Is This A House Of Prayer?
28 MARCH 2021 | TRADITIONAL SERVICE
Rev Gladwin Lee
Scripture Passage: Matthew 21 (NIV)
WATCH | SERMON (VIDEO)
READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary: Jesus entered Jerusalem like a king. The crowds welcomed Him as a victorious conqueror. They shouted “Hosanna! Save us!” However, He did not go to the Roman garrisons to release Jerusalem from foreign domination. Instead, He headed to the temple, His Father’s house of prayer. There, He would confront those who turned the temple into a marketplace.
What scene would greet the disciples as they entered the temple? In the outer courts, Gentiles from all over the world would gather. They were restricted to this courtyard and had to exchange their foreign currency into temple money. There too would be the noise and congestion of merchants as they sold their animals for sacrifice. Daily, an estimated 35,700 lambs would be sold. Our Lord entered the temple and overturned the tables of these people who were transacting their wares. Why did He do this?
1. Too noisy to pray. Jesus said to the crowd: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’” (Mark 11:17). Think of the Gentiles who could only pray in this outer courtyard or the Jews who had to pass through this noisy place to get into the inner sanctuary. The tables were overturned as they disrupted God’s intended rhythms of prayer. How, amidst the chaotic noise would it be possible to pray and worship? We are reminded in 1 Cor.6:19-20 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. What is the condition of our temples? Do we make time and space for prayer in our schedule? May we take the opportunity this Holy Week to join in the worship services, and on a regular basis, participate in our Wesley Church-Wide Synchronised Prayer and practise spiritual disciplines.
2. Too corrupted with sin. With the exchange of foreign currency and the selling of sacrificial animals came corruption. Lev.5:7 had made provision for the poor to offer sacrifices: “Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for their sin”. But sellers were taking advantage of even the poor by overcharging their doves. Hence, these dove-sellers’ tables had to be overturned. We are to have a heart of welcome to God as we approach Him in worship. Is there some “table” in our lives that need to be overturned? Are we pushing people harder than necessary? Could our “table” be our mobile phones competing for our attention as we attend worship service? Who am I entertaining right now? It is possible for a Christian to be entertaining evil unknowingly.
3. Too careless about ministry. The temple leaders were too focused on making money and neglected their ministry, especially towards the poor and disabled. The temple was to serve as a place of restoration and blessing. But it failed to be such a place. When God speaks to us through prayer, am I responding to His invitation to intercession and service? In 2020, with church services closed, it was easy to forget the home-bound, the disabled and the disadvantaged. They slip out of our prayers and our consideration. Matt Redman’s church in the UK had become very well known for its dynamic music and worship services. But something was missing. The pastor decided to strip away all the frills including the sound system and band. In the uncomfortable silence, Redman examined his motives as worship leader. He refocused on his service to the Lord.
May we humble our hearts to become a house of prayer.
(Sermon Notes by Angela Goh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. Read Matthew 21:12-17. Recall the sermon: Why did Jesus flipped the tables?
2. What are some common things in our society that distracts us from the important task of prayer and worship?
3. How have you organised your life to make time for regular (ie daily, weekly) prayer? Share how you have experienced any form of fruitfulness through prayer?
4. If possible, share a period of your life when God invited you to remove a 'table' in your life. For example, how did this 'table' appear in your life before that? How was your prayer life after that?
5. What can we do (as a small group) to better welcome and serve people who may appear different from us to participate in worship and prayer in the coming 3-4 months? Examples of such persons could be migrant workers, persons with special needs or physical disabilities etc.