First Baptist Church of La-Z-Boy

One of the results of Covid is the revealing of many people’s ignorance of the Christian faith and its relation to the church. For all who profess to be Christians, and despite any criticism (sometimes justifiable) of churches, we must remember that the church is Christ’s idea. Let me say that again. The church is Christ’s idea. 

“I don’t need to go to church to be saved,” some say. Perhaps not, but what makes you think you’re saved if you reject the very idea and structure of the One you profess to be Savior and Lord? “You’re adding works to salvation,” someone will accuse. No, I’m saying you’re dismissing the very idea and structure Jesus established. “Well, I don’t need to go to church to worship God,” many say. Well, just because you profess to worship doesn’t mean you do, nor does it mean it’s acceptable to God. The Scriptures reveal numerous times when God rejected people’s worship. The writer of Hebrews admonishes,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

“Well, I’m fed by Pastor Stanley [or Jeremiah, etc.].” Perhaps, but church is not simply about you. The church is a body where every member has value and is needed (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). There are persons in the church you are to interact with, to encourage, to exhort, to hug, to pray for. It is difficult to be involved (as we’re commanded to be) sitting in a recliner or laying in bed.

No where in the New Testament are followers of Jesus Christ called to be Lone Rangers. First Baptist Church of La-Z-Boy, St. Paul of King Size Bed, and Holy Trinity Breakfast Church are not legitimate churches. It is one thing to truly be shut in and bedridden, but it is quite another to dismiss church and the support thereof simply out of “convenience.” God calls us to love and serve one another. There’s nothing “convenient” about this. Church is more than simply going to sing some songs and hearing a message. Church is a living organism made up of individuals who minister to one another and to be involved together in the Great Commission of our Lord.

If you’re choosing to stay home from church when you are quite capable of going, you can use whatever excuse you want. But you fail to understand the very faith in which you profess. The Christian faith is not an isolated or “private” faith, but one of community. You do need church and the church needs you.

Behind Enemy Lines

Prayer is such a mysterious thing. God is Sovereign, His purposes will be accomplished, and His will cannot be thwarted; however, He has purposed that some things will either happen or not happen—depending on the prayers of His people. 

In prayer, because of the shed Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s people appear to simply pray wherever they are praying at the moment. However, they are also in the very presence of God before His throne of grace (Hebrews  4:16; 10:19-22). 

Strangely, like the stealth of Navy SEALs, our prayers also enter behind enemy lines where the works of God are not noticed by us, but are active nevertheless. While our prayers in no way force God’s hand to do anything, and neither is God dependent on our prayers in any way, somehow our prayers play a vital role in people’s deliverances, the breaking of strongholds, the infusion of God’s power, protection of God’s people, etc.

Our prayers truly matter. This truth is sorely neglected, forgotten, and misunderstood in many of our Evangelical churches. In the book of Daniel, we get a rare glimpse of the spiritual reality that goes on behind the scenes where human eyes cannot see. In chapter 10, Daniel (who had been praying and fasting for three weeks was visited by an angelic being. The prophet is told,

Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come. ~ Daniel 10:13-14

How have we gotten to the point where we have such audacious arrogance to think spiritual battles are won and the kingdom is advanced simply by our preaching, programs, and church attendance? How have we become so lazy and unbelieving when it comes to prayer that churches have nearly jettisoned prayer meetings, and the average Christian spends less than two minutes in prayer? Will our Bible studies bring revival? Will our church programs break the strongholds and addictions holding people captive? Will our Christian concerts bring the protection and comfort needed by those suffering around the world? These, apart from prayer, will accomplish very little, if anything at all. We must pray! If we truly want to see captives set free behind enemy lines, then we must pray. To simply say we entrust everything to God’s sovereignty is to offer an invalid excuse not to pray; furthermore, to spurn all God’s commands and instructions to pray. The darkness will only grow stronger as God’s people refuse to pray.

A House of Prayer 

Jesus says explicitly, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’” (Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46). Therefore, not only is He stressing the importance of prayer, but it is to be of highest priority of any congregation gathering in His name—from the vocational ministers to the attending laity. So we should ask ourselves, how did churches become houses of worship? Understand, this is not simply a changing of terms. These are not synonymous. No, this shift is quite consequential.

“My house is to be a house of prayer,” the Lord declares. Yet, consider the emphasis of most churches. Is it prayer? No, most churches emphasize the preaching, worship, or missions/outreach of some kind. Yet, typically in any service prayer is given only a couple of minutes. Certainly the preaching of God’s Word, worship, and missions/outreach are all important. However, it is through prayer churches show their dependence on God and seek His directives. Furthermore, it is through prayer these other things are infused with the power of the Holy Spirit versus man’s ingenuity and activity (there is a distinction). Incidentally, it is by the lack of prayer churches reveal their trust in themselves (rather than on God) and seek after their own agendas instead of God’s will. Oh sure, in many cases buildings are erected and congregations grow numerically—but not infused with the power of God and a deeper knowledge of Him!

Henry Blackaby writes this haunting observation, “Those who know they can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ will cry out to God continually (John 15:5). People who become self-confident and proud will find they are too busy to pray.” How much do you and I, as well as our churches, genuinely cry out to God in total dependence and with abandonment of ourselves?

We say that we follow Christ and that He is our Teacher and example—that we want to be like Him. But is this true? Do we follow His example? Do we really want to be like Him? Oswald Chambers is right when he says, “Prayer seems like such a small thing to do—next to nothing at all in fact. But that’s not what Jesus said. To Him prayer is everything.”

Consider how many times in the Gospels we read of the Son of God rising up early in the morning while it was still dark or staying up late into the night for the purpose of praying. Before calling His disciples, He prayed. So devoted was He to prayer that His disciples (who no doubt were familiar with prayer) requested that He teach them to pray. Before His passion, knowing the cup of suffering was being given to Him to drink in its entirety, He pleaded that there was some other way; nevertheless, He wanted the Father’s will to be done. Is this our mindset—our desire—to seek long and hard after God, to enquire of His guidance in every decision, and to surrender our desires and agendas in order to align ourselves with His? This is difficult. In fact, this is impossible if we are not being infused with His Spirit. Cheryl Sacks rightly notes that this cannot happen apart from fervent prayer.

Please understand, I’m not speaking as one who is some great prayer warrior. But I see so much powerlessness of the church as darkness spreads further and many people falling away from the faith. We have Christian literature and media galore, but where is our influence? We have plenty of nice facilities and events, but where is the power? Is not our lack of influence and power simply a result of our lack of prayer?

The purpose of this article is not to shame the church or put her down. Rather, I am simply wanting to encourage you, and that we may encourage one another, to seek passionately after the heart and face of our Father—just as our Savior exemplified. By the moving of the Holy Spirit within us, may our church buildings be restored to houses of prayer instead of houses of worship. May we become completely dependent on God rather than our own abilities, and may we learn to sincerely pray patterned after His, “Your will be done.” From here, only God knows what incredibly positive effects this would have in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, and our world. We won’t ever know, except churches becoming what God has willed for them to be—houses of prayer.