A couple of weeks ago, we went to dinner at a new friend's house. This is quite a treat for us, since many (if not most) are intimidated by our family (due either to our personalities, or to its size, I'm not totally sure).
So, we drove a bit over an hour to get to dinner at their house, and had a blast. I still need to write them a note telling them how much fun it was....
They're new to our church, so one of the things we asked them was what made them decide to attend our church. One of the first things they mentioned was that they had never seen such a prayer-filled church as ours. They loved how our church prays.
Now, personally, I'm in the infancy of my prayer journey. And we've had some big crisis' in church lately that we've ALL been praying a lot about. And God has been super gracious and answered our pleas. It's been totally amazing and incredibly cool to watch, and to pray impossible prayers and have God answer. Somehow, though, because I'm such a baby in this, I sort of assumed that all of us in the church were just infants to toddlers in the whole realm of prayer (except, perhaps, the pastor). So their comment on how the church prays really surprised me.
Fast forward to today. In a conversation with a friend, we were talking about a different church, one facing some financial problems. They've been not meeting their financial obligations for a couple of years now, and are going into debt to just stay alive. At their annual meeting, one of the congregation scolded the others for the church's general lack of prayer and prayerfulness. My friend and I (who both care about this church very much), were wondering what God's plan for that church really is. Is He closing it? Is He just testing it? Does He want the few who attend there to give more? Does He want the staff to be paid less? Should they perhaps sell the building, etc?
Matthew 21, which I decided to read today, brought these two churches together in my mind. Verse 13 says "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you are making it a robbers den". Hmm... God's church is supposed to be about prayer. Not money. Specifically, not money (or at least not making money).
Following in the same passage, Jesus heals some people, and lots of people see it. The children cry out in praise to God, but the teachers become indignant and shush them. "Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have prepared praise for Yourself" (v 16).
Jesus commends the kids for recognizing one of the things that church is really for -- celebrating what God is doing.
Now, I'm not accusing this church of being about the wrong things. Not in the least. I just noticed the dichotomy. One is really growing in prayer, the other is dominated by financial difficulty. I notice a parallel in my life. When I pray, I see God doing. When I don't, I'm robbed of my joy, and worry sets in.
Lately, even with all the answered prayers of our church, I've found myself worrying far too much about money and spending far too little time celebrating what God is doing. May my body be a house of prayer, not one where I'm always looking for some way to make a bit of money.