Luke 19:41-48                               “House of Prayer”


            Did you know that there is a “House of Prayer” on Kauai? Some of the pastors call it the IHOP in Lihue! The International House of Prayer! It was the "Breath of Life" Church before Pastor Tom Ianucci retired. Now it is part of the Lihue Calvary Church. So, right next to the bowling alley in the Rice Shopping Center is the House of Prayer. 

            It was a church and now it is a house of prayer. Is there a difference? In a way there is. I just have to point out that throughout the entire New Testament Jesus never talks about the church as being a building. The term that he uses “Ekklesia” in the Greek is a group of people called to minister. Jesus always talks about the people, not the building. A house of prayer is obviously a building. So, this might be the only place in the bible where we have an actual physical structure set aside for faith. Of course, this is the temple in Jerusalem that does not stand. Not one stone is left standing after the Romans take it down in 70AD.

            The point is that we can and do pray anywhere. WE do not need a physical structure in order to pray. Just like the children’s story "Jay, I Pray" we can pray here or there--we can pray anywhere!


            You have heard about “Pay to Play"? This idiom is used to describe giving money to politicians in order to get something from the government. Another word for this is “bribe." Guess what, you do not have to pay to pray! Prayer is free. Yet, in Jesus' day some clever folks had turned prayer into their business. One was not allowed to take Roman coins that had a picture of the emperor into the Temple grounds. That was considered idolatry. Therefore, in order to make an offering, one had to exchange Roman coins for Shekels. You would pay so much as a “sin offering” and then the priest would pray for you.

            That idea of paying someone else to pray for you, carried on all the way through the Middle Ages until Martin Luther’s Reformation. You used to be able to pay a priest for thirty days of prayer if you needed it! You could even pay for “absolution.” Yet, all of that business is no longer.

            We always complain that we cannot get the repair person to come. We cannot get anybody to do anything for us anymore. Well, guess what, you cannot get anyone to pray for you at any price any more. Just like we all pump our own gas, we all have to pump our own prayers to God now.

            And yet—it still happens that when someone finds out that you are pastor, or just even a Christian, the first thing they want is a prayer from you. This happened to me this last Tuesday while I was in Costco. A fellow quite out of the blue asked me, “Are you a doctor?” I looked around and asked him if he needed a doctor, if I should dial up 911? "no, no, you just look like a doctor!"

            I really did not know that doctors have certain looks to them! "No, I am a pastor out in Waimea." The conversation went on. He attends the Baptist Church in Annahola, etc. He asked me what I had studied in prayer that day. I told him about this passage. We had a little mini worship service going on as others in the aisle were listening in. I have always said that we should have a worship service in the shops in Lihue, because that is where I run into the most parishioners! So it was that in that moment, Costco became a house of prayer.


            What we can also glean from our text this morning is that the house of prayer is the place of peace if you can recognize your visitation from God in that time! You can find great peace in your life through prayer! So, I wanted to look at this for a moment.

            Step one for peace is to separate the belligerents. That makes sense. One cannot speak of peace when in the midst of fresh fighting. Although we are not ever pleased to see physical barriers between people, often times we must confess that they have served to cease open hostilities. The DMZ, the demilitarized zone, between North and South Korea has actually served its purpose to end the fighting for those two countries for the last half a century. The current fight in Ukraine will end with a separation between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.

            Finland right now is building a wall along its border with Russia. Yes, having a wall can serve the purpose of separating to warring factions. In pastoral counseling I have often started discourse with two angry people by simply separating them. And, that is fine as long as this will eventually lead to dialogue. It is always a shame when a wall goes up and is simply left forever standing. What happens when both parties eventually end up in heaven? Will  there be walls there separating them?

            The second step in terms of those things that make for peace is simply to talk to one another. Eventually we will have to see if we can discover through talking what it is that makes the one group of boys want to fight with the other. There must be a reason? Some times it comes down to a simple misunderstanding.

            Hebrews 12:14 states: “Seek peace and holiness with all without which no one will see the Lord.”  Here is my idea, better than a wall between two people, put Jesus between the two of them instead! When you try to make the things of peace, make sure that both sides can see God, the Prince of Peace, Jesus right there.

            When I marry couples, I like to remind them that it is not just a covenant between the two of them that they are making. It is a covenant with God. God is supposed to be in the marriage. I believe that when God is in the marriage, there is peace.


            What does Jesus bring two the discussion when two belligerents start to speak again? Mercy, compassion, and forgiveness! These are the very things that truly make for a lasting peace.

            Again and again in the Bible we see how Jesus had compassion; for instance, in Luke 7 twice we see Jesus has compassion first for the widow whose son has just died and then for the sinner woman who anoints his feet with her tears. We also hear that when Jesus was preaching before feeding the 4000 he had compassion for the people (Mt 15).

            Compassion means to feel along with someone else the pain that they are suffering. It is not about qualifying the other person’s hate or rage, but rather about discovering how they have been hurt and addressing that hurt directly.  It begins with feeling the other’s pain as when Jesus himself weeps for Jerusalem, knowing that its destruction is coming.

            In terms of forgiveness, Jesus tells us to forgive 7 times 70 in Matthew 18:21-22. Not only are we to feel the other person’s hurt, but we must assume that we have also hurt the other person and ask to be forgiven.

            Jesus went to the Cross that our sins might be forgiven. All of us have tasted that sweetness over the bitterness of hate in our lives. If Jesus can forgive us all that we have done, how is it not possible that we should be able to forgive others?


            Step number four of the things that make for peace: Edify one another. Yes, that is in the bible! Romans 14:19 says, “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” That mutual upbuilding is what builds a lasting peace.

            I think this particular concept was used at the end of World War II in 1947 to rebuild Western Europe. It was conceived of by George Marshall and others at Harvard University. The professors realized that at the end of World War I, there was no rebuilding effort, but instead the Treaty of Versailles was a mechanism to punish and weaken the losing side. This led to stoking resentments and hatreds that led to the start of the Second World War.

            I remember when we could watch the US Congress in session on television and how the congressmen would politely say, “I yield to the esteemed gentleman from Kentucky—or whichever state of the Union.” Do you remember that language? There was apparently an attempt even in the midst of serious disagreement to continue to esteem one another. Those congressmen were just constantly building each other up! They respected each other’s role in this great democracy.

            While esteeming one another, those same congressmen built up our country, and we all benefited. They were not just seeking compromise with one another. There seemed to be an honest attempt to co-labor or collaborate for the good of the country.


                        To conclude, we pray anywhere and everywhere. We pray to find our own peace. We pray for the peace of the world. We pray to build ourselves up, and to build up this world for the coming Kingdom of God.