Jesus expressed his dissatisfaction with the goings-on in the Temple in a dramatic and eye-catching way. He fashioned a whip out of some cords and started driving out those who were buying and selling in the Temple courts. He also overturned the tables of the moneychangers – very aggressive!
Once Jesus had everyone’s attention, he made an announcement about God’s house. He accused the people in the courtyard of turning God’s house into a den of thieves. Of all the sin and disobedience that Jesus observed, why did buying and selling in the Temple courts inspire so much fury from him? Because, he declared, God’s house is meant to be a house of prayer, not a marketplace.
Consider all the things that Jesus could have said about the house of the Lord. He could have said that it was intended to be a place of sacrificing to God, of singing God’s praises, of learning God’s word, of giving offerings to God, of giving alms to the poor, or of encouraging God’s people. Why did he single out prayer and mention it alone?
Prayer is at the heart of our relationship with God in this age. In the Book of Revelation we are promised that someday God’s people will see his face (22:4). For now, we enjoy God through his Holy Spirit, his invisible, powerful, personal presence dwelling among us and living in the hearts of all his people.
How do we commune with someone who is invisible? We pray. We speak to God as if he were sitting right in front of us. We speak confidently because God is in fact right in front of us. More than that, he is all around us. And he has poured out his Spirit into the hearts of all who belong to him. In fact, God’s Spirit is available to anyone who calls on him as Lord.
Prayer is not just a therapeutic exercise or an emotional experience intended only to make us feel better. We do not pray simply to relieve ourselves of the distress brought on by heavy burdens. Prayer is communing with God. We pray so that our words will rise up before the very throne of God as a pleasing aroma. Prayer is at the core and essence of all that we do in church. Church without prayer is an oxymoron, and an irritant to our Lord.
Jesus was angry because he knew the extent to which God was willing to go in order to open up an avenue for loving communication between himself and his people. Jesus was outraged because he would soon willingly sacrifice his own precious life so that God’s people could enjoy unhindered access to the Maker of heaven and earth.
When we gather in church in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ let’s sing his praises, teach his word, preach his gospel, encourage his people, and remember his sacrifice. Let’s also remember, however, that in God’s eyes prayer is not an afterthought or an add-on; prayer is the foundation for worship. Let’s pray more.
May Jesus Christ always be our ready access to the exalted throne of God’s unmatched grace,