Praying the Temple with Its Lord

Apr 1, 2017

For some years now I have been preoccupied with the temple and its many iterations and echoes throughout the Bible.

This preoccupation has only grown through the realization of what most people who read the Bible have known since early childhood: 

  • That Christ is the realization of Old Testament types or shadows
  • That He calls Himself the temple on more than one occasion
  • That He spends quite a bit of time teaching in the temple
  • That the Apostle Paul calls us the Temple of the Living God

In addition, Dr. Peter Leithart’s book, A House for His Name, GK Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission and a number of other books and conversations have led me to see something I have no excuse for not seeing much, much earlier: The Temple is the key to understanding God, the Bible, and everything created and uncreated; it is the thread that “ties together” the whole Bible, and it is the surest guide to understanding human beings made in the Image of God. 

For those who might rightly object that Christ is the key to understanding all this, I agree. I joyfully remind you that Christ is Himself the Temple, and therefore to understand either is made possible by a right understanding of the other. 

I cannot help but wonder if the fragmentation of our age isn’t preceded by the fragmentation of its religious mind, and if that fragmentation wasn’t caused by a fragmented understanding of the book on which it tried to base all its life. But that is a grandiose thought that I cannot know or understand, only wonder about. 

In any case, I want to do what I can to restore the order of my mind and perhaps contribute to the ordering of the minds of my readers by dwelling on the Temple a little more. 

In this post, I will make a very specific application and if time permits I will, over the coming months, develop some parts of what I write here. 

I believe that the prayer our Lord instructed us to pray at the request of His disciples is patterned on the temple and the tabernacle. Allow me to present a simple outline to show what I mean and, as I said above, I’ll try to develop this in time to come. 

He begins by instructing us to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven.” The pattern found in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation is that all good things come from heaven and therefore the first act of godliness is to look there. Heaven is where God is, seated on the throne which is a mercy seat, surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim. 

So He continues, “Hallowed by Thy Name.” This is what is happening in Heaven. The Cherubim and Seraphim are singing, “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.” When we say “Hallowed be Thy Name,” we are joining the angels in their worship. 

The Lord of Heaven reveals this pattern in the Holy of Holies, which is beyond the veil in the Temple, and where the angels are represented by the gold cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, overshadowing the Mercy Seat and by the gigantic carved Cherubim that tower over the golden cherubim in the Temple. 

Thus, when our Lord teaches us to say, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name,” He is calling us to worship in the Holy of Holies, the most inner, private, and sacred place in the Temple. 

Then He says, "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, as in Heaven so on Earth.” I ordered it that way because that is how it is in the original and because it is important. This is the order of God’s movement: heaven to earth, always. The Kingdom of Heaven and The Will of God accomplished in Heaven is the pattern we are invited to participate in here on earth. This is a kingdom of joy and a will of every pleasure, but we miss that when we turn things around. 

We have stepped from the Holy of Holies through the curtain into the Holy Place, a space 45’ by 45’ by 90’ in which we find the altar of incense, seven golden candle sticks, and the table of showbread. 

It is to this space that our Lord leads us when He invites us to pray, “Give us this day our “epiousios” bread" (the word can mean daily or it could mean something along the lines of supersubstantial, beyond nature). I propose that this refers to the showbread and through the breat to the whole room in which it is found. If we receive the bread we will live in the light of the candlesticks and delight in the scent of the incense. But it is the bread we consume. And this bread is both Christ and physical bread, both of which God supplies to His faithful people. 

Next, He leads us out of the Temple into the courtyard, when He says, “And Forgive us our debts” or “trespasses.” This is done through the blood sacrifice that is made outside the temple or tabernacle itself and through the washing at the laver or wash basin. He sprinkles the blood of the sacrifice on us and He washes us - and we are forgiven. 

Then we take this forgiveness outside the Temple precincts into the camp, the city, the Kingdom, when we say, “As we forgive our debtors” or “those who trespass against us.” There is no other source for forgiveness than the sacrifice Christ brought into the Temple and that we bring into the camp.

“And lead us not into temptation (or trial/testing).” Once we see the Tabernacle as the pattern, the echo of Israel’s journey through the wilderness, their time of trial and temptation, is hard to miss.

Furthermore, in Matthew 4, the apostle tells us that the Holy Spirit drove Christ into the wilderness to be tempted. He knows what temptation is. He tells us to pray that God will not do to us what He did to Him. 

“But deliver us from Evil (or the evil one - i.e., Satan)”. We pray that we will be delivered from Satan and from the surrounding nations. 

But in all this we must not forget where we began and where we must begin. “For Thine is the Kingdom.” That promised land is His to give, and He has already given it. 

“And the power.” All that we need to take what is ours has already been given us in Christ. And the first thing we must take is ourselves.  

“And the glory.” Oh, that glory! The Shekinah radiance of God that led them though the wilderness, that entered the Tabernacle and radiated from Moses’s face, that entered the Temple on the wings of the worship of the people, that left the Temple when the worship was replaced by idolatry, that the apostle’s saw at the Transfiguration, and that we are invited to dwell in for eternity. Because that kingdom, power, and glory are…

“Forever and ever, Amen.” 

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Andrew  Kern

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the founder and president of The CiRCE Institute and the co-author of the book, Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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