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Midwestern chapel modified to serve as house of prayer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Be prepared to take your shoes off when you step into the chapel of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When several seminary administrators and faculty members traveled to North Africa and the Middle East last year, they were awed by the mosques which provided an atmosphere for prayer. Though the local worshipers gathered to pray to Allah, Midwestern’s group removed their shoes and spent time praying to the God of their Christian faith.
“As we sat, and knelt, and stood in these moments of praise, confession, petition and intercession, it occurred to us that Christians would do well to have a similar location, atmosphere and posture for prayer,” recalled Mark Coppenger, president of Midwestern Seminary.
By occasionally removing the hundreds of portable chairs from the chapel and laying down rolls of carpet, Coppenger hopes to provide a similar, but thoroughly Christian setting at the Kansas City, Mo., seminary. Hundreds of students, staff and faculty joined Coppenger in a Feb. 4 chapel devoted to prayer. After individually noting specific areas of sin, participants threw their lists into a wastebasket that was later emptied into a fire.
Coppenger noted Jesus championed the “house of prayer” in his rebuke of the moneychangers in the temple by quoting Isaiah’s reference to a “house of prayer for all nations.”
Houses of prayer are most appropriately the domain of conservative evangelicals, Coppenger said. “It is a pity that non-Christians and sacramentalists have appropriated the notion of houses of prayer, when ours is the heritage of orthodox prayer,” he said, referring to Muslim mosques and Roman Catholic cathedrals and retreat centers. “We have let them lead in an emphasis on prayer by default.”
Coppenger said he hopes the school’s periodic house of prayer emphasis will bring special attention to missions. “Just as the parade of foreign flags and the serving of international foods are used in heightening our regard for the work of Christ among the peoples of the world, this carpeted ‘house of prayer’ will bring our focus to bear on a region of special concern to Midwestern,” Coppenger said, referring to northern Africa and the Middle East.
Several teams accompanied by Midwestern faculty traveled throughout North Africa in late January to areas where the gospel is not freely proclaimed.
Coppenger also sees concerted prayer as a key element of biblical revival. In his call for the “prairie fire” of revival and awakening to begin at Midwestern, Coppenger wants to be sure that “our lip service is backed by heart service in prayer.”
He also noted “God’s people have seen powerful prayer blossom outside the pew” in non-conventional settings such as “a Glorieta, N.M., prayer garden, the Korean prayer mountains or the New England haystack.” Many fresh movements of God begin on campuses, he added. “Should the Lord graciously visit the campus in power in connection with this prayer, the people of God throughout the region, land and world would be blessed,” Coppenger said.
Midwestern’s Student Body Association officers have made prayer their highest focus this year, with specified times for fasting and a season of prayer. “Perhaps Midwestern could be the next Asbury or the next Yale, as in the days of Timothy Dwight,” Coppenger said, referring to the spiritual renewal of that school in the early 1800s.
When entering a “house of prayer,” Coppenger said he believes posture and dress can make a difference. “It is not formulaic to say that a kneeling posture can be right conducive to prayer,” he said, observing Jesus knelt to pray on the Mount of Olives and Paul knelt in prayer with Ephesian elders. “Their action commends kneeling. Take away the chairs and put down carpet, and you have an ideal situation for kneeling in prayer.”
By moving from the “pedestrian” to devotional mode as shoes are removed, Coppenger added dress can make a difference. He recalled God told Moses to take off his sandals as he stood on holy ground near the burning bush. The commander of the Lord’s army gave Joshua the same instruction, according to Joshua 5:15, Coppenger said.
Prayer also can thrive in a place of quiet retreat, Coppenger said. Quiet and relative privacy made concentration easier for Jesus when he withdrew to a hillside or garden, he noted. Just as many churches and institutions set aside places of retreat, Coppenger called Midwestern’s chapel area “a larger-than-usual prayer room where many can gather for unbroken attention to adoration and supplication.”
With the nation in what Coppenger calls “a moral and spiritual bog,” he said the desperate hour calls for fresh initiatives. “Sound doctrine is, for many, an irritant,” he said, recalling chapel speaker Bailey Smith’s reference to the “Barabbas Generation” which casts aside Jesus and embraces the wicked.
“In another vein, Midwestern is dreaming of unprecedented and miraculous funding for a new campus core structure. We will mount a fund-raising campaign, but that campaign must center on prayer,” Coppenger said. And with countless needs encircling students and their churches, he said they must strengthen their habit of prayer for the daily concerns of life.”
Through the creation of a “house of prayer,” Coppenger said, “Midwestern signals its awareness of the urgency of the hour with this striking prayer initiative.”

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  • Tammi Ledbetter