Many years ago, I bought and read every book written by Leonard Ravenhill. I’m not certain that Ravenhill would be welcome in many of our churches today. His passionate call to prayer wouldn’t sit well with those who don’t burn for revival. I was convicted by this picture above found in his book Revival God’s Way. Ravenhill likened the Church to a sleeping sentry, because after being charged with the task of guarding our citadels we fell asleep on the wall. I had the privilege of hearing him speak and his message was as convicting as his books. He described a vision that he had of large billows of smoke rising from the earth into the heavens, but contrasted that with a small wisp of smoke rising to the heavens. The Holy Spirit spoke to Ravenhill and said, “The large billows of smoke represent the amount of sin, immorality, and iniquity that is rising up from the earth. The small wisp of smoke is the amount of intercession being lifted to the heavens by the Church.” It’s little wonder then that the enemy has crept into our cities, churches, families, and homes. I’m reminded of Paul’s words, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead” (Eph. 5:14).
One much greater than Ravenhill, however, confronted the powerless Church in Matthew chapter twenty-one. Passover week brought two and a half million people together in Jerusalem, and the city surged with religious expectations. It was in the midst of this incredible significant Jewish celebration that Jesus entered the city. As the crowds screamed, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the entire city buzzed with excitement. Jesus was not impressed, however, with the shallow worship! Regardless of the glorious celebration there was trouble in the temple. What I find interesting about this passage is that Jesus entered the city with a mission; He knew where the central problem was and He was there to make things right. It is no different today. The problem in our cities rests upon the Church. I once heard Rhonda Hughey say that if our cities are filled with immorality, corruption, sin, and strongholds, it indicates that the Church has abdicated its position of authority to the enemy. Jesus always looks to the Church; we are the hope of the world. If the Church is not what she should be, our cities will never be transformed. Likewise, our worship will sound just as hollow as it did that day in Jerusalem.
The Bible says, “Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves” (Matt. 21:12). Please keep in mind that those people were offering religious services. In other words, they were supposed to be there. They were providing services to those needing to purchase a sacrifice for use in the temple and to exchange secular currency for temple currency. Therefore, those selling doves and the money changers were part of the religious milieu of the hour. Yet, those activities prevented the essential ministry of God’s house from taking place. Let me be clear: if we’re going to become houses of prayer Jesus might need to overturn some of the activities of our churches. This doesn’t mean that what we are doing is wrong, but sometimes we are so busy doing our business we don’t have time to do God’s business, to pray.
Jesus then declared, “My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a robbers’ den” (Matt. 21:13). It’s not a house of sermons, a house of music, a house of programs, or a house of Bible studies. All of those activities have their place, but I would argue that they exude from one central activity. Jesus defined His house by the activity of prayer (proseuche). This word in its various forms is used one hundred and twenty-seven times in the New Testament. Its prefix (pros) tells us that this kind of prayer is “face to face,” and implies intimacy with God. Jesus was calling His Church to become a house of lovers; people so captivated by God’s love that they long to interact with Him day and night. When this becomes the central activity of the Church, we’ll be enabled touch a city for God. If the Church neglects its face to face interaction with God, then the atmosphere of our churches will become like a “den of thieves” offering no hope to anyone. Note the next verse, “And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them” (Matt. 21:14). The conjunction “and” can be translated “then,” telling us that when Jesus becomes the central love of our hearts, and we cry out to Him day and night (see Luke 18:7), extraordinary activities will start to take place. A house of prayer always leads to spiritual transformation; people will eventually be drawn to His manifest presence.
My challenge to all of us is to allow Jesus to overturn the activities in our churches that prevent us from becoming houses of prayer. Let Him have His way; let Him remove the “Martha ministries” so that we can get into His face. This challenge, though, extends beyond the local church. Every person reading this is to be a “house of prayer.” Paul said, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Cor. 6:19). You are the walking house of prayer that is to pray without ceasing (see 1 Thess. 5:17). Perhaps Jesus will need to overturn some things in your life so that you can get face to face with God. Jesus will not be content until He gets to the “heart” of the issue in our lives. We need to let Him clean our houses. We need to let Him sweep through our hearts and toss out the good to make room for God. When that happens, I believe that every one of us can become the instrument that He will use to touch, heal, and restore people in and out of the Church walls. I’m encouraged by the resurgence of prayer across our land; let’s hold our position, let’s hold our post. Let’s not be found doing activities that haven’t been assigned to us by Jesus. Let’s not be found sleeping on the wall.