As a pastor, I have been asked a number of interesting questions about prayer:
“Is there a right way to hold your hands in prayer?”
“Can I say my own prayer or do I have to use pre-written ones?”
“How long should I pray before a meal?”
“When is the best time of the day to pray?”
The answer to the first question is: "No, there is not one correct way to hold your hands in prayer." As well, to all of these questions I would say, “Pray in such a way that your focus is totally on God.” Because if you are too concerned about how your hands look, or too worried about what to say, or you are researching new prayers, or more concerned about your meal getting cold, then you are not focused on God.
As a family, talk about some of the things you do when you pray? (i.e: do you have to hold hands as a family or hold hands in a certain way? Are there particular prayers you say? Do you pray at certain times?) Talk about why those things are important to you.
Bible Passage: Matthew 21:12-17
Items you will need for the activity: A piece of paper (any colour), scissors, glue, access to YouTube
Now, I want you to imagine you and your family walking into church for a time of prayer, but on your way in, you saw this:
As a family, discuss how would this make you feel? Do you think it is okay to demand that you should pay before you can pray at church? Do you think it would be distracting for others around you who are trying to pray?
While this idea might seem odd to us, we need to understand that something very similar was happening in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ ministry. It was the duty for every Jewish person to come to the Temple and offer up a sacrifice - usually an animal or a bird. To help people from far away, instead of having to bring their sacrifice a long distance, it was possible to purchase what they were going to sacrifice to God, right there in the temple. This is a great thing, except that by Jesus’ day it had become a large business, with some people even cheating others by charging too much money. Also, the booths to purchase these things were situated in an area that was originally designed as a place for prayer, for people who otherwise couldn’t enter the Temple.
Now, as a family open your Bibles and read Matthew 21:12-13
Jesus became angry because of all of the activity that was preventing people from praying. In verse 13, Jesus is actually quoting from two different verses found in the Old Testament. I have provided the references below and underlined what part Jesus is quoting:
...these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7)
Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 7:11)
Note that, not only does God want the focus to be on prayer, we also see in Isaiah 56:7, that prayer wasn’t to be just for one group of people but as Isaiah says, “for all nations”. Remember, God wants everyone to come to Him!
Whether at work, school, with friends or even at church, at some point, everyone is new. As a family, discuss what is something you could do to help welcome someone who is joining for the first time?
Now as a family, read Matthew 21:14-17
Not only was Jesus helping everyone to pray, Jesus also healed those who were blind or lame (meaning they cannot walk). This is a healing miracle! It was not uncommon for people to be in that area for prayer, but when Jesus was present, He showed that God listens to our prayers and He can bring healing to us!
The children who were there started cheering loudly, praising Jesus. The religious leaders became angry and told Jesus He should tell the kids to stop, but Jesus reminded the leaders that God wants the children involved too (verse 16):
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)
In this passage we see that it doesn’t matter who we are or how much we have, God wants us to come to Him. He welcomes the time we spend with Him in prayer! Sometimes, we might feel that we are not “good enough” to be part of the group. Maybe we once tried to be part of something like a sports team, and in the end we were rejected. Everyone faces those feelings sometimes, but it is important to remember that God does not turn away those who are seeking Him. Instead, as we see here, whether young or old, whether able-bodied or not, even if we are coming for the first time, God welcomes us and loves us.
The next time you feel you are not “good enough," remember that this is why we need Jesus! We have all sinned and need a Saviour. Jesus died and paid the cost of our sins, to set us free and allow us to be with God. Take some time to pray and be thankful that, through your faith in Jesus Christ, you are welcomed into God’s Kingdom and you will be with Him now and forever.
A Good Question: Why did Jesus leave Jerusalem and find a place to stay in Bethany? (v.17)
It was coming near to the celebration of Passover and everyone was coming into Jerusalem to stay and worship at the Temple. It would have been very crowded, so Jesus spent the day in Jerusalem and then went to nearby Bethany, close to the Mount of Olives. Scholars think that Jesus likely stayed at the home of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
(Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44)
In verse 12 we read that one of the sacrifices being sold was a dove (or a pigeon, depending on your Bible translation). A dove is often associated with peace, and as Christians we know that God provides us with peace. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
Today, I encourage all of you to make a dove, and never forget that real peace comes through God!
Check out the directions here.
Have a blessed day!