Prayer was a big part of the Old Testament. People prayed all the time. They prayed for many things and in many locations. That was possible because they believed prayer reached the very thrown of God. It is one thing for your words to be in God’s presence and quite another for you to actually be in the presence of God. If you wanted to be in God’s presence you would have to go to the temple for that. However, it wasn’t just as simple as showing up at the temple with a “get into God’s presence for free” card. Here is a diagram (from ebibleteacher.com) of the temple that shows how exclusive permission was to gain access to God’s presence.
If you fell into the 99% of the world that wasn’t Jewish you could only get as close as the Gentile’s court. If you were part of the 1% of the world’s population that was Jewish you could get further. Half of that 1% (Jewish women) was able to get as far as the court of women. The other half of that 1% (Jewish men) were able to get further into the court of Israel. Beyond that you have to be a male Jewish priest to get any closer to God’s presence. Any closer and it required you to be the High Priest to gain access to the Holy place. The Most Holy Place was not only restricted to the High Priest but could only be entered on a particular day, the Day of Atonement. Getting into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place was exclusive.
In Hebrews 10:11-22 we learn that the exclusivity of the temple was temporary. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection opened the way for the whole world to have access to God. The curtain has been torn and the walls of separation between man and God have been removed by Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer tells us that Christ’s sacrifice has made us perfect (Heb 10:14) and the result of that is our ability to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus Christ (Heb 10:19-22).
Through Christ, God is now available to all. He is not distant. He is near. The ultimate sign of God’s availability to us came through Jesus Christ. In Christ, God took on flesh and dwelt among mankind (John 1:14). It was God’s way of saying he is here, he is real and he is present. He is Immanuel, “God with us.” The apostle Paul tells us that the dividing lines of exclusion have been done away with in Christ,
“26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” – Gal 3:26-29
I am so thankful that our God is able to break all the dividing lines the world loves to draw between people and make us all one in Christ! What is more, God’s Spirit now dwells in us. Paul goes so far as to say that we are God’s temple (1 Cor 6:19-10). No more distance. No more exclusion…instead, availability and presence. God is good.