is also what fire does. Fire tests and separates. Only what is of Him in us is righteous and will not be consumed and burned up by Him Who is a Consuming Fire.
Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? You have withheld your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:8-10
How might we be robbing God through tithes? Obviously everything we have comes from Him and is essentially owned by Him: Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! ...who has first given God anything that he might be paid back or that he could claim a recompense? For FROM Him, and THROUGH Him and TO Him are ALL things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33,35,36. So why would He want merely 10% of earthly riches which are already HIS anyway??? The old covenant is full of pictures of what the new is all about and tithing is yet another example of this, which is perhaps why the New Testament is virtually silent on the subject of tithing.
The reality is that He does not need or want earthly goods at all; not a third or a tenth of them. He desires something far, far more valuable and lasting than that; He desires US, our whole hearts. When He has all of us, He also has all we "own"! He is our Treasure even as we are His treasure. The word in Hebrew translated as "storehouse" in Malachi means treasury or treasure-house. We rob Him of His treasure by withholding ourselves, by not giving Him all of ourselves. And surely He is worth ALL of us, 100% body, soul and spirit, not just 10%! This requires that everything about us; our wills (plans, wants, hopes, dreams, loves, desires) ALL be handed over to Him. In so doing we will be reduced and decreased to only Him, yet in having "only" Him, we will in fact have Everything! When we have brought our all into His treasury and storehouse, then He is released to be all He desires to be through us; there will be Bread in His house and He will feed and bless others through us knowing that we will give the honor to Him alone and take nothing for ourselves.
The Hebrew word used for "pour" means to empty. When we are emptied of ourselves and are 100% His, when we want blessing for HIM and His sake and not for ourselves, then He can fill us with Himself and pour Himself out to others as a blessing through us. We need Him to reveal Himself to us as our Father for that is the necessary foundation and the beginning of righteous prayer. Being a house of prayer is about being in constant communion and communication with our Father.
Not Ritual but Relationship
A house is a place where people live. We are to be a place where God lives and is at rest; not a place that He just visits occasionally but somewhere in which He is at home! He is always, ALWAYS after our hearts instead of just our actions and after intimate relationship with us instead of religious words or rituals or works. Too often we treat prayer lightly because we do not know our Father intimately. We do not trust Him to show us or others what to pray - instead we have a fear of man and will usually pray what others ask us to pray; often without even considering or asking our Father whether or not HE would have us pray for this person or that situation. These prayers can be from our own souls and not from the Spirit of God Who prays through us.
Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name and driven out demons in Your Name and done many mighty works in Your Name? And then I will say to them openly, I NEVER KNEW YOU; depart from Me, you who act wickedly, disregarding My commands. Matthew 7:21-23
The issue always was, and still is, about relationship. He did not KNOW these ones. The word for "know" in Greek is "ginosko" and means to have an intimate knowledge or perception of a person, it is also a Jewish idiom for sex - a man knowing his wife. Jesus was not moved by what they said (prophesied) or did (mighty works) but was seeking personal, intimate relationship. He does not want us to simply know about Him in our heads, but to know Him in true experience in our hearts. By desiring Him and seeking Him and being in communion (koinonia) and communication with Him we will come to progressively know Him. When we know Him, we do His will because of our relationship with Him and His relationship with us. When you live with the one you love, you know them through and through - you often intuitively KNOW their mind and heart and know what will please them and what will not. And because you are one and are part of one another, you can speak and ask on behalf of each other "the two shall be one, this mystery is very great, but I speak concerning Christ and the ekklesia (called out ones)" (Eph 5:32).
You cannot get to know a person if you do not spend time being with them. Children usually know what their Father desires for them to do and what His will is, because they know their Father very well. We are to be like little children who know that there are some things they have no need to ask for because they know their Father as their Provider. Often it is not about what we do or say but about simply being with Him. Being a house of prayer means we are in the place of communion with God, even though we may not utter one single word, we are THERE, living with Him. We are identifying with Him and His heart and ministering to Him. In this way we "pray at all times" and "pray without ceasing" (Rom 12:12, Eph 6:18, 1 Thess 3:10, 5:17).
Prayer is not something that is a religious duty or a ritual; it is a way of life, it is constant communication with God. Some think of prayer as something that is done only in buildings or religious meetings, but Jesus said that was the domain of hypocrites and not to be like them. (Matt 6:5-8). True prayer will be taking place in the hidden, secret place of our hearts before it is ever seen or heard by man because it is not being said to man, but to God. True prayer will be exhibited in our thoughts and our lives as much as in our words to God; as well as in our lives and words to each other.
As God's children, we all have access to our Father to share both His and our heart's desires and needs; we do not need an earthly intermediary to pray to Him on our behalf or to speak to us on His behalf any more, for we already have One who is our Intercessor and One who is our Mediator. That is not to say that He will not have someone else pray for us, intercede, encourage, teach, prophesy etc; because of course He will always use those whom He is the Head of - we are His Body. Instead, we are trying to expose what we perceive to be an imbalance where some have gone to the extreme of relying on others (eg money changers) instead of on God - and that is idolatry. To need a person or people as our "prayer warriors" or "intercessors" or "prayer partners" instead of Jesus Christ, is anti-christ which in Greek means "in place of or instead of" Christ Who IS our Intercessor (Heb 7:25, Rom 8:27,34).
Our Father WILL often give a brother or sister insight and a burden to pray or say something for a situation or person, but the difference is the source of the praying and the saying - whether it is originating from God, or man. Unfortunately, we usually rely on others more than (or instead of) relying on God. It is not wrong to ask others to pray for us or a situation or another person IF God leads us to do so - it recognizes that we are not independent of one another but we are part (a member) of a Whole (Body). But it may be wrong if we are asking for prayer because we have more faith in prayer itself or in the number of people praying, rather than in God Himself. Of course NOT asking for prayer can be just as wrong as constantly asking for prayer because what is important is what the SPIRIT is saying: what does HE desire and require of us? We have to learn to do nothing apart from Him, to live from His Life rather than from our own. There is no denying the fact that prayer is powerful; it is powerful because of Who God is! The prayer of the righteous (those who have been purified and separated) is powerful and dynamic in its effect (James 5:16).
I think it is fair to say that typically we do not stop to think or even ask our Father if He wants us to ask for prayer when we find ourselves in difficulties, or question if we should pray when others have asked us to pray. We presume we should, so we do. But our presumption can prevent God from intervening in a powerful way. Perhaps God has allowed this trial or situation so that the person will run to Him; but too often we run to other people and cry on their sympathetic shoulders instead of hiding ourselves on our Father's lap and seeking Him as our Comforter and Counsellor. He is more than capable of giving our brothers and sisters a burden to pray for us if He needs and wants them to do so and He often does. We do not KNOW what or how to pray, we have to rely totally on the Spirit. And sometimes prayer is not about words at all but about our emotions; feeling God's heart and His unspeakable yearnings and groanings.
So too the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the spirit, because the Spirit intercedes and pleads in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God's Will. Romans 8:26,27
I cannot always tell someone what to pray for me because I don’t know myself what to pray let alone telling someone else! Also, if I tell someone else what to pray, I could be in danger of usurping the role of the Holy Spirit. I could be robbing Him of His rightful place as that is clearly HIS job in people’s lives; this creates a den of robbers selling doves which are symbolic of the Holy Spirit. I am His servant and a servant does not normally tell a fellow servant what they should or should not do or say - that is the Master's job. I am a daughter and I would not normally tell my brother or sister what they should ask our Father for; unless my Father has asked me to tell them...
Telling others what we want them to pray for can sometimes encourage soulish prayers which originate from our flesh. How often do we pray what we think we SHOULD pray instead of simply being led by the Spirit? If we are IN Him, if we are relying and depending on His Life within us, then we can trust Him to lead us and others, to pray what is necessary, when necessary. When I am in close relationship with some brothers and sisters and sharing my life openly with them, they are going to easily discern and perceive by the Holy Spirit what to pray for me, without me needing to always ask or tell them. Exactly the same is true of my relationship with Christ also. I believe this to be something that God feels very deeply about.
Prayer is not so much about what we say, but about what we HEAR to say; the hearing must come before the speaking. Even Jesus said that He was not able to do anything from Himself (John 5:19,20) and that we can do nothing apart from Him. It may seem the opposite of what we're used to, but prayer must essentially be about what GOD wants and needs us to pray; not just whatever WE want to pray. Therefore, prayer must, in the first instance, be dedicated to hearing from God before speaking to God. Often words may not even be required.
The disciples were taught to pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. So what IS this temptation and evil that I must watch out for? ME, SELF, FLESH! When watching and praying, the temptation is to be focused on ME instead of on God; to be aware of MY desires and MY needs, to be listening to MY will and thus to pray according to my flesh rather than according to the Spirit. If I’m “led into temptation” I will look on the earthly with my physical eyes and NOT believe what God has stated as being truth in the spiritual heavenlies. Only by keeping my eyes focused on Christ as Truth and Reality will I truly see and be unmoved and unaffected by what my flesh tells me IT sees. If I have not laid down my will and my way, if I am not 100% His, I will not be able to pray for His will and His way in my life let alone for "all peoples" and when I pray His will and His desire it will sometimes be in conflict with what I want, will or expect! So the only way to pray His will and His way is to have my own way and will replaced with His: I die, He lives!
Our Father, we want Your Name to be honored, we want Your Kingdom to be established among us. We want Your Will be accomplished in us and through us for Your glory and Your honor!
Now to Him Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams - to HIM be glory in the ekklesia (called out ones) and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. AMEN! Eph 3:20,21