The House of Prayer
When we pray believing and pray forgiving, we give our hearts to God and his kingdom.
"My temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." That stands as one of the harshest indictments ever uttered against religious busyness and spiritual commercialism. Those words are all the sharper for coming from the mouth of Jesus. The context, you might well remember, was the day he braided his own whip and cleared the moneychangers and sellers of religious wares from the temple courts.
God desires prayer.
What was so offensive to Jesus about the moneychangers and sellers? They were, after all, making church relevant. People traveled to the temple, many of them, from long, dry, hot distances. They came on donkeys if they were wealthy, while the rest came on foot. It was impractical to bring with them a goat or even a pigeon to offer as a sacrifice at the temple. Often they carried only foreign currency, the coin of whatever region they lived in. It was a matter of convenience to provide, right on the temple grounds, a currency exchange, as well as a stall to buy an animal or goat or sheep or—for the especially well-heeled, a bull—to offer as a sacrifice. It served the needs of the people. But Jesus would have none of it.
Often this passage is taken as a broad attack on any form of buying and selling within the walls of the church. It might be that. But more and more, I don't think that was Jesus' main objection. I think his objection was the way we're tempted to reduce religion to a commercial transaction, a business deal, rather than treat it as a relationship of trust and love. Jesus, I believe, is offended by the idea that a relationship with God is merely an exchange: I sacrifice this; you provide that. That's paganism. It is what the prophets so vigorously denounced—the ...
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Mark Buchanan is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, and the author of numerous books including Your Church is too Safe.