Beyond programs and prayer meetings, the church today must embrace its role as an eternal house of intercession
The house of prayer in a city is not a church, not a prayer ministry and not the building in which they meet. The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., is only a “gas station”—we take a cup of gasoline and throw it on the prayer fires that burn in the real “house of prayer in Kansas City,” which is the entire body of Christ, made up of more than 1,000 congregations in our area.
The eternal destiny of all God’s people is to function as a house of prayer now and in the age to come. In one short statement, Jesus revealed this to us when He prophetically declared, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13).
Isaiah also spoke this decree when he prophesied to Israel: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (see Is. 56:7). When God calls us by a specific name, it indicates our character and how we are to function in the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be a house of prayer? It means that God speaks to us and moves our heart; then we speak those very words back to Him, moving His heart. This results in God’s resources—His power, money, wisdom, creative ideas, unity and favor in ministry—being released into the earthly realm. The foundational principle of prayer is that God speaks and moves our heart, and then we speak and move His heart. This is how God’s family will operate forever.
The Mystery and Majesty of Intercession
As we consider our identity as God’s house of prayer, I am struck by the mystery and the majesty of intercession. The mystery of intercession is in its simplicity: We just tell God what He tells us to tell Him. It is so easy that everyone can do it. The majesty of intercession is that Jesus Himself intercedes. Jesus lives forever to make intercession for His people (see Heb. 7:25); He rules the nations through intercession now and will do the same in the age to come (see Ps. 2:8). Jesus is fully God, yet He intercedes. What humility!
In Genesis 1 the Father’s plan was to bring order to earth. The Spirit hovered over the earth, yet the chaos and darkness remained: “The earth was without form, and void ... and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God [Jesus] said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (vv. 2-3).
When Jesus declared the word, “Let there be light,” the Spirit released light. The Spirit would not release the light until Jesus declared it. The darkness remained until Jesus “interceded” and spoke God’s word over the darkness to release the Spirit’s creative power.
All three members of the Godhead work together in creation. The Father’s plan was to create the heavens and earth. Jesus spoke those plans into being. Jesus operated in the foundational principle of intercession by speaking God’s word back to Him. Then the Holy Spirit released the power (see Gen. 1:3, 9,11,14-15,24,30).
Jesus expressed Himself as an “intercessory oracle,” as Creator, by speaking God’s word back to God: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (see Ps. 33:6).
Just as Jesus created all that is by speaking the word to the Father, He now upholds—holds together—the created order by the word of His power (see Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3). This is one form of intercession that Jesus will engage in forever.
Prayer Is Agreement
Agreement with God’s heart is foundational to prayer and spiritual warfare and is expressed in worship. For example, we may say to God, “You are worthy,” “You are good” or “Holy is the Lord.” In worship, we declare the truth of who God is and this leads to intimacy with Him. Intercession is agreement with what God promises to do. For example, we may say, “Lord, release Your power.” When we declare the truth of who God is in worship, our faith expands to agree with what He has promised to do—this is intercession. The Father has ordained that His “house” rule with Jesus through “intimacy-based intercession.” Intimacy speaks of how our heart connects with God. Intercession relates to releasing His resources.
So we see that God governs the universe in partnership with His people through intercession. He opens doors of blessing and closes doors of oppression in response to our prayers. The Lord gives His people a dynamic role in determining a measure of the quality of life that we experience as we respond to Him in prayer, obedience, faith and meekness. There are blessings that God chose to give, but only as His people rise up in the partnership of prayer. He requires that we ask because it causes us to interact with His heart (see James 4:2). This is an expression of His desire for intimate partnership with us.
God jealously protects His relationship with us by not releasing His resources until we speak to Him in prayer. He requires us to pray, for the very reason that He is jealous for relationship with us and is zealous to establish His goodness in our lives. God longs to release His grace and power, but actually waits until He hears the cry of His people in intercession (see Is. 30:18-19). God will not do our part, and we cannot do His part. If we don’t do our part, then God withholds some of the help and blessing He would have given us.
Jesus is the ultimate social reformer. He establishes justice to reform society. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus said, “Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?” (Luke 18:7, NASB). Jesus is the only social reformer in history who linked cultural transformation to night-and-day prayer.
Justice is exemplified by soul-winning, healing, revival, unity and the transformation of society. More than preventing wicked people from oppressing others, it includes empowering God’s people. Jesus knew that prayer would deal with the spiritual issues related to injustice and that prayer could change the spiritual atmosphere of a city or region.
Jesus continues in verse eight (ESV): “He will give justice to them speedily.” The only way justice can be fully manifested is if we deal with the demonic powers in the supernatural realm, moving angels and demons by our words (see Dan. 10:12-13). That is what Jesus’ question means in verse seven. The missions movement will not progress without night-and-day prayer.
Intercession and God’s Plan
Prayer has always been at the center of God’s purpose. Chapters four and five of the book of Revelation describe the worship order around God’s throne, where the four living creatures agree with Him in 24/7 worship and intercession (see Rev. 4:8).
Consider these examples:
- Human history began in a prayer meeting in the Garden of Eden, as Adam walked with God each day in the cool of the morning (see Gen. 3:8).
- Israel as a nation began at a prayer meeting at Mount Sinai right after they crossed the Red Sea, when God called them to be a kingdom of priests (see Ex. 19:6–20).
- The first mandate God gave Israel was to build a worship sanctuary, a house of prayer, in the wilderness (see Ex. 25).
- God’s purpose for His people to be a house of prayer is evident during the reigns of David and his son Solomon—Israel’s greatest hour in history. King David established night-and-day worship (see 1 Chr. 15-16), and financed more than 4,000 full-time paid musicians and singers (see 1 Chr. 23:5; 25:7). David commanded the kings and leaders in the generations after him to establish and maintain worship in the way that God had revealed to him (see 2 Chr. 29:25; 35:4,15; Ezra 3:10; Neh. 12:45).
- Zerubbabel established full-time singers and musicians as commanded by David (see Ezra 3:10-11; Neh. 12:47).
- Ezra and Nehemiah did the same (see Neh. 12:24, 45). Each time this order of worship was reintroduced in Israel, spiritual breakthrough, deliverance and military victory followed.
- Jesus Himself began His public ministry in a prayer meeting in the wilderness (see Matt. 4) and ended it in a prayer meeting in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26).
- The church began in a prayer meeting (Acts 1-2).
- Natural history as we know it will end in the context of a global prayer movement. The conflict at the end of the age will be between two houses of prayer, two global worship movements. The Holy Spirit is raising up the most powerful worship movement in history (see Rev. 22:17; 5:8; 8:4; Luke 18:7-8; Is. 62:6-7; 24:14-16; 25:9; 26:8-9; 30:18-19; 42:10-13). It will totally defeat the Antichrist’s end-time, worldwide, false worship movement (see Rev. 13:8).
- Before Jesus returns, the Spirit-anointed church across the nations, established in her bridal identity and functioning in intercession and worship, will cry out with the Spirit, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:17).
Jesus, Our Bridegroom God
Likewise, Jesus is longing for His bride. God’s ultimate purpose for His creation is to provide a family for Himself and a bride for His Son, a bride who will reign forever with Him as His eternal companion.
John heard the glorious announcement in heaven to rejoice because the marriage of the Lamb had come and because Jesus’ wife had made herself ready (see Rev. 19:7-9). Yes, natural history will end with a great wedding celebration. One of the guiding principles of the Father’s activity throughout all of history has been to prepare a bride for His worthy Son, to train a bride to rule the earth as Jesus’ eternal companion (see Rev. 3:21; 5:10).
As women are called to be sons of God, so men are called to be the bride of Christ. Both describe a position of great privilege before God for the redeemed. These privileges do not point to something that is intrinsically male or female; they transcend gender (see Gal. 3:28). As sons of God, we are in a position to experience God’s throne as heirs of His power. As the bride of Christ, we are in a position to experience God’s heart, His deep desire for us.
Men often struggle with the idea of being the bride of Christ because they wrongly conclude that it is a call to become less masculine. Experiencing the truth of the bride of Christ does not undermine a man’s masculinity, but rather strengthens it. God created us to be wholehearted lovers of God forever.
Some of the greatest men of God functioned in the spiritual reality that comes to fullness in being the bride of Christ. King David was Israel’s greatest warrior king, yet he was a worshipper, ravished by God’s desire for him and fascinated by His beauty (see Ps. 27:4).
John prophesied of a time when the Spirit and the bride would say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (see Rev. 22:17,20). His prophecy describes the church, in unity with the Spirit, saying and doing what the Spirit is saying and doing. For the first time in history, the Spirit will emphasize the church’s spiritual identity as Jesus’ bride in every nation.
Notice that John does not say that the Spirit and the family will say, “Come!” nor the Spirit and the army, nor the kingdom, nor the body, nor the priesthood. It is the Spirit and the bride, in full unity, crying out for Jesus to return. We will rejoice forever in our spiritual identity as the body of Christ and the family of God.
Jesus is not coming back to a prayerless church but to a people enjoying mature bridal partnership with Him in intercession for the harvest. The church will not fail in the task of preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth; God’s people will complete the Great Commission, reaching all nations in the power of the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 24:14). When Jesus returns, He is coming to take His bride to Himself, a bride who will be on fire with passion for Him (see Rev. 22:17).
The church will see Jesus as her Bridegroom God. He is our Savior, but He is more than a savior. He is our Healer, but more than a healer. He is the Captain of the armies of heaven, but He is more than that. He is a bridegroom filled with desire for His people and He is longing for partnership with them.
Simply put, the revelation of Jesus as the Bridegroom is the revelation of Jesus’ burning desire for His people. As the bride of Christ, we are to walk in revelation of Jesus’ emotions for us, to understand and rejoice in His commitment to share His heart with us, and to respond with wholehearted love and obedience to His will as we enter into partnership with Him. (We refuse all sensual overtones to the bride of Christ message).
God reveals Himself in intimate relationship with His people throughout the Bible.
- Hosea prophesied that God’s people would one day call the Messiah their “Husband,” no longer their “Taskmaster” (see Hos. 2:16).
- Isaiah described God rejoicing over His people as a bridegroom rejoices over a bride (see Is. 62:4–5).
- Jesus introduced Himself at the beginning of His ministry as a bridegroom (see Matt. 9:15). As a King, He reveals His great power; but as a bridegroom, He shows us His burning desire for His people.
- John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as the bridegroom (see John 3:29).
- Jesus ended His public ministry, declaring that the kingdom of God is like the Father arranging a wedding for His Son (see Matt. 22:2).
- Even the New Jerusalem itself is called “the bride” (see Rev. 21:9-10), named for the very people for whom it is prepared and who will rule the earth from that great city (see Rev. 19:7; 21:2; 22:17). It is where the redeemed will experience a face-to-face, intimate relationship with Jesus as their Bridegroom God (see Rev. 22:4).
On that great day when we shall see Him face to face, the Lamb will take His bride to His Father’s home to be with Him forever. In this time of betrothal preceding the wedding of bride and Bridegroom, God intends that we should experience intimacy with His heart through prayer. As we grow in our knowledge and experience of the Father’s tender mercy and Jesus’ fiery desire for us, our prayer life is energized and transformed.
Burnout is a great problem today. Many fiery intercessors from the 1980s and 90s have lost the freshness of the oil of intercession. God wants to restore the “oil of intimacy” and yearns for us to know and experience Jesus as God the Bridegroom.
This is foundational for the church in her quest to fully function in her spiritual identity as a house of prayer (see Is. 56:7). And so, the Lord is restoring those who are burned out—He is energizing His beloved church with intimacy with Jesus, the Bridegroom God. Let us all hear what the Spirit is saying to the church, as we learn to cry, with a bride’s heart, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Mike Bickle is the director of the International House of Prayer Missions Base of Kansas City (IHOP-KC), an evangelical missions organization based on 24/7 prayer with worship and committed to evangelism, outreach to the poor and training missionaries. Mike is also the founder of International House of Prayer University and has authored 10 books.
Now in its 12th year, IHOP-KC has expanded its vision to include 24/7 works of justice with the 24/7 prayers for justice already in place. Here are a few of the ministries and initiatives that now make up this growing missions hub:
Exodus Cry (prayer and fasting against human trafficking)
Luke18 Project (equips college students to establish “prayer furnaces” on all 2,600 college campuses in America)
Hannah’s Dream/Zoe Foundation (promotes and provides adoption services)
Hope City (inner-city prayer meetings, outreaches, community kitchen, etc.)
Forerunner Evangelism (reaches the lost through daily outreaches and larger annual outreaches)
Crisis Response International (mobilizes volunteer response to disasters)
Orphan Justice Center (cares for orphans and refugee minors)
Children’s Equipping Center (trains children, parents and leaders through camps, clinics and family prayer meetings)
African-American Forerunner Alliance (prayer and networking for leaders within the black community)
Women’s Life Center (provides homes and restoration programs for abuse victims, prostitutes, young unwed mothers, etc.)
onething (equips young adults through conferences)
Joseph Company (trains marketplace leaders)
Israel Mandate (teaches and mobilizes intercessors worldwide for Israel)
Bound4Life KC (mobilizes prayer concerning the end of abortion)