The Temple Model of Prayer
(Revised and extended edition of A Kingdom of Priests)
Category: Prayer and Poetry
This book draws on the symbolism built into the structure of the Jewish Temple — its design, spaces and objects — as a model for prayer. Using the Temple model, the author guides the reader on a journey beginning at the Gates of Thanksgiving and concluding within the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies. The reader is not a tourist wandering about, glancing at objects, and buying the t-shirt at the end of the Temple tour. Rather, the reader is guided as a priest, whose vocation of drawing near to and serving God in prayer includes understanding the theological significance of the Temple's spaces and objects. According to the author, the effects of using this approach are not just outward and changeable like the tourist's t-shirt, but inward and life-changing.
In preparation for praying, the author explains how the Holy Spirit works through the model's God-given structure. Its 'orderly framework' helps in at least two ways: first, it helps to mitigate against the enemies of prayer — 'the world, the flesh, and the devil'; and second, it draws those who pursue the structure into an increasingly intimate journey — into the presence of God where prayer 'can suspend the laws of the universe'.
The central chapters of the book are both theologically based and practical in nature. The prayer of thanksgiving occupies the first of these chapters because it is the 'password' for opening the Gates of Thanksgiving to God's presence.
In the Courts of Praise, Stibbe differentiates between prayers of thanksgiving and praise. He explains that praise's true occupation is adoration of God not personal preoccupation.
At the centre of praise is sacrifice of self at the Alter of Sacrifice. Here Stibbe compares and contrasts the old covenant altar with its new covenant counterpart where sin is atoned for. He provides a practical approach for coming to the altar; one which cannot indulge sin but brutally addresses it so that real change can occur.
In moving 'further up and further in[to]' the Holy Place, Stibbe instructs priests about the theological significance of objects like the Table of Shrewsbread which represents a priest's petitions for his/her daily needs, and the Golden Altar of Incense which represents intercession for the needs of others.
Worship is a 'vital spiritual discipline' connecting us to the eternal realm and 'the God who is good but not safe'.
In the innermost Holy of Holies, Stibbe teaches about the prayer of worship as depicted in the book of Revelation. He characterizes worship as a 'vital spiritual discipline' connecting us to the eternal realm and 'the God who is good but not safe'.
This book largely succeeds in deeply exploring the subject of prayer from a theological and practical perspective which works to make it more of a guidebook than an inspirational one. My criticism of the book is on the practical front, however: although the last two pages start to draw out the implications of the priesthood's prayers in service to others, it falls short of saying enough about the full nature of this aspect of worship. Worship is presented as the beholding of God in contemplation. Yet, it seems that in addition to God-centred contemplation any authentic enthroning or worshipping of Him must also seamlessly overflow in sacrificial service to his needy world as many Old Testament and New Testament passages attest. Stibbe recognizes that some contemporary churches tend to be self-centred, so this point could be more greatly emphasized.
Claudette Fisher-Johnson, August 2005
Claudette Fisher-Johnson is a mother, housewife, graduate of London School of Theology and a former management consultant.Order from www.christianbookshops.org
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