Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Temple as a House of Prayer

The prayer delivered by King Solomon at the dedication of the Temple is most unusual for several reasons. It is a prayer about the Temple as the preeminent place of prayer. Yet in the religious life of Israel, the Temple functions primarily as a place of sacrifice.

At the beginning of the prayer, the Temple is the place of residence for God but later in the prayer there is repeated stress on the Temple not as a place for God’s dwelling but as a place for the “Name” of God. The prayer and what von Rad calls the advocation of a “Name theology” serves as a means of securing access to God even when the Temple can no longer function as a place of worship. Not once during the lengthy prayer does King Solomon mention sacrifice.

The most important aspect of Solomon’s dedication prayer is that it establishes a place and a meaningful role for the people as participants in the religious life of Israel. In seven separate petitions, Solomon prays that God “in heaven” will hear the prayers and supplications of the people directed towards the Temple. The Temple as house of prayer becomes the focal point of the people’s relationship with God. The prayer, according to Werline, “presents the notion that the people could enact Deuteronomy’s demand for repentance through penitential prayer.”

The moment of the incense offering, at least as far as the evening is concerned, was considered the optimal moment for private prayer and there is evidence that crowds gathered in the Temple to pray at this auspicious moment. We see such evidence of the participation of the people in the Gospel of Luke when Zechariah entered the Temple to burn incense. In verse 10, we read that the people were praying outside the Temple at the hour of incense.

Copyrighted 2006


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