A Den Of Robbers Or A House Of Prayers?
Chan Gin Kai
When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’” (Luke 19:45-46)
Some may read this passage and feel that Jesus was overreacting, or even harsh. The merchants were not peddling drugs or selling slaves. They were simply providing animals that the worshippers needed to sacrifice at the temple.
But whether they were profiteering from religion, or providing a convenient service, or simply working hard to put bread on the table, there are some lines that cannot be crossed… The temple of God is, and must stay, a house of prayer.
Is Our Church A House Of Prayer?
A lot can be said here about the commercialisation of religion, and how some pastors have turned Christianity into greedy multi-million dollar franchises to enrich themselves. But that’s not the focus of today’s study. Let us examine the function of the church instead.
The church must first and foremost be a house of prayer.
We will always meet new people in church and commercial opportunities may sometimes surface, but the church must not be a place where we go to make business contacts. We will have fun interacting with each other and enjoy each other’s company, but we have to remember that the church is not a community club. We will help each other spiritually and emotionally, but the church must not become a counselling center. These are not descriptions that we find in the Bible about church.
Many people talk about going to church to get their needs met, to get their marriages fixed, to learn parenting skills, and to make new friends, when the main reason why we should go to church is to connect with God. It is a terribly wrong mindset, but many often say it as though there’s nothing wrong about it.
Imagine you have a child who has grown up and moved out. And his primary reason for going home to see you is NOT to connect with you, but to get his physical needs met… he raids the fridge, brings his unwashed laundry for you to wash, and asks you for money. As a parent, you’ll of course be happy to help him if he needs help. But how would you feel if his main purpose for seeing you is not you, but to selfishly meet his needs?
And how would you feel if he does all that and still complains that you’ve not poured drinks for him or ironed his clothes well.
That’s how some of us treat God and the church.
Is church a house of prayer for you?
Am I A House Of Prayer?
Besides looking at whether we treat church as a house of prayer, let’s examine our own lives too.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
I am the temple of God. The Spirit of God dwells in me. Is that how I see myself? Is that how I live my life? How about you?
I am supposed to be a walking and living house of prayer.
Prayer should not merely be an activity that I am committed to doing, but something that fills me. I cannot view prayer simply as a means to get closer to God, but what He has created me to do. Worshipping God is the very reason for my existence.
We know we mustn’t reduce our relationships with our loved ones into a checklist of activities we perform for them; neither should we do that to God.
The things we do for family and friends are important. The commitments we’ve pledged and stick to are valuable. But tasks and commitments, as treasured as they are, do not define a relationship. It is possible to be filial and dutiful, but not loving. My wife and I appreciate the things we do for each other, but we enjoy even more the deep trust, belief and devotion that spring from our love for each other. When I examine my relationship with God, I realise that I am more often a dutiful servant than a loving son. That’s something that has to change.
The temple of God can only be a house of prayer; it cannot also be a marketplace or anything else. It was never built to serve two functions. Jesus drove out the merchants so that the temple can be pure in its purpose. It is time we clean out our temple, and become what we are created to be.
I shall be a house of prayer.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.