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Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”

 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him,  and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him. - Luke 19:41-48


Whenever I think about how to describe the prayer life of Jesus, I get pretty overwhelmed. His commitment to spending time in communion and conversation with the Father can be seen over and over again throughout the gospels. Throughout those stories, we find a pattern of Jesus regularly withdrawing Himself to go away to pray.

Sometimes, He wakes up early, “long before dawn”, to go pray, and on other occasions, He spends all night in prayer. Sometimes, He chooses the mountain, while other times He picks the dessert.  In some ways, this is not too surprising because He was so committed to living in communion with the Father. On the other hand, because we find Him praying so often, in so many places and different types of situations, it can be difficult to pin down how to follow Jesus into prayer.

Abigail likes to point out how Jesus was able to abide with the Father in set apart times and when things came up in the midst of everyday life. Not only does she talk about this, but I am so blessed by the way that she tries to embrace this message in her life. Since she was a little girl, she has loved to have set apart time and space to meet with God.

I don’t really have words to explain what it is like for me, as a dad, to walk down the hall and overhear my daughter’s prayer time. Since she was in grade school, those times would usually be a mingling of prayer, worship and creativity. I’ve noticed that when she is consistently having those times, she seems more ready to pray when things come up throughout the day. Abigail has done a good job modeling how our commitment to set apart times of prayer, help equip us to pray in the spontaneous moments. 

Watching this in Abigail’s life has helped give me a picture for what I read about in the life of Jesus. It seems that regardless of the scenario or opportunities in front of Him, He was going to prioritize time with the Father. Then, when He was ministering to people, whether in healing the sick, freeing the demonized or feeding the hungry - He was going to draw from that communion and engage the Father in prayer.

He prayed in the big moments of His life; like when He was baptized, when He was transfigured, and when He was about to call the twelve apostles. He wasn’t just praying because of a special occasion, though. He prayed on every occasion.

As followers of Jesus, we need to embrace this as an important part of the way that Jesus lived. Learning to grow a deeper life of prayer is essential to truly following Him each day.

Let’s look at Luke 19 to see what we can learn about the way that Jesus viewed prayer. The story in this passage takes place on the day of the Triumphal Entry. Luke tells us what happens as Jesus was coming into Jerusalem.  Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it…

When I read this, I cannot help but see the heart of Jesus as an intercessor. It makes me think of other times when Jesus is praying for the city, crying out O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

When Jesus walked the earth, part of His prayer life was intercession. But what does it mean to intercede? Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the word intercede means to intervene between two with a view for reconciling their differences. 

When we see Jesus praying for individuals, cities or even for creation itself, He is stepping into the gap to intervene. He gave His life so that we, who were far away, could be brought back into right relationship with God.

While we will never be asked to become the sacrifice for sin, through prayer, we can follow Jesus and join Him in the ministry of intercession. When we begin to commune with God and have conversations with Him about the people, places and things around us, we can step into that gap and pray.

I remember the story of Renee, a brokenhearted but praying mom. Her son had gotten wrapped up in drugs, and she  regularly came into the prayer room to pray for him.  One night, I noticed that Renee was sobbing as she was writing on the brown craft paper that we had hung on the walls. 

This was not unusual, but I noticed that the name she was praying for on this particular night, was not the name of her son. I waited until she was done praying before I approached her to ask her who she was praying for. She started to cry again as she told me that she was praying for the dealer who was supplying her son, to have a moment of clarity and see the end of his ways.

It was only a few months later that I met the dealer. One day, he came into the prayer room. I sat in stunned silence as I listened to him share why he was giving his life to Jesus.

I was walking up to a house to make a delivery and the couple came to the door. I looked past them and saw their child. It was weird, man, in a moment, everything was clear and I could see what was going to happen to that child because of me.

I took my new friend over to the prayer wall, where a weeping mom had decided to get into the gap and pray. His mouth dropped open as he read her prayers for him. To me, this is a good picture of what intercession looks like today.

Another thing that we see from the passage in Luke 19 was the passion that Jesus had for the place of prayer when He clears out the temple. But this wasn’t the first time that Jesus had driven people from the temple. In John 2, just after turning water into wine, we read of Jesus going to Jerusalem during Passover and finding money changers and people selling live stock. His response was to handcraft a whip and cleanse the temple.

Back in Luke 19, Jesus finds a similar scene of buying and selling and begins removing the merchants and their customers. As He is escorting them out, He quotes Isaiah 56, His house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

The context of Isaiah 56 is God opening a way for Gentiles to belong in His house. Whenever we see an emphasis on prayer and intercession, it is not uncommon to see a direct link to God’s plan to call out people from every tribe, nation, people and tongue. The plan is not just that they would experience salvation, but that they would become a kingdom of priest to serve God.

With that in mind, let’s examine the heart of what Isaiah was prophesying when he spoke of a house of prayer for all nations. While Jesus definitely showed zeal for the physical temple, driving people out who were not honoring the purpose of God for the space that had been dedicated to the Lord, He gave His life for a different building. 

At the end of Ephesians 2, Paul tells us that we are being fitted together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Peter echoes the message this way when he says you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Again, I think Jesus’s commitment to purify and cleanse the temple in Jerusalem is evident, but He also prophesied that physical space would be destroyed within a generation. So what house was He referring to when He said my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?

What if we are the house that He wants to fill with His presence? What if the house of living stones was designed to be the very dwelling place of God on the earth? If these things are true, how do we cooperate with His Spirit in becoming a house of prayer?

This question brings us back to the lifestyle of prayer and intercession that we see in the life of Jesus. Both Peter and Paul mention that He is the chief cornerstone of the house that is being built. Because His life was a life of prayer, it is natural that the house that is built upon Him will be a house of prayer. 

Throughout my life, I have witnessed the way that prayer works. I have watched God move in ways that I can’t explain and don't pretend to fully understand. But I don’t want my commitment to a life of prayer to be based on the answers that I have seen.

I want to give myself to prayer because Jesus did. I want to be like Him. If He is the foundation stone for a house of prayer, then I want my little stone to be a living stone that is saturated in prayer so it fits His purpose for His house. 

As we fix our eyes on Jesus, I pray that He would ignite our hearts with a passion for prayer. I pray that we would be able to enjoy simple communion with the Father, and from that place, we would join Him in the place of intercession for others. God, give us courage to follow you deeper into the place of prayer. Make us a house of prayer that You will come and fill.

from FOCUS: 50 Daily Readings to Fix Your Eyes on Jesus