Prayer As a Campout In the Sanctuary of God’s Presence

July 5, 2018

Exodus 33:7-11

7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.


I’ve never noticed the first few words in today’s text until now, and they trouble my soul. Let me explain.

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp

The text indicates this is something that Moses used to do, which implies that somewhere along the way he stopped doing it. Did he get too busy? Did the demands of the “bigger tent” (aka the Tabernacle) consume his time? Did he slowly slip from desperate dependence on God to a manageable comfort level of life. I wonder if he noticed as the folded up tent collected dust in the corner. It happens so easily as the campfires of pure devotion get replaced by the commercial furnaces of duty or the intolerable urgency our over scheduled lives and busy agendas.

Why does it trouble me? I used to do this too. You may remember a few week back I shared some of the story of my great prayer awakening. In case you missed it, as I was preparing in law school to become the President the United States (haha!) I also served as the security guard at a local church in town. One night, while making the rounds, I found the front door of the sanctuary ajar. Instead of locking it back up, I ventured inside. In those next few moments, in an ordinary yet profoundly supernatural way, I entered the sanctuary as the “House of Prayer,” or as I have come to understand in retrospect—the house of prayer entered me.

Here’s the rest of the story. During rounds the next night, I unlocked the door and let myself in. My experience of prayer seemed to pick up just where I had left off the prior night. Same thing next night, which became weeks and then months. This sacred space had become my every day “tent of meeting” just outside the campgrounds of my every day life.

As this unfolded, I had also become a volunteer youth worker at the church. My little house next to the church was quickly turning into a hospitality house for the kids in the youth group. As an interesting aside, the house had a sign on the front that said, “The Koinonia House.” Koinonia is a term we see used in the Acts of the Apostles which means the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

One night when it came time to make my rounds, a couple of the kids hanging out at the Koinonia House asked if they could go with me. Why not?! As we came to the sanctuary door I had a choice to make. Would I skip my nightly prayer meeting with the Lord or ask them to wait outside or . . . would I invite them to join me? You know what I did. I skipped it. No!! I invited them to join me. And from this humble beginning, the awakening grew. Within weeks, more kids began to show up at the Koinonia House in order to join the growing security patrol to make the rounds.

I can still see it in my mind’s eye; some nights up to twenty-something kids lined across the altar rail kneeling at the front of that sanctuary. Some nights we would be there for an hour or more meeting with God. At one point, we began to spread out throughout the room, each taking one of the long wooden pews and praying for the people who had sat there the prior Sunday and who would sit there the coming one. Several of the kids approached me later with the idea of “camping out” in our newfound “tent of meeting” for an all night prayer vigil. It was incredible and none of us will ever forget it. And get this—the miracle of awakening began to rise up in the larger church, led by an unlikely band of teenagers who had discovered the power of the Holy Spirit, in of all places, the sanctuary.

And the most beautiful part, to this day many of those kids are still pressing out onto the frontiers of God’s Kingdom in all sorts of places all over the world. And still to this day, the awakening continues to cut new channels of grace and mercy in that local church and broader community. As I look back I thank God for leaders then (and now) who tolerated the spilled Dr. Pepper and scattered Nacho Cheese Doritos crumbs left behind from our all-night prayer meetings. They allowed it to blend into the carpet, where I’m sure it still lingers mingled with those teenaged prayers that keep bearing fruit.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to do the translation work here with Moses and his Tent of Meeting. You’ve already done it.


Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Right here, Jesus. I want a tent of meeting with you. Even more, I want you to take this frail and fragile physical body of mine and make it your tent of meeting with me. Let it become he kind of tent into which you can invite others to join, and one that evokes a holy reverence at the mystery of how Divine treasure dwells in the mess of a human life yielded to you. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.


  1. Do you have a “tent of meeting” type story in your past or present life of faith? Consider sharing it with our Facebook Group or with your band.
  2. Are there people in your past or present life whose life of prayer inspires you and causes the worship of God to rise up in you? Reflect on those people? Are they trying to be those kind of people or are they just trying to belong to Jesus completely?
  3. Have the duties or burdens of Christian leadership and responsibility snuffed out the primitive fires of faith that once burned? What might a new “tent of meeting” practice look like for you?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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