I love the mental picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd putting the lamb on His shoulders and carrying it to safety. I love the story of Christ feeding the hungry multitudes with bread and fish. And I marvel at the sight of Him bursting out of the tomb alive on Resurrection morning!
But there is one picture of Jesus that, frankly, doesn’t seem to fit. I wonder why God even put it in the Bible.
“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers”?’” (Mark 11:15-17, NIV).
“The atmosphere of My Father’s house,” Jesus seemed to say, “is to be prayer. The aroma around My Father must be that of people opening their hearts in worship and supplication. This is a house for calling on the Lord.”
I do not mean to imply that the Jerusalem temple, built by Herod the Great, is the direct counterpart of our churches today. God no longer centers His presence in one particular building. In fact, the New Testament teaches that we are now His dwelling place; He lives in His people. How much more important, then, is Jesus’ message about the primacy of prayer?
The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer.
Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, “My house shall be called a house of preaching”? Does it ever say, “My house shall be called a house of music”? Of course not. The Bible does say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people’s lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.