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Church Membership: Holiness, Prayer, Scripture Study and Worship – (Pt. 2)

Main Reading: 2 Chronicles 2:1-6 (KJV)
Theme for Today: My House Shall be Called a House of Prayer
Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 2:3-4 (KJV)

“And Solomon sent to Hiram the king of Tyre, saying, As thou didst deal with David my father … 4 Behold, I build an house to the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the Lord our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel.”

Introduction
We are looking at the central space PRAYER has to be accorded in the “House of God” (the Church). Let us continue with looking at the letter, which Solomon wrote to Hiram of Tyre. In that letter, Solomon also indicates that the “House of God,” which he was about to build was going to be dedicated, among other issues, to the burning of sweet incense before the Lord (v4b). The proposition of this inspiration is that the incense, which was burnt in the “House of God,” was a symbolic expression of prayer.

INCENSE IS PRAYER
The space of incense in the priestly ministry of the Old Testament is very pervading. As a central part of the charge to Aaron and all subsequent Priests, was the need for them to dedicate themselves to the burning of sweet incense in the “House of God” (see Exodus 30:7-9). Incense burning was seen as part of the issues, which meant faithfulness to the Lord and His commands. This is what King Abijah of Judah intimated when he was proving to Israel that Jeroboam’s reign was ungodly (see 2 Chronicles 13:11).
David hinted at what incense burning meant in Psalm 141:2,
Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
However, it is in the New Testament that the full meaning of the significance of incense is explained. The following text is helpful in that regard (Rev. 5:6-8):

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8 When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
It is therefore, clear for us (New Testament believers that burning of incense in the Bible are about prayers of the God’s people.

Wherefore, I submit that the second issue, which Solomon was commanding for worship in the “House of God,” was PRAYER. That is also why the Lord dealt strongly against the Sadducees who had turned the space in the Temple for Gentile worshippers into the so-called holy-money-changing and holy-animal-selling space. As He reminded them, a cardinal significant issue for which the “House of God” has to exist, in the first place, is be the space where people come to prayer (and not to sell). It has to be the space where people will be encouraged to prayerfulness (Matt. 21:13). It therefore, means that the Church, which ceases to encourage her members to commit to Prayerfulness, and neglects to make available times of praying for her members, has deviated from the fundamental commission, significance and therefore, the expectation of the Lord. Such a Church has become no longer the “House of God,” the Church, but a social club, and maybe, a den of robbers (in the words of the Lord).

Illustration
Some years ago, I was at the Camp Meeting of the Asuoyeboah Circuit of the Methodist Church. A Camp Meeting of all places, and the Reverend Ministers suspended prayers and the Lord’s Supper to the end of that Sunday Service, for an appeal for funds. They said that they feared that if they served the Lord’s Supper before the appeal for funds, the congregants would not wait for the appeal for funds, which obviously, was more important for them. In any case, about 70% of the congregants left when it was after 1:00pm and communion had not been made available to them, and was still waiting on the table to be served. My heart bled about what Wesley’s Church of our Lord Jesus Christ has become. It is written: My House shall be called a house of prayer, the Lord said. Originally, Camp Meetings were for dedicating times to prayers and to revival for members. Where did we go wrong?

Discussion Questions
1. What is more important for your Church family? Is it prayer? If not, what is making prayer less important in that Church?
2. What can be done to bring back prayerfulness to the central life of the Church?
3. How can the Church or Christian families motivate members to prayer?
Prayer Points
1. Pray for Pastors and the members of your Church to be dedicated to creating more spaces for prayer in the Church.
2. Pray for the grace for Church members to see the fundamental reasons for the Church’s being as more important than the man-made needs of the Church.
3. Pray for the grace to commit yourself to prayer times each day, and to be faithful to the plan of your personal prayer.

Author: Rev. Kofi Amoateng
(Senior Minister, Methodist Church, Ghana)

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