When Jesus referred to a house of prayer in Matthew 21:13, He meant the Jewish temple, a literal, physical place. Today, as the Church, all who put their trust in Jesus, “are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). God, through His Spirit, dwells within us. Can wherever the Church meets together, by inference, be considered truly a house of prayer? If so, what does that mean? What does it look like?
What Should Not Happen in a House of Prayer
When Jesus entered the temple courts, overturning tables and chasing out buyers and sellers, He made clear what should not be happening in a house of prayer. To more fully appreciate Jesus’ indignation toward this kind of activity, we need to think about what buying and selling represented:
self-center, self-benefiting activity
God-centered, God honoring activity
Jesus said they were making it “a den of robbers” far from a place God’s glory would reside. While they may have been defrauding fellow citizens, they most certainly stole God’s intent for His house.
- Buying and selling distracted people from what should have been their primary focus.
What Should Happen in a House of Prayer
Obviously praying should be happening in a house of prayer. But, think about what happens when we pray. We find “mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
When we pray, we come before God’s throne. We stand in His presence. In His presence we find power, peace, protection, and fullness of joy. Therein we are made whole.
Look at what Jesus did immediately after clearing the temple of buyers and sellers (Matt. 21:12-13). — “The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” (Matt. 21:14) From this we can conclude that a house of prayer is a place of ministry and healing. Prayer taps into the goodness and power of our Almighty God. Think of what Jesus’ activity in the temple represented in contrast to that of the buyers and sellers:
goodness and giving
greed and getting
- Selling and buying minimized and replaced ministry. A true house of prayer leads to enhanced ministry.
Is the Place in which the Church Meets Truly a House of Prayer?
Technically, since we are now the temple of God, what we do within the place we meet matters most. Yet, the place in which we meet, as well as our activity within in, should keep our focus on God, on being in His presence.
Based on the above thoughts, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the place we meet, and what we do within it, truly point people to the Lord?
We can let our building become a distraction in these two ways:
- We can be so consumed with appearances that our buildings become the focal point.
- We can be so lax about our buildings that their clutter and disrepair poorly reflect on the God we worship and serve.
- Does the place we meet, and what we do within in it, truly demonstrate the goodness and power of God’s presence?
Our buildings can be instrumental in minimizing ministry in these two ways:
- We can spend so much time on enhancing the building that we have little time and energy left for true ministry.
- We can deplete our financial resources on the building itself that we have little left to invest in people and their needs.
Identify a house of prayer by the results, not the building’s size or style. People change by God’s power and grace and He is glorified.