As Marion and I started to explore the teaching and worship emanating from International House of Prayer, we soon realized that we had a lot to learn.
Since then we have learned that Houses of Prayer of different shapes and sizes have begun springing up all over the world over the past twenty years. Some are tiny, some have grown quite large. Some have developed a distinctive way of praying (often known as harp and bowl worship, based on Revelation 5:8) and feature trained teams of singers and musicians who undertake to offer worship and prayer 24/7 in the spirit of the Tabernacle of David. Others incorporate a variety of forms of prayer, sometimes with music and sometimes not. In some houses of prayer, a variety of artistic forms are encouraged as expressions of prayer. Some function as houses of hospitality or retreat centres, but still incorporate a prayer room. Many houses of prayer have begun to incorporate an emphasis on works of compassion and social justice in addition to prayer.
Despite all this diversity of expression, the world-wide prayer movement that has been burgeoning over the past couple of decades is based on a number of shared values and convictions. While the values and convictions listed below may not be shared by all Houses of Prayer, they are common to most.
Why a House of Prayer? Here are some foundational Scriptural reasons.
First and foremost, the prayer movement springs from a conviction that Jesus is returning for a praying church (Luke 18:6-8) that is passionately in love with her bridegroom (Song of Songs 5:8) and longs for his return (Revelation 22:17). The bridegroom looks on persevering prayer from his church as a sign of faith (Luke 18:8).
Coupled with this conviction is the belief that prayer is essential to the advance of the gospel (Luke 24:45-49, Acts 1:12-14, Acts 4:23-31). Jesus said that before his return the gospel of the Kingdom would be preached to every nation (Matthew 24:14). The prayer movement and the missions movement are closely connected. The 24/7 Prayer Watch at Hernnhut in the 18th century was responsible for seeing hundreds of missionaries sent to every corner of the globe. As a local House of Prayer, one of our main areas of focus will be prayer for the advance of the gospel and for the healing and restoration of broken lives in our own community and neighbourhood.
Another foundational conviction of the prayer movement is that wherever we are placed on the earth, it is never an accident (Acts 17:26-27). God has determined our dwelling place, and we are commanded to petition God for blessing on the city and nation where God has placed us (Jeremiah 29:7), pray for its leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and seek its good as humble servants. Praying for our city and doing works of justice and compassion in our city are consistent with Jesus’ command that his followers should be as visible as a shining city on a hilltop. (Matthew 5:14-16)
Many in the world-wide prayer movement also place a special priority on prayer for Israel, in the conviction that Israel still holds a central place in God’s plan to redeem and restore the earth, and that God calls his people to cry out to him day and night for the salvation of Israel and the peace of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 62:6-7, Romans 11:25-27, Psalm 122:6)
Throughout the history of 24/7 prayer, a focus of the prayer movement has been community transformation. Isaiah called watchmen not to cease from prayer until Jerusalem was a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62:6-7). We believe in prayer for Jerusalem, but we also believe that in a secondary way this promise can be applied to every city. Although the final restoration of the earth will take place only when Jesus returns (Acts 3:19-21), communities of praying, serving Christians can function like a light in a dark place or a city set on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16), shining the light of Christ to those around us and bringing significant transformation in anticipation of the restoration that will be completed when the Lord returns. One of the goals of a House of Prayer is to petition the Lord for our own city, that it may come into its glorious destiny.
The prophet Isaiah, as quoted by Jesus, referred to the Temple as God’s house and stated that it was to be a house of prayer for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7 , Mark 11:17) Since the people of God are described as being his temple (Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:5), these words of Jesus can be taken on two levels. They clearly refer to his desire that the whole church would be a people of prayer, but many in the prayer movement have come to believe that there is also, in every generation until Jesus returns, a calling upon God’s people to establish special places that are consecrated for the purpose of prayer in each city and town.
Many in the prayer movement see the spread of houses of prayer across the earth as a sign that Jesus is preparing his bride for his return. One of the purposes of the prayer movement is to call the whole church to rise up into a lifestyle of purity, holiness and wholehearted devotion to God. (Ephesians 5:25-27, 1 Peter 1:14-16)
Jesus has called his people to love one another as a sign of his life in us. Many houses of prayer place an emphasis on developing a vibrant Christian community that demonstrates love for one another and for those in need. (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:18, Hebrews 13:15-16)
Paul commended Philemon for his ministry of refreshing and encouraging the hearts of other believers (Philemon 1:7) and knew he himself could always find a hospitable welcome in Philemon’s house (Philemon 1:22). The values of hospitality and encouragement to other believers are an important part of the ethos of a house of prayer.
This is not an exhaustive list of reasons for establishing a House of Prayer in any community, but it is a starting place. These are some of the values that are in our hearts as Marion and I consider this mandate.