Less than a week before his crucifixion Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt while crowds shouted “Hosanna!” and lined his path with their cloaks and branches. Mark tells us in chapter 11 of his gospel that, once in Jerusalem, Jesus went straight to the temple and noticed all that was taking place. It was late in the day by this time so Jesus and the twelve went back to Bethany where they were staying. The next day, Jesus and his disciples returned to the temple.
Mark tells us that as soon as Jesus entered the temple he “began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Mark 11:15-17) We can learn a great deal from this passage, but I want to focus on Jesus’ main point that God’s temple is a “house of prayer.”
The Temple’s Activity
Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah in his comments. In doing so, he reminded everyone that prayer is the primary focus and activity of the temple. This was in stark contrast to how they viewed and used the temple, which is why Jesus cleansed it. Their view of the temple was so twisted that they thought it was acceptable to turn it into another one of the world’s market places.
What does it mean for us as Jesus’ disciples today?
The Temple’s Activity Redefined
We learn from scripture that each Christian has a new identity as God’s temple. Read the following passages:
John 14:23 “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
Therefore, every one of us is a house of prayer. In his comments, Jesus ties prayer with our new identity. Anywhere we are a house of prayer is present there. This is another way of stating what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 that we are to pray continually, and that this is God’s will for us. This means the focus and activity of our lives is prayer, and so we pray in every moment of life.
The Temple’s Activity Expanded
We learn from scripture that the identity of each church is as God’s temple. Read the following passages:
Ephesians 2:21-22 “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
1 Peter 2:5 “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Therefore, every church is a house of prayer. The comments for the church are the same as those for individual Christians. Jesus’ comments in Mark11 tie prayer with the church’s identity. Wherever the church gathers, again a house of prayer is present there. This means the focus and activity of the church is prayer, and so everything the church does is bathed in prayer.
We examine our lives to insure we live as a house of prayer. The challenge is for every Christian and church to learn to bathe each and every situation of life in prayer. We need to understand the converse that anything we attempt without bathing in prayer is empty. We connect with God and seek him to work in and through us according to his will. As we live this way we find God responds to our prayer and protects us from aimless roaming.
If we want to experience the Lord’s will and transforming work in our lives we must learn prayer. The glory and the purposes of God will not be realized in and through us as individuals and churches until we accept our identity as a house of prayer.