Nations Come to Jehovah’s House to Pray
“For my own house will be called even a house of prayer for all the peoples.”—Isa. 56:7
1. How was the temple in Jerusalem to have served in connection with prayer?
A FEW days before his impalement in 33 C.E., Jesus Christ plainly stated that Jehovah’s royal temple at Jerusalem was to have served as a “house of prayer for all the nations.” (Mark 11:17) Yes, that typical temple was to have been an avenue of approach to the Sovereign Living God for the many foreigners as well as for the Israelites themselves. Thus the privilege of prayer was not to have been limited only to the Israelites bound to Jehovah by the law covenant but the temple was also a provision for dedicated temporary residents and visiting aliens to be heard by Jehovah God. Rightly, then, Jesus accused the Jews of his day for having commercialized the temple. He indicted them by the words: “But you are making it [the temple] a cave of robbers.” (Matt. 21:13) In their defiling of Jehovah’s typical temple the Jews had in effect discouraged the foreign dedicated peoples of the nations from making the approach to Jehovah by means of his temple or “house of prayer.”
2. How did Jehovah come to accept and confirm the temple as a “house of prayer”?
2 A thousand years before Jesus’ day, at the dedication of the holy temple in Jerusalem (1027 B.C.E), King Solomon made a special petition to Jehovah God. He implored Jehovah to recognize officially the prayers to be made at this new temple by both the Israelites and the non-Israelites. “Whatever prayer, whatever request for favor there may occur on the part of any man or of all your people Israel, . . . then may you yourself hear from the heavens . . . Also to the foreigner, who is no part of your people Israel and who actually comes from a distant land by reason of your name (for they shall hear of your great name and of your strong hand and of your stretched-out arm), and he actually comes and prays toward this house, may you yourself listen from the heavens, your established place of dwelling, and you must do according to all that for which the foreigner calls to you; in order that all the peoples of the earth may get to know your name so as to fear you the same as your people Israel do, and so as to know that your name itself has been called upon this house that I have built.” (1 Ki. 8:38, 39, 41-43) “Jehovah now appeared to Solomon during the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer, and I have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. Now my own eyes will prove to be opened and my ears attentive to prayer at this place.’” (2 Chron. 7:12, 15) Thus Jehovah God confirmed that he would officially hear prayers by this means and so the temple at Jerusalem came to be known as “a house of prayer.”
A NEW, LASTING SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
3. Describe the new, spiritual temple. From what is it patterned, and since when has it been in course of construction?
3 But this “house of prayer” in Jerusalem turns out to have been merely a type or blueprint of a far grander, new and lasting spiritual temple provided by Jehovah as a means to hear prayer. True to Jesus’ prophecy (Matt. 24:1, 2), Jerusalem’s last literal temple was forever destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Thirty-seven years before the destruction of this temple of massive stones, the construction of a new, spiritual temple was under way from 33 C.E. onward. While patterned after the typical temple as to certain features, yet the new, spiritual temple was being built of “living stones” with Jesus Christ as the “foundation” stone. (Heb. 9:8, 9) Speaking to the anointed ones, or Christians of his day, Paul writes: “Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God. And Moses as an attendant was faithful in all the house of that One as a testimony of the things that were to be spoken afterwards, but Christ was faithful as a Son over the house of that One. We are the house of that One.” (Heb. 3:4-6) Peter further adds: “Coming to him as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God, you yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in Scripture: ‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and no one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment.’” (1 Pet. 2:4-6) Finally, in Revelation John shows that the complete number of the chosen or “sealed” ones for such new temple organization comes to 144,000 members in addition to Jesus Christ.—Rev. 7:4, 15.
PRAYERS LIKE SMOKING INCENSE ASCEND TO JEHOVAH
4. When and for what reason was incense used with respect to the literal temple?
4 A feature of the typical tabernacle and its succeeding pictorial temples was that of the priests making an approach by means of incense. The Mosaic law required perfumed incense to be burned on the altar of incense in the holy part of the sanctuary twice a day or whenever official approaches were made before Jehovah. “And Aaron must make perfumed incense smoke upon it. Morning by morning, when he dresses the lamps, he will make it smoke. And when Aaron lights up the lamps between the two evenings, he will make it smoke. It is an incense constantly before Jehovah during your generations.” (Ex. 30:7, 8) By law only the priests could present this spiraling ascending smoke of costly perfumed incense. Such served as evidence that the priests rendered fear-inspired homage and praise as they came to minister before the Living God, the Sovereign Majesty of the universe. (Ex. 30:36, 37) On Atonement Day the high priest was first required to prepare his way into the Most Holy part of the sanctuary by presenting a “cloud of the incense” before Jehovah’s typical throne, the cover of the ark of the testimony, “that he may not die.”—Lev. 16:12, 13.
5. How did prayers ascend like incense, and what about their preparation?
5 While the priests presented the daily ascending incense inside the sanctuary, the nonpriestly worshipers of Jehovah who were assembled outside in the temple courtyard at the same time offered prayers to rise upward to Jehovah for his hearing. “Now as he [Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist] was acting as priest in the assignment of his division before God, according to the solemn practice of the priestly office it became his turn to offer incense when he entered into the sanctuary of Jehovah; and all the multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of offering incense.” (Luke 1:8-10) Such prayers from these temple worshipers must have avoided vain repetition and therefore must have been carefully prepared just as the burning incense had been carefully prepared from expensive ingredients. (Ex. 30:34-38) In this connection it is written: “May my prayer be prepared as incense before you.”—Ps. 141:2.
6, 7. (a) In connection with the spiritual temple, how is incense associated with prayer? (b) What is the avenue of approach for those praying today?
6 The apostle John in Revelation shows that “incense” is associated with prayers also in connection with Jehovah’s new, spiritual temple, its Most Holy part in heaven: “And another angel arrived and stood at the altar, having a golden incense vessel; and a large quantity of incense was given him to offer it with the prayers of all the holy ones upon the golden altar that was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense ascended from the hand of the angel with the prayers of the holy ones before God.” (Rev. 8:3, 4) Since Jesus Christ is the chief “living stone” of this new temple, he is the only avenue of approach to Jehovah and all prayers must now be made to ascend through him. (John 10:9; 14:6; 16:23) Today Jehovah is in his holy temple of anointed ones, and for those who make the right approach he will hear and answer their prayers. So in this day the prayers of Jehovah’s people ascend to Jehovah continually along with the ‘smoke of the incense from the hand of the angel.’
7 Paul confirms what comprises the right approach to God and what the temple is that Jehovah inhabits by spirit to receive the prayers of his worshipers: “Through him [Jesus Christ] we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father by one spirit. . . . you [the anointed ones] have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” (Eph. 2:18, 20-22) A remaining part of that new, spiritual temple still operates on the earth to this day. Such remnant of anointed ones serves as a channel through which a “great crowd” from all nations are rendering Jehovah God” sacred service day and night in his temple.”—Rev. 7:9, 15.
ISAIAH FORESEES GRAND FLOW OF SACRED SERVICE
8. What did Isaiah foresee as to Jehovah’s temple house in these last days?
8 For these final days upon Satan’s wicked world of mankind the prophet Isaiah foresaw an earth-wide flow of worshipers coming into association with Jehovah’s spiritual house, many members of which are now standing on the heavenly Zion. (Rev. 14:1) The anointed remnant who make up the visible portion of Jehovah’s temple are thus seen to be high up in Jehovah’s favor since the year 1919 (Rev. 11:12), and they elevate the worship of Jehovah God, putting it high above all other considerations on earth. This is just as long ago foretold: “And it must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem.”—Isa. 2:2, 3.
9. (a) What else is necessary for those who make an approach to Jehovah? (b) How does one qualify to make the approach to Jehovah’s house of prayer?
9 All the above-described vast throng of worshipers come as dedicated ones well instructed in Jehovah’s theocratic requirements. They do not come empty-handed without gifts for their loving God. Rather, they come full of pleasing ‘sacrifices of praise,’ full of right public declarations that they have learned how to make through Jehovah’s anointed ones still on earth. (Heb. 13:15) Yes, these “foreigners” out of the nations have “joined themselves to Jehovah” by making a dedication in association with the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel. (Zech. 8:23; Gal. 6:16) All these of the “great crowd” from the nations also come to offer their prayers through Jehovah’s temple arrangement. Concerning this Isaiah further foresaw: “And the foreigners that have joined themselves to Jehovah to minister to him and to love the name of Jehovah, in order to become servants to him, . . . I will also bring them to my holy mountain and make them rejoice inside my house of prayer. . . . their sacrifices will be for acceptance upon my altar. For my own house will be called even a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isa. 56:6, 7) Truly this vast crowd of foreign worshipers have today come to be dedicated, baptized and ordained ministers of Jehovah and thus have an official standing of recognition before God’s heavenly throne. (Rev. 7:15) Like those of the anointed remnant, these alien nonmembers, not of the new covenant, count it an inestimable privilege to bear the unique name of Jehovah as Jehovah’s witnesses.—Jer. 31:31-34.
WHO MAY HAVE THEIR PRAYERS ANSWERED?
10. Give several Scriptural evidences as to who may expect to have their prayers answered.
10 Jehovah God is the great “Hearer of prayer” and he arranges to ‘cover the transgressions’ of those whom he chooses and causes to approach. (Ps. 65:2-4) He pays attention and answers prayers correctly offered to him. (Ps. 66:19; 102:17; 1 Ki. 18:37; 2 Chron. 33:13; Jer. 29:12, 13; Dan. 9:17, 18; Luke 11:9, 10; 1 John 5:14, 15) Jehovah does not hear the wicked ones, “but the prayer of the righteous ones he hears.” (Prov. 15:8, 29) Jehovah’s ‘ears are toward the righteous ones’ cry for help.’ (Ps. 34:15; 145:18, 19; Isa. 58:8, 9) “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, he listens to this one.” (John 9:31) Before those of the nations could have Jehovah’s attention they must commence to turn from their past evil way, become God-fearing and seek Jehovah’s peace. Then Jehovah begins to listen to such whose hearts are inclining toward dedication or who are ‘joining themselves to Jehovah.’ The apostle Peter confirmed this when he wrote: “For the eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their supplication; but the face of Jehovah is against those doing bad things.”—1 Pet. 3:12.
11, 12. (a) How do “foreigners” come to enjoy the privilege of prayer? (b) What is demonstrated in the case of Cornelius?
11 For those “foreigners” outside of active association with Jehovah’s temple arrangement of prayer, note or “remembrance” is made by Jehovah of their earnest prayers while they are seeking the right approach to him. In due time Jehovah sees to it that such foreign seekers are reached with the Bible message by one of Jehovah’s righteously recognized servants so that they become actively associated with Jehovah’s temple arrangement for all their future prayers to be regularly answered. Thus the recognized avenue for prayer becomes available to them from that time forward.
12 Take, for example, the Italian Cornelius, an army officer. Though he lived in Caesarea of Palestine he apparently was not a dedicated circumcised Jewish proselyte. Yet because he was “a devout man and one fearing God together with all his household” his prayers rendered outside of Jehovah’s temple arrangement “ascended as a remembrance before God.” (Acts 10:1-4) At the right time Jehovah by means of an angel arranged for Peter, one of the “living stones” of the new, spiritual temple, to preach to Cornelius, that he and his household might become dedicated and baptized. (Acts 10:31, 44-48) From that time forward Cornelius was “granted repentance” and became actively associated with Jehovah’s temple arrangement for his prayers regularly to be heard for answering. When Peter later reported this incident to the governing body in Jerusalem, “they acquiesced, and they glorified God, saying: ‘Well, then, God has granted repentance for the purpose of life to people of the nations also.’”—Acts 11:18.
13, 14. (a) What part do the angels have in the gathering of foreign worshipers? (b) Give a common modern-day experience as to this ingathering of worshipers.
13 Today the angels, while remaining invisible, are very active in noting the righteously inclined hearts of sheeplike persons who are rendering sincere prayers to God asking for help. (Matt. 25:31-33) In time Jehovah sees to it that the angels direct God’s visible ministers on earth to come in touch with such truth seekers, that they may be shown how to become righteous, then dedicate themselves to God and follow through by maintaining happy fellowship with Jehovah’s temple arrangement for sacred service. Following is a modern-day experience that has been duplicated thousands of times in all parts of the earth to bear out this matter.
14 A lady minister of Jehovah’s witnesses in California reports that she had only a few minutes left to complete her three-hour preaching program one Sunday. Being somewhat tired, she was inclined to return home, intending to make up the few minutes yet required some other time. However, the nearby address of a person who was not at home on her first call kept coming into her mind. So she finally felt urged to make this visit. On calling, the woman householder was found to be at home. The lady manifested great interest in the Bible, so much so that she desired to share in a home Bible study immediately. At the close of this first home Bible study the householder told the minister that the night before she had prayed to God for help to understand the Bible. She was now sure that her prayer had been answered. In the months that followed she progressed rapidly as to a knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes. Finally she became dedicated and baptized and is now an active witness of Jehovah herself in happy association with the society of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Like dedicated Cornelius, she now fully enjoys the privilege of prayer to Jehovah and confidently can be expected to be heard regularly.
NEED FOR PRAYER
15, 16. (a) Why do people go to the Bible for counsel on prayer? (b) Who demonstrated our need for prayer, and on what matters?
15 Where better can one go for counsel on prayer than to the Bible? The Bible is the greatest textbook on prayer. It contains record of 159 prayers in the Hebrew Scriptures. Twenty of Jesus’ masterful prayers are recorded in the four Gospels. Prayer as a subject is referred to 98 more times in the rest of the Christian Greek Scriptures. From Jesus’ many prayers we observe his great need to maintain communication with his Father during his earthly life course. It is written: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the one who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.”—Heb. 5:7.
16 We, too, have constant need to pray as did Jesus. From experience Jesus comes to be our master teacher of prayer. In the model prayer he emphasized right matters for which to pray, such as, for God’s name to be sanctified, for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done on earth and finally for basic necessities of life. (Matt. 6:9-13) As was indicated previously, Jesus has come to be and now is the sole avenue of approach to the living God by means of prayer. John writes: “Jesus said to [Thomas]: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”—John 14:6, 14.
WHAT IS PRAYER?
17. What is prayer, and how does this arrangement operate?
17 Prayer is actually one-way communication with the true God in heaven. No telephone lines or radio waves are necessary to make such communications to Jehovah in heaven. From ancient time to the present Jehovah has made available a medium of transmission far more effective than either telephone or radio. That medium available to man is nothing other than God’s holy spirit. Holy spirit is not bound by time or space in detecting messages to be conveyed to Jehovah’s reception arrangement. Such reception is spoken of in the Bible as God’s ‘hearing ears.’ (Ps. 18:6) Jehovah does not answer audibly at the other end. There is no two-way conversation with God in the prayer arrangement. Rather, God gives answer in the form of spiritual guidance and by granting eventual performances of right requests made.
18. Give some appropriate expressions for prayers to Jehovah.
18 What are some of the expressions a true worshiper might make in his one-way communication with Jehovah? First, he might express words of devotion in which his heart pours out responses of love to God. (Ps. 18:1, 2) Then, there might be words of praise uttered for the many manifestations of God’s greatness and works of mercy. (Acts 4:24-30) The one praying might desire to speak words of appreciation for the many opportunities and privileges of service that have come one’s way. (2 Sam. 7:27) Expressions of gratitude are always proper in giving thanks to Jehovah for the flow of goodnesses and gifts that have been received. (Col. 1:3) Since all of us are imperfect and continually make mistakes, it would always seem proper to request God’s pardon. (Luke 11:4) Such request indicates one’s repentant attitude to merit God’s mercy further. (Luke 18:11-13) Words of concern as to the welfare of our brothers and requests for blessing upon their performance of Kingdom service are always fitting to communicate. (1 Thess. 5:25) Finally, verbal petitions might be presented for right things needed.—Ps. 33:18, 19; Prov. 30:7-9; Matt. 6:11.
19. What is the situation as to postures when praying?
19 Along with the communicating of these various expressions, are there any prescribed postures necessary for prayer? Generally some posture of concentration is necessary. There are Bible examples and modern examples of Jehovah’s people presenting their prayers when bowing, or with raised eyes or when kneeling. (Neh. 8:6; John 11:41; Luke 22:41; Dan. 6:10) Whatever posture is taken, it should be one that will enable an individual to dismiss all distracting thoughts. Why? Because the thoughts to be expressed should be offered sincerely, effectively and in the spirit of love for God. The well-thought-out words should be in harmony with God’s holy spirit, since God’s spirit cannot act contrary to Jehovah’s will. Furthermore, the messages conveyed should be in accordance with Bible truth. In offering proper prayer one always appreciates that “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:24.
USE OF AMEN
20, 21. (a) Why the use of “amen” in prayer? (b) What can be said about Jehovah’s witnesses as to prayer?
20 One’s prayer should have a proper and fitting conclusion. The Christian not only concludes by mentioning the name of Jesus but also ends the prayer with an “amen.” Amen is a Hebrew word that essentially means “surely.” Amen indicates certainty, so be it. By using the “amen” one confirms that all the expressions made in the prayer were done so with sincerity. In congregational prayers those who hear the prayer might also wish audibly to express an “amen.”—1 Cor. 14:16.
21 Jehovah’s witnesses are a praying people today. They know their need of prayer. They know how to pray and they get results. Jehovah’s witnesses are associated actively with Jehovah’s “house of prayer.” The next article will consider some of their remarkable experiences in the field of prayer today.