“For My House Shall Be a House of Prayer for All Peoples”
Many faith traditions highlight this text from the book of Isaiah as a longstanding declaration of welcome and inclusion. Perhaps your congregation or organization has a plaque near the main entrance to your building with this quotation, or maybe it’s part of your mission statement or website.
Several years ago, as I prepared to give a keynote talk at a conference on inclusion in faith communities, this line from Isaiah took up residence in my brain, practically begging me to frame my presentation around it.
“What is a house of prayer for all peoples?” I asked myself.
One may immediately picture ramps, automatic door openers, sign language interpreters, Zoom captioning, and so on. But that wasn’t the direction I was headed.
I wanted to emphasize what it means to belong, offer one’s unique gifts and strengths to the community, and be accepted, respected and valued. To be seen and to be known. That is the essence of belonging and precisely what I wanted to share in my talk. So, I went back to Isaiah 56:7 and reread the entire verse.
“I will bring them to My holy mount, and I will cause them to rejoice in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
People, not programs, make a house of prayer for all people. God draws us in to experience the joy of belonging, contributing, and having a space in our community. Let us understand the wisdom of this iconic text of welcome, participation, and appreciation of each person who simply wants to belong. Belonging is the heart of inclusion.
Director of Faith Inclusion, RespectAbility