Why does God call His house a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7)?

Isaiah 56:6–7 says, "And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." These are prophetic verses about God's work of salvation. To understand what is meant by "house of prayer," it is helpful to look at the design of the temple (God's "house") and the realities of salvation in Jesus Christ.

In the design of the Tent of Meeting or tabernacle (Exodus 25:1–9) and then in the permanent structure of the temple (1 Kings 5), God instructed that the altar of incense be constructed and placed just outside the Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:1–10). It was to be lit by the high priest twice a day, every day, from generation to generation. Incense often represents prayer in Scripture (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3); the altar of incense is a picture of the rising prayers of the Israelites (Luke 1:8–10). This signifies how important prayer was to God in this system of worship He designed to ultimately represent the atonement work of Jesus Christ.

The temple was God's chosen dwelling place, where He would meet with His people through worship and sacrifice. It was His earthly "house." So the combination of God's emphasis on prayer and His earthly place of worship gives us His "house of prayer."

It is significant, too, that the incense altar was just outside the curtain that separated the mercy seat, which sat on top of the ark of the covenant and was symbolically where God would meet with them (Exodus 25:17–22). Only the high priest was allowed inside that space, and only once a year (Hebrews 9:7). When Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, the curtain in the temple at that time split in two (Matthew 27:51), opening the access to the mercy seat by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 4:14–16; 10:19–23). This was to signify that anyone—no matter their societal position, ethnicity, sex, or age (Galatians 3:27–29)—could bring their prayers straight to God because of what Jesus did for humanity. The house of prayer was now for all people. All who put their faith in Jesus have full access to God in prayer (Romans 3:21–23).

When someone believes that Jesus died for their sins and rose from the grave to defeat death, they become a living temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). As His living temple or house, we become this house of prayer of which He speaks. First Thessalonians 5:17 tells us succinctly to "pray without ceasing" as part of a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. As our primary way of communication with Him until we see Him face to face, we are meant to embody the spirit of worship and prayer that His dwelling place is made for.

Related Truth:

Why pray? What is the purpose of prayer?

How are we supposed to pray?

What is the power of prayer?

Are we supposed to pray to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?

What types of prayer are mentioned in the Bible?

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Truth about Prayer

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