Prayer and preaching the gospel to the unreached are the two tracks that guide Send56 in all we do. Our vision includes setting up night and day prayer centers in Africa. We believe the most crucial strategy for missions today is not new methodologies in evangelism, or breakthroughs in anthropology, but rather a return to the place of prayer. Prayer is not only the means of fulfilling the mission, but it is also the end of it. The goal of Isaiah 56:7 is the inclusion of all the peoples in the worship of the one God, the God of Israel, YHWH. The quality of this verse is what Jesus emphasized in his use of it when he confronted the people in the temple in Jerusalem. He declares what his house is meant to be: a house of prayer.
“And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”-Mk. 11:16–17
Jesus’ zeal was directed against the misuse of temple. What was supposed to be a place where the nations could come and encounter the God of Israel was instead being used as a place of trade.
John’s gospel places the cleansing of the temple early in Jesus’ ministry.
“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.'” -Jn 2:13–17
Jesus cleared out the place where the Gentiles were allowed to come and worship the God of Israel. Tyndale New Testament Commentary shows what is going on here and why Jesus’ response is so severe.
“These necessary functions were being carried out in the temple court, in an area known as the Court of the Gentiles. This was barricaded off from the Court of Women and the Court of Israel, which were accessible only to Jews. The barricades carried warnings to Gentiles, two of which have been found, one containing the complete text, which reads, ‘No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.’The only place, then, where Gentiles could come and pray in the temple was the court of the Gentiles, and this had been turned into a noisy market” *
Those who were called to be a light to the nations were instead blocking the way, hindering the Gentiles from meeting with God. So he would raise another temple, one accessible to all people.
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”But he was speaking about the temple of his body. -John 2:19-21
Christ’s body became the new place of prayer. Through him all the nations can have access to God, can know God, and can worship God.
Jesus put prayer at the heart of missions. The great commission will be accomplished the same way that it began: in the prayer room. This is indicated by the instructions Jesus gave the disciples when he observed the need for laborers in the harvest. He does not make an appeal for more workers, he makes an appeal for more prayer.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” -Mt. 9:37-38
It is radical to risk the entire enterprise on prayer, but this is exactly what Jesus does. No prayer; no harvest. Delegating the success of the mission to prayer means that it is delegated to God. The mission is absolutely and utterly dependent upon God’s sovereign power which he chooses to implement with the participation of his people.
Prayer is inseparable from training and sending laborers into the harvest. Disciples of Christ who are effective in the world are forged in Christian communities committed to continual prayer. Otherwise, as E. M. Bounds so aptly warned us, there will not be success: Failure has resulted from a lack of trust, or from a weakness of faith, and this, in turn, from a lack of prayerfulness. Many a failure in revival efforts has been traceable to the same cause. Faith had not been nurtured and made powerful by prayer. Neglect of the inner chamber is the solution of most spiritual failure” (The Necessity of Prayer). Missionaries must learn how to pour out their soul in prayer before they will qualify to pour out their life for the world. They must learn to wrestle with God in supplications, before they can wrestle with principalities in the nations. Without prayer they cannot learn the lesson that nothing is actually accomplished for God, but rather everything is done through God by prayer. Missionaries must be forged with the fire of the Holy Spirit on the anvil of a prayerful life with the hammer of the Word of God. They must be sent forth from the house of prayer.
But Isaiah 56:7 speaks to more that just the accomplishment of global evangelism; it speaks to the mission of missions. The nations are called to the place of prayer. The gospel is making those who were once devoid of communion with God become persons who pray. A prayerful life is evidence of new life in Christ, and it is the aim of conversion. There is no way that we can know God, behold God, worship God, bear fruit for God, or glorify God except through prayer. As E.M. Bounds rightfully stated “when faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.” Jesus makes this plain in the gospel of John.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” -John 15:6–8
Proof that we are his disciples stems from our prayer life, which Jesus describes as a two way conversation between himself and the disciple.
Prayer is the mechanism of communion with God and this communion is the quality of eternal life. As Jesus said in John 17:3 “This is eternal life that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” It has become somewhat of a cliché for evangelicals to speak about a personal relationship with Jesus”, but they are not wrong. This language is idiomatic for the great, all-encompassing, biblical word, prayer.There is no other way to carry out personal relationship with God except by talking to Him. No one enters a marriage for the sake of holding the contract! The quality of marriage is in the experience of intimacy with our spouse. There is no intimacy void of communication.
Thus, prayer is at the core of our eternal identity and destiny. Isaiah 56:7 is a declaration of this purpose, my house shall be called a house of prayer.”
*Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary (TNTC 4; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 103.