I moved to Sydney nearly 7 years ago to help build a House of Prayer, a 24/7 prayer and worship sanctuary, a place of encounter for the people of God, a community captivated by the beauty and worth of Jesus. The team I came to work with (and who came to work with me later) are precious, incredible people. I’ve been thinking about this all a lot over the last few months. See, there’s not much left of what we set out to do.
The House of Prayer grew to over 100 people and then, after 3 and a half years, fell apart in a heap of division and distress causing pain to many.
We all gave up a lot to start and build the Sydney House of Prayer. Jobs, money, time. I personally gave up job offers in the field I studied in, I left family in other states etc etc. Others gave up similar. It was an extravagant offering by many and by most human standards our grade for the objective of building a House of Prayer would probably be this: Failure. Wasted. There’s very little in the natural to show for it at this point in time.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve been complaining to the Lord about this. “Lord I feel like I’ve wasted the last 7 years.” The sting of the cost is still evident most days. For example, the 5 years behind in job progression I find myself, etc, etc. For those people who sowed into the House of Prayer, the cost was not only in the years they gave to it. The cost continues to this day and will ripple down the years.
Yet here’s what the Lord has been saying to me:
One of the most impacting stories for those in the House of Prayer movement at large and for the team of us at Sydney House of Prayer was the Bible story about Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus. As the Bible describes (see John 12 and Matthew 26), a young woman named Mary, from the town of Bethany, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, took a jar of extremely valuable perfume and broke it over His feet as an act of extravagant worship. The perfume, it’s said, was worth a year’s wages and Mary poured it all over the lowliest part of Jesus’ body. The disciples cried out, “WASTED” but Jesus declared that Mary had done a beautiful, profound thing for Him.
The number of times, in the House of Prayer, that we prayed and sang and asked to be like Mary is beyond number. It’s a story that captivated us. “God we want to give you this kind of extravagant devotion and worship. We want to waste our lives at your feet.” So as I’ve complained to the Lord this year this is what He keeps saying to me. “You wanted to waste your life on me didn’t you? Well, you did.”
When we heard the Mary of Bethany story in a sermon it was a romantic story but when our prayers were answered and we had the opportunity to live it out it was very difficult. I believe it was the same for Mary. It seems likely from the biblical narrative that her parents died and that bottle of perfume was her part of the family inheritance – all she owned in the world, her most valuable possession. I have no doubt she felt the cost of the offering for years after she offered it. I have no doubt at some point through the years she wondered whether it had been a good decision. Yet in the Matthew 26 version of the story Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mary’s name is remembered in heaven because of what she did. It was hard for us and the cost may still sting today yet, the truth remains, we broke our jar of perfume at Jesus’ feet (this is also true for all the missionaries and ministers out there who have labored for years and given so much for the gospel without necessarily seeing any fruit).
So I’m writing this post for all those former Sydney House of Prayer members (and adding all the missionaries and ministers too). Sydney House of Prayer may have come to little in the natural to this point. People may look at those years we spent and label them “wasted” but we actually lived out the heart of the message we desired to carry: to waste our lives on Jesus because of His beauty and worth.
I went through some inner healing and forgiveness in May this year and the pain of the last 7 years was something that surfaced again. As I was asking the Lord about this He gave me a picture. In the picture I was standing at the front of the Sydney House of Prayer congregation speaking during the time of dissolution and wondering with dismay and pain where God was. Jesus came and stepped in front of me. He had fire in His eyes and He was fierce with anger towards the enemy for all he stole from our fellowship. Jesus kept saying with great zeal, “My House shall be a House of Prayer! My House shall be a House of Prayer! It’s My House! It’s My House!” In that moment I knew that it was never our House. It was always His House. What humans see as death God sees as a seed planted in the ground that will bring forth a harvest in due season. It’s His House, it’s His seed and it’s His harvest – in His time and His way. We had the privilege to sow our lives into something that is remembered in heaven. We took the ashes of these temporary lives we have and made an investment with them into eternal treasure. Though what we did then was weak and filled with mistakes and failures God gave us the opportunity to give an extravagent gift to His son and find an irreplacable place in His perfect plan. That’s our inheritance in Sydney House of Prayer and it can never be taken away. What humans call wasted God calls perfume.
He is worthy and it was worth it.