What is a “house of prayer?” What did Jesus and Isaiah mean when they referred to it? “He taught, saying to them, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it a den of thieves’” (Mk. 11:17). Jesus cared deeply about His Father’s house. When He was as young as twelve years old, it was already a topic He had evidently spoken of with His parents (see Luke 2:49). Early in His earthly ministry a zeal for it caused Him to make a whip of chords and drive out people who were misusing it (see Jn. 2:14-17). Then toward the end of His earthly ministry He cleansed it a second time, overturning tables and benches, causing major upheaval.
His explanation for His actions was that what God had intended as a house of prayer had become a den of robbers (see Mk. 11:15-17). Jesus cared about what happened in God’s house and He cared about how people viewed it.
In the Mark 11 passage above, please notice the five words immediately following Jesus’ quote from Isaiah 56. They are very telling. Read them slowly. “But you have made it . .” “But” draws a contrast between what God intended and what had occurred. “You” refers to the people who were supposed to make God’s house a house of prayer. “Have made it” speaks of the ability people have to shape God’s work into something other than what He had in mind. In that context God’s house had become a “den of thieves.” Whenever we alter God’s plan with our plans both God and people are robbed. We have made His house a house of teaching, a house of activities, a house of fellowship, a house of music, etc. These are good things, but God still desires His house to be a house of prayer. To make this point, Jesus quotes the last line of Isaiah 56:7: “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Lord Jesus, I have turned my face toward lesser things rather than staying focused upon being a House of Prayer for all nations. I have taken what You have created for Yourself and perverted it into something I have desired it to be for my own purposes. You care that I approach Your altar with humility, integrity, and a clear kingdom focus. For the sake of Your Name, I yield myself to experiencing joy in Your House of Prayer.
–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 43, The Meaning of “A House of Prayer” by Dennis Fuqua). This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise God for his matchless grace. Give thanks that his grace is sufficient for you in every situation. Confess any do-it-yourself efforts in which you have rejected God’s grace and tried to go it alone. Commit yourself to being a channel of that grace to others. Ask that God will meet your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19) and that his grace will be poured out abundantly.
Lift up the names of the leaders of your nation, state/province, and community, asking that the Lord’s strength and wisdom come to full maturity in each one as they learn to rely on him.
“Our business in prayer is not to prescribe, but to subscribe to the wisdom and will of God; to refer our case to him, and then leave it with him.” —Anonymous
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