By What Manner is this “Good” Friday?

It is Good Friday! A day that Christians around the world hold holy and dear, a day that we remember the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the day of our dear Savior’s death, but we call it ‘Good’ Friday… how could anyone call the day of someone’s death good unless they were talking of a merciless dictator like Hitler or Stalin? Christ is recognized by the world as being the first real equal rights activist, and one of the first nonviolence practitioners (Funny they forget He took a whip to people, John 2:15), as well as model for most philosophers and philanthropists to follow, so how can we call the death of this overall respected and trusted being to be a good day? This is a day where our Lord suffered through the worst punishment the human body could take, and is described here:

Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews.  Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes.  The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.

At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.  The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.

The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.

After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed. (Dr. C. Truman Davis, 2018)

But that was not the only thing Christ endured before finally dying! Christ carried the cross to Mount Calvary a staggering 650-yard journey with a 75 lbs. weight affixed to His back. Pushing his muscles beyond the point of failure, Christ is recorded to have stumbled 3 times before the Centurion loses his patience and orders a denizen to help Christ with the weight. How can any of this be considered good? How? Even further the death on the cross is regarded as one of the cruelest forms by which to die. Not only are there nails in your wrists and feet, but you are slowly suffocating. To which to breathe you must pull by the nails in your wrists and push yourself up by the nail in your feet, causing even more pain just to breathe and live a little longer. So, again, I ask how can any of this be good? Let me remind you of the prophecy from Isaiah found in Isaiah 53:

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12, KJV)

This is where we begin to see why it is a Good Friday, as Christ was put through all of this to bear our iniquities. But let us read in Romans 5 to get the full picture.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11, KJV)

Christ died for us, while were enemies of Him! And we were justified by His blood. By His death, we were forgiven. Christ presented Himself as a perfect sacrifice for all of our sins! By this we have JOY in knowing that our sins are no more and we no longer have to fear the day of judgement or what comes after death for those who believe. This is why it is Good Friday! Because a good thing has been done, the remission of sins by the shedding of His blood. No one else could fill the sacrifice as God alone could.

If you are in a stage of doubt as to believing that Christ died for you, because you are a good person, we have to remember that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), and that where sin is God cannot be (1 John 1:5), and to be without God is death (Romans 2:1-11). Here is the good news, Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to this world to die for our sins because He loved us and all you have to do is believe that He is who He is (John 3:16-17, 1 John 1:9). To accept this free gift of salvation all you have to do is believe in your heart and confess it with your mouth (Romans 10:9-11)! I would encourage you not to wait, because tomorrow is never promised, and there is no better time than the present to begin your walk with God than now (2 Cor. 6:2). This means so much more than just a religion, it begins a relationship with God almighty (1 John 1:3-4). If you have any questions or are interested in finding a good church to be a part of, reach out to us via our contact link or through email at twocministries@gmail.com ! God Bless you, go in peace!

Advertisements

Maundy Thursday: The Prayer of Intercession

The Prayer of Intercession is probably my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. This prayer is an intimate conversation between Christ and the Father on our behalf that we may know His heart and how much He cares and loves for us. Beyond anything else, save His crucifixion, this prayer shows how much Christ truly felt our emotions, of love, longing, loss, heartache, and joy. Through this, we can see that He truly experienced the human condition. While He certainly holds true to His divinity, He also remains humble and makes requests for us, who He counts as a part of Him.

Following the Last Supper, and a whole lot of divine revelations to His disciples they begin to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Along this walk Christ begins to pray in the middle of the night. His prayer is said aloud for His disciples to hear and that they may be filled with the same spirit that He has in these final moments. As a soldier and his unit preparing for combat, He says this prayer to fill His team with confidence in the things to come. It is His last battle cry, His rally to arms. Though, it was not for combat, it was for love and the work of the ministry. Let’s read this powerful prayer. John 17 holds the entirety.

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:1-5, KJV)

This first part of this prayer is Christ acknowledging His Father’s will that He has fulfilled already and asking for the strength to bring it to completion that He (Christ) may glorify His Father even more. He even says that God has given eternal life, and that eternal life is found in the truth that God is God alone who sent Jesus (who is God, the Son ref. John 1:1-4, Rev. 1:8). It is simple, and plain, yet profound and a centerpiece to our faith. To call yourself Christian is to believe in the fact that Christ is both the Son of God and God, himself. Carrying on in verse 6:

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:6-8, KJV)

These verses are Christ acknowledging His Father’s will. He says that His disciples were chosen by the Father and that everything that He taught and said was His Father’s will. Christ says that everything that was given to Him, He turned and gave it to His disciples. Like a band of brothers, He kept no secret from those He loved most, all the words and lessons that God had, He gave them to His friends, disciples, and his most trusted followers that they might be fully equipped for the work of the ministry after He left. Now, He gets personal starting in verse 9.

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:9-12, KJV)

Here we see Christ begin praying specifically for His apostles. Because they are special to Him, He says those that are given to Him, as our most treasured friends are, so were these men to Him. God grants friendship, kinship to be the bonds by which we learn how to love one another and it was something that He felt Himself. Christ asks that God keeps His friends, as in keep them in His will that they may be one in the spirit of God and fellowship. Jesus knows the hard times that are going to ensue following this prayer and He wants them to be kept together despite what they would do (Judas’ betrayal and suicide, Peter’s denial, the general cowardice in the face of controversy). Christ wants them to hear this also, because He knows that it is important that they hear how He prays for them that they might know how to pray for one another. We get to go even deeper with what comes next in verse 13.

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:13-19, KJV)

This is one of my favorite parts of His prayer, here this is where Christ prays for their protection, but not as we might pray for one another’s protection. See, I normally hear in prayers, and have prayed myself before, that God keep people from danger, or from death, but Christ does not. More rather Christ says that He prays aloud (these things I speak in the world) that they may have JOY despite the hate that this world shows them. He even goes as far as to say, do not take them from the world, instead keep satan away from them and sanctify them in Your Word that they might be filled with joy and strength. That is just beautiful! He knows this world will turn against them and so instead of trying to keep them out of it, He prays that they be filled with joy because they are doing what is right and when the world hates on them it is because they are doing what is right! The only protective thing He asks is that Satan be kept away from them. And that is who we truly fight against in this world, not people, but Satan and his many schemes and deceptions. Now, let us see what Christ prayed for us! Beginning in verse 20:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23, KJV)

All right, now we are getting into why the prayer of Intercession is so important for us! Here we see Christ change from just His present disciples, and begins to pray for all those who would believe by the accounts, testimonies, and witness bore by His apostles, and that is everyone else who ever became a Christian, i.e. YOU and ME! Christ prays for our salvation here, prays that all those who should believe in the testimony of other disciples that we would be made one with God! And this is to honor and glorify God, because the world will see when we begin to act as believers and our lives change, as they should, that there is no denying that we are followers of Christ. As we talked about yesterday, that the world should know we are Christians by our love! Because as He said that “the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them” (John 17:23, KJV), that is what we are to embody as a unified body of believers. It does not matter what you think of another believer, because you cannot claim to love God and hate your brother (1 John 4:7-21). This is so important as a believer, it is beyond an imperative, that it is so important that God, Jesus, made certain to make it not only His final command before dying, but also prayed for it that we may know just how important it is to Him.

In closing, Christ turns back to His praying for His disciples that are with Him beginning in verse 24:

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:24-26, KJV).

In closing for His prayer, He returns His focus on His disciples. He prays that they would be able to truly bear witness to the glory of God that they may have a full understanding that God is who He says He is. And lastly, that they may have the same love that the Father has for the Son. Again, it is a beautiful picture of how real Jesus was. He had friends that He wanted to know just how awesome His Dad was, and He would stop at nothing to prove to not only them that God loved them and was all powerful, but He did not want to rest until the entire world has heard this! Shortly after this prayer Christ and His apostles arrive in the Garden Gethsemane where Christ begins to pray for strength to fulfill His Father’s will by going to the death of the cross. But all of that, and more we will cover tomorrow.

Fasting: More than a Trend

Fasting, for most of us this word means little more than just not eating or some trendy diet to try. Yet, when we look into the purpose and ideology behind fasting, we get a much deeper image and a truer sense of what it is to truly fast. The practice in the Hebrew tongue is read as ta’anit (pronounced ta’anith) and it holds a deep root in their traditions in remembrance for God delivering them.

The practice of fasting originates with Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) as we can read in Leviticus 23:26-32

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Also, on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.  And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an     atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. (King James Version)

The word says we are to afflict our souls… the word afflict is defined as to cause pain or suffering. We are to atone or repay for our sin by afflicting our souls with how we live for the day, and if you did not follow you were cut out from the people. This affliction is done by not eating or drinking (to include water), not wearing shoes, no bathing, no wearing or perfumes or oils and additionally not working as on the sabbath. And this day was always followed by the observance of the sabbath day, so it would be 2 full days before anything was done. This was done as a direct commandment from God to honor Him and remember His will for His people, and as to make ourselves a living sacrifice for our own sins as this was done under the Law still.

The next earnest and voluntary example of fasting we find comes from David in 2 Samuel 12:15-21

And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the  child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child,    while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. (KJV)

Here David has multiple reasons as to why he fasts. At first it is to plead for his son’s life, but then he begins to mature spiritually and he begins to seek God’s will in it all. He mourns for his son, but becomes obsessed with atoning for his sin that caused this situation in the first place (2 Samuel 12:13). Upon receiving news of his son’s death, the first thing he does before eating is clean himself and go praise the Lord in open worship before eating. David’s fast was again an atonement for his sins and in seeking of the will of God as was the purpose of the day of atonement that was set out in Leviticus.

Now, the way Christ fasted was on the complete next level… in the book of Matthew we see Christ venture into the woods for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-4)

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (KJV)

Christ denied himself any contact with others and prayed to strengthen His spirit for the things to come (not just the devil’s temptations). This is the first thing Christ does as part of His ministry. He got baptized by John and then goes straight way to the wilderness to fast, to prepare His spirit to meet the will of God for the ministry that His Father had ordained for Him. Christ later talks about fasting, and reminds us for whom we should be fasting. Reading Matthew 6:16-18 we see we aren’t to fast for others to know that our pride might grow, but rather that we might humble ourselves to God.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you,      They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:16-18,KJV)

So, what is the big deal with people coming out and saying I am doing the Daniel ‘fast’ and coming out trying to lose weight through intermittent fasting? Well, none, however it is not truly fasting as is described biblically. For one, the Daniel fast is based off of Daniel abstaining from delicacies to express his mournful state (Daniel 10:1-3) in addition to living out the Proverb 23:6, where it is said we should not eat even the bread of a miser (defined as someone who holds much wealth). When you do not eat because of a diet, you are not fasting, rather you are regimenting your diet or food intake to help lose weight, not abstaining from the world to seek God first. That is what a fast is all about. Giving God glory by truly denying oneself.

Let us look at what each example of fasting has in common, first and foremost, they were each done in response to, or in seeking God’s will. Yom Kippur was a commandment, while David and Jesus were preparing to accept the will of God. When you fast, you should seek God’s will first, no matter what it is that you are giving up, or abstaining from, your purpose should be to seek God’s perfect will and to put Him first with denial of yourself. When you fast you should truly live out as Christ said we are to do, deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24).  The entire fast should be focused on reminding yourself of who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do for you. God is an awesome, and powerful being, there is no one like Him, when you fast, your spiritual eyes should open up and take in just how awesome our God is! Your days of fasting should be filled with His praise and worship, also spent studying His word and perfect ways. A huge part of fasting is just pondering the endless aspects of God.

Secondly, it should be a true denial of yourself. When you fast, you aim to build dependency on God. Not eating or drinking is the baseline for a fast, not the be all or end all of a fast. With Yom Kippur, they did not even bathe or wear shoes! They were humbled to the point where they took no pride in their appearance, smell, and they even endured walking without protection for their feet. And its not like they had sidewalks or paved roads to walk on, they had the desert (they were still wondering the desert with Moses at this point), so often this meant great pain from the sand and rocks drying, cutting, and cracking their feet.

Which brings me to the final part of fasting, it should not be easy. When you fast, it should be a great burden on you. A large part of fasting is enduring by reliance on God. You cannot rely on when it is something that is within your normal capabilities. For example, as a soldier I am used to traveling and being alone, so isolating myself is not a good way to increase reliance on God, however giving up video games, social media, exercise and other things that would strain myself and increase my dependence on him. Remember, all of those are done in addition to the not eating or drinking, not just the other activities being abstained from.

In short, your fast is about God, not you. You should fast in order to prepare yourself for the will of God, not to seek the favor of God. Fasting is done in direct submission to God and His will for you. A fast is not some light hearted diet or trend, it is a lifestyle of worship to God. It is worshiping through sacrificing your self and honoring God with the true recognition He deserves and that is with everything you are.

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 4

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 4

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (Luke 11:4) 

Forgive as we forgive.  We must realize that we are broken from our own sin.  It is a natural condition.  Romans 5:12 explains to us that sin came into the world and was passed down to every single man, woman, and child through the sin of one man.  This sin separated God from man and produced death in man.  In this manner, death has moved through all the generations of man, through one common ancestor.  Our sinfulness is more than that.

Not only do we have inherent sin, but; we also commit sin of our own.  You can try to say, “The Devil made me do it”, however; it was your own sinful nature.  This sin nature is driven out of selfishness.  Just as Adam chose to disobey God, so do we choose to disobey God.  This sin makes a separation between you and God (Isaiah 59.2).  WE forgive in recognition that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).

We must recognize that just as we needed forgiveness, so do others around us.  We cannot hold ourselves to one standard, and hold all others to another.  We are all in the same boat, as it were.  If we have been forgiven, of all that we have done. Forgiveness that includes the sin that was on us from generations past, and those of our own seeking.  In recognizing then, we are truly and completely clean of sin, and that we could not have cleansed ourselves no more than a pig can clean itself in the pen.  Knowing that we did not earn this cleansing by our own merit, because we cannot be good enough.  We cannot be good enough because even at our best, we are still in sin from Adam.  We have come to the understanding that without this forgiveness our sin is punishable by death. (Romans 5:12).

Even though we deserve the death penalty, we have been forgiven of all sin in Jesus Christ our Lord.  This was a gift from the Father, and is witnesses in the sealing of the Holy Spirit.  Through this grace, we have been justified by God, in the faith we have in Jesus.  (Galatians 3:11). In having a true understanding of this in our hearts, we cannot approach the Lord with our petitions if we are holding something against another.

To be unforgiving, especially after we received such a gift ourselves, is hypocrisy. This attitude is contrary to the heart of God, who wishes that all should come to repentance and not die (2 Peter 3:8-10).  Jesus himself said that you come to the altar and remember that someone has something against you, or it you have something against someone else; leave the altar.  Jesus said, leave your gift where it is and make things right between you and them.  Once you have addressed the issue with whom you have offended or who has offended you, then come back to the altar.  With a clean heart, offer your gift.  Do not offer a vain gift to the Lord.

We must come to the Lord with the right heart, motivated by love and gratitude.  We cannot hold animosity.  To hold animosity means that we have judges ourselves to be more important than someone else.  We think too highly of ourselves in thinking that we deserve forgiveness but someone else does not.  In truth, no one DESERVES forgiveness, not you, not I.  Hypocrisy is as it’s heights in an unforgiving Christian. In fear and understanding, we humble ourselves before God.  We recognize that we needed his forgiveness, and so do others.  How can we who have been forgiven, not forgive other?  You may say, but I have not done the terrible things that they did to me, or to so and so.  That is not true.  Your sin had someone else tortured.  Your sin caused a mother to lose her child.  In fact she watched him being tortured, and beaten, and mocked.  She watched him shamed in public, and stung up to die.  Your sin caused a man to die.  How much worse can someone else do, then to kill someone either by malice of forethought or even by happenstance?

Forgiveness also does some other things.  Forgiveness sets the one who was wronged free from anger and resentment.  Forgiveness relieves victimization.  Forgiveness gives one the chance to renew their life.  Forgiveness causes a person to be stuck in the offence.  Forgiveness also reveals the nature of our own heart.  In order to love God with our whole heart, we must be able to love one another.  We are incapable of loving one another without being able to forgive one another.

And lead us not into temptation…

Part of this salvation provided by the Lord is Justification, which we covered already.  Now we move into the next portion, that of Sanctification.  Justification happened when we first believed on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Justification is passed to us through faith in the gospel message concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  God sees our faith in Jesus and is pleased with this faith.  We are then given a legal righteousness imputed to us for all time, which delivers us from the penalty of sin.

Sanctification is a present experiential or progressive work performed in us by the Holy Spirit, keeping us holy until the final phase of salvation.  Sanctification is then a process of spiritual growth in the Christian life where we are delivered from the power of sin in daily life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Looking again at this portion of the prayer recorded in Luke 11 where is says, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, in this context, we see a great hope in living for Christ in our daily lives.  This is not some vain wish or aspiration, but; a real living hope!  This is voicing and expectation in dependency.  This statement gives recognition that we are dependent upon the very Spirit of God not only as a provider, but as a protector.

This is pleas has specific connotations. I am sure that you recall, if you have had a child, or know someone who has a toddler.  When the child gets old enough to walk, but not old enough to know better, which for some of us can last until the 40s. (LOL) The very safe environment of the family home can become a living hazard to the exploring babe.  A parent must safeguard the environment with outlet covers, door latches, and the sort.  Even then with all of those precautions, a parent must be ever vigilant for where the child is and what they are doing, especially if they are to quiet.  The attentive parent must from time to time, correct or avert the attention of the young one from things that may cause them harm.

This is the plea made here.  God keep a watch out for me God!  Keep me from the things that would harm me.  Even if I really think I want them.  Protect me not only from the temptation out there that is in this sinful age, but also from the lure to sin that I create in myself.  Don’t let me sin against you, safeguard me!  We must also realize that we are in a real spiritual battle.

There is a war going on in the spiritual realm.  In that realm, just as there are angels that are aligned with the Heavenly Father, there are fallen angels who fight against his will.  These fallen angels, known as demons, have a leader we know by the name of Satan, the devil, the Evil One. They make war against the lamb of God, Jesus. Since you are in the will of God and in the family of God the enemy will make war against you.

This evil is real and is powerful. Alone we cannot stand against such power.  However, our God is all-powerful, and in Him, we can stand against the Devil and his demons.  You see God is our salvation, and our protector from this present age and all the evil that it contains.  There is no enemy that can stand against us, because we can call on the name of Jesus.  This prayer is a seeking of the will of God in our lives.  Jesus then says in his model of prayer, that we should seek first the kingdom of heaven.

We should seek to do what is the will of God the Father in recognition of who He is, and what he had provided for us.  We must never forget that He did these things because of His great love for us as mankind and as individuals. We glorify Him, but in actuality we do this because He has glorified us first.  Not only that there is a future glorification to come that we cannot understand.

The final stage of salvation is glorification.  For a lot of us this happens when we die.  But there are some of us who may yet see the rapture of the church.  I say this because we are in the last days, and he is standing at the door ready to open it wide.  In this final glorification we will put on immortality.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:53-55 KJV).

Death shall be finally defeated.  We will have moral perfection and a resurrected body.  This is a promise made by God and this promise will be deliverance from the presence of sin.  You see we will be in the presence of God himself, and sin cannot enter into His presence.  There are allot more things that can be written, concerning this prayer.  I think to answer the question, is there more to this prayer than just being a model for prayer can be answered with a loud, resounding “YES!”  Thanks God! YES!

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

While in the Army, I had the distinct honor of being an Infantry Squad Leader.  A Squad Leader is responsible for 2-3 teams that equal  from 9-12 men.  The size is generally 9 men, but can bolster up to 11 or 12 with the addition of  a weapons team, augmented to the squad.  Routinely, a Platoon Leader or Company Commander would select such squad for special missions that would separate the squad from the main company for days at a time.

This limited the team on resources and causes special security considerations.  In order to properly function and successfully complete the mission, with all personal alive and well, a lot of planning had to go into effect.  All of the resources, including; Ammo, food, water, transportation, medical emergencies and other contingencies, came from the resources of the Company Commander.  A squad by themselves would be left dependent on the resupply and emergency coordination’s planned out, prior to the separation of the units.  Failure to make these coordination’s, and the necessary planning involved, could be fatal to both units.

Squad Leaders and their team leaders take the orders of the commander and analyze his intent.  They then study the terrain, perform risk assessments and measure up the possibilities of success and failure.  They inventory their on-hand equipment, ammunitions, and weapons.  They look at the mission’s risk assessment and identify specialized equipment that may be needed to overcome obstacles and to give the squad the necessary tools needed in order minimize the risk, and to ensure mission success.  Then they present these finds to the commander and request the supplies and resources needed that the squad does not have.  The commander looks over the plan, and the requests and provides needed feedback and resources.  The commander does this to protect the squad and to ensure their best possible chance of success.  A good commander will not hold back anything that the squad needs in order to minimize friendly casualties, and ensure success.  However, the Squad Leader must make the request.

Coming from a military background, this is the importance of Luke 11:3.

Give us day by day our daily bread. (Luke 11:3)

This is more than just asking God for food.  This is a recognition that everything we need is supplied through His grace.  He is the source of our existence.  Without his provisions in life we would not be successful in our mission for His kingdom.  Just like a soldier needs daily provisions of food, water, and routine ammunitions and medical supplies, so to do we, as children of God need our daily provision.

We should not wait until we have an emergency.  We should analyze what our needs are and request the spiritual and physical resources we need on a daily basis.  Recognition of our needs keep us humble and submissive to the Spirit.  Matthew 6:33 tells us that we should seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. What things?  The things are your daily needs and provisions like food, and water, and shelter.  These are the things that are provided to everyone.  “That ye may be the children of your Father which in in heaven:  for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just an on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45).  What we should be seeking are the things that are not provided to just everyone.  We should be looking in to our communities and into our surroundings.

How do we fulfill the mission that was given to us for the Kingdom?  What do you need to be successful in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are around you?  What provisions do you need to be a good and faithful servant?  What do you need to overcome to provide a good witness to those who are watching and listening to you and your life?  What daily nourishment do you need?  Some provisions I know we all need are:

  • Guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Spiritual Disciple
    • Prayer
    • Fasting
    • Daily Reading of Scripture
    • Teaching in Scripture
  • Personal Relationship growth with Jesus
  • Fellowship
  • Encouragement

These are just a few off the top of my head.  I am sure that as you sit and analyze your lifestyle, that you can get a more detailed and personalized list.  These are the things you need to be successful. These are the things you need to be asking for.  Yes you can still ask for healings, and financial security and all of the other things that we need to survive while here in this earth.  However; the focus of your prayers should not be selfishly motivated.  The focus on your prayers should be on things on the kingdom of Heaven.

We are just passing though.  In truth we do not know if we will be here the next day or not.  Psalm 144:4 puts it this way, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”  We should be mindful that our days here are numbered and that we only have a little bit of time to perform out tasks here on this earth.

More importantly, the days of those who are lost are numbered also.  They are like a vapor that is here one moment and then gone.  How selfish are we to spend this little bit of time seeking to pray for only our own needs when so many are dying all around us?  You see our Father knows the importance of our mission.  He wants us to be successful.  The Lord wants all men to come to repentance.  He does not want anyone to die.  He is patient and long suffering for our benefit.  Everything He does is oriented to saving the lost.  Shouldn’t we have the same heart?

We can also be secure in knowing that the provisions we ask for will be provided.  While Jesus was here on the earth, he never turned anyone away who needed his provisions.  He did not measure by race, religion, ethnic background, gender, or age.  In fact if you look back at the Old Testament, you will see how God continuously provided for his people.  He provided them security to grow to a nation, even under bondage in Egypt.  He provided food and water to a rebellious people in the wilderness.  He gave them strength and resources to conquer the promised land.  He led them throughout their history by:

  • A pillar of fire
  • His voice
  • His commandments
  • Prophets
  • Judges
  • Kings
  • The Messiah

God has always provided.  Even in the Christian faith the Lord has provided.  He has led the church to overcome.

  • Martyrdom
  • Infighting
  • Scandals
  • Genocides
  • False Doctrines

We can have confidence in looking back in what He has done for us.  We have been delivered from sicknesses, addictions, diseases, natural disasters, other hazardous events and relationships, even death itself, in some cases. The Lord provides what we need every day.

So we pray for our daily bread knowing that the one we ask is who provides our daily bread.  We then have a greater understanding of the goodness of our Father, that even though in times past, when we did not ask for it he gave it.  We know that even though we were His enemy, that he loved us so much that he provided not only the daily things we needed to live, but; He did so to give us the chance to receive the salvation that he already provided for us in Jesus Christ.  We ask because we seek Him, of whom all blessings flow from.  We ask because we believe in Him, and in his Son.   We ask because we understand that our very existence is dependent upon His grace.

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 2

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 2

The closest disciples to Jesus had witnessed miracles.  They had seen the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the lepers healed.  Scripture tells us repeatedly; Jesus healed all who came to him.  The early disciples were eyewitnesses to these things, and many more.  The closeness of their relationship to Jesus gave them an insider’s view.

They must have noticed the way Jesus prepared himself each day.  They would have seen his dedicated prayer life.  They would have heard the prayers that Jesus prayed for healing. They herd the prayers of thanksgiving that rolled from his lips.  In hearing these and seeing the wonders wrought through this prayer fed lifestyle they were forced to examine their own prayer life.

In doing so, they could see that they fell short.  With all of their religious efforts, all of their sacrifices, all of their Hebrew upbringing, they had somehow missed this important lesson. It felt like the doors to heaven itself were sealed closed. In seeing Jesus’ prayer life and the results of his prayers on his ministry, then knew that they needed to know more.  So they asked him the same question that many of us ask today, “Lord teach us to pray”….

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (Luke 11:2)

Now we see Jesus beginning his teaching of what an effectual prayer should be like.  He said, “When ye pray say”. There are allot of individuals who miss understand this phrase.  Some have mistakenly taken this to mean that what Jesus is about to say, should be said verbatim.  That is that is should be repeated word-for-word, or else you have not said a prayer.

Some believe that there is some supernatural binding to this prayer when recited exactly as written, God himself has to answer whatever follows. Some think that you have earned some special audience with God as a result of reciting this prayer.  There are thousands who believe that atonement can be made by reciting this prayer over and over.  This is not the case.  God cannot be invoked. You cannot summon him like some ethereal game piece. He is the Almighty, the creator of the universe who has all autonomous authority.  Meaning that God as God is self sufficient and answers to no one.

Luke is not saying to repeat identically each word and stanza that Jesus said.  The Greek words usage, in this phrase, infers that Jesus wanted them to “say” in the same manner or way; not implying an obligation to repeat the exact verbiage. Repeating the Lord’s Prayer line-by-line, or even over and over again does not bring salvation and is not a means of penance.

It is probably better to look at the translation in Matthew’s recording of the same teachings in order to give us another disciple’s point of view of this important message.  Matthew records, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9).  In this catalog of the event, Matthew clearly states that we should pray in the same manner, or “in this way” (Strong’s, 3778,3779) that Jesus then instructs his disciples to pray. So when you pray, pray something like this…

Our Father which art in heaven… I do not know if you know this, but the carnal minded cannot please God.  In all honesty there are some people praying, that really don’t have any faith that God exists.  There are those that believe God exists but that he doesn’t care and is uninvolved in men’s lives.  They are just throwing up their hands and speaking to the clouds and hoping that “if” there is a God, he will prove it in answering their prayer.

The Word of God tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and those that come to him must first believe that He IS.  Secondly the scriptures tell that God rewards those who seek him persistently. In addition, scripture tells us that those who believe on Jesus have been adopted into the family of God, as his children. Romans 8:14-16 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”

So then, since we have already believed that He is and that He rewards those who seek him, and believe that He has already adopted us as children through Jesus Christ, we can then boldly come to him.  Seeking him ourselves.  We can call him Father, because he literally is our Father. I am getting excited already!

Jesus further clarifies the importance of this relationship later in the chapter when he explains the nature of the Father.  Jesus explains, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13) WOW! Nail on the head!  Did you see that! Jesus said that even though we are evil, we still know how to give good things, then he said… that God is Good! So- if God is Good, then how much more does he have the ability and will to give good things to those who ask?

Jesus asked a rhetorical question, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those (his children) who ask of him?  I love my children and I can honestly tell you that one of the most heartbreaking things that a father has to face is when one of his children ask him for something that he cannot provide.  It never gets easier, and it does not matter which child asks.  You see as a father, I want to give all kinds of good gifts to my children because I love them, and I love being able to provide for them. I love being able to protect them. I love for them to look to me when they are in trouble, or even when they just need someone to listen.  I love being a confident to each and everyone of my children.  But you know, there are times when I can provide for them, but I don’t, because; they do not ask for me to.  If they don’t ask for my help, knowing that I want to help. I cannot help them though, if they don’t ask me to.  Why? Because it is their choice to make, not mine.

So first we must ask, then he will give.  Now he did specify what he would give, that is the Holy Spirit, but look he also said how much more… this means how much more willing is he to give the Holy Spirit.  It is like he is just there waiting for you to ask, and BAM! It is on the way! Now this is not a teaching on the Holy Spirit, but since it was brought up.  What good does that do?  The Holy Spirit does many things for the believer, just as a quick list; he is our comforter, he is a teacher, he is a counselor, he is an encourager, and many more things to us.  The Holy Spirit is the seal of God on our lives.  The Father gives the Holy Spirit whole heartedly, in fact scripture says that the Spirit of God indwells those who follow Jesus Christ.

Which art in heaven… The Creator of the universe exists outside of normal time and space, He is not hindered by laws of physics or the limits of mans imagination.  He does not dwell in little wooden crucifixes or crosses for that matter.  Those things are made my man, and cannot contain God.  The earth as a whole cannot contain God.  If the universe could contain God then what kind of a God would He be?  No God is above all powers and principalities.  God exists outside of our universe.  In scripture the heavens are referred to in three different arenas.  The first arena of the heavens referred to is the atmosphere of the earth.  This covers what we breath, the ozone which includes the clouds and weather.  The second spectrum that the heavens refers to is our universe.  This convers from the atmosphere on our into the area we call space.  Where the universe with it’s multiple galaxies spin and collide.  The third area that scripture refers to heaven is the place that is outside of time and space, the area where God resides.  This is Gods place from which He over sees all of creation.  Creation includes, the universe, the multiple galaxies, and the earth.

“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1)

We now begin to see that when we come to the Lord God Almighty, we need to have an understanding of who He is.  We need to know that “he IS”.  We need to know that he is above all other things in existence.  If we don’t believe this about God, then why should we waste our time in seeking Him out? This then is where faith begins.

Faith doesn’t start with a warm fuzzy feeling, or some emotional high after a revival.  Faith begins with a proper understanding of God.  A proper understanding of God comes from scripture.  There are NO secular authorities on God.  There are no scientific rules that can determine that God does not exist.

Scripture tells us that the very design of creation points to the fact that God exists, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” (Psalm 19:1-6).  There is no excuse under heaven to NOT believe in God.

Hallowed be thy name… Hallowed means to be sanctified or set apart. This term set apart means to be unique, or different than anything else.  The manner that this refers to in saying hallowed be thy name is to mentally set his name apart in such a manner to bring honor to his name, by counting Him as holy. Acknowledging that God alone is holy. God is unique. God alone is good.  We need to have an understanding of the reverence that God deserves.  My children have an open door to me at any time.  We play around and kid one another.  We also pull pranks on one another from time to time.  We tell jokes, we fish, we camp.  We do all the informal things that fathers and their children do.  Do you know with all of that familiarity, they still address me as “sir”?  Why is that?  Because with everything we share, there is one thing we do not share… we are not peers. My children respect me as their father, and as an elder.

We should respect God in the same manner, as one who is our Father, and one who is Holy. In fact scripture says that we should mimic our Father, just like sons do to their earthly fathers. Peter wrote, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;” (1 Peter1:15).  See if you believe that God is holy, and that you are called by his name, then you should honor him by being Holy in your behavior.  Faith breeds action.

Not so long ago, a man’s name was his reputation.  This is because everyone knows that you actually can judge a book by its cover.  Now I know this is contrary to the whole “why can’t we all just get along” politically correct stance that has paralyzed the entire human race.  What was meant as a good thing about not being to hard on someone who has fallen on hard times, has now gone to the extreme.  This saying and many others like “who are you to judge me?”, while many claim to be bible based, are twisted doctrines straight from the enemy.  Scripture in no manner ever says that a man should be lazy, if he can work.

If a man has shown himself untrustworthy, unsafe to be around, or in need of being imprisoned then that is the reputation of the man, that he has earned by his actions.  Not because someone judged him.  That man’s name is dirt.  Not so long ago, people understood that.  I know you think I have gotten off topic, but take a look again at the verse… thy name.  See I am still here.  The other part to “hallowed by thy name” is being able to trust in that “name”.  This is more important than you realize.  Being able to trust in that name is more than just getting your prayers answered.  It is the key to life itself.  In Acts 4:12 we read;

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

This was the Apostle Peter talking about Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans at the behest of the Jews.  This Jesus rose from the grave and is now in the presence of the Father where he makes intercessory prayers for us.  This intercessory prayer is the true “Lords Prayer”, which goes up continuously on our behalf.  What have we to fear?

If we do not believe these simple truths about God then we need not go any further.  You see in order to ask God anything and expect that He will answer we must at a minimum believe:

  • God Exists
  • He is unique in any and every way
  • He is our Heavenly Father
  • He has all authority
  • He is willing to listen to us and to answer us
  • He is good and desires good things for his children
  • Jesus is the only way to the Father

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth…  We also see in this opening that prayer is about our relationship to God.  Knowing who He is, accepting of Jesus and Lord and Savior and seeking His guidance.  Prayer is foremost an acknowledgement of our responsibilities to God. Prayer is not about getting mans will done in heaven, but getting God’s will done on earth.  Prayer is asking God to use us in a manner that is pleasing to Him to accomplish what He needs done.  God is the one who is to be glorified in our lives, not us. We pray for His kingdom to be expanded and strengthened.  You see we are wanting his kingdom to come because we understand that no one can make peace here on earth, but God.  On one can make us whole, but God.  No one can take away our pains and fears, but God himself.

James says, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3).  That is when you do ask, you ask for the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.  Selfish desires are not what prayer is for.  Here is another way to look at it.  What heavenly good does it really do for my little league team to win the ballgame?   Or how does my getting a new car further the advancement of the gospel?  Am I really praying for what I need to be walk in the spirit of God?  Notice I did not include prayers for legitimate needs.  Needs like deliverance from addictions, sicknesses, disease, or even financial burdens.  These prayers can affect your spiritual maturity and the furtherance of the gospel.  These are legitimate prayer needs.  These types of prayers should be done for ourselves and for one another.  These prayers show love and concern for one another.

Prayers for those in authority are also legitimate prayers that we are actually commanded we should pray.  We should pray for those who use you and persecute you for Christ’s namesake.  Prayers should be offered for all men everywhere.  We should pray for the widows, and orphans.  We should pray for the blind, that they may see.  We should pray for the lost, that they may seek and find Jesus.  This is the will of God.  These prayers bring the kingdom of God here to the earth where men live and breathe.  By praying these sorts of prayer and inviting God to take part in our governments, and in our schools, and in our neighborhoods, and churches we are seeking God in a manner that is pleasing to him.  These are unselfish prayers.

The challenge this week if to set some time apart to tell God that you do believe in Him, and his Son.  Pray for the Spirit to teach you what you should know.  Pray for someone else, that God may reveal Himself to them.  Pray that God will show you how to further His kingdom in your neighborhood.  Go  and be His ambassador, and his child.

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 1

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Is there something more? Am I missing something?” Came the question from a young man, whose name I will keep for my own treasure chest.  The reference was for what most people refer to as, “The Lord’s Prayer”.  This young man asked a very serious question, much like the disciples did of Jesus.  In 1st Thessalonians it tells us that we should pray without ceasing.  How can we indeed pray without ceasing is we do not know how to pray.  How do we talk to God?  What does a proper prayer life look like?  Is there some secret formula?

I hear all of these kinds of thoughts in the questions that I receive.  Is God listening? Does God even care?  How do I talk to God and get an answer?  Do I offend God with the way that I pray?  Does God love me? I told him yes, there is more to it, than it just being a model for prayer.

The significance of the teaching to pray itself is proof of the importance of prayer.  Especially if you take in consideration that it is God, himself that is giving the lesson.  Imagine that, the creator of the universe wants to communicate with us.  In the “Lord’s Prayer” we can see the benevolence of God towards man.  The Almighty God came down to earth and gave a special class on prayer.  We should probably study what Jesus was trying to tell us about the Father and how we should address the One Living God.

We as a people, who claim Christ as our Lord, have no idea how to talk to him.  I think that in the Lord’s Prayer we can find the answer to these questions.  We can not only use this model for how to pray, if we look closer, but also get an understanding of God in a very personal manner.

Examination of this model shows us the importance of prayer.  Looking at this model also gives us an attitude in prayer that expects results.  We can be confident in God’s hearing of our prayer and his timely answers. Jesus said in John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”  Then again, Jesus told Peter as they passed a withered fig tree, “Therefor I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].”(Mark 11:24)  As we see we are to pray expecting results, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

Now let us move into our verses with an open eye; considering what Jesus is trying to tell us, and how we should apply it to our lives.

1 And it came to pass, that , as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as john also taught his disciples.

How important is prayer?  Jesus, the Son of God, who was the Word in the flesh prayed on a regular basis.  Jewish custom is to pray a minimum of three times a day, although I don’t know of any commandment to do so, it would seem that the custom comes from the Book of Daniel.  Daniel was one of the Hebrews that were taken to serve in the king Darius’ palace when the Persians overtook Jerusalem.

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Daniel 6:10)

Something that might also catch our attention here that will lend to our latter discussion is that Daniel was kneeling.  Later in the New Testament, we see that Jesus also knelt.  Tradition has it that James the brother of Jesus knelt when he prayed, and prayed so often; that he developed callouses on his knees.  This is of great significance.  The posture of kneeling is unique in the world of religion at his time.  Pagan religious practices involved prayers that were offered while standing with the palms facing upward. Pagan prayers were done in public and associated with sacrifices made to idols.[i]  Here in our model, we see that they were kneeling, and in private.  Showing a level of humility and respect.  This also shows an intimacy with God, that others do not have. Notice that no sacrifice was necessary, even at this time, to speak with Jehovah.

King David in his Psalm 119:164 exclaims, “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgements.”  This gives us another reference to frequency, motivation, and purpose

Some times when scripture noted Jesus prayed:

  • Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
  • Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
  • Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • Matthew 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
  • John 17:1-26 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
  • Luke 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
  • Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
  • Luke 22:41-44 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
  • Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
  • Luke 9:18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
  • Luke 9:29 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This may be a direct reference to 1 Chronicles 16:11 – “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”

Note the phrase “he was praying in a certain place”.  “He” is in reference to Jesus.  Jesus was praying in a certain place.  This would give the idea that it was a specific place.  Whether it was a common spot for prayer, or not in not clear, but it is clear that the location was picked specifically to pray.  Jesus taught that prayer should be a time spent alone with the God the Father.  We should not seek to be seen by others, so that they can “see how holier than thou” we are. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6).  Jesus often would withdraw to be by himself to pray.  He separated himself from the crowds and even his disciples.

When I was a youth, I use to have a closet that I would pray in.  My closet was a walk-in closet that was in our 2-room apartment that my dad and I shared.  I put all my clothing on one side, moved a desk into the closet along the other side.  I had a stool that I would sit upon and there I would read scripture and journal my prayers.  Now, I have an office in my home that I use for study, and for prayer.  I get up early in the morning, read my scriptures, and I journal and pray.  God Himself proclaims, I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” (Proverbs 8:17).  Praying the first thing in the morning demonstrates love and affection towards God.

Imagine if you were to get up in the morning, and your spouse gets up with you.  You both go about your morning routine to get ready for work.  You shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and grab the keys to go to work.  Then you realize, hey, I don’t have my lunch.  So the first thing you say to your spouse is, “would you make me lunch for work?”  No- “good morning”, no- “I love you”, no- “I will miss you today”… Does this show that you value your spouse?  Does it show that you love your spouse?  No, it only shows your selfishness, arrogance, and lack of consideration.  Your love of God should not be second hand either.  I mean after all, he did sustain your life while you slept…

Sometimes I will burn frankincense oil or incents.  Yes, I know that we are not required to offer up sacrifices, but I just like the smell of frankincense and apparently, God does not mind it either.  It is just something that helps me address my mood in prayers, in addition, when I walk by the room later and smell the incense; it reminds me to pray.  Let’s face it, we all get busy and mismanage our time every now and then.  Having a reminder to just be still and know the Lord IS, is a great way to say, Thanks Lord.

when he ceased…

Do not overlook this phrase, “when he ceased”.  Prayer with the Lord should be our highest priority.  I mean this is Old Testament kind of stuff.  Take a look at Deuteronomy, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [him], if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”(v. 4:29). When we speak with God, He should have our attention.  Isn’t it frustrating when you are trying to talk to someone, and as you talk, you notice that whatever is on his or her phone is more important than what you are saying?  Therefore, when we pray we should not have other distractions.  This is probably the best reason for a “certain place” to pray.  Having as much as possible a place to be quiet and alone with the Father shows honor and respect.  Turn off the phone, the TV, and the radio.  Give the Lord your full attention; he deserves at least that much.  Now the flip side, notice the disciples waited.  They understood how important prayer is to Jesus.  They did not barge in and interrupt His communion with the Father.  Do others know the importance of prayer in your life?  If they do not, then you demonstrate that by prayer being important in your life, it should be a priority.  You do not need to tell everyone that it is important; they can observe it by our life of prayer.  Our prayer life can actually teach others the importance and manner of prayer.

That leads us to the last point in this verse, teaching others.  Discipleship is of utmost importance.  The primary thing a new disciple needs to know, is how to pray.  In Alcoholics Anonymous and new person getting sober is assigned a sponsor to help them I there new life of sobriety.  Unfortunately, this step is missing from Christianity.  We expect the new Christian to immediately be able to stand on their own, and be able to know how to talk to God.  What a terrible situation, we tell them that God will supply all their needs, and walk out of their lives without showing them how to talk with God.  That is like handing the keys to your car over to a 5 year old and telling them, “I will see you when you get there.” No one in his or her right mind would so such an irresponsible thing.  It is dangerous to the child, and anyone else along the way.

The problem is that, most of us have been treated the same way.  We were given the keys to the car with no instruction on how to drive it. Now we have a generation of disciples trying to disciple the next generation without proper experience or training themselves.  We should be teaching one another and encouraging one another.  Scripture says that the devil has come to seek and destroy.  We need to look out for one another.  Teaching how to study the scriptures and how to pray should be discipleship 101.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

1 Peter 4:10 – As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

John 17:17 – Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

In evidence of the few items we have covered, I believe it is safe to say that we should pray on a consistent and frequent basis.  With a primary motivation of praising God. Prayer should in private, as both evidenced and commanded by Jesus.  Prayer should have priority in our lives.  Prayer is so important to our walk with God that we should spend time in prayer throughout the day.  We must also bring up the new convert in this crucial instruction on communicating with God.

 

 

References:

“Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.

 

[i] Why does Daniel get down on his knees to pray three times a day with his windows opened toward Jerusalem (Dan 6:10)? The reason is that prayerful bodies matter in the book of Daniel. Though supposedly serving in the Persian king Darius’s government, in this tale Daniel disobeys the king’s law to worship him. Instead, Daniel follows his own religious law, developing habitual practices that involve his body. His posture of kneeling is unique in the book and offers a strong contrast to pagan religious practice in the Babylonian and Persian Empires, as well as the Greek Seleucid Empire, which threatened the Jerusalem temple at the time of the book’s composition. In Greek religion, praying individuals stood with hands outstretched, palms facing upward. Prayers were recited aloud in public accompanied by a sacrifice. In contrast, Daniel prays in isolation in an upper room, kneeling down in “service.” Daniel’s prayer signals his resistance to empire and his radically alternative allegiance. Rather than offer honor and praise to King Darius in a public space, he seeks mercy by confessing sin, praying, and praising his own God. “Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.