“And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.””(Mark 11:17)
How quickly my indignation rose when I looked at these words. How easy it is to apply them to someone else. We can all point the finger. Think of ministries who are fleecing the flock of God. Remind ourselves of unhelpful teaching that turns God into a slot machine. And in doing so as I mentioned a few days ago in doing so we also risk rejecting Jesus clear teaching on faith.
But notice what Jesus sees as the purpose of the house of God: a place of prayer for all nations. Prayer, that vital but much neglected engine of the Christian life.
What we should ask ourselves today is what else have we made the church? We may not have made it a den of robbers, but what is the first thing we think of when it comes to church?
Is it a social club? A place where we are all cared for? What about a missionary outpost where the sole goal is to help the non members find Christ? Is it a worship center where the focus is on what experience we can get out of God, and perhaps on seeing his spectacular gifts manifest? Is it a place that exists solely to grow and plant other models of itself elsewhere? Is it even simply a place where we go to be well educated about God?
Jesus says the primary purpose of the Church is to be a place of prayer. So many churches have cancelled their regular prayer meeting, and for those which haven’t, so many of us (myself included) find it hard to get the time to attend.
Is your church known primarily as a place of prayer? Is prayer its heartbeat? Does everything else flow from the place of prayer? I’m not just talking about Sunday mornings. How are decisions made? In a business meeting? A committee? Or on our knees before the head of the Church?
But notice also the second half of the phrase: a place for ALL NATIONS to pray. Do we only welcome people like ourselves? Or do we welcome people who don’t look like us? The poor, the needy, for that matter the rich, and also people whose lifestyles we might not approve off.
Too many churches consist either of one racial group, or even if mixed, of one social class. God wants to see a group of every type of people gathered as one to call on his name.
What can you and I do to help that become more and more a reality?