My house shall be called a house of prayer – Jim Cymbala

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Jim Cymbala is Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle. This message was given at a Gaither’s Praise Gathering on October 14, 1994.

  • In fact, the book of Revelation says that when the 4 and 20 elders fall at the feet of Jesus, they have these golden bowls and you know what’s in the bowls? This incense, that is so fragrant to Christ. It’s the prayers of the saints. What must prayer be to God that He keeps it in bowls? Just imagine when you and I pray kneeling or seated and we really open our hearts to God, somehow those things are kept.
  • We have, in the day we live in, a lot of revisionism going on. But, it’s not coming from Washington, it’s coming from the church. We’re revising what a church is today. The Bible says, the early church, they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and in fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Now we’ve revised that and said, „If you can get people for 1 hour on Sunday morning in the building, that’s the church”. That’s not the church.
  • In the history of revivals down through the ages, whenever things have grown crass and commercial and secular and hard and worldly, God sends a revival. And what’s always the sign of the revival? Behold, they pray.
  • Therefore come boldly to the throne of grace so that we might receive grace and mercy to help us in our time of need. It does not say ‘therefore let us come to the sermon’. We, in America have made the sermon the centerpiece. God never intended the sermon to be the centerpiece.The preacher, if he does his job is supposed to get people to come to the throne of grace. Why? Because it’s at the throne of grace that God gives grace.
  • Every Gospel singer, and listen up because you’re gonna answer up one day, because God’s gonna say to you ‘Did you bring people to where the action was, at the throne of grace? If you just entertained, if you just tickled and  had a warm fuzzy moment, woe unto you because at the throne of grace God could have changed their life.
  • That’s an awesome thought, that we’ve created religion, kind of our own, and sometimes „His house shall be called a house of prayer’ – in a lot of churches and in a lot of services, you have everything but prayer. You have talks, reading, talent, choir, and my wife conducts the choir, so I’m all for those things. But, do you get what I’m driving at? If it doesn’t end up with somebody touching God and praying, who are we kidding?
  • God has chosen prayer to be the one conductor, the one channel for all of God’s blessings- the channel is prayer. In other words, God has this table set for us and He sees Jay and Amy and He knows exactly what they need to raise that child (of theirs). And He has His table spread with every kind of wisdom and grace and strength that they could possibly need, but He says, „The only way you can get it is to pull up to the table and taste and see that the Lord is good. And pulling up to the table is called prayer.
  • God doesn’t tell us, „Pray, because I want people to pray”, but He says, „Pray, because I have all kinds of things for you. When you ask, you shall receive”. In other words, this is not legalism, „Get in there and start praying”. It should be, „I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee. God, do You see what I am facing? Help me Lord”

I want to talk about something so vital, and yet it’s so simple. It’s so familiar to us that that’s the danger. I want to give you one of the most strange and stunning pictures of Jesus, found anywhere in the Bible. Of all the portraits that you have seen painted, there is no portrait found in the Bible stranger. We see Christ on the cross, we know Christ is the good shepherd, we know Christ walking on the water, we see Christ sitting at the well with the woman in Samaria, but in your wildest dreams can you picture this? Have you ever wondered why God would put this in the Bible, not just once, but twice.

‘And so they came into Jerusalem and Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple. And He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves and He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. And then He taught them saying, „Is it not written My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves.” And the scribes and the chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him for they feared Him because all the people were astonished at His teaching. When evening had come He went out of the city.’

Now, the Bible has many pictures of Jesus Christ and to me, none is stranger. The Lamb of God, the one who came to take away the sins of the world, the gentle loving Jesus who as the good shepherd puts the Lamb on His shoulders and brings it home, and yet in this portion of Scriptures we see Jesus physically emoting in a way that is really hard  for us to picture. That He would actually take tables and overturn them, throw money on the ground, that he somehow, all by Himself , with no armed helpers, the disciples were passive in this, that He would stop people from carrying their merchandise and just by word of authority said, „Get out of here! You can’t bring that through the court. Get your business out of here’. I mean, it’s an amazing picture of Jesus Christ.

The loving Jesus that we know, we thing that anybody that would be that irate and physical must mean that they’re not in the Spirit.  But this is Jesus Christ. What’s strange about this is that this is not the first time that this has happened. The Bible tells us in John 2, that in Jesus’ first visit to the temple, after He began His public ministry, when He was about 30 years old He did the same exact thing and the Bible tell us there that He made a whip out of cords and used this cord and this whip to actually physically thrash them out of the temple. It’s 2 years later from there and now He’s getting ready to face calvary and He comes back to the temple and He cleanses it again.

Wy would God put something so stunning in the Bible- that He would go into the Holy Temple of God and get so physical and so irate and say, „You’ve made it a house of merchandise, you’ve made it a den of thieves. Get out of here! Is it not written ‘My Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer’?  What’s odd about all of this is that the people who were in there belonged there. The people who were selling the animals had to be near, because there was no way to offer the sacrifices prescribed in Leviticus and the books of Moses unless somebody could have those animals available for you. So those people belonged there. But they have put a gouging uplift on the price. They were making money hand over fist, taking advantage of the fact that they were the ones who could assist so they were hiking the prices up. And the moneychangers, you had to pay the temple tax if you were a good Jew. You couldn’t use Greek or Roman money, you had to actually use special coins that were minted in Jerusalem itself. So those moneychangers were there to take your money from wherever you came from and you changed your money so you could make the proper donation. But, they were once again, tacking on big time profit. And the people carrying stuff through the temple, actually the writers of that time tell us that instead of going around the temple, they said, „Let’s take a shortcut and they went through the court of the Gentiles, right through the temple. Carting their stuff, making the House of God a shortcut.

And Jesus, with his whip made of cords, and Jesus, somehow, physically with his presence and His authority just thrashes them out of there and kicks them all out. Before I get to my main point, it does remind us that all of us who are involved in singing and choirs and preaching the Gospel, and pastoring churches and you who are Sunday school teachers – boy does that challenge us to remember that it’s not ‘if’ you are doing God’s work, it’s ‘how’ you do God’s work. For the Bible tells us that one day Jim Cymbala is going to stand at the judgment seat of Christ and God’s gonna ask me why I pastored the Brooklyn Tabernacle and with what spirit? You see, these people were in the temple, but they didn’t have the spirit of the temple. They were supposed to be there to assist people to worship and to come into God’s presence, and they were there but they were out of synch with the whole purpose that God had for the place called the House of the Lord. They were doing the job but they were making big time money and they were greedy and they brought a secular spirit into a sacred place. They were crass businessmen coming into something that God said „My house has been called a house of prayer. You made it a den of thieves, out with you „. Awesome thought.

And in a day when Gospel music and Gospel preaching and Gospel work can become so mechanical oriented toward ‘me, myself and I’, it reminds all of us today, here at the Praise gathering, that as we go back to our duties, we have to do God’s work with God’s spirit. We ave to do God’s work and approach it with God’s heart because one day, the Bible says I’m gonna stand in front of the One whose eyes are like fire. It’s the spirit that you are doing it in, doing it for the glory of God, doing it because I really care about those people in New York City. I mean, am I preaching just to put on a show? Or does my heart really radiate with God’s love? And am I saying the things He wants me to say, with the spirit He wants me to say them?

The Bible says that when Jesus went into the temple, He reminded them, „This is not your house. This is my Father’s house. And my Father’s house has to be run my Father’s way, and when you touch something sacred in a secular way I’m going to kick you all out of here”. And even though He’s not walking thourgh churches today and kicking people out, there is gonna come that day when Paul says we will all stand at the judgment seat of Christ and we’re gonna have to give a review to the Lord and we will be reviewed about why we did what we did and how we did it.

But that’s not my main point. Not only on the crass business side of money because it’s so easy to make Gospel work for a living and that’s what these people were doing. They weren’t interested in people getting in contact with God, they were making a living out of it. But as we do God’s work, we must not rob the glory that is only due to Him. Whatever we do and whatever we say, the Lord wants to remind us through this- That all the glory and all the honor must go to Jesus Christ.

What provoked Jesus?

But the thing that really provoked Jesus into this tirade was this: He said, „you men don’t even understand about my Father’s house. You’ve given your opinion about  the temple, but the temple does not belong to you. My Father’s House shall be called a house of prayer and you’ve made it a den of thieves. „

This is the first principle of religion. Jesus said- the atmosphere of my Father’s house is supposed to be prayer. The atmosphere around the things of my Father must be that aroma of people opening up their hearts and coming to my Father in worship, and in petition, and in supplication. And instead of keeping and aiming at that atmosphere and understanding my Father’s purpose, you’ve made it a place just to make a buck. So, out with you.

The thing that’s supposed to distinguish Christian churches and Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma and the atmosphere of prayer.  You might say, „That’s not our style, we come from a different tradition.”  „It doesn’t matter what your tradition is or what my tradition is. It’s His Father’s house.” And His Father says, „In my house, it shall be a house of prayer and supplication”. Now we know that temple is unlike any church. My church building and yours is not a sacred building (like the temple). There are no sacred buildings like the temple. We know that. That temple which sat on Jerusalem, and now the Mosque of Omar sits there was the only place that God said the brazen altar could be put and the animal sacrifices could be given. It was the only geographical spot in the world where the holy place and the holy of holies could be. What I am not trying to say today is that in our churches there’s some counterpart to the temple. We know that. In fact, the BIble says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

But what I want to say to you is that God’s work from the very beginning is not like you and I often imagine it. Gods work, God’s house. The Christian religion is always supposed to have the aroma of prayer. Preaching? Yes, but not „shall my house be called the house of preaching”. Music? Yes, but „my house shall not be called the house of music. My house shall be called the house of prayer”. There were choirs, but they were called the house of prayer. There was the reading of the word- „but My house is called the house of prayer”.

So the BIble tells us that when Jesus CHrist died and resurrected and went back to heaven and He began His church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail  against, He kept the same line running through the formation of the church, which was in His Father’s house. Have you ever noticed that the Christian church was not born while someone  was preaching, but while people were praying? Have you ever noticed that in the 2nd chapter of the Book of Acts, when the church was born, they were doing nothing but just waiting on God and praying? And they were just sitting there and as they were praying  and worshipping and waiting, having heart communion with God and God shaping them and cleaning them out and building faith into them and doing those heart operations that only the Holy Spirit could do? The church was born, the Spirit was poured out. My house shall be called a house of prayer.

In the 4th chapter, Peter and John are arrested and they’re slapped around and threatened and told, „Don’t you dare preach anymore in that Name”. And what do they do? They don’t go and protest, they don’t go to the Supreme Court, they don’t try to get some political leverage – they go back to a prayer meeting. They go back and say, „Behold, o God. Look how they’re threatening us, but, o God we lift our voices together to you, oh God, behold their threats and give your servants boldness that we might preach the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus. And the place where they prayed, again was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

They have this instinct. When in trouble… Pray. When intimidated… Pray. When challenged… Pray. When persecuted… Pray. When you’re in trouble… Pray. In fact, this thing called prayer, whatever it is, it is so unique. It’s not what we’re used to. We talk about prayers, we say prayers. A lot of them are mental prayers. This thing called praying is so deep that when the apostle Paul got converted, and he was first, Saul of Tarsus, this violent persecutor of the church, Jesus appeared to Ananias in Damascus and said, „Go to this man, this Jew, this church persecutor named Saul of Tarsus and pray for him”, and Ananias said, „I know about this man, this man is trouble.” And Jesus said, as if this was proof that everything had changed, „No, Ananias, you can go, for behold he prays”. You can go now because he’s in that room somewhere, blind and waiting for you because he actually, for the first time in his religion life is offering a true prayer. And because he is praying, you can go and not be afraid. It seems as though that was the sign whether somebody was the real deal with God.

That same aspotle Paul, when he writes to Timothy and he wants to encourage him how to do God’s work he says this, „First of all then, before anything else, in your church Timothy, I want supplications and prayers and intercessions and thanksgiving to be made for all men. That’s first of all- it doesn’t matter what your tradition is or what American Christianity says. The word of God says, „First of all I want supplications, because you’ve got to remember Timothy „My house shall be called a house of prayer”. Later on in the same chapter he says, „And then, remember Timothy, I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands and I want them to pray”. That’s the sign of a Christian church. Paul says men praying with holy hands.

In fact, the book of Revelation says that when the 4 and 20 elders fall at the feet of Jesus, they have these golden bowls and you know what’s in the bowls? This incense, that is so fragrant to Christ. It’s the prayers of the saints. What must prayer be to God that He keeps it in bowls? Just imagine when you and I pray kneeling or seated and we really open our hearts to God, somehow those things are kept, they’re so precious to God.

We have, in the day we live in, a lot of revisionism going on. But, it’s not coming from Washington, it’s coming from the church. We’re revising what a church is today. The Bible says, the early church, they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and in fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Now we’ve revised that and said, „If you can get people for 1 hour on Sunday morning in the building, that’s the church”. That’s not the church.

We can use every device to get people to come for one hour and keep them early and keep it going because people have important things to do on that day. That’s not the story of the Christian church. That might be the story of your church or my church, but that’s not the church that Jesus built. In the history of revivals down through the ages, whenever things have grown crass and commercial and secular and hard and worldly, God sends a revival. And what’s always the sign of the revival? Behold, they pray. The church begins to pray. Prayer preceded it. Prayer kept it going and the minute prayer ended, the Spirit of God lifted and we got back into one of those tougher times for the church of Jesus Christ.

The greatest thing anybody can learn in this building is how to pray. How to call on God so that God intervenes in the situation. What church do you know in your town that takes a prominent night, with all the leadership there and has a prayer service? And we have all these promises: Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be open and all of those promises- call unto Me and I will answer you. You would think the Christian church would say, „Time out! We’re gonna pray because God says when we pray He’ll intervene”. The truth of the matter is, in the city I live in more people are turning to crack than to Christ. There are more people trying crack than are being baptized in water.

Preaching is not going to do it alone and teaching is not going to do it alone. My house shall be called a house of prayer- that’s what brings God’s power and grace into a situation. The proof about that is that in the last 40 years there has been more books written about marriages than in all the preceding 2000 years of church history. Go to any pastor in America and ask him if there are not more problems in marriages today than in any time. We got all the how-tos but what we’re missing is the grace of God. A couple that prays together, stays together. A church that prays together stays together. There will be difficult moments, I am not being simplistic.But God’s word is true: Call upon Me and I will answer you. I will show you things you can’t even imagine. There’s more books on child rearing, ad nauseum. Talk to any pastor, there’s more problem with young people in the church than any time previous. It’s not because we’re lacking knowledge but when the rubber hits the road we need the power of God.

Listen to the promises: Therefore come boldly to the throne of grace so that we might receive grace and mercy to help us in our time of need. It does not say ‘therefore let us come to the sermon’. We, in America have made the sermon the centerpiece. God never intended the sermon to be the centerpiece.The preacher, if he does his job is supposed to get people to come to the throne of grace. Why? Because it’s at the throne of grace that God gives grace and mercy.

Every Gospel singer, and listen up because you’re gonna answer up one day, because God’s gonna say to you ‘Did you bring people to where the action was, at the throne of grace? If you just entertained, if you just tickled and  had a warm fuzzy moment, woe unto you because at the throne of grace God could have changed their life.

Pastor Cymbala, did you bring the people and dazzle them with your footwork and did you try to be clever or did you make Jesus wonderful, so that they could come to the throne of grace? Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace. That’s why Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, so that He could make a way, so that me with my problems could go and receive grace and mercy to help me.

That’s an awesome thought, that we’ve created religion, kind of our own, and sometimes „His house shall be called a house of prayer’ – in a lot of churches and in a lot of services, you have everything but prayer. You have talks, reading, talent, choir, and my wife conducts the choir, so I’m all for those things. But, do you get what I’m driving at? If it doesn’t end up with somebody touching God and praying, who are we kidding? We need the Lord.

My wife writes music and directs the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir  and she neither reads nor writes music. She’s never been trained. I’ve never been to seminary or Bible College but I ended up with 18, 20 people in New York City on a street that was so depressing- drugs, inner city culture and then I said, „Am I gonna live in this Christian fantasy about what God once did and then what God’s gonna do one day, but then your life goes by and you never see God doing anything.” And your life passed by with that kind of talk.   Now someone asks, „Brother Jim, you know you don’t get everything you ask for, it has to be in God’s will”. I understand all of that, but we can’t use little theological dodges to get away from the fact that a lot of people don’t have things that God wants you to have right now, but over my life and yours He writes today: You have not, because you ask not.

God has chosen prayer to be the one conductor, the one channel for all of God’s blessings- the channel is prayer. In other words, God has this table set for us and He sees Jay and Amy and He knows exactly what they need to raise that child (of theirs). And He has His table spread with every kind of wisdom and grace and strength that they could possibly need, but He says, „The only way you can get it is to pull up to the table and taste and see that the Lord is good. And pulling up to the table is called prayer. In other words, God doesn’t tell us, „Pray, because I want people to pray”, but He says, „Pray, because I have all kinds of things for you. When you ask, you shall receive”. In other words, this is not legalism, „Get in there and start praying”. It should be, „I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee. God, do You see what I am facing? Help me Lord”. And as we pray, He is faithful to His word and supplies.

13 comentarii (+add yours?)

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  9. naomi Jansen
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 08:47:09

    Very inspiring book. It changed my whole life!

    • rodi
      Aug 22, 2012 @ 10:15:00

      I have only recently come across Jim Cymbala’s sermons, though I had heard about him and his prayer meetings for some years. I was thoroughly blessed by it and plan to post a few more. Prayer may be the most forgotten weapon a Christian has at his/her disposal and in the tumultuous and time starved lives we live in this generation it is also the most needed action we can take, in order to fellowship with God and strengthen our walk with Him. Thanks for sharing that! God bless you.

  10. Trackback: The offering of praise, prayer and service | daily meditation
  11. harris alligood
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 15:11:30

    very informative ill try to incorporate more prayer in our worship he loves to hear from his children!

    • rodi
      Dec 09, 2013 @ 22:59:51

      Pastor Jim Cymbala has a couple of other sermons on prayer posted to youtube, they are very helpful. God bless you and your church!

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