Thursday, July 5, 2012

Prayer (Matthew 21:12-13) - the central purpose of the church, the people of God.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:12, 13
Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text: My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.

STORY told by John Berstrecher:
When it was built for an international exposition in the last century, the structure was called monstrous by the citizens of the city, who demanded it be torn down as soon as the exposition was over. Yet from the moment its architect first conceived it, he took pride in it and loyally defended it from those who wished to destroy it. He knew it was destined for greatness. Today it is one of the architectural wonders of the modern world and stands as the primary landmark of Paris, France. The architect, of course, was Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. His famous tower was built in in 1889. In the same way we are struck by Jesus' loyalty to another structure--the church--which he entrusted to an unlikely band of disciples, whom he defended, prayed for, and prepared to spread the gospel. To outsiders they (and we) must seem like incapable blunderers. But Jesus, the architect of the church, knows this structure is destined for greatness when he returns. 
The Church of Jesus Christ is many things to as many people who gather within its walls as well as those who do not believe. On too many occasions each of us make the church into something that it was never intended to be … some of them good and some of them not so much.

It is the bottom line that truly matters … is it a house of prayer? Is prayer at its center? Is it a holy place because of the connection between God and humankind? Does communication between the Holy and the human take place within its walls?

We fill the space between the four walls with many things. Some of the “stuff” of the sanctuary begins to take on a life of its own. The furniture and its placement within the sacred space starts to control the sole purpose of what is meant to be God’s house. We are all guilty. Some of it comes from our training, some from experience and some from our expectations as to what is suppose to take place within this sacred place.

I’ve often wondered if we, the people of God, would spend more time in prayer and less time trying to control what happens or who is in charge or the “trappings” of our faith would we be more of a power to be dealt with then simply cast aside as unnecessary for the daily existence of society. I’m just wondering if we really followed Jesus’ wishes instead of our own would happen in our old world?

As a nation we have just celebrated our national holiday of independence, the 4th of July. We hear often that we need to get back to God … and we do, but that phrase means a lot of different things to a lot of different folk. For some it means electing only certain kind of officials; for others it means passing only certain kind of laws; for still others it means dominating the landscape with only their political viewpoints. Within all the discussion the one thing that is not heard is that we need/should/ought to become more prayerful people ... and putting “prayer” back in our schools won’t cut it either. When I came through the school system we had daily “prayer”, but as I learn more what prayer is and is meant to be I’m not really sure what we were doing under the banner of prayer.

I have my doubts concerning the agendas of those who promote the “get back to God” approach for our nation. Maybe if we spent more time in real prayer and less time asking God to bless our nation we would become what God is calling us to become. Just maybe …

Gracious and merciful God, help us to listen more than talk. Help us to trust you with the outcome. Help us to become the people of prayer … real prayer … more than the “now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep” and “good-food, good-meat, good-Lord-let’s-eat” variety. Help us to saturate our life and your church with the central purpose of our existence … to be in constant communication with you.

QUOTE by C. S. Lewis:
The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

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