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My house shall be called a house of prayer

October 4, 2011 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:15-17)

If I could only listen to one sermon for the rest of my life it would be a message Jim Cymbala gave at a Christian music gathering in 1994 called “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (you can watch it on YouTube here). Cymbala references the episode where Jesus clears the money changers out of the temple in order to drive home the point that God’s house is meant to be a house of prayer above all other things – not primarily a house of preaching or a house of music, but a house of prayer. Having worshiped at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, where Cymbala pastors, a couple of times, I can definitely say that no church that I have visited embodies that verse and that desire of God’s heart the way his church does.

I was reminded of Cymbala’s message this past Sunday as we gathered together as a church after the service for a time of prayer. I had preached on 1 Kings 17:17-25, where Elijah prays fervently for the dead son of the widow with whom he is sojourning, and God answers his prayer by bringing the boy back to life. In response to the message, we spent time together in prayer, lifting up to God those situations in our lives that seem the most hopeless, the most difficult, the situations most in need of God’s merciful intervention. It takes a lot of faith to believe that God can turn around a situation that seems utterly hopeless, especially when your years of fervent prayer have not obtained the results you had hoped. But as we came to prayer, I was reminded of the story Cymbala shares at the end of his sermon about his daughter (the 31 minute mark on the video; also found on pages 60-64 of his incredible book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire).

Cymbala talks about a two and a half year long nightmare he and his wife lived as their oldest daughter, Chrissy, pulled away from them and eventually from God as well, beginning at age 16. Eventually, Chrissy left their home, and Cymbala talks about how he and his wife were hanging by a thread, leading a large church and nationally known choir, starting other churches, but all the while dying on the inside, totally dependent on God’s grace to get them through each day. He shared how his wife was so shaken by the situation that she threatened not only to leave the ministry but him as well, even despairing to the point of death at times. She had felt Satan telling her “you can have your church and influence all the people you want, but I’m going to have all of your children. I’ve got one, and I’m coming for the other two.” In her fear, she desperately wanted to get her family out of Brooklyn.

Cymbala recounts how he tried everything to get Chrissy back, but eventually he felt God telling him that he needed to stop all of his efforts and just pray, and to let God take care of it. He resolved to not even see his daughter until she was right again. Finally, a few months later, during a prayer meeting at the church, an usher gave Cymbala a note from a woman that read, “Pastor Cymbala, I feel impressed that we should stop the meeting and all pray for your daughter.” He shared with the church the truth about how far gone his daughter was, and as they began to pray, he talks about how the church became like a labor room, with the sounds of groaning as the congregation declared before God and His enemies that Satan would not have this girl, but that she would come back.

When he returned home, Cymbala told his wife that it was over, that if there was a God in heaven, their nightmare would be over soon. A day and a half later, his wife burst into the bathroom while he was shaving, saying that their daughter was downstairs and wanted to see her father. Chrissy was on the floor sobbing, and grabbed his pants leg and poured out her anguish to him: “Daddy, I’ve sinned against God, and I’ve sinned against myself, and I’ve sinned against you and Mommy. Please forgive me. But Daddy, who was praying for me on Tuesday night? In the middle of the night God woke me and showed me that I was headed for a deep chasm with no bottom to it. But at the same time, it was like God wrapped his arms around me and held me tight, and kept me from sliding any further as he said, ‘I love you!’ Daddy, tell me the truth – who was praying for me Tuesday night?”

God’s house is to be a house of prayer. He can accomplish more in response to your prayers than you ever could in a lifetime of trying in your own strength. Samuel Chadwick, a 19th-20th century minister, wrote, “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” Whatever the situation is that you are facing, and however hopeless it might seen, do not ever give up, but continue to ask God in faith, for He is a good God.

If you need prayer for anything, remember that we offer prayer after every Sunday service in the sanctuary. We also have a prayer meeting that meets every first, third, and fifth Tuesday from 12-1 in the church office. We publish a list of prayer needs in the Pulse and bulletin every Sunday, and you can submit needs by emailing Pastor Eric.

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