A House Of Prayer For All Nations

by Chip Brogden


"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and
bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and
the seats of them that sold doves, and He said unto them, 'It is written,
"My house shall be called a house of prayer"; but you have made it a "den of
thieves"'(Matthew 21:12,13)."
Jesus makes reference to two passages of Scripture in this text. The first
is Isaiah 56:7:

"Them will I bring to My holy hill and give them joy in My house of prayer;
their offerings and sacrifices shall be accepted on My altar there; My
temple shall be called a house of prayer for every nation (Jerusalem
Bible)."

Originally, the promise was for the nation of Israel, but ultimately, it was
fulfilled in the Church. The temple of God in Jerusalem never allowed itself
to be a house of prayer for "all nations"; only Jews were permitted to enter
(Acts 21:28). Archeologists have found markers around the boundary of the
Temple grounds bearing this inscription: "Any foreigner who ignores the
warning and goes beyond this point shall have no one but himself to blame
for the death which shall be his penalty." So the passage in Isaiah was
never fulfilled in Israel, but it is fulfilled in the Church, as a holy
nation of priests (I Peter 2:9).

Jesus also alludes to Jeremiah 7:11: "Is this house, which is called by My
Name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?" The physical temple came to
represent something other than the purpose for which it was created. Thus,
the Lord Jesus, in word and in deed, demonstrates that He no longer
considers the physical temple as His House, but calls it a "den of thieves",
thus establishing a new House, built upon the foundation of Himself (Matthew
16:18).

Today we know that the Body of Christ is the Temple of God (I Peter 2:5,6).
As such, the Church stands on the earth before God and on behalf of men. One
of its tasks is to be a house of prayer for all nations. This means the
Church is a place where people of all nations may find fellowship with God,
and it also means that the Church is a place where prayer is offered up to
God on behalf of all nations. It is this second meaning that we want to
focus our attention on.


THE EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE OF THE CHURCH

Prayer is based on communion and fellowship with God. That is the foundation
for all prayer, supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving. We cannot
really pray if we do not have a relationship with God to base our praying
on. This is what sets the Church apart from many religions that treat prayer
as an impersonal formality which one must perform in a ceremonial, detached
way. Our prayer is so much more than that, but at the same time, it goes
beyond communion and fellowship. It includes communing with God, but also
includes discerning what He wants, agreeing with it, calling it forth, and
submitting ourselves to it (this is the key) IN ADVANCE of its fulfillment.
In fact, being able to know what the Lord wants and what He is doing is one
of the privileges of being a friend of God (John 15:15; Genesis 18:17;
Exodus 33:11a).

God has decided that He will not act apart from the prayers of the saints.
We know that apart from Him, we CAN DO NOTHING. We also need to know that
apart from us, God WILL DO NOTHING. So He bids us to pray, "Thy Kingdom
come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)." God is
concerned for the earth, and calls upon the Church to join together with Him
in bringing His Will to pass. Towards what end are we praying? That God's
Kingdom and God's Will would be manifest in the earth. In heaven, God's Will
and God's Kingdom are already established (Psalm 119:89). Even though God
has placed everything beneath the feet of Jesus Christ, here, in the earth,
we do not yet see all things submitted to Him (Hebrews 2:8). There is a
chasm that exists between God's stated purpose of "all things in Christ" and
life on earth as we see it today.

Today, Scripture acknowledges, we do not YET see all things submitted to
Him. I must say I find that word "YET" terribly exciting! That word "YET"
means that something is in store for everything that remains unsubmitted to
the Lord Jesus Christ. The presence of the word "YET" means its
manifestation is inevitable, and the futility of resistance is illustrated
for us in Psalm 2:

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people [nations] imagine a vain thing?"
(v.1)

The "vain thing" is the mistaken belief that the nations of the world can
somehow escape the inevitable fulfillment of "all things in Christ". David
clearly sees Christ as ruling the nations with a rod of iron. Again, this is
a future fulfillment, but this sheds new light on what is means to "bridge
the gap" in prayer. It is not merely bridging the gap between God and man.
In a very real sense, the Church is the means through which the gap between
God's Will and Earth's Reality is brought into alignment, until Christ has
the manifest preeminence over all things (Colossians 1:15-18). In that day,
WE WILL SEE all things submitted to Him. Can we begin to imagine what that
will look like, and what it will take to bring the nations of the world to
that point?

A word of caution: we should distance ourselves from the idea that this can
be achieved simply by electing Christians to the highest offices of each
nation. Such thinking is erroneous. The Church is not going to take over the
earth, but will inherit the earth, by way of meekness and submission to
Christ as All in All, and not by seizing earthly power or government (Psalm
37).

"We do not YET see all things submitted to Him; BUT we see Jesus." We do not
live by what we see, but we live by faith. It would be a mistake to assume
that just because one does not YET see all things submitted to Christ that
He then must not really be Lord of all. This costly mistake will be the
undoing of the multitudes. We are not pretending to see something that does
not really exist - yes, we agree that we do not YET see all things submitted
to Him, things are bad, and will probably get worse; BUT we do see JESUS,
and for the Christian who seeks first the Kingdom of God, that revelation is
sufficient. You may see every fact to the contrary and argue against Him,
but we see Who He is by revelation, and by revelation we know that what we
see happening in the unsubmitted earth today will be set in order when
Christ and His Kingdom are manifest in all of creation.

The Church is meant to represent to the earth what the preeminence of Christ
means, and remains on the earth as the vehicle through which God may find
expression for His Purpose. Hence, Christians are not immediately carried
off to heaven when they are saved. Instead, we remain on the earth as salt
and as light (Matthew 5:13,14), the salt being a preservative, and the light
being a witness to the Truth. What Truth? That Jesus Christ is Lord, not
just in heaven, but in earth, for:

"[God] raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the
heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and
dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in
that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and have Him
to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fulness
of Him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23)."

When we see this, when we order our prayers around this, and when we live
our lives in such a way that shows we believe it and demonstrate the reality
of it EVEN THOUGH WE DO NOT "YET" SEE IT, then we are properly bearing the
Testimony of Jesus in the earth.


SOME CONSIDERATIONS TO BE MADE

Someone might ask if God wants His Kingdom to come and His Will to be done,
why does He not just do it? Why do we have to pray for it to be done in
order for it to happen?

There are many questions along these lines that could be asked. For example,
the Lord says we should pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). But if the
Lord loves us and promises to supply our needs, why must we ask Him every
day for our bread? Again, the Lord says, "Ask, and you will receive. Seek,
and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7)." We
might wonder why, if God knows what we need already, is it necessary for us
to ask Him? If He wants us to find something, why does He not just reveal it
to us - why do we have to seek it? If it is His Will for a door to be
opened, why do we have to knock?

The Lord tells His disciples, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers
are few. Pray ye therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that He would send
forth laborers into His harvest (Luke 10:2)." If the Lord knows that more
workers are needed, why does He not just send in more workers? Why would He
wait until we ask Him to do something before He does it?

We believe the answer to these questions is based upon the fact that God
wishes to do nothing apart from the Church. This is in contrast to a kind of
attitude that passively accepts whatever happens and just believes that
everything will take care of itself. This sounds like faith, but it is
really not. It is a subtle form of laziness. We cannot really have true
faith until we have prayed, and prayer is active dependence, not passive
dependence. Passive dependence will say, "We can never know or understand
God's mysterious ways, so we just leave it up to Him to do as He sees fit.
Whatever will be, will be. We will just make the best of whatever happens."
This will open the door for all kinds of unnecessary satanic affliction.
This is not faith.

A similar kind of passivity says, "If it is meant to be, it will be. If God
means for me to do a certain thing, then everything will line up the way it
should. And if God does not mean for me to do it, then no matter what I do,
I will be unable to perform it. So there is no great need to pray." If this
were the case then daily bread would automatically come to us, and doors
would automatically open, and workers would automatically go forth into the
harvest. And If these things happened of their own accord, regardless of
whether we prayed or not, then everything Jesus taught us about prayer is
superfluous. Jesus taught us to always pray, and not quit (Luke 18:1).

The truth is that God HAS revealed His Will to us, the Spirit WILL make His
Mind known to us if we ask, and we are thus instructed to cooperate with God
by praying specifically for His Will and for His Kingdom to be accomplished.
The fact that God has promised to provide us with daily bread, open doors,
and workers for the harvest is intended to inspire us to ask for these
things to be done and to give us a basis upon which we may reasonably expect
God to bring it to pass. Prayer brings us to a place where we can know and
trust God, and can become acquainted with His ways. It also enables us to
learn what it means to overcome, and to share in His glory. He wants us to
come to Him, to know Him, and to agree with Him through prayer so that He
may perform His Will. Beloved, it takes more faith to pray than it does to
remain passive.

Many things are left undone, not because God does not desire to do them, but
because we have not joined with Him in cooperative prayer; hence, prayer is
the most vital work of the Church, more important than preaching,
witnessing, or gathering together. Apart from prayer, nothing happens, and
if there is to be any measure of success of blessing in the Church it will
be because someone, somewhere, has prayed. Concerning the critical nature of
prayer, Watchman Nee says, "If anyone will rise up and devote himself to the
work of prayer exclusively, how excellent that will be. God is waiting for
such ones to work together with Him so as to enable Him to finish His work.
Some Christians may ask why the Lord does not save more sinners, why He does
not cause every believer to overcome. I sincerely believe that He would
undoubtedly do such works if people would only pray."

By the same principle, many things which should not be permitted are indeed
permitted, not because God would necessarily want them to occur, but because
the Church has allowed it to be so. We ask why God would allow such and
such. We should ask ourselves why we would allow such and such, and why we
have not prayed as we ought. We represent Heaven's Will on earth, and if
that Will is not executed, the reason lies with us. Now it is impossible to
judge each particular thing and determine why it was permitted or why it was
not permitted. We are not trying to blame anyone for anything. We do want to
stress that it is the responsibility of the Church to bind and to loose what
heaven would have bound or loosed (Matthew 18:18,19). Some things are
unavoidable, but through prayer, the Church can lessen the negative impact
such events would otherwise have. Many things ARE avoidable if we pray about
them in advance.
(To be continued)

C 2006 Chip Brogden and TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. Permission is granted for non-commercial (free) distribution provided this notice appears.


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