My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.

Those were the words of Jesus, quoting Isaiah 56:7 after he had entered the temple and drove out all who were buying and selling, or profiting off of God’s house. The Jews had turned the house of God into something it was never intended to be, and Jesus had literally had enough and decided to do something about it.

Many of us have a problem envisioning the gentle Savior becoming angry, don’t we?Harder still is imagining the scene where Jesus overturns the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. Images of tables overturned, coins tossed all about, and men scrambling to get out of his way are not the images we associate with Jesus. [1]

Yet this was Jesus in action, whip in hand, taking authority over what had become the desecration of the temple. The temple was the place where men assembled for one purpose: to worship God. This was a sacred and a holy place, for it was here that men went to call upon the Lord.

Because their hearts were so far from the one true God, the Jews had long ago stopped worshiping Him and instead had resorted to using the temple as a means of profiteering. They knew that since the people came from many different areas to worship, that they would need to purchase animals to sacrifice.

Money changers would be needed to exchange the various types of money for shekels so the people could purchase these animals, and these money changers were all too happy to tack on a little extra charge for the privilege. In other words, they found a way to profit off of God.

A religious racket if you will.

This is what had infuriated Jesus that day. Worship now came at a monetary cost. If you wanted to worship in the temple, you now had to pony up and pay the going rate, otherwise you were left on the outside looking in.

The Jews had distorted the true meaning of worship. They had prostituted the worship of God in exchange for money. The new order of the day was ‘you wanna play, you gotta pay’.

All of this in a place designed as a house of prayer. A place where devout worshipers went to meet with God had been turned into a cold, dead, lifeless building operating under the marketplace mentality of those who knew not God.

How sobering is that?

I submit to you that it is no more sobering than seeing what we Christians have done to God’s house in our day. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the church has taken this to levels the temple Jews never dreamed of.

It didn’t start out this way, of this much we know for certain. The early New Testament church faced an unrelenting persecution levied against it by king Herod. It was this Herod who made James(the brother of John) the 1st of the Disciples to be martyred for Christ. [2]

Seeing that this pleased the Jews so much, Herod then took Peter and threw him in jail, intending to kill him as well. Knowing full well what had happened to James, the church then began an earnest prayer meeting on behalf of Peter. [3]

So intense was this prayer meeting that the Bible tells us that “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him(Peter). No two minute prayer read from a prayer book meets the definition of ‘prayer without ceasing’. No, this was praying on a whole different level. [3]

These men and women were praying around the clock for Peter because they knew that his very life depended upon them interceding with God for him. I liken this type of prayer to a woman in labor. Intense prayer, prayer wrought with tears of desperation and anguish.

If you know this story at all, then you know that God did indeed intervene. He sent an angel to deliver Peter from the prison, a pattern of deliverance that was repeated time and again in the early church. Their formula was simple: whenever a great need arose, the church banded together in one mind and one accord and prayed until they saw the victory.

These early believers knew something we don’t know today. They understood that God intended for his church to come together in meaningful and enduring prayer, hence the prophet Isaiah’s words that “my house shall be called a house of prayer”.

Is that how we would best describe your church or mine today? Are we gathering together in seasons of meaningful, enduring prayer as the early church did?

Unlike so many of us, they understood that the connection between God’s power and presence was solidified through prayer. Not preaching or teaching, not singing or music, not programs or activities.

God showed up when people prayed.

None of those other things are capable of bringing the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit unless they are first bathed in meaningful and enduring prayer. There is an anointing, or spiritual power that exists in our efforts when those same efforts are saturated in prayer.

There is no anointing my friends on the flesh-centered mindset that permeates so many of our churches today. Services that have been carefully designed to make you feel as though you are the most important thing in the building are devoid of any Spirit that “breaks the yoke” of sin. [4]

Do you see the difference? I have commented on this before, this absurdity of believing that someone can “lead us into the presence of God” or somehow ‘bring a word’ when they themselves never approach Him in prayer. Yet for some odd reason, God’s people seem to be content to have it this way. [5]

Could it be we don’t even know what we’re missing?

Prayer is the key whether we are talking about an individual or an entire church. Without it we are left to stumble along, guided by our own ideas and methods that can never have the impact they could have were they birthed in prayer.

I think it’s time that Christians everywhere were reminded of the fact that the church was birthed in a prayer meeting. This thing we call ‘Church’ began in an upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, when the Disciples of Jesus along with several others were filled with the Holy Ghost. [6]

My hope is that all of us would stop to consider that if the Church was birthed in a prayer meeting, wouldn’t it make sense that the Church should continue in the same manner?

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] John 2:15

[2] Acts 12:2

[3] Acts 12:5

[4] Zechariah 4:6

[5] Jeremiah 5:31

[6] Acts 2:4