So, here are 10 key verses to understanding the Biblical basis for building a house of prayer:
1. Isaiah 56:7
"Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations."
Perhaps one of the most foundational Scriptures for the house of prayer is Isaiah 56:7. Here Isaiah is prophesying of a day to come where "them," referring to the Gentiles or all peoples, would be allowed to come near to God's presence, His holy mountain, His house of prayer. Here God defines His house primarily as a house of prayer, Of all of the aspects of God (prophecy, healing, evangelism, etc.), He chooses prayer as the way to describe His eternal dwelling place. And not just a house for the people of Israel, but also for the Gentiles. After thousands of years of Israel's history, prophesying of a day of the inclusivity of all nations was kind of a big deal. What's interesting too, is that God states that His house of prayer is a place where one can find joy and acceptance in right relationship with Him as well.
Later in the New Testament (Matt. 21:13, Mark 11:17), Jesus signifies the importance of His house when He begins and ends His ministry in Jerusalem by clearing out the moneychangers from the temple, declaring His zeal for His house, and declaring once again that His house shall forever be a "house of prayer for all nations."
2. Malachi 1:11
"For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts."
Here again we see the importance of the "nations" in God's plan. Every place that the sun touches will God's Name be known and more so, will incense and offerings be brought to Him. Incense in Biblical theology always represented the prayers of the saints. So basically here Malachi the prophet told of a day where every nation of the earth would not only know God, but would bring continual prayer and offerings to Him! This passage declares that God's house, while centered in Jerusalem, will be evident around the world through the people of God becoming a people of prayer!
3. Isaiah 62:6-7
"I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth."
It is clear that Isaiah had such profound revelation of the end time prayer movement. In this passage, Isaiah speaks of a day where the Lord will have watchmen (intercessors including singers and musicians) who will pray day and night. Not only will they give themselves no rest, sacrificing personal pleasures and other desires, but they will also give the Lord no rest! What an interesting thought- giving God no rest! This will be such a victorious time for the Church where they are intimately intertwined with the Lord as a people of continual prayer.
The other part of this passage describes the importance of Jerusalem (and indirectly the Jewish people) as being supremely important to the Lord. He is telling those "who make mention of the Lord", which at this time is not most Jewish people, but Gentile Christians, God is telling Gentile Christians to remember Jerusalem and be a people of prayer for Jerusalem and her prosperity (including her citizens, mostly consisting of the Jewish people). Of course the way for Jerusalem to be the praise on the earth, is for Jesus, the praise of the earth, to reign on His throne from Jerusalem. Therefore, the Church is to be a people of prayer until Christ returns and establishes His throne in Jerusalem (and of course beyond that as well).
4. Leviticus 6:13
"A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out."
This passage originally given to the Hebrew people along with the other laws found in the Torah on how a fire was always to be found on the altar in the Tabernacle. However, in light of Christ's death and resurrection and our new identity as the temple of the Holy Spirit, believers can interpret this passage as a charge to be a perpetual offering to the Lord through devoting ourselves to perpetual prayer. The Hebrew people in the Old Testament were only able to keep this law as an entire community, not as individuals. Therefore, the lesson again is that the community should all be involved in keeping the fire burning and being a people of prayer. The Moravians in Germany took this verse as a charge to build a community of prayer and sustained 24/7 prayer for over 100 years.
5. Haggai 1:7-8
"Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord."
After the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people, God gave the command to rebuild the house of the Lord. Previously in this chapter the people had exclaimed that they didn't think that it was time, and God gives an emphatic response that NOW is the time to build His house! He also states that His pleasure and glory is wrapped up in building His house. The clear lesson for us today is that still God is speaking "NOW is the time!" and that His glory and pleasure is in the building of His house.
6. Amos 9:11
"On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old."
Amos prophesies of a day where God will rebuild the tabernacle of David. What's interesting is that when he prophesied this passage, the temple was in existence! This brings up the difference between the temple and the tabernacle of David. The tabernacle allowed anyone to come in including those women, those who were not Levites or priests, and arguably Gentiles! The temple however, was more restrictive allowing only male Levites or priests. For Amos to prophesy a day where the tabernacle of David would be rebuilt certainly describes the inclusivity of all people, the intercession, the prophetic music, and the heart of David that will all be a part of the end time rebuilding of David's tabernacle.
Also important, this passage was quoted in Acts 15:16 with the council of Jerusalem where the early church had difficulty deciding whether Gentile believers needed to become Jews (by getting circumcised and following the 613 laws) in order to be saved or not. The answer came with Amos's passage citing the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David and the implied inclusivity of all people, including the Gentiles. This quoting of the passage is the reason why Gentile Christians today do not have to follow the Jewish laws found in the Torah.
7. Luke 18:7
"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?"
Jesus gives this parable of the unjust judge and tells His disciples that if persistent people can get justice from corrupt men then how much more can persistent people get justice from a loving, merciful God? From this passage we get a few hints of how God views prayer- it should be focused on justice, it should be continual, and we are to seek Him even if He bears long with the answer!
8. Revelation 5:8
"Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
A picture of the throne room in heaven where the living creatures, angels, and elders worship around the throne 24/7. Since we are to pray "on earth as it is in heaven" this gives a glimpse into how we should pray. Prayer in heaven is continual, it involves music (the harp), and it is so powerful and precious to God that He fashions beautiful, golden bowls in order to hold the incense that is our prayers. Incense is naturally pleasing, can change the atmosphere or even a person's emotions (think calming smells), and it lingers. Our prayers in heaven linger in the throne room in bowls until God mixes them with fire and thrusts them on the earth.
9. 1 Chronicles 16:4-6
"And he [David] appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel: Asaph the chief, and next to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, and Obed-Edom: Jeiel with stringed instruments and harps, but Asaph made music with cymbals; Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests regularly blew the trumpets before the ark of the covenant of God."
With all of the talk of the Tabernacle of David, and rebuilding it in the last days, it is important to actually see what it was like! This passage is directly after David set up the Tabernacle, but admittedly there are many other details about the Tabernacle listed in the rest of 1 Chronicles. Some of the important aspects to remember about the Tabernacle that we see in this passage are that the Tabernacle included people whose job was to minister before the Lord on a full-time basis. Also, the Levites combined music and prayer (similar to the pattern in heaven) with those who prayed, praised, sang, and played instruments on a day and night basis for the duration of the Tabernacle's existence. This gives validity to having those who minister before God in the house of prayer on a fulltime basis in singing, playing instruments, and praying.
10. Ephesians 1:17-19
"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power."
Where would the house of prayer be without apostolic prayers? Almost every set in the house of prayer has an apostolic prayer. After all, what better things to pray than things the apostles and Jesus prayed? Perhaps the quintessential apostolic prayer is Ephesians 1:17-19. Here Paul asks for believers to be equipped with wisdom and revelation, that we would truly know Jesus and be one with Him in our calling, in our inheritance as sons of God and co-heirs with Him, and in understanding the power that raised Him from the dead and works in our lives on a daily basis. As we can see in this passage, understanding what is already available to us through Christ is very important.