The closing chapters of the book of Isaiah are filled with rich promises for the future. In chapter 55, the prophet focuses on God’s invitation to experience redemption. It’s as if Isaiah is saying, “Listen up! God’s deliverance is about to be revealed.” And then, in chapter 56, Isaiah makes it abundantly clear that the invitation will extend far beyond just the chosen people of Israel. When the Messiah comes, people from every nation on the earth will be welcome to taste the goodness of God’s salvation. Even to those who were currently excluded, God said, “These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).
The temple was called the “house of God” (Ezra 5:2) because God chose that place to be His “dwelling” where He would meet with His people (see Psalm 132:13–14). Prayer, an important part of worship, was closely associated with the temple (see 1 Kings 8:29, 38; Luke 1:10; 2:37; 18:10; Acts 3:1). In Isaiah 56 God looks forward to a coming day of blessing: “My salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed” (verse 1). God wants those excluded from His house to know that, in that blessed day, they would be welcome to enter His temple, which would be a house of prayer for all people, of all nations and backgrounds (verse 7).
In Mark 11:17, when Jesus drove out the buyers and sellers in the temple, He repeated these words from the book of Isaiah: “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’” (see also Matthew 21:13; Luke 19:46). The house of God—the place where He dwells—is a holy place reserved for prayer and worship, but the moneychangers had repurposed it for their own selfish gain, bringing the wrath of Christ upon them.
After Christ resurrected and ascended into heaven, the church—all believers in Jesus Christ—are now called the house of God: “But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:6; see also 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16–17; 1 Timothy 3:15). Christians, “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” says 1 Peter 2:5. God no longer lives in tents or buildings made by human hands but in the lives of all those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior. We are God’s house of prayer.
When Jesus was born, the visit of the magi from the East was a bellwether of the “all nations” invited to God’s house of prayer (see Matthew 2:1–11). In the church age, people of all nations, tribes, and languages are invited into the house of God (Matthew 24:14; 28:19; Revelation 7:9). When the church began on the day of Pentecost, people from at least fifteen different parts of the world were present (Acts 2:9–10). Throughout the book of Acts, the gospel comes to Samaritans (Acts 8), Ethiopians (Acts 8), Romans (Acts 10), and Greeks (Acts 11, 16).
The Lord’s invitation to salvation opens up the way for people of every nation to have a personal relationship with God the Father and Creator of the world. Prayer is a significant part of that relationship. Prayer is communication with God—an activity of our fellowship with Him. Prayer is worship. God’s house is a “house of prayer” because now we can approach the Lord’s presence through a one-on-one speaking relationship with God: “Let us then approach God’s 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).
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus extends an invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” echoing God’s call, “Come, all you who are thirsty” (Isaiah 55:1). We, the needy, are invited to come to the One who can meet our needs. The ancient temple in Jerusalem is gone, but we approach God now in prayer, in all the reverence and awe His holiness demands. We are made acceptable to God through the sacrifice of His Son: “Therefore he [Christ] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Prayer is intimately connected with God’s presence. Wherever we worship God and recognize His presence, whether in church, in a small group, or alone in our prayer closet, we ought to see ourselves as operating in God’s house of prayer. All who have accepted Christ’s invitation and entered into a relationship with Him are people of prayer. Since prayer and fellowship with God is worship, the house of God is a place of prayer and worship. God delights in fellowship with His children.
When Jesus came to earth and sacrificed His life on the cross, He opened the way of salvation to people of every nation. And now all who accept Christ’s invitation to come are welcome in God’s house of prayer: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22). If you are part of the family of God, not only are you His household, but you are also His house of prayer.