In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God said that His house would be a house of prayer for the nations (Is. 56:7-8). Jesus reaffirms this purpose of God for the temple by quoting Isaiah in each of the Synoptic Gospels.
The New Testament Scriptures make clear that the ultimate and actual temple is Jesus, God with us. The epistles explain that, by virtue of our union with Christ, we as the people of God are the temple of God, that house of prayer for the nations. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul declares:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19–22)
God’s house of prayer is a living thing. That’s why we see the curious expression of believers being built into and growing as a holy temple (Eph. 2:22). Peter speaks of Jesus as a living stone given by God, and goes on to describe us as “living stones” who are “being built up as a spiritual house” for priestly duties (1 Pet. 2:4-6).
What that means is a house of prayer is not something we go to; it is something we are. Like an LED display is comprised of many light-emitting diodes, so each disciple of Christ is a diode giving light as part of the whole.
Like a body is made up of many cells, so the house of prayer is made of many selves. That’s why Paul says later in Ephesians that each part (i.e., believer) is to work properly, for the body’s growth and proper building (Eph. 4:16).
As a house of prayer, every believer needs to see himself or herself as an integral component making up the whole. Every believer must understand that God has wired him or her for prayer, and that the effectiveness of the whole is integrally related to the functioning of the one.
This raises two question for those church leaders entrusted with equipping the saints for the ministry of prayer (Eph. 4:11-16).