Troublesome Topic: Praying Through the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle as a Guide for Prayer

In the tabernacle there was a visual lesson about how to approach God, i.e. the order in which we do so.

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Everything had to be done according to the design of the tabernacle itself. I have found this order to be very helpful during times of prayer, so I recommend that you try it.

Here are the parts of the tabernacle in proper order:

The Entrance

The Altar for blood sacrifices

The Laver

The Lampstand

The Table of Shew bread

The Altar of Incense

The Holy of Holies

Station # 1  The Entrance

There was only one entrance into the court of the tabernacle. Thus, according to this pattern of praying, we must acknowledge that God is the only one for us. It is a way of telling God why we are coming to Him, rather than going anywhere else. It is an acknowledgement that God alone is the source of what we need. It may seem silly to you to say this every day, but it is an important acknowledgment.

Station # 2  The Altar

Here we deal with any sin that may be in our life that has not yet been confessed. We know that if we confess our sin He is faithful and just, and He will forgive our sin (I Jn. 1:9). The design of the tabernacle demands that we approach God in a specific sequence. We cannot bypass the altar to rush into the Holy of Holies; we must first deal with sin. When this is done at least once a day (for most of us it will be many times a day) it keeps our hearts pure before Him and we are more likely to experience His joy and peace.

Station # 3  The Laver (wash basin)

Here the priests washed their hands and feet in order to cleanse themselves before serving the Lord and other people (see Ex 30:18-21 and Ex 40:30-32). The washing was not to remove blood during their service, but to remove dust before they began to serve. Blood was good; dust was bad. Blood was good because it represented life. Dust and unseen contaminants were a problem because the physical contamination represented spiritual contamination. The point was that serving others requires a special level of cleansing and commitment to God. We must be cleansed of even the small causes of uncleanness if we expect God to work through us to bless others. At this point in our process of praying, we ask God to identify areas of our lives that need to be cleansed, and then we ask specifically for God to cleanse us of those things He identified as problematic issues. We do this in order to be properly prepared to serve Him and our fellow man.

Station # 4  The Lampstand

The lampstand was on one side of the holy place in the tabernacle and the table of shew bread was across from it. There is nothing about the tabernacle to tell us which one we must “approach” first so we have to rely on a general knowledge about God and spirituality. I feel strongly that we should come first to the lampstand before going across to the table. That is because the lampstand represents God’s glorious nature, His awe-inspiring qualities. It is at this station that we worship God for being the kind of God He is. Here we focus our attention on His character. Many believers do not think enough about what God is like, about His qualities.

Station # 5  the Table of Shew Bread

The bread represents God’s provision for us. Having worshipped God for who He is, we now come to this station where we thank Him for what He has done for us, how He has protected us and provided for us, guided us and taught us. Here it is good to list as many specific things as we can think of that God has done for us since the last time we went through this process, which hopefully was the no more than 24 hours ago. Here I also thank Him for specific answers to prayer.

Station # 6  The Altar of Incense

This is the place where we offer ourselves to God; it is also the place that is connected most directly to the act of prayer. Having dealt with any sin in our lives, having cleaned up any emotional wounds, and having properly worshipped and thanked Him, we can now bring our concerns and requests to Him. This is the place for interceding on behalf of others. This is also the place to share our burdens with Him.

Notice that we should not come running to this place of requesting things without first going through the other steps. Yet that is what many people have made prayer, a laundry list of requests, some of which are in agreement with God’s desires, some of which are not.

Station # 7  The Holy of Holies

Under the Former Covenant, only the High priest could go into the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year. But when Jesus died the curtain that kept the priests from seeing into the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom. Words cannot express how big a deal that was. God had opened the way into His very presence, any time, for any person.

The Holy of Holies is the place to simply enjoy God’s presence, listen for His voice, or just be silent before Him. It is our place of most intimate personal worship and closest connection with God. What that looks like will be unique for each person. And it will vary from day to day; one day you will be on your face, one day on your feet; one day you may sing, one day you may weep. How long you stay at this place will vary greatly, but it is good to get here regularly. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of prayer that many believers never experience, much less once a day.

Once again, we cannot make an end run and rush to the Holy of Holies while avoiding things like thankfulness (the shew bread), or a recognition of who God is and what He is like (the lampstand). The order and design of the tabernacle was very specific and very clear. It was a lesson without words.

Back then only priests could go past station # 2, the Altar. But now all of us can go through all seven stations, even into the Holy of Holies. I recommend you do so every day. 

(This is the last lesson in this set of topical lessons about Rest. Thank you for reading.)



I learned this from Mrs. Neva Miller, Professor of Bible at Vennard Bible College, and a Wycliffe Consultant.