And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. (2 Chronicles 6:21)
This is Solomon’s prayer as he dedicates the temple. He goes on to give many examples of specific situations in which people need God’s forgiveness, which are in the verses 22-41 below. As you read through them, you find that people go to the temple and lift their prayers up to God as well as look in the direction of the temple when they can’t get there. This is why Daniel would go to his window and look West when he prayed. What was it about the temple that made it such an important place to pray from or toward? We find the answer in the next chapter, verse 12, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.” As the people look to the temple, they look to the sacrifices that either are offered up at the time of their prayer or have been offered up in the event they cannot be there. It is the sacrifice that allows their prayer for forgiveness to be heard. In this capacity, the temple serves as a type of Christ. We are taught in the New Testament to pray in the name of Jesus for our prayers to be heard. The Old Testament equivalent, particularly for prayers of repentance, is to pray toward the temple (or in the temple). So we do not look East when we pray to remember the sacrifices offered in the temple, we pray in the name of Jesus and remember how his blood has paid the debt our sins deserve. What great assurance we have that God will hear our prayers!
The other great element of Solomon’s prayer, particularly brought out in verses 32-33 (see below), is that this is not limited to Israel. Foreigners too are invited to pray toward the temple. In other words, the temple wasn’t just for the people of Israel but for the world. The people of Israel were the means through which God’s Word and work was to spread to the world. The exile served this means too. While it was a judgment on Israel for their forsaking Him, it was also a sending of Israel to the world to make His name known. This is why the rebuilding of the temple was so important during the days of Ezra. It represented God’s presence and willingness to forgive even the world.
22 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house,23 then hear from heaven and act and judge your servants, repaying the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.
24 “If your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house,25 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their fathers.
26 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflictt them,27 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good wayt in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.
28 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is,29 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house,30 then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind,31 that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.
32 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house,33 hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.
34 “If your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to you toward this city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name,35 then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.
36 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near,37 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’38 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name,39 then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you.40 Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place. (2 Chronicles 6:22-40)