TEXT: Matthew 21:10-14
10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
We are in a series of messages titled “Praying Through the Bible: A Series on Every Passage and Verse Regarding Prayer in the Bible.” The purpose of this series is to encourage and motivate you to pray to the God of the Bible. We highlighted each of these over 500 verses and passages in the Prayer Motivator Devotional Bible. So far, we have completed 140 messages in this series.
This is message #141 titled, The Purpose of the House of Prayer (Part 1)
We are all familiar with the story of Jesus Christ going into the Temple and finding that the religious leaders have turned it into a marketplace. There is all manner of buying and selling going on. Jesus makes a whip and begins driving the merchants out of the temple — overturning the tables where they are carrying out their business. He famously says, “It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The Gospel of John 2:17 says, ‘And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.’ And, in the passage we just read, Jesus Christ is quoting God’s message to Isaiah, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.’
It is a tragedy today that many Christians — just like the Jewish religious leaders — have abandoned one of the main purposes of the church, and that is to be a ‘house of prayer.’ According to the book, Evangelism: Christ’s Imperative Commission, by Roland Leavell, statistics show that while 30% of people who claim to be Christians never attend a Sunday church service, 80% of people who claim to be Christians never attend a prayer meeting. What is perhaps even sadder is that 20% never even pray. In fact, many church buildings are used for everything but the serious work of prayer.
This passage reveals some of the purposes for which the House of Prayer should be used, and today, we see that the House of Prayer is a place for those who are separated from God.
Historians tell us that the part of the Temple where Jesus cleaned house was the outer court known as the Court of the Gentiles. During the Exile, the Jews had been scattered all across the Middle East and the Mediterranean region — from ancient Persia to Rome, and from Egypt to what is today modern Turkey. Many of the heathen people whom the Jews came in contact with began to adopt Jewish practices and customs. They began to believe in and worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As part of their religious practice, they would make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, especially around the time of Passover.
Because Old Testament laws prohibited Gentiles from entering the inner court of the Temple complex, an outer structure, the Court of the Gentiles, had been built to make those who were not Jews feel welcome. It was in this outer court that we find ‘all them that sold and bought in the temple, including the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.’ The Bible Exposition Commentary tells us that the religious leaders “had turned the court of the Gentiles into a place where foreign Jews could exchange money and purchase sacrifices. What had begun as a service and convenience for visitors from other lands soon turned into a lucrative business. The dealers charged exorbitant prices and no one could compete with them or oppose them. Historians tell us that Annas, the former high priest, was the manager of this enterprise, assisted by his sons.” In this court, ‘shops were everywhere, selling oxen and sheep as well as oil, salt, and wine, and other requisites to sacrifices.’
Basically, the religious leaders of that day had taken something that was supposed to be sacred — a holy meeting place for those who sought after the one, true God — and turned it into something profane — a place where merchandise and money was put over ministry. The presence of this religious mall in the middle of a place meant to be for the worship of God was undoubtedly a turn-off to many spiritually sensitive foreigners. How many came to that place ready to demonstrate their heart’s desire to follow and serve the one, true God, but were turned away because they didn’t have the money to pay for animals or other materials? Perhaps there were even some who turned away because they knew that what was going on at the Temple was not right.
What about the churches of today? Unfortunately, many are in the unenviable position of being like the Temple of Jesus’ day — a den of thieves rather than a house of prayer; a place to make money rather than minister to those who are coming to the faith. We have allowed other, often frivolous and vain pursuits to get in the way of the true mission of the church, and that is to get people in touch with God through prayer and evangelism.
Unfortunately, many churches do not see prayer as a central part of the church’s work. Instead, it is seen as a part of a long list of other non-essentials. Luke tells us in Acts that the early believers “all joined together continually [or constantly] in prayer.” Today, unfortunately, it would be hard to find a church that accurately meets that description — a place where people constantly come together to meet God in prayer. Adam Stadtmiller said, “Today we can find churches known for strong teaching or dynamic worship or social justice or evangelism. With a few exceptions, church leaders do not define themselves by the apostolic standard of the primacy of prayer and the Word.”
We must examine ourselves and see if we are guilty of letting other things get in the way of one of the major components of the Christian life. Many churches today must face the fact that they have allowed money, materialism, prestige, and power get in the way of prayer and evangelism. Perhaps that is why our churches are suffering, why fewer people are being saved, and why membership is declining.
Let us no longer shut out those who are seeking to come to God by making His house a house of merchandise rather than a house of prayer. Jonathan Edwards said it well, “There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God and advance the kingdom of Christ as by prayer.”
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Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”