- Rick LoPresti
The Lord Jesus rode a baby donkey into Jerusalem a week before He died (Matthew 21:1-11). Many people including children worshiped Him. As He arrived in town, some people did not know who He was. Others were displeased with the situation. These were the religious hypocrites who felt threatened by Him. Jesus went to the temple where they should have been praying. Instead they turned the system of animal sacrifices into a marketplace right there in the temple. He quoted Isaiah 56:7 and said that His house was to be a house of prayer, but they had made it a den of thieves. Deuteronomy 14:24-26 stated that if the temple was too far to bring their animals to sacrifice, they could bring money and buy the sacrifices there. However, this became a money maker instead of a builder of relationship with God. That is what religion always decays into. When people do not have a true spiritual relationship with God, they try to fill the void with materialism. The hypocrites replaced prayer with superficial religious activity which only covered up their lust for money. The thieves not only were probably charging too much for their merchandise in the temple, they had stolen real communication with God based on relationship from the temple. There are many prayer thieves like the cares of this life. However, prayer is more than just a superficial religious activity. That concept of prayer is just as big a thief of true prayer as anything else. People can think that they are praying to God when all they are really doing is talking to themselves (Luke 18:11). They can think that saying some pre-written prayer over and over makes them spiritual (Matthew 6:7-8). They can even think that they are impressing others (Matthew 6:5). The Lord would rather have a short, sincere, prayer from a faulty person than a long, self-righteous, pretentious prayer from a proud hypocrite (Luke 18:9-14). Other thieves of effective prayer are marital problems (Malachi 2:10-15, 1Peter 3:7), unreconciled differences with others (Matthew 5:23-26, Matthew 18), and praying for our will instead of God's (Matthew 6:10, Luke 22:42, James 4:3, 1John 5:14). A great revelation about prayer is that its purpose is not to get God to do our will, but to get us to do His. Your prayers will not be denied when you are seeking and prioritizing what He already wants (Matthew 6:33).