[Exclusive] Building a House of Prayer, Tabernacle Prayer

Building a House of Prayer

Eighteen Prayer Models for Approaching God’s Throne

Author | Dr. Joshua Young-Gi Hong

<Tabernacle Prayer>

“A prayer is the meeting of God’s tears and our tears.”—Dr. Joshua Young-Gi Hong

Tabernacle Prayer is a prayer imagining and following the model of the Old Testament Tabernacle. Tabernacle Prayer is a prayer of spiritual movement, starting from an altar of burnt offering, then moving gradually to a bronze basin, a Lampstand, the table for the bread of the Presence, an Altar of Incense, the Ark of the Testimony at the Holiest Place, and then, finally, the cover of the Ark used for our atonement, symbolizing God’s Throne.

The Holy Place of Prayer

The Tabernacle was God’s revelation for the Israelites. God showed Moses how to make the Tabernacle at Mt. Sinai. The Israelites of the Old Testament had to come into the Tabernacle to meet God and worship Him. The Tabernacle of the Old Testament is a spiritual model for us to come forward to God today. The Tabernacle Prayer leads us deep into the world of prayer.

The Old Testament Tabernacle measured about 150 feet in length by 75 feet in width. Exodus 27:9-13 says it was 100 by 50 cubits; a standard cubit was about eighteen inches or the distance from the elbow to the middle fingertip. The Courtyard around the Tabernacle was fenced with curtains of finely twined linen. The Tabernacle was separated into three regions, the Outer Court, the Sanctuary or Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. The Tabernacle itself was rectangular, with the Sanctuary taking up two-thirds of the space and the Holy of Holies in a square space that took up the rear third. The two rooms were divided by a thick curtain or Veil.

In the Outer Count was the Altar of Sacrifice for burnt offerings and the bronze Laver or basin for purification. Inside the Sanctuary on the left side was the Golden Lampstand, and on the right was the Table of the Bread of the Presence. The Golden Altar of Incense was situated in front of the Holy of Holies. Beyond the Veil in the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant, containing a golden jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the stone tablets of the Law that Moses received from God. The golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant, with its two Cherubim and the glorious glow of God’s Presence called the Shekinah, was the Mercy Seat or Throne of God.

There is no Tabernacle that we can see today. However, Christians are “God’s temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16). God made the Christians His Tabernacle and dwells in us. In the days of the Old Testament, only the high priest could come forward to God once a year on the Day of Atonement at the Holy of Holies. However, today’s Christians can come forward to God at any time by the grace of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The Tabernacle Prayer imagines the Tabernacle of the Old Testament and enters it gradually while praying to its spiritual meaning. Dr. David Yong-Gi Cho, founding pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, has said one of his favorite prayer models is the Tabernacle Prayer. We need training to imagine ourselves entering the Tabernacle in order to do the Tabernacle Prayer well.

The Holy Place of Prayer 1

The Precious Blood of Jesus: Pray before the Altar of Sacrifice (Exodus 27:1-8)

When you enter the Outer Court of the Tabernacle, you will first see a bronze Altar of Sacrifice for burnt offerings. Because mankind will face death if we go in front of God with our sinful nature, we cannot come forward to God without having our sins absolved. Thus, the Israelites brought animals for sacrifice and laid their hands on it to transfer their sins when they came forward to God. Then, the animal was slaughtered to shed its blood on the altar. The body of the animal was then burnt on the Altar as a sacrifice to God.

Every day, an offering of sacrifice was held on the Altar for burnt offering. The fire that was used on the Altar was the fire that came out from the presence of the Lord (Leviticus 9:24). The priest had to make sure that the fire on the Altar kept burning (Leviticus 6:12-13). This had to be done because a sacrifice had to be burned continuously in order to atone for our sins. The fire signified God’s acceptance of burnt offerings (Leviticus 9:24) and was used to signify God’s dreadful wrath and His judgment. However, Jesus Christ became the ultimate sacrificial offering, and all our sins have been burned on the Cross. So, we have the confidence to enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19).

The Altar for burnt offering made of bronze signifies the grace of the precious blood of Jesus Christ—the grace of salvation on the Cross. We have to offer sacrificial rites of thanksgiving and praise to God in front of the Altar for burnt offering. These rites have emphasis on the gift of salvation through Christ’s sacrifice. Dr. David Yong-Gi Cho suggests the following seven points in regard to the thanksgiving prayer for the precious blood of Jesus in front of the bronze Altar.

  • A thanksgiving and praising prayer for cleansing of our sins and giving us salvation.
  • A thanksgiving prayer for letting us escape God’s wrath and judgment.
  • A thanksgiving prayer for making us reconcile with God and giving the qualification to come forward to God.
  • A thanksgiving prayer to destroy all power and authority of the devils, who want to steal, kill, and ruin us, by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:11).
  • A thanksgiving prayer for allowing us healing and health by the precious blood of Jesus (Isaiah 53:5).
  • A thanksgiving prayer to be free from the curse by the precious blood of Jesus (Galatians 3:13).
  • A thanksgiving prayer to saving us from the spiritual death by the power of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

As it is being introduced here, the Tabernacle Prayer starts with meditating and appreciating the significance of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Here, we need to confess our thanksgiving from the bottom of our heart as much as we can.

The Holy Place of Prayer 2

Cleansing of Sin: Pray before the Bronze Basin (Exodus 30:18-20)

There was a bronze Basin (or Laver) between the Altar for burnt offering and the Sanctuary. The Old Testament priests held a cleansing ceremony to clean their feet and hands. This bronze Basin represents the confession of our sins for our sanctification. We cannot equate the prayer of confession with repentance. The prayer of confession is to express repentance in words only. It cannot be a true repentance if we confess on our lips alone without having the right attitude and mind. However, a prayer of true confession that comes out from your heart is true repentance.

You have to repent of all your sins in front of the bronze Basin. It is often told that “when God forgives, he forgets all about it.” If you truly repent, the Lord will throw all our sins into a deep sea and will not remember anything other than that—“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

A time for a prayer: “Lord, I want to repent of my sins. I repent of living by my will and way and not coming near to the Lord. Now, please cleanse me with the Lord’s water of life.”

The Holy Place of Prayer 3

The Imminence of the Holy Spirit: Pray before the Lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40)

Now, it is time to enter from the Outer Count into the Sanctuary. When you go into the Sanctuary, there is a golden Lampstand on your left. It has seven branches. There is one in the center, and there are three branches on either side. This Lampstand represents the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This is the only light that illumines the Sanctuary. The light of this Lampstand symbolizes the light of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Yahweh (God in Hebrew), the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, and the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD (Isaiah 11:2).

As we stand in front of the Lampstand, we have to earnestly seek the help of the Holy Spirit. We cannot light the Sanctuary with any other light than the one that God commanded. In fact, the Israelites of the Old Testament were not allowed to bring other lights into the Sanctuary. This means that the Word of God cannot be illuminated with any other light than the light of the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray: “O, Holy Spirit, please come upon me at this time. I recognize, welcome, and serve you. Please govern my prayer at this time. I cannot do anything without you.”

The Holy Place of Prayer 4

The Power of the Word: Pray before the Table for the Bread of Presence (Exodus 25:23-30)

Now, we go forward to the Table for the Bread of Presence on the right side of the Sanctuary. There were twelve loaves of bread representing each of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. These loaves were replaced on every Sabbath day, and only priests could eat it. This Bread of Presence did not use any yeast and was baked with a flour of excellent quality. Oil, salt, and fragrance were mixed before being baked. The Bread of Presence in the Sanctuary signifies food for our soul, which is given to us by God—the Word of God.

When people abandoned and left Jesus, the Lord asked His disciples “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Then, Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68). Jesus Christ is the bread of life, and His words are our food for eternal life. Jesus’ words are the manna of our spirit. Thus, we cannot live even one moment apart from the Word of God. As we eat physical food for our body, we have to eat the Word of God for our soul and spirit.

In front of the Table for the Bread of Presence, we must repent of the sin of not keeping the Word of God close in our life. Repent of violation of the Word. And we must have a heart to crave for the Word of the Lord. Also, we have to pray so that we can read the Bible every day. If we become lazy and negligent in reading the Bible, we will be detached from spiritual walk with God and fall into temptations. We must continually receive the spiritual vitamins of God’s Word—pure spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2) and joy (Jeremiah 15:16).

We must pray so that we can meditate on the Word of God. By meditating on God’s Word, we absorb spiritual nutrition to enhance spiritual growth and experience the depth of God’s Word. Many verses in the Bible promise well-being (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3). It is also important to recite the Word of God. The recited Word can be used effectively to assure the promises of God and to fight off the attacks of Satan. Also, we have to pray so that we can love and study the Word of God. We can study the historical and societal settings of the Bible to further our understanding of the Bible, and then we can apply it to our modern and personal life. Above all, we must pray so that we may obey the Word of God completely. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Those who obey His Word shall see miracles and be blessed abundantly.

The general secretary of The Gideons International, Mr. Henderson, delivered a lecture in Seoul for a national convention in 1984. The Gideons International is an international organization that distributes the Bible all over the world as a literary mission. The general secretary pointed out that forty-six Bibles are distributed to the world every minute through its organization and said the following, “If you want to see a fruit of your effort in ten years, plant a tree. If you want to see the result of your love and effort in fifty years, support a person. If you want a fruit of eternity, then read the Bible. In it, there is a way of salvation, a way of living righteously every day, a way of resisting the temptations of the evil, and a way of true service as a Christian.”

We have to confess in front of the Bread of Presence: “Lord, I cannot live outside of your presence. The Word of the Lord is sweeter than honey to me. Please help me to understand your Word, to live by your Word, and to love your Word.”

The Holy Place of Prayer 5

Worshiping and Thanksgiving: Pray before the Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:1-10)

Leaving the Table for the Bread of Presence, now we move to the Altar of Incense at the front of the Sanctuary. This altar was used to burn incense twenty-four hours a day. Burning incense in the Old Testament Tabernacle did not have anything to do with the atonement ceremony through the sacrifice of animal blood. Incense symbolized something different from people’s earnest requests or intercessory prayers of the priests. Incense was burned only for God. The Altar of Incense was placed in front of the curtain that separated the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies. This Altar was smaller than the Altar of Sacrifice but was made of more expensive materials and plated with gold.

The incense must be burnt twenty-four hours a day only for God. “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come” (Exodus 30:7-8). The incense was to be lighted by the priests only. However, today every Christian can come near to God as a priest. The Altar of Incense represents the prayer of worship and thanksgiving.

In front of this Altar, we should offer a prayer of bowing and worshiping God for allowing us the grace and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives. Furthermore, we should offer a prayer of thanksgiving for answers that are yet to come. When I was in the military service, I realized the importance of air when I came out of a gas chamber for a drill. If there was an accident, we used a portable oxygen tank to administer the oxygen supply while performing a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). One problem is, the oxygen in the tank was very expensive. The cost of administering an oxygen mask for eighty-four hours continuously amounted to several million won (several thousand U. S. dollars).

If God were to collect money for the air that He has been providing us, how expensive would it be? Moreover, if God were to collect the energy bill for the sun by calculating its usage as in electricity, how much should we pay for it? I believe no one could afford it. Likewise, we cannot count all the blessings and grace that God has given to us.

A famous Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, was robbed one day and lost many things. Then, he realized the four conditions to thank God. The first was that he had been robbed before. The second was for not having been robbed of his life. The third was that he still had other things left. The fourth was that he was a pastor and not a robber. We have to find everything that we need to be thankful for and offer a thanksgiving service of burning incense. Those who offer worship service to God with gratitude glorify God.

After giving a thanksgiving prayer at the Altar of Incense, now is the time to enter the Holy of Holies. In the days of the Old Testament, there was a curtain (often called the Veil) that separated the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies. Only once a year, could the high priest enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of a sacrificial animal. However, today we ourselves can enter the Holy of Holies to meet God through the suffering of Jesus, who shed His blood and sacrificed His flesh for us. We must be thankful that we can come forward to God through Jesus Christ, passing the curtain to the Holy of Holies as we believe in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Holy Place of Prayer 6

Jesus Christ: Pray before the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22)

Passing through the curtain, we come to the gold-lined Holy of Holies, where we see the golden Ark of the Covenant with its solid gold Mercy Seat or Throne of God. The Ark contains the golden jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant that Moses received from God. And between the Cherubim of the Mercy Seat shines the Glory or Shekinah of God.

The Ark of the Covenant, made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold, signifies the imminence of Jesus Christ. We have to pray in front of the Ark so that we can experience the grace of the Lord’s imminence in our daily life. In this Ark of the Covenant, the stone tablets prefigure Jesus Christ’s words; the gold jar of manna represents Jesus Christ, who gives the food of eternal life, and the staff that budded signifies Jesus Christ’s resurrected life. Jesus has set a new Covenant with us through His sacrifice.

Former Pastor David Yong-Gi Cho said we should make the following seven confessions in front of the Ark of the Covenant. The first, “Jesus is my Covenant of new salvation.” The second, “Jesus is my manna or the bread of my life,” The third, “Jesus is my budded staff or the hope for my resurrection.” The fourth, “Since Jesus Christ has shed His blood on the place of atonement to redeem my sin, He is my forgiveness.” The fifth, “Jesus is my righteousness.” The sixth, “Jesus is my holiness.” The seventh, “Jesus is my glorification.” As in the above, we have to confess our faith in Christ in front of the Ark, which signifies Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul said, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

The Holy Place of Prayer 7

Meeting with God: Lay Out Your Prayer Topic before the Place of Atonement

Now, you have reached God’s Throne in the Holy of Holies.

The cover of the Ark is called the Place of Atonement (Mercy Seat, KJV), and this is regarded as the Throne of God’s grace (Exodus 25:17-22). The Place of Atonement is where God’s glorification appears, and the high priest carries the blood of a sacrificed animal once a year to receive God’s redemption for the Israelites. You will thank God to start from the Altar of Sacrifice at the Outer Court to reach God’s Throne. Here, you can experience the joy of sharing God’s promise and fellowship with God.

Before God’s Throne, we can open our heart and lay down all our prayer topics. God knows our wishes. He knows our needs. Nevertheless, we have to make our wishes known to God earnestly. Why do we have to pray? John Calvin said the following: “We do not pray to let God know or have Him grant our wishes. On the other hand, we pray so that we will ask and seek God and that we practice our faith while meditating and holding onto His promise, and that we can proclaim only God can take care of our worries and anxiety and make our wishes for the good of ourselves and others come true.”

When we pray, we come near to God. The Bible says, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). We have to share the fellowship of love with God by laying down our wishes and talking with Him heart to heart in front of God’s Throne.

Checkpoint of Prayer

You have to imagine yourself entering the Tabernacle vividly in order to offer the effective Tabernacle Prayer.

We can pray more effectively if we remember the layout of the Old Testament Tabernacle and visualize ourselves walking into it. For example, when you offer a prayer of repentance in front of the bronze Basin, you must visualize yourself washing your hands and feet. Also, when you offer a Tabernacle Prayer, pray with a thankful heart from beginning to end.

Sweet Rain of Grace

There are not many people who put the Tabernacle Prayer into practice. I have encountered Tabernacle Prayer in one cell group meeting of a Korean church in England. They held a seminar on the Tabernacle Prayer and set a practice session for it. Many people of the church unanimously said that they could enter deeply into the world of prayer. Since Tabernacle Prayer is systematic and orderly, one can pray easily with it. We can thank the grace of God the Son, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us. Additionally, since we reach God’s Throne at the end after going through many structures in the Tabernacle, we can enjoy a meeting with God and be touched by such an experience.

Praying Time

We can pray at least an hour with a Tabernacle Prayer. It is better to engage in this prayer when you have plenty of time. It is a big advantage of the Tabernacle Prayer that we can pray for a long time with it.

Closed Prayer Room

  • Tabernacle Prayer is a prayer imagining and following the model of the Tabernacle of the Old Testament. It is a prayer of spiritual movement, starting from an Altar of burnt offering, then moving gradually and finally to the cover of the Ark at the Holy of Holies, symbolizing God’s Throne, for our atonement.
  • Example of a Tabernacle Prayer
    >> Lord, I thank you for saving me with your blood (Altar of Sacrifice). Please cleanse my sins (a bronze Basin), walk me with the Holy Spirit (a Lampstand), let me get closer your Word (the Bread of the Presence), and let me praise you (Altar of Incense). I offer this thanksgiving prayer because of you (the Ark of the Covenant). I came to you with my prayer topic, my Lord. Please accept it (God’s Throne).
  • My Tabernacle Prayer:
  • The Order of a Tabernacle Prayer
    >> Praise (Hymn or Chorus)
    >> Confession of Thanksgiving
    >> Reading of a Tabernacle Prayer
    >> Carrying out the Tabernacle Prayer
  • Self-illumination
    >> Can you draw a model of the Tabernacle and its structures well in your mind?
    >> Do you have a thanksgiving heart for the grace of Jesus’ redemption?
    >> Are you approaching the Throne of grace courageously and with confidence? (Hebrews 4:16).
    >> How often and how much is your heart touched by meeting with God through the Tabernacle to the Holy of Holies?

One Last Word on Tabernacle Prayer

Since the Tabernacle is systematic and orderly, one can pray easily with it.

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