Mar.11:15 NLT When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and He stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
What was so wrong in vss.15,16 that triggered the anger of vs.17? Why was commerce so distasteful to Jesus, especially if some directly related to temple rite? Technically, it provided a needed service (sacrificial lambs without blemish were specially raised & not plentiful) — people were actually benefiting. Shouldn’t this be a good thing? I know there was some price gouging going on but this discussion goes much deeper than a concern for exploitive trade practices.
Interestingly, Jesus immediately contrasts this as directly conflicting with the fundamental purpose of God’s house which He identifies as prayer!
Was Jesus denouncing any connection between business and the church? Was He saying don’t depend on the marketplace for your everyday needs — just pray? Or …if you need groceries, bring your list to the Lord? Actually, a list most closely reflects many opinions of the role of prayer in the life of the church and the believer (which is where this gets interesting).
The Mk.11 (Mt.21, Lk.19) references are all quoting Isaiah 56. Yet, while most “prayer” discussions highlight petitions and lists, the Isa. 56 passage has an entirely different perspective. 56:7 has nothing to do with a list of petitions & requests. It’s a discussion of worship – that even outcasts and outsiders are welcomed to have audience with God when their heart is toward worship.
Isa 56:6 NLT “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve Him and love His name, who worship Him… 7 … and will fill them with joy in My house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The essence of prayer (and the “House of Prayer”) is not soliciting … lobbying for our list of appeals. It is an offering to God! Jesus’ statement was not to define the church as our “court of appeals” but as a joy-filled house of worship!
…What if you discovered a “No Soliciting” sign on your prayer room door?
What if…? Many would be utterly confused. Am I somehow disqualifying making our petitions known or coming boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy…? NO. Indeed, petition and appeal is an authorized part of our prayer lives but not the core, the heart. It is not the defining feature of prayer or the house of prayer.
The word Prayer (House of Prayer) Proseuche, which Jesus uses, does not mean a petition but the original Greek actually means an earnest face-to-face encounter, worship. Related terms are used in James 5 (…any afflicted, let him pray), Acts 16 (At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises) and Ph.4:6 distinguishes (…in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving…).
Thankfully, there is not a petition-ban on our prayer closets! Remember though, that’s not why they’re there! Remember also, God did not call it His house of spiritual guidance or trainging or preaching… it is His house of worship. Selah.\o/