God’s Zeal for His House – The Father’s Mission.

 *** This article is part of a blog series by a Guest AuthorNic Thackwray. It is a journey into understanding better God’s Zeal for His House. You can check out the Introduction to the series here. ***

these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer
;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

Isaiah 56:7 (Italics added)

While reading this passage last year, a thought struck me in a way that I can only describe as revelation. The thought was: “GOD IS DOING THIS”! When I looked at this passage, what jumped out at me was the primary influence of God toward establishing a people of prayer: “…these I will bring”. Prayer starts profoundly with God! It is His idea, and to establish it, His mission.

This passage is written by Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet writing many years before Christ, hence the references to now obsolete burnt offerings and sacrifices. Why is this passage then relevant to us? Well we gain insight into God’s plan for His people today because Isaiah, through God’s Spirit, is writing prophetically, i.e. about the future. Here in this passage, God is pulling back the curtain on His plans and heart’s desires for mankind, for His people. He is declaring His intentions for His people and those that will become His people, both from the nation of Israel and from every nation and language from the whole earth (the Gentiles).

I already knew theologically that the driving force behind prayer is primarily God. But in the Christian culture that I am a part of, so much emphasis is on us to “perform” through prayer (whether it be in keeping up daily prayer in our personal lives or in attending corporate prayer meetings). Even the fact that prayer is something that we have to “do” can fool us into thinking that it is “our thing”. I realized God’s role in our prayer was a bit fuzzy in my mind. But in this passage, God’s role became clear again. He is doing this!

We are “brought ones”, He is the “Bringer”. We are those He has chosen and gathered and is teaching and empowering to pray! This should free us from performance prayers and rid us of disabling guilt (Funny that the guilt for not praying comes most strongly to our minds the moment we start praying, paralyzing our faith and pushing us away from God!). Instead, prayer should be like paddling into a mighty wave that God has formed behind us and then effortlessly riding the impetus of His heart into heavenly victories and unimaginable encounters with our Friend.

Father, bring us in line with Your plans. Bring us into the desires that burn in Your heart for our lives. Father, bring us into prayer, bring us into Your joy and Your presence, every day and forever. For we long to be brought by You.

8 thoughts on “God’s Zeal for His House – The Father’s Mission.

  1. Nic

    This is an interesting thought. That prayer is actually God’s doing, not ours. It definitely does go against the grain of some contemporary practices. (Which I like :)) I think that if we understand what God’s grand mission is we will better understand our role in prayer.

    My questions at this point is why? Why is there such an imputes on prayer being “our thing?” Why do we have these large corporate prayer meetings where people are “coached” and “drilled” into praying? Why does the thought of prayer fill people with a sense of “obligation” and “duty?” How did we get to this?

    Your thoughts???

    1. Hey boet.

      Sheesh, these are good questions. I had to think about it! Chatted to Sarah too about what she thought. The answer to these questions are very complex I think so this might be quite a long answer!

      You asked two questions which I think are different: Firstly why do we pray out of religious duty (or obligation). I think you are basically asking why does the human heart tend towards legalism (which is trying to BE RIGHT before God by DOING SOMETHING). Now the simple answer I think is sin…specifically the sin of pride. A spirit of legalism or pride will take any good thing that is from God, which was meant by God as a grace towards us, a means by which we can know Him, a means by which we can receive spiritual nourishment, and take that thing and try and use it as a tool to be “righteous”. It can be prayer, reading your bible, giving your tithe, going to church, helping the poor…almost anything. This amounts to pride in that by doing these things we believe that we can be good enough before God. It is self-focused and not God-focused. This legalistic attitude is revealed when if we don’t pray, read our bible etc. we feel unrighteous before God and when we do come to pray, we feel we distant from God and the first thought in our minds is our failure to pray.

      So what is the remedy to this: it is to understand that righteousness is to be gained in no other way than by faith in Christ and His death and resurrection for us. If I personally go for a time without praying and when I do come to pray am reminded of my failure to pray before, I will begin by praying something like: “Father, I thank you that there is nothing else that makes me right with you other than the blood of Jesus shed for me. I thank you that if I never pray again, I will always be right with you because of what Jesus has done!” Paul says it so well: I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law (good works and self-righteousness), then Christ died for no purpose. Gal 2:21

      It is only through understanding this grace, that being righteous before God is about BEING and not DOING, that we can truly discover the grace in these things like prayer and bible-reading and fellowshiping. For we were made righteous in order that we might pray, in order that we might love one another, in order that we might live lives that practically reflect God’s love. I remember Bill Johnson saying once that it is from a place of favour that we are meant to do good works and not do good works IN ORDER to gain favour with God.

      The second question is “Why do we have these large corporate prayer meetings where people are “coached” and “drilled” into praying?” I take it you mean why do we pray through lists with someone leading us in what to pray for? I thought about this for a while.

      Now I before I say anything about this I believe that meeting corporately to pray and someone leading us to pray through a list is not wrong.
      I feel in praying through a list individually or corporately ones heart can be cold, talking at God, not holding seeking him or worshiping him as of first importance, and alternatively one’s heart can be communing with a Father who knows every need, trusting and worshiping in his goodness.

      But if praying through a list of needs is all we do when we “pray corporately”,(besides the customary three worship songs:) then we are missing the whole point. I think this is type of praying is mechanical which is honestly boring and not glorifying to God. I believe Jesus teaches against a pre-occupation with prayer lists when He said:
      Matt 6:7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
      8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

      So what should our corporate prayer meetings be like. How should we plan them or what is our primary goal? Before I go on, I think this may be the underlying reason why we pray like this, through lists in a mechanical way, because we feel like we have to plan. I have overseen a few prayer meetings and I can tell you it is very easy to come up with a prayer list and lead everyone in praying through it…anyone can do this. You just start with three worship songs and then pray through a couple of needs. No sweat, an hour and a half goes by quickly. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t even need to be there and you will have “accomplished” what you set out to do. Of course God in His goodness still hears these prayers and may answer them, but I personally feel that it is vain prayer. Because even if God answers our requests, successful prayer is not getting God to do what we ask!

      So what is successful prayer? I had to think a lot about this. What is that thing that if there makes a prayer meeting “successful”. We have established that it is not getting our requests met, although this is definitely a part of prayer as Jesus taught us to pray. I believe the root of what makes prayer successful is ENCOUNTER. I feel that as we seek in faith to encounter Him and then upon seeking, we do encounter God and find our delight in Him, He is most glorified, and this is success when God is most glorified (made much of). If our primary focus is on getting things, revealed by the majority of our prayer time and energy spent on “needs”, then our primary focus is not on God and He is not glorified. I think this is not solved by having a few worship songs to start off with because to me this seems as if we are just warming God up before we get down to the “real business”.

      Now as I said before, asking God for needs is not wrong, Jesus taught us to do this. But the WAY we do it can be wrong. Jesus taught us to approach our Father as one who knows our needs even before we bring them, as our Father who feeds the birds of the field and therefore will feed us. Therefore we do not have to harp on before Him about every need. Instead, we come before him, and knowing His Father-heart deep in our consciousness, we bring our requests before Him, believing without a doubt that He will answer us. The same goes for praying for the advance of the kingdom. We must not plead with God as if He is reluctant to advance the gospel in society, as if we have more compassion than Him. Instead we pray by receiving His desires for others which become our desires, and then pray in faith that God’s will (desires) will be done. The prayers of His church is the primary instrument which God uses to accomplish His will! What a privilege! But also a responsibility (which we take on joyfully)!

      I have tried to restore God-focused prayer in the church culture around me by having prayer meetings but calling them “worship meetings”, in order that from the start, the focus might be on God and on encountering Him.

      Here I feel it necessary again to define encounter, because if this is our primary goal, we have to be able to aim there and if we can’t define it then how can we aim for it. So true prayer relies on encountering God. Encounter, I think, is defined as a unmistakable, personal awareness of having connected with God in some way (physically, emotionally, spiritually). The root issues in corporate prayer are not style, agendas or whether we lead people in praying through a list or not. The root issue is where are our hearts at – what do we desire most (this must be God foremost) – and encounter (because prayer is connecting with God).

      This brings me to the last point. How do we accomplish this? This is were the rubber hits the road. You are planning a prayer meeting and the goal is for everyone to encounter God…WHAT DO YOU DO? The answer is…create a suitable environment and INVITE GOD TO ENCOUNTER PEOPLE! Yes…you can’t make it happen! This goes against everything that we like. We like to control the meeting. We like to have guarantees. We like to know how things are going to go. But waiting on God to show up takes risk. It takes trust in Him. This is what seeking God is about! Trusting in His goodness to meet with His people. Don’t get me wrong, God can break into any stale prayer meeting and rock the place. But He wants us to seek Him with all our hearts. And I can say that my overwhelming experience is that when you step out and trust God, He always comes to the party! And when people encounter God, God gets the glory! And what can beat encountering God? This is what we strive for. This is what we invite people into. This is why we evangelise…so people can come to prayer meetings and encounter the living God!!!!!!

      Wow that was a long comment!

  2. Hi guys

    For this is a good topic to discuss. Does revival come from our hunger to be free? Or does it come from God’s love for us?

    If it comes from God’s side, then why couldn’t He cause Israel to do what He wanted them to do? If it comes from our side, then does He simply respond to us?

    I don’t think there is one fixed answer. So have two answers to this.

    Is 59:16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.

    According to that verse He was waiting for someone somewhere to give a sh*t and pray about what was going wrong. That was God’s plan A. When no one cared and no one did anything, He went into plan B, which was that He reacted and did something Himself.

    So is it always up to us? No I don’t think so, because the bible says

    Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

    If it’s always up to Him then we fall into passivity. If it’s always up to us we do what we think is right and leave Him out of it, or reduce Him to being a rubber stamp when He happens to agree with us. Having struggled with this question for a long time I once heard this wisdom, and I live by it now.

    It’s not 100% God and 0% us. It’s not 100% and 0% God. It’s not 50% God and 50% us.

    So what is it? It’s 100% God and 100% us.

    God bless you this merry Christmas!
    Mark.

    1. Hey Mark.

      Thanks so much for your comment! I agree this topic fits in very well with the post. My intention behind this post was to help us see God’s desire for and PRIMARY influence in raising up and establishing living breathing free-to-desire-what-they-desire people of prayer. I agree with you that there is a danger of passivity, but I think there is a greater danger of legalism or religiousity (trying to do good and be good in our own selves without reliance upon God).

      For myself, I don’t quite agree with the 100% God, 100% Us. I think of it more as 100% God using us (broken but redeemed vessels). Therefore both parties are very intimately involved in revival, but play completely different roles. I get this from 2 Cor 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
      6 For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
      7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

      Isaiah also says in ch53: 6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
      we have turned every one to his own way
      Also in Psalm 14: 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
      to see if there are any who understand,who seek after God.
      3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
      there is none who does good,
      not even one.
      And Mark 10:18
      No one is good except God alone.

      So although God does look to see if there is anyone who is good, who cares enough to do good by praying, He finds no-one, EVER, and it grieves Him! That is why Jesus had to die, in order that we might be born again with new hearts. If we have any compassion to pray for anything, then it is because God’s Spirit has moved upon our hearts. Even if we obey His command to pray, it is not because of our goodness, but because the command and obedience that comes by grace through faith not obligation and law.

      Also if it is 100% God and 100% us then the glory must be 100% God’s and 100% ours and it is clearly not. Instead God shares His glory with us by using us as living instruments, totally sold out to His will.

      I believe the answer to passivity is not to put more emphasis on our responsibility for this causes legalism and man-centeredness (although we do have a responsibility to live according to the grace and knowledge given to us). I believe the answer to passivity, and to every other problem known to man, it is to put more emphasis on God’s grace, on the privilege that he has given us as carriers of His heart, of His love, of His glory. If we truly get His heart for people, we will pray for revival! I am so aware of my lack of prayer! But in order to truly pray for God’s kingdom I need to ask God to fill me with His love and faith, and let believing and effective prayer flow from this, for the prayer of faith cannot flow from our own strength.

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

      1. Dude I totally agree with you. But if we fail to communicate that we have to be invested, then we fall into passivity and we end up uncommitted and doing nothing – which is where the vast majority of the church is, sitting in pews and feeling very like their mere presence in church is sufficient. When in fact that is luke warm and gets spat out. We are told to NOT walk past [people and say “be filled with the Holy Spirit” and then walk on. No. We must take action to change that person’s life.

        There is nothing in us that is good, I know that from watching my own sinfulness. And so I know for certain that whatever good I do comes from His heart and not mine. BUT. Still, we have a part to play, so that is why I like the 100-100 idea.

        Out contribution might be the size of a mustard seed, it might be the widows mite (10c) but it’s still all she had. It was her 100%. His 100% is His cross, His grace and mercy and His Holy Spirit acting within us. It takes both.

        He EXPECTS us to intervene: s 59:16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene

        God bless you,
        Mark.

        1. Ok I get what u saying the way that you explained it there. We give our all as He gave His all. 100/100. I like it. Yeah you are so right man. I think that we will be rewarded or held accountable for the way in which we respond to God’s grace and revelation of the truth of the Gospel, and that includes the realm of prayer. I really like your example about social action and not only giving people a spiritual high. I am challenged by this to give more of myself and live in a way more fitting of the message of God’s love in Jesus.

          Thanks bro.

          1. You are so right about how we will be judged.

            Revelation 20:13 – And the sea delivered up the dead who were in it, death and Hades ([a]the state of death or disembodied existence) surrendered the dead in them, *** and all were tried and their cases determined by what they had done [according to their motives, aims, and works]. ***

            See the judgement is not based on sin – that was dealt with on the cross. The judgement is based on our heart and our motives.

  3. Hi

    This is a good topic to discuss. Does revival come from our hunger to be free? Or does it come from God’s love for us?

    If it comes from God’s side, then why couldn’t He cause Israel to do what He wanted them to do? If it comes from our side, then does He simply respond to us?

    I don’t think there is one fixed answer. So have two answers to this…

    Is 59:16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.

    According to that verse He was waiting for someone somewhere to pray about what was going wrong. That was God’s plan A. When no one cared and no one did anything, He went into plan B, which was that He reacted and did something Himself.

    So is it always up to us? No I don’t think so, because the bible says

    Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

    If it’s always up to Him then we fall into passivity. If it’s always up to us we do what we think is right and leave Him out of it, or reduce Him to being a rubber stamp when He happens to agree with us. Having struggled with this question for a long time I once heard this wisdom, and I live by it now.

    It’s not 100% God and 0% us. It’s not 100% and 0% God. It’s not 50% God and 50% us.

    So what is it? It’s 100% God and 100% us.

    God bless you this merry Christmas!
    Mark.

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