Becoming a Praying Church | Matthew 21:12-13

A Praying Church

In the third week of A Praying Church, Timothy Ateek encouraged the body to become a people who know the power, joy, and necessity of prayer.

Timothy "TA" AteekJan 28, 2024Matthew 21:12-13

In This Series (3)
Becoming a Praying Church | Matthew 21:12-13
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 28, 2024
Becoming a Praying and Fasting Person | Matthew 6:16-18
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 21, 2024
Becoming A Praying Person | Matthew 6:5-9
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 14, 2024


In the third week of A Praying Church, Timothy Ateek encouraged the body to become a people who know the power, joy, and necessity of prayer.

Key Takeaways

  1. Matthew 21:12-13 – The problem isn’t what they were doing (providing a service). The problem is where they were doing it (in the temple, where God’s presence resided and where people would come to meet with God).
  2. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 – Christ is the true and better temple through whom we have access to God (John 1:1, John 1:14) The temple is no longer a place; In Christ, it is a people. So, if Jesus is calling us to be a house of prayer, then there is nothing more central to what we do as we gather around and under God’s Word than prayer. We don’t want to be a place that majors in the Word and minors in prayer.
  3. James 5:16-17 – The emphasis in this passage is actually on prayer. The power is in prayer, not confession (though confession is important!).
  4. 1 Corinthians 6:19 – We aren’t just the temple collectively; We are God’s temple individually. May our lives be marked by prayer. May there be a growing conviction that there is nothing more important you can do individually than to pray.

How can we take intentional steps toward becoming a praying church?

  • We will pray more in our worship services.
  • We will have prayer and worship gatherings multiple times a year.
  • As Easter gets closer, we are going to challenge everyone to pray for one unbeliever by name everyday leading up to Easter.
  • The week leading up to Easter, we want the body praying around the clock for what the Lord is going to do.
  • We want Watermark members to host prayer gatherings in their neighborhood or apartment complexes. Join your neighbors to pray for unbelievers, schools, and administrators, and community leaders. Watermark members might even do prayer walks in their neighbor asking God for revival.
  • In our community groups, prayer will not just be a transition, it will be the most important thing your community group can do.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  1. In your community group, is the amount of time spent gathering and talking and sharing and counseling disproportionate to the amount of time we are praying? How can your community group intentionally pray more?
  2. Have we drifted in any way here at Watermark Community Church? Does our activity as a church match our identity?
  3. Is what we value what God values? What do you think is the most important activity that Watermark should be about?
  4. How does God’s Word and our prayers connect together? How should God’s Word shape and direct our prayers?
  5. Are you individually a "house of prayer"?
  6. Prior to Thursday, ask God what He wants praying and fasting to look like for you (both individually and corporately) during these 21 days. Ideas for prayer:
    • Commit to 15 minutes of prayer each day – Set a timer for 5 minutes. For 5 minutes just sit quietly making yourself aware of God’s presence with you. And then set a timer for 10 minutes to talk to God.
    • Pray for your entire drive to work
    • Half day of prayer
    • Prayer walks
    • Pray on your knees
    • Pray out loud
    • Pray for different things on different days
    • Set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes to remind you to pray
    • Get a prayer board
    • Journal your prayers

Join Watermark on our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting from February 1 – 21, 2024. Sign up for daily prayer prompts and find more resources at

Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing today? It's good to see you. I hope all is well. If this is your first time ever with us, thanks for trusting us with your Sunday morning. I hope this place feels like home very quickly for you. My name is Timothy Ateek, and I'm one of the pastors here.

Every summer, my family and I go to Galveston for a family reunion with my wife's family. My boys only know Galveston. They don't even know 30A exists, so please don't mention it to them. As far as they know, beaches are basically concrete with water. We go to Galveston. There's a massive family reunion. We have about 13 kids all under the age of 14, so it's wild. We go out to the beach, and we kind of set up camp.

Inevitably, this happens every time. My boys and I will go out into the water to go boogie boarding, and after 20 or 30 minutes, we will look up and look back at the beach to see where our family is. Every single time we do that, we look up and look straight thinking they're right in front of us, and then we realize we have drifted a long ways and they are way back over there, because something has happened where we have gotten pulled by the current away from, honestly, where we're supposed to be.

When that happens, something decisive has to happen. My boys just want to try to gradually make their way back, but that doesn't work, so inevitably, we have to get out of the water and walk down the beach to be back where we're supposed to be. Why am I telling you that? The reason I'm telling you that is because today we're concluding our series that we've been calling A Praying Church.

The whole goal of this series is that Watermark Community Church would be a praying church, that we would value prayer, we would see it as so important, so critical to the foundation of who we are that we would be known for prayer. You might hear that and say, "We already are that. We already are a praying church." The whole goal today is simply for us to look back up at the beach. We want to make sure no drift has happened here.

We want to look up and make sure we are dead center where God wants us to be as a church when it comes to prayer. If we look up and see we're off center, that we've drifted in some way, that's okay. It's good for us to realize that, but something decisive needs to happen. We might need to, in a sense, get out of the water and walk back down the beach so we can be exactly where God wants us to be, that we would be exactly who God wants us to be in regard to prayer.

So, that's what we're going to seek to accomplish today. If you have a Bible, I want to invite you to join me today in Matthew 21 as we look at a story where Jesus is going to identify drift that has occurred specifically in regard to prayer. Look. If we want to be a praying church, then we should just pray now.

So, before we study the Word, here's what I want to invite you to do. I want to invite you to take a second and pray for yourself. Say, "God, would you wake me up this morning? Would you give me ears to hear you today? Would you speak straight to my heart through the teaching of your Word?" Just pray for yourself really quickly. Then would you take a second and pray for me? Just pray that I would faithfully teach you God's Word today.

Lord, this is your church. If there is any way we've drifted away from who you want us to be when it comes to prayer, I pray you would show us. We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.

We're looking at a familiar story, which is the story of Jesus cleansing the temple. Here's what it says in Matthew 21, starting in verse 12: "And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, 'It is written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer," but you make it a den of robbers.'"

This is a story about drift. There have been times where we've been at Galveston where I'm not in the water with my boys, and I am watching them drift down the beach, and I have to stand up and go to them and say, "Guys, you've drifted. It's time to come back." That's, in a sense, what Jesus is doing with certain people who have drifted away from God's plan when it comes to prayer among his people.

When is this story happening? It's taking place during Jesus' last week prior to his crucifixion. We know that week as Holy Week. This is most likely happening on the Monday before the Friday when he is crucified. It's happening at the time of Passover, which was a huge deal throughout the country. It was so important the population of Jerusalem would swell to about 250,000 people.

It was so significant because every adult Jewish male would be required to come to the temple to do two things: first, to offer an animal sacrifice and, secondly, to pay a specific tax according to the law of Moses. That gives us some context as to why there are people who are selling animals and changing money. Why are there people who are selling animals and changing money? They're there because they're trying to provide a service to the people.

The fact that you could just show up to the temple and buy an animal instead of dragging something across the Roman Empire… That was nice. It was convenient. The reason there were people changing money is there was only one currency accepted in the temple, yet people were coming from all over the Roman Empire to Jerusalem for the time of Passover. So, to have people who were providing the right currency… It was a service.

Why did Jesus go rage monster in the temple? Is it because of what they were doing? The answer is no. Jesus wasn't mad because they were offering a service to the people. The reason Jesus was mad was not because of what they were doing; he was mad because of where they were doing it. Where were they doing it? They were doing it in the temple. If they were doing it outside of the temple, not a problem, but inside of the temple… That's why Jesus is frustrated.

He's frustrated because by them doing what they're doing in the temple, it is hijacking the whole point and purpose of the temple. Jesus tells us the temple was the place where God's presence resided, and it was the place people were to come and meet with God. The activity that was to mark the temple was supposed to be prayer. That's why Jesus said… Look back at the text. What does he say to them in verse 13?

"He said to them, 'It is written…'" Where is it written? All the way back in the book of Isaiah, hundreds of years prior to this. It is written all the way back in Isaiah 56:7. It says, "…these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

From the time Isaiah was written, the temple has been destroyed and then rebuilt. Jesus shows up and is like, "Look. Nothing has changed. The same priority for the temple hundreds of years ago is the same priority today." The reason the temple even exists is for people to come and meet with God through prayer. The defining activity in the temple is to be prayer. It's in the name. God says, "My house shall be called a house of prayer." It's in the name.

If people think about anything when going to the temple, they should think about prayer. But Jesus shows up, and it is not really a place for prayer. Let me just ask you… By show of hands, has anyone ever done their quiet time in Walmart on Black Friday? No? Shocking. Has anyone gone to a petting zoo and been like, "You know what I'm going to do right now? I'm going to meet with God"? Has anyone done that? No? That's very surprising.

Listen to what D.A. Carson, a famous scholar, says about this moment. He says, "Instead of solemn dignity and the murmur of prayer, there is the bellowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep. Instead of brokenness and contrition, holy adoration and prolonged petition, there is noisy commerce." What's the point? They've drifted. They have drifted down the beach, and they have not stopped to look up and see that they are off center from what God desires for the temple.

Jesus not only says, "My house shall be called a house of prayer," but he goes on and says, "But you have turned it into a den of robbers." Why does he say that? Well, commentators believe the exchange rate was jacked up so people were making profit off of the people. Not only that. One commentator was talking about how if you brought your own animal instead of buying the animal at the temple, then your animal had to be inspected to make sure it was sufficient, and most likely it was going to be deemed insufficient.

So then you'd have to trade in your animal and actually pay more money to get a temple-sanctioned animal. But then do you know what the people selling the animals would do? They would take the animal that person just brought and go and sell it to someone else. So Jesus is like, "What is happening? This is so contrary to what this place is for."

This was meant to be the place where people came to meet with God, but instead of the priority being on God's presence, the priority was on convenience, attendance, and profit. So, Jesus is saying, "Look. The activity in the temple is no longer representative of the identity of the temple. What is happening here is not reflective of what this place is meant to be." The temple was to be a house of prayer. The defining marker of the temple was to be prayer.

What's interesting is God's presence had departed from the temple long before, and it was just business as usual. God's presence wasn't even there anymore, and they didn't even know it. They didn't even care. It was just about being in attendance, worshiping as conveniently as possible, and making profit. Get in. Go through the motions. Make your sacrifice. Go home. Get rich.

Okay. Why are we looking at this passage today? Because Jesus walks into the temple, cleans up shop, and calls them out because the temple is supposed to be a house of prayer. You might hear that and be like, "Well, I struggle to see the connection, because the temple is kind of not around anymore. It was destroyed in AD 70 and has not been rebuilt." Okay. So this is it. This is why we're talking about it. If you're tuned out, hello. Welcome back. Don't miss it. This is the point. Why are we talking about this? Drum roll, please.

First Corinthians 3:16-17: "Do you…" Just to be clear, in the Greek that word you is in the plural. So, when Paul is saying what he's saying, he is saying it to the entire church at Corinth. Watch the wording. "Do you not know that you [collectively] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple."

Do you see it? The temple has transitioned from a place to a people. According to Paul, now Watermark Community Church, the people who make up Watermark collectively, are, in fact, the temple. The people of God collectively, universally, represent the temple of God, and any gathering of people in our world who gather together under the name of Jesus Christ as a church actually are the temple.

If that's the case, if we now are the temple and the temple is to be called a house of prayer, then the question that rises to the surface is…Is our activity reflective of our identity? If Watermark Community Church is to be called a house of prayer, is our activity here representative of our identity or have we drifted?

Can we, as a church, look and say, "Yes. Prayer does mark our church. It would make perfect sense for us to change the name of the church to 'Watermark Praying Church'"? (We're not changing the name. You don't need to email me. I'm just giving an example. We're fine.) The point is…Does prayer mark the people of Watermark in such a way that our activity connects with our identity? Are we a house of prayer? Are we a praying church or are we just a church that sometimes prays?

I want to invite every person in this room, especially the people who call this place home… I just want you to think really quickly. What do you think is the most important activity Watermark should be about? Just think about that. Before you walked in here (because you already know where I'm going with this), if you were to answer the question, "What do you think is the most important activity for Watermark to be about?" what do you think you would say?

I bet if we passed a mic around we would hear everyone's passion point. Some people would be like, "Community. It's in our name. Community is what we should be about." "Sharing the gospel." "Helping the hurting and broken in our city." "Recovery." According to Jesus, all of these are wrong. It's prayer. Think about it. Without prayer, what do you get? You get self-sufficient, arrogant community, evangelism, service, and recovery.

If Jesus is calling us to be a house of prayer, then there should be nothing more integral, more foundational, and more central to what we do or what we are about than prayer. Now, I do want to make a clarifying statement really quickly. Some of y'all might be like, "Yeah, but what about the Word of God? That feels pretty important." I want to be clear on what I'm saying. I'm not saying prayer is more important than the Word of God, but what I am saying is prayer is as important as the Word of God.

We don't want to be a place that majors in the Word and minors in prayer. They go hand in glove together. I think about the book of Acts when the apostles appoint deacons. They create structure because the church is exploding. The apostles have to clarify, "What are the most important things for us to be about?" Listen to what they say in Acts 6:4. "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." That's it.

If Watermark wants to be the healthiest version of itself, then every member… If every member would take a step in their treasuring of the Word and their urgency in prayer, this place would be set ablaze for the glory of God. I think about what my friend Oren Martin here on staff said. He said, "The Word without prayer is powerless, but prayer without the Word is meaningless." We need those two to go hand in hand. Is our church marked by prayer?

I'm going to say something that some of you are not going to like, but I just want to share my fear. My fear is some of us make an idol out of community. The reason I say that is sometimes our community hears from us before God does. Sometimes we ask our community for counsel before we ask God for counsel. Sometimes in community we begin to counsel before we pray.

Please don't mishear me and email me. Community is absolutely essential to the Christian walk, and it's one of the most important things we do here at Watermark. God 100 percent uses his people to speak to his people, but a biblical community is a praying community. I'm not just talking about using prayer as a transition to open and close your group.

The elders here at Watermark want this church to be a house of prayer. We don't want to just be a church that prays. We want prayer to be so evident among our people that we would be marked by prayer. So, what would this look like? What does it look like? What steps can we take intentionally, as a church, to become more of a house of prayer? I'm just telling you what you can expect here.

First, we will pray more in our worship services. We're going to invite you to pray more. There will be people onstage who will pray more. Prayer will take an even more crucial role in our time here on Sundays. We're going to have prayer and worship gatherings multiple times a year where we are inviting the entire church to come together solely for the purpose of praying together. When we do, I would ask that you value it enough to plan to be in attendance.

This is a good spiritual health check for you. If we announce we're doing a night of prayer and worship and something in you says, "I don't want to go because all they're going to be doing is praying," that should be a warning sign to you. That should be a red flag. That's a good indicator of your heart. Don't take it lightly.

Next, just watch. As Easter gets closer, we're going to challenge everyone to pray for one unbeliever by name every day leading up to Easter. The week leading up to Easter, we want the body to be praying around the clock for what the Lord is going to do. We want Watermark members to host prayer gatherings in their neighborhood or their apartment complex where members from Watermark get together and pray for unbelievers, schools, administrators, and community leaders. Watermark members might even do prayer walks in their neighborhood, asking God for revival.

Then, in our Community Groups prayer won't just be a transition. A good question for you to ask your Community Group the next time you meet is, "Is the amount of time we are talking and sharing and counseling disproportionate to the amount of time we are praying?" Prayer is the most important thing you can do alongside the Word of God in your Community Group. Let me speak to a verse that I think a lot of people look to when it comes to community, James 5:16.

It says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." This is a very powerful verse which calls us to be known by one another, but if we're not careful, we will major in confession and minor in prayer. Do you see where the power is? It says, "…pray for one another, that you may be healed." The verse goes on and says, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."

Power is in the prayer, not in the confession. Confession is very powerful because it brings light into the darkness, but James here ascribes the power to prayer. The text even goes on in verse 17 and gives an example, not of confession but of prayer. Verse 17: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth." So we'll pray in our Community Groups.

Then, as I've mentioned over the last three weeks, coming up this Thursday, February 1, we as a church are kicking off 21 days of prayer and fasting. This is an invitation to every person in this room to plan to jump in with us, starting this Thursday on February 1. Let me just answer the question…Why are we doing 21 days of prayer and fasting? Here are a few reasons. First, we don't want to be a place that looks around and sees the fact that this place is pretty full… On a Sunday morning we're going to have roughly 10,000 people on this campus.

It would be easy for us to look around and be like, "We're doing great. People are coming. We're getting low complaints on kids being happy. They seem to willingly go to their class. Not every kid, but the majority of the kids seem to be happy. On Tuesday nights we have thousands of people showing up to The Porch. On Monday nights we have hundreds, if not over 1,000 people coming to re:gen. We have people coming to re|engage. The campus is packed all week long. I think we're doing pretty well."

We don't want to be a place that looks around, looks at attendance, and says, "Okay. I think we're good." I never want to get to the place where if the Spirit wasn't moving we wouldn't know it. The reality is we are a place that is in need of greater awakening and revival. We are a place that needs more of God. We are a place that is in need of more of Jesus.

If you were to go and read about the great revivals in history, do you know what you would see preceding the great revivals in history? Prayer. So we, the elders, are acknowledging that we need more of Jesus. We have members here at this church who are spiritually apathetic or distracted. We have plenty of Community Groups that are just hanging by a thread. We have marriages that are dissolving.

We have people here right now who are hiding sin and living a lie, whether it's an affair or pornography or alcohol or prescription pills. Of our members, 35 percent haven't given at all financially in the past 12 months to what's going on here. We have countless people in our body with serious physical issues and illnesses. We have children who are really struggling. We live in a country that is on a moral landslide. There are roughly three billion people in the world who have little to no access to the gospel.

We don't want to be a place, like the temple, that prioritizes attendance and convenience. We need more of Jesus. So, I just want to invite you into it. If something in you right now has already decided, "I'm not going to be a part of that," let me ask you…Why? Why is that? Ask yourself, "What's the good reason for me not being in?" Then I just want to tell you what you get to be a part of.

Corporately, what are the 21 days of prayer and fasting going to look like for the entire body? Well, we're kicking it off with a night of prayer and worship this Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Everyone is invited. This Thursday, February 1, when the 21 days begin, we're kicking it off that night with a night of prayer and worship.

Then, on Mondays and Fridays during the 21 days (the first Friday would be this coming Friday), we will have prayer gatherings at the church from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. It is come and go, so if you can't come for the whole hour, if you can only come for 15 minutes, come and jump in and pray with the rest of the body. That's happening on Mondays and Fridays starting this Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Then on Wednesdays, especially for the people who can't make it on the Monday or Friday mornings, we'll have prayer gatherings at the church over lunch from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Again, this is come and go, but it'll happen on the Wednesdays during those 21 days. Then we will conclude the 21 days of prayer and fasting with another night of prayer and worship on the 21st at 7:00 p.m.

So, that's what you can expect corporately. Now what about in community, in your Community Group? Our goal is that your Community Group would pray together. What we want to ask and encourage is that every Community Group in this church, at least one time during the 21 days, would get together and pray for an hour straight. I'm not talking about sharing prayer requests for 45 minutes and praying for 15 minutes. I'm talking about just praying for an hour straight. If you do it more than once, even better.

Then, individually, what does this look like? We've already had 1,300 people sign up for it, but what I want to ask you to do right now is to get out your phone and text the word pray to 40585. By doing that, you will sign yourself up for daily prayer prompts for 21 days. For 21 days, thousands of people can all be praying the same thing.

You'll get one short prayer prompt. We're not going to spam your text messages. Just one prayer prompt each day for 21 days, and then it's done, and we can be praying together. You can also go to, and we have resources on how to pray. We have resources on how to fast. We have resources for your Community Group and a prayer guide. It's a great place to go. So, that's the first thing you can do individually. Sign up to pray along with the body.

Secondly, here's what I want to ask. Prior to Thursday, ask God what he wants fasting to look like for you during these 21 days. If you weren't here last Sunday, we did a whole message on fasting. You need to seek the Lord and figure out what he wants fasting to look like for you. I'm not going to tell you what it should look like for you, because I'm responsible for seeking the Lord to know what it looks like for me. For me, those 21 days will be a mixture of the different types of fasting we talked about.

There are going to be some days where I'm doing a partial fast, fasting from only certain foods. There are going to be certain days where I'm doing a normal fast from just lunch and other days from breakfast and lunch. Then there are other days I'm going to be doing an alternative fast from social media. It will look different throughout those 21 days for me. I talked to someone else who has decided already that twice a week during those 21 days he's going to fast from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Figure out what it looks like for yourself.

Then, thirdly, I want to challenge you to commit to 15 minutes of prayer each day. What I would love for this to look like for everyone… This is not how it has to be, but this is a strong encouragement for you to set a timer for five minutes to just sit and make yourself aware of God's presence with you, to just power down and focus your attention on God for five minutes. Then you spend the next 10 minutes praying to the one you are now aware of.

I really want everyone here to tap into the joy of prayer. That's the goal of 21 days. If you're miserable for 21 days, this was a miss. The goal is that after 21 days everyone who participates would be able to say, "I love Jesus more than I did 21 days earlier. I have met with God. I've enjoyed him more than I did 21 days ago." If you haven't tried any of the prayer practices we unpacked a couple of weeks ago, go back and listen to that message. We also have resources…

Then I want to encourage you with a few more things you can do to seek to enjoy prayer more. Challenge yourself. Here's a challenge. Try to pray the entire way to work in the morning. Instead of listening to a podcast or listening to the news or talking to someone else, just try to pray from the time you leave until the time you arrive.

I remember one time where I was living in Dallas but was going to Wichita Falls, where my wife is from. I was by myself, and I was like, "You know what? I'm going to try to pray from Dallas all the way to Wichita Falls." That feels like a long time, because you have two hours and 15 minutes. Like, "What am I even going to talk about?" I was shocked at how fast the time passed and all of the different things God brought to mind to pray for.

So you might challenge yourself with that. You might even take off a morning from work to just see, "Hey, could I give an entire morning or an entire afternoon to prayer?" We, as a Watermark staff, did that just a couple of weeks ago. We said, "Hey, for an entire morning we want you to go and be with God. Pray to God." Just try it. You will be surprised at what happens.

I'd encourage you to go for a prayer walk. This is something that has brought me a lot of joy…to just go for a walk, to not put AirPods in but to just go and walk and talk with God, to start the walk off saying, "God, I want to be awake to your presence. You're with me. You're walking with me. I pray you would bring to mind the things you want me to pray about." As I walk, I'll just talk to God, and if there are things he wants to put on my heart… I just want to engage with him. So I would give it a whirl. Give it a try.

If you've never prayed on your knees, try praying on your knees. If you don't normally pray out loud, try praying out loud. The other day I was struggling to focus, so I started praying out loud, and it brought me right in and allowed me to focus. I don't know if you've ever thought of this, but you can pray for different things on different days. Sometimes we struggle with prayer because we feel like we need to pray for everything every day. It doesn't have to be that way. That's just your type A personality that's like, "I'm not a good Christian if I don't pray for it every single day."

You know what? You could pray for your immediate family on Monday, your extended family on Tuesday, and your community on Wednesday. You could pray for unbelievers on Thursday. You could pray for your workplace on Friday. You could pray for the nations on Saturday. And you know what? It still counts. You could be like, "You know what? I'm going to pray for this roommate on Monday, this roommate on Tuesday…"

You could be like, "I'm going to pray for my spouse on Monday. I'm going to pray for this kid on Tuesday. I'm going to pray for this…" That still counts. It still works. You know what? If you only pray for that person one time a week, you might pray for them more fervently, because you're only doing it once instead of half-heartedly every single day where you're just rushing through it. So, you can try praying for different things on different days.

I'd encourage you to try to set an alarm. I've had good success with this, where you set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes on your watch or phone, and when it goes off you just stop what you're doing. You can get on your knees and pray or if it's not going to work to get on your knees because you're surrounded by people, you can just stop and pray for one minute or for 10 minutes. You can use that reminder to stop and pray for what God wants you to pray for.

One thing we've done in the past is we had a prayer board for our family when we were in College Station. We haven't implemented it here in Dallas because we don't have the same setup, but when we were in College Station, everyone in our family liked to use the shower in the master bathroom. All three of our boys wanted to shower in the shower, and the shower had a clear glass wall.

So I got a dry erase board and hung it right outside of that glass wall so you could see right through it. We'd put prayer requests on there so every person in the family… You know what? The shower is a great time to connect with God. You have nothing else to do. You can talk to God right there in the shower. You can look at the prayer board and see, "Hey, I need to pray for that unbeliever right now." So you can do that. Maybe you put it in a different place that's visible for everyone in your family so they can pray.

A friend of mine, Greg Matte… I mention him here, honestly, often. He had this practice when he was in college. This feels like a college thing to do, but you can figure out what the adult version of it is for you. He had a sleeping bag that he put in front of his closet, and he made the rule that sleeping bag was there for him to kneel down and meet with God. Every morning, he was either going to have to step over God to get ready for the day or he was going to have to kneel down and meet with God to start his day.

So, maybe you figure out what it looks like for you to start your day with God instead of stepping over him. Then I would encourage you to try journaling your prayers to God. That's something that has brought me a lot of joy, especially over the last two and a half to three years. I have a stack of written journals I've filled up with prayers to God, and then at some point in 2023, Blake Holmes was telling me about this app he uses called Day One, so I switched to that.

I've begun to journal my prayers to God. I want to show you what it can look like, what it looks like for me. I'll go ahead and have them put it up on the screen. This is the Day One journaling app. For me, what I've done…this has been really helpful…is I've created different categories to guide my prayers.

I have Bible reading. That's where I'll read the Bible and journal through the passage I'm reading for the day. I have my kids. I have my wife. I have The Porch. I have prayer for Watermark, prayer for myself, prayer for unbelievers, listening prayer, and other prayer. There are some categories that have more prayers than another. This isn't the only way I pray or time I pray, but it has been helpful to help steer my prayers.

I'll just give you an example. When I'm doing my Bible reading… I did this as an example for today. The passage right now is Matthew 21:12-13. What I will write down is either the whole verse or a portion of the verse, and then I'll put the letter P so when I go back and look I'll know that's a prayer to God. I will take the text and turn it into a prayer.

Remember, prayer and the Word of God go hand in hand. They're hand in glove together. I wrote down, "My house will be called a house of prayer." So what are my prayers? "Lord, would you mold and shape me into a house of prayer? If I am your temple, then teach me how to pray. I pray that my life would be marked by prayer."

Another prayer was, "If Watermark is your temple collectively, then please mold and shape us collectively into a house of prayer." Another prayer was, "Lord Jesus, there were things in the temple that were not pleasing to you. The activity in the temple didn't match the identity of the temple. If there's anything in me that needs to be driven out, then please reveal it."

So, this is what I try to do. I don't journal every day, but I try to journal multiple times a week. What I will do, at least on this tab, is just take the Word I'm reading and turn it into prayers. Then I might go and pray for one of my kids, for my spouse, or for something going on at Watermark. This is a great app.

The thing that's great about it… I haven't gotten to experience it yet because I haven't been doing it long enough, but once I've been using this app for over a year, I will be able to see what I was praying for on that specific day the year before. It's a natural, built-in way of seeing God answering prayers. You're able to naturally go back and reflect on what God has done.

Another thing I love about it is if I pray for my kids from now until the time they're adults, there is a feature on this app where you can have all of the journal entries printed into a book. So a day could come where I could hand my kid a book of all of the prayers I've been praying for them. The app gives you different features. I'll give you an example of this.

For one of my kids, there are times where I'll sit in his room at night and pray for him while he goes to sleep. Someday he's going to see that…him asleep and me just like, "What's up, dude?" If that's not creepy, I don't know what is. You can do all sorts of things with the app. What it does is it gives you a way to remember what you're praying for. To go through the discipline of writing it down helps you engage with prayer in a new way.

A praying church requires praying people. Do you know what's interesting? If you listen to the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" We're not just the temple collectively; you are the temple individually. So there's nothing more important you can do individually than to pray.

I'll close by showing you where the gospel is in this passage. Do you know what the good news is? Jesus didn't just cleanse the temple; Jesus became the temple. Before the church became the temple of God, Jesus… The temple transitioned from a place to a person, Jesus Christ. That's why when Jesus cleansed the temple another time he had this exchange with the leaders. They said, "'What sign do you show us for doing these things?' Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'" He was speaking of his death, burial, and resurrection.

What's amazing is in the physical temple, people would offer sacrifice for sin, but in Jesus, the true temple, it wasn't an animal that was sacrificed; it was his body that was broken. It was his blood that was shed for you and me. In the physical temple, people would have to sacrifice animals every year for their sins to be atoned for, yet Jesus faithfully went to the cross. He endured our shame. He was punished for all of your sin and all of mine so that through faith in him his sacrifice was sufficient once and for all for all people.

Unlike any animal that was ever sacrificed in the temple, Jesus Christ, our sacrificial Lamb, took his life back from the grave through his resurrection. He has made a way for us through faith to be united with God so God could make his home in us, the presence of God could reside in us so we truly could become the temple of God individually and collectively. If we're the temple of God, then it just makes sense that our lives would be marked by communication with the living God, that it would truly be that we are houses of prayer. May we become a praying church. Let's pray together.

Lord Jesus, I pray that we would, in fact, become a praying church. Lord, any areas where there is drift, God, I pray you would convict us, that you would call us back, that you would center us, Lord, that we would be who you've called us to be. I pray it would be true that Watermark Community Church is a house of prayer, Lord God.

If there's anyone here today who doesn't know you but today is being awakened to the reality that you, Jesus, came from heaven to earth to make a way for each one of us to live in right relationship with God, I pray they'd put their trust in you today. We need you, we love you, and we respond to you now. In Jesus' name, amen.

About 'A Praying Church'

There is no greater joy than connecting with God through prayer.