Is prayer the priority?
Jesus stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 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.” Mark 11:16-17
The Temple in Jerusalem was an impressive building, occupying a vast 30-acre site in the heart of the city. It was divided into distinct parts, with the commercial activity all taking place in the extensive Court of the Gentiles. This area was bordered by a low wall, on which notices hung, indicating that the penalty for any non-Jew going beyond it was death. The trading area was extremely busy. It is said that on one occasion, a trader offered 3,000 sheep for sale on a single day.
The priests were also involved in the trading and the High Priest was thought to have owned shops in the area. If you have ever been to what we now call ‘The Old City’ in Jerusalem, or any other middle eastern bazaar, you will have a good idea of what it was like. It was noisy and hectic as traders went about their business. Jesus was furious at this abuse of the Temple and energetically drove out the traders.
The Temple was, of course, principally the focus of worship for Jews. But the Court of the Gentiles was there in order to show that non-Jews were welcome. Jesus observed that it was to be a house of prayer for all nations, and so seeing it dominated by noisy traders was deeply offensive.
I’m sure we all share Jesus’ sense of outrage at the abuse of the Temple, but the fact is that the same thing can happen in our own day. It is perfectly possible for churches to become distracted by secondary matters. They may become so focused on their buildings, music, social engagement or fellowship that prayer gets crowded out. All of those things are good, but they should never be our priority.
Is prayer the priority of your church?
Lord God, help me always to make prayer the priority of my life. Amen