TEXT: Luke 19:45-48
45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;
46 Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.
47 And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,
48 And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.
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 173 messages in this series.
This is message #174 titled, Standing in the Way of Prayer
If you follow Christian news outlets, no doubt you have heard the cries of those who say that prayer and faith in the public square are under attack. High school football teams have been told they can’t pray on the field. City councils that have opened sessions with prayer for decades have been forced to cease the practice under threat of legal action by atheists, secularists, and sometimes, satanists. Students have been told they can’t pray or talk about God during graduation speeches. All of this is indeed disappointing — and it is likely to continue at an even greater magnitude than it is now.
Today, in light of our passage, I want to challenge you with the question: What if we, the church — the ones who are supposed to be God’s people, are standing in the way of prayer? What if we are hindering people from getting to God? What if we have made the church something other than the house of prayer?
You might be shocked that this could be the case, but it is not an idea that is farfetched. Jesus had to deal with “God’s people” in His day who hindered others from getting to God. In Matthew 23:13 He said, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”
In the midst of all their religion, the Jewish leaders were not actually helping anyone — Jews or Gentiles — get closer to God. Jesus saw this clearly when He went to the Temple. He cleansed the Temple twice, once at the beginning and then again at the end of His ministry. (Apparently, they didn’t get the message the first time.) Luke writes, “he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.” In the words of Matthew Henry, the Jewish leaders acted like they were interested in the Temple, when in reality, they were only interested in the treasury of the Temple. We have covered Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple twice already in this message series, from Matthew’s and Mark’s perspectives, but its message bears repeating again.
Regarding this passage, Dr. John Walvoord and Dr. Roy Zuck state, “In both cases His teaching in the temple was disregarded by the religious leaders. Mark adds that the buyers and money changers were also driven out, as well as people who were apparently taking shortcuts through the temple compound in their business dealings. Money changing was done because only certain coinage was then accepted in the temple from those who bought animals for sacrifices. The religious leaders made money off the system of buying and selling animals for sacrifice. Also, they led the people into mere formalism. A pilgrim traveling to Jerusalem could go to the temple, buy an animal, and offer it as a sacrifice without ever having anything to do with the animal. This led to an impersonalization of the sacrificial system. The commercial system was apparently set up in the area of the temple which had been designated for devout Gentiles to pray and so was disrupting Israel’s witness to the surrounding world.”
Pay close attention to the last sentence — what was going on in the Temple was “disrupting Israel’s witness to the surrounding world.” When we consider what is going on in some of our churches today, I believe we would be hard-pressed to deny that some of what goes on hinders, rather than helps, people from coming to God.
Are we, like the Jewish temple leaders, more concerned with profits? Are we more concerned with keeping up outward appearances? Are we more concerned with preserving the status quo and allowing into our little religious clubs only people who are like us? Are we more concerned with using the church for our own ends?
This kind of perspective hinders evangelism, biblical preaching, prayer, and a host of other Godly things that align with Jesus’ mission to preach and establish the kingdom of God on earth. We end up standing in the way of people who are trying to get to God.
What do we do if we are standing in the way of prayer and in the way of people desperate for the life and light of the Gospel? We must take Jesus’ actions in the Temple to heart and we must carry them out in our own lives and in our local churches. We must clean house. We must allow God’s house to indeed be called a house of prayer.
Look at what happened after Jesus cleaned out the Temple. Verses 47-48 of our passage read, “And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.” Jesus showed the religious leaders what should be taking place in the house of God — the preaching and teaching of God’s word. Just as church leaders do today, the Jewish religious leaders often wondered why the common folk did not want to hear them, but they “gladly” heard Jesus. The people did not want to hear the Jewish religious leaders because they knew that they were hypocrites who did not practice what they preached, and on top of that, they were ripping people off when they went to the Temple to offer their sacrifices. The people found it hard to believe that the Jewish leaders and Jesus were talking about the same God.
When Jesus taught, he taught with authority; he had a very different style from the Jewish teachers who exuded false humility in their teachings. On top of that, Jesus showed that he actually cared for the common folk. He lived with them, ate with them, healed their sick, and comforted them in their sadness. He practiced what he preached. So no wonder the people were “very attentive” to His words.
If we, as the church, get back to living and preaching like Jesus did, we won’t have to worry about secularists and atheists trying to stop us from praying in public. Because, like the people who were attentive to Jesus, people today will be able to see the difference between us and the world. They will be able to see that we are the real deal. They will want us to pray for them, to pray with them, to serve their communities, and to preach the Gospel freely because they have found that it changes lives. Just as the Jews of Jesus’ day were unable to stop Jesus from preaching and teaching, no one will be able to stop us from helping people get closer to God through 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.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.