In Matthew 21: 13 Jesus said, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer.” In this scripture Jesus is dealing with people who had turned the physical Temple into a merchandising center that cheated and demeaned people and misrepresented the heart of God. This upset Jesus so much that He knocked over tables and threw money around to clear the facility of the sin that was talking place.
Over the years I have heard pastors use this scripture to appeal to their people to increase the level of prayer in a church. I have done this. I have heard this text used to define the ministry of a church. Again, I have done the same. None of this is wrong, but I think we have missed a deeper point.
The physical Temple no longer exists as the center of God’s activity. People used to come into the Temple to do the things God commanded. The Temple was a location people entered to interact with God. The residue of that thinking still exists within the Church. I love sacred space, but if Jesus were to step into our pulpits today He would correct something we have missed about real sacred space.
After Jesus rose for the dead, and the Spirit took up residence in a people now defined as “the Church”, we became the temple of God upon the earth. Paul referred to this new temple when he wrote to the Church in Corinth, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” I Corinthians 3:16
To answer Paul’s question, I am not sure we fully understand this reality of being God’s temple on earth. God is not impressed with the temples we build here on earth called “church buildings.” What moves God are the human beings He created in His image that now walk upon the earth carrying His presence. We are the new temple structures. We are mobile houses of prayer, not the brick and mortar facilities that keeps up warm in the winter and cool in the summer heat and sit atop immovable foundations.
I believe in prayer inside church buildings. We do this in our church here in Medford, Oregon and I believe it is powerful, but there is something more. On this side of Pentecost, each of us is now that “house of prayer” Jesus talked about. We don’t have to wait for the pastor to call us to pray under a roof. We are the walking, talking and praying temples of God upon the earth and sometimes all of God’s temples come together in a building and we pray and that is something good and we call it a prayer meeting.