JERUSALEM — From the Jerusalem Prayer Center in Israel, Southern Baptist volunteers Dale and Anita Thorne have a bird’s-eye view of the city.
“When I look out the door … I can see the Arab side of Jerusalem, and when I look out the opposite door, I see the Jewish side,” Anita said. “I feel the Lord has strategically placed the center ‘on the line’ between the two.”
The center is located in a 120-year-old house near the site of the Mandelbaum Gate — the traditional dividing line between Arab and Jewish parts of the city. The Thornes hope the center will draw Christians to pray for all peoples of the city — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — and all peoples of the world, as stated in Isaiah 56:7: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.”
“We encourage people who come to the center to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and that means peace for all the people of the city … peace with God and peace with each other,” Dale said. “Just as our physical location speaks of peace and reconciliation, so does all that goes on in the building.”
The Thornes, a retired couple from Oklahoma, organize tours of the building for locals as well as Christian groups visiting Jerusalem for mission trips and Holy Land sightseeing.
“On the landing leading up to the prayer room, one can view a Jewish community, an Arab-Muslim boys’ school and an Anglican-Arab Christian church and school,” Anita said. “From this vantage point, we have not only prayed for God’s blessing on these people but for an open door for developing relationships.”
When visitors arrive, they are given a short overview presentation in the chapel, followed by a guided tour of the building with stops along the way to pray at various points of interest, including exhibits that depict Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. The tour concludes at an interactive prayer area called the Upper Room with prayer banners in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Visitors can explore displays designed to educate them about prayer needs and involve them in praying for those needs during and after their visit. Sections in the room emphasize the praise, confession and intercession aspects of prayer. Other displays encourage visitors to contribute drawings and their own prayer requests.
The center’s prayer chapel includes a mural painted by Jerusalem artist Pam Suran illustrating Matthew 9:38-39: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Visitors also can pray in a garden featuring a prayer wall with ceramic maps of the earth’s continents.
About 150 people from the local community and from abroad attended a dedication ceremony in May. The presence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish, believers and nonbelievers, was a tangible reminder of the purpose of the center, the Thornes said.
The house was once part of the American Colony of Jerusalem, founded by Horatio Spafford, who wrote the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.”
Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, assisted with the design of center’s displays and set up the interactive prayer room. First Baptist Church in Oviedo, Fla., SonRise Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., along with Lake Pointe continue to support the center through donations, volunteer trips and prayer.