Prayer Series II
Maintaining the Link
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 11 November 2000
Back to Part 1
Brethren and sisters, this week we shall take the theme of prayer one stage further by looking at Christ's model prayer. Last week we saw that had actually nothing to do with the words that come out of our mouth and that we may as well shout, whisper or not open our mouths at all to be heard by Yahweh. We saw that verbalising prayer is merely to enable us to focus our thoughts and to enable those praying together with us to understand what it is we are trying to communicate. We saw that to be heard by Yahweh, and to hear Him, we have to enter His presence, and to do that we need to go through His mediator, Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ), since Yahweh has declared that there is no other way to Him. We understood this was necessary because we are unclean whereas God is clean, and that no unclean thing can enter into His presence. Before Christ angels were Yahweh's prayer-messengers. We also saw last week that that in order to use Christ as our mediator we have to come before Him in deep humility, confess our sinful nature, repent of wrongdoing, and give our lives to Him 100%. After that we must live lives of discipleship in obedience to His commandments, beginning with the Ten Commandments which form the foundation of our way of being. Finally, I gave you the illustration of the aircraft taking off. Prayer requires preparation - making sure we are in order, that our fuel-tanks are filled, and pointing in the right direction before revving up.
In a moment we shall look at Christ's model prayer but before we do that let us remind ourselves of the main reasons for prayer that we already know. Prayer, I would say, is to help us know ourselves better so that, when we compare our lives against the Law as found in the Bible, we can immediately see our defects, repent, and ask Christ's atoning blood to wash our sin away. As we know ourselves better we can start to get glimpses into who Christ is, and therefore who God our Father is. The way we perceive God naturally affects the way we pray. If you look at pagans, you will see that for the most part their prayers and offerings are designed mostly to appease angry spirits - they are afraid that their gods will bring sickness, disaster and death upon them. So in effect they are bribing their deities. From what they do it is only too plain to see that their gods are basically evil and are, in fact, no more than demons. True prayer brings us into contact with and reveals the true God. False prayer brings us into contact with demons and reveals their true nature too.
Prayer, to be effective, must be honest. Our heavenly Father knows that in order for us to be happy we must see things as they really are. Yahweh is not in the business of making us feel good just so that we can feel good. The ultimate purpose of prayer is to bring us into contact with that power, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), which will burn away all that is false in us through the blood of Christ and so free us to be what we were created to be.
The Bible tells us that the heart is a terrible deceptive thing and is not a reliable guide in any search for truth. Prayer gives us heart-knowledge as we are totally honest with God, and heart-knowledge is liberating. There is nothing more debilitating, nothing more energy-consuming in a meaningless way, and there is no greater waste of time in a person's life, than to pursue fantasies that have no grounding in reality, which bring no honour to Christ, which keep us away from the source of true love, and which ultimate may deny us the most important thing of all: salvation.
One of the most important aspects of prayer is self-examination. In it, we ask Yahweh to help us to see ourselves in His light rather than in our own. In prayer we also ask Yahweh to take control of our lives more and more. This will almost certainly be something that will take us a whole life to do because we invariably cling on to things we ought not to with great tenacity and stubbornness. One of the most common prayers of honest people who ere struggling with the matter of who should be in control of their lives is: "Lord, you can have all my life except that area - not that one." And then they waste years trying to justify to themselves and to God why He cannot have control of that area of their lives. Their behaviour is not unlike the man inside a burning house who refuses to leave it until the fire has been put out.
Prayer is not just to reveal the negative things in us. It has a much more important rôle in revealing to us all the positive things in our lives. In a moment we'll see how Christ incorporated this into His model prayer. Prayer can reveal to us how Yahweh is working in us for the better. As we progress in Him, prayer shows us how, for example, we may have a better grip over a bad temper, how we have learned to be more patient, how we have discovered goodness in a person to which we had previously been blind. Prayer reveals Yahweh's grace - His undeserved kindness to us - which gives us self-confidence and assurance that He really does love and care for us. In prayer we can look back and see how He got us out of a difficult temptation or circumstance, and this should cause us to be thankful and to praise Him. In prayer we should be able to look at the goodness that others have done to us, praise God for that, and promise God that will thank that person in some way. Prayer is the time we review life, and especially what has happened in the last 24 hours. Prayer gives reveals Yahweh's peace to us even in difficult circumstances. It can stop us panicking, complaining, and being too negative. Some of the greatest prayer warriors are those who discover peace and joy when they are going through really tough experiences.
Prayer creates within us correct attitudes. Pride or fear may prevent us from opening up and confessing to someone about our problems or sinful tendencies, but before Yahweh we can have complete confidence. He tells us that He turns none away who are truly honest and repenting. It is the prayers of the hypocrites and the liars that which He does not hear because such attitudes do not bring people into His presence. To pray when you are dishonest is a total waste of time. Some people use that as an excuse to stop praying but what they really should be doing is going into pray in confession, with the desire to put things right. Yahweh will always hear such prayers, because they indicate a willingness to be purified. Purity is God's business.
We live in a world where people have become utterly insensitised to what is good. Their hearts have grown cold because of the daily diet of violence, porn, selfishness and indifference they meet in people. They imitate those around them. If a person makes a mistake, they blame it on someone else. I have been reading the story of the fall of France in 1940 and was shocked at the way the bad Generals blamed all the military reverses on their allies. They lack of humility and courage to admit when they were wrong poisoned relations. When we fail to face the truth and admit our wrongs we poison relations with Yahweh and with the people we know. Dishonesty and a lack of courage creates alienation. We become cut off from people. We must learn, on a daily basis, to say these words to the Lord: "Father, I make a mistake. I take responsibility. It was my fault. Show me how to straighten things out." I use the word "daily" because we sin every day - we have a major battle on our hands until we have overcome. Those who are no longer struggling, who convince themselves that they are basically "good" and need no further reformation, who excuse themselves by saying it is too tiring, boring, or unproductive, are only deluding themselves. They are creating a fantasy world of their own which will become their own undoing. That is why there is so much quarrelling, disagreement and war in the world. people will not admit they are wrong, defend themselves at all costs even if it means rubbing a good man's face in the mud. They create their own imaginary world of righteousness which no-one bust they can see, and get furious when others are blind to that fantasy world which they come to believe is reality.
The game we play, if I can call it that, is the Reality Game. Prayer is the mechanism, in combination with Scripture study, that helps us see things as they really are. Only when people can see things as they really are can they actually see and understand each other. There will only ever be unity in the world when we get God's mind and heart about things. Prayer, therefore, becomes one of the most important activities imaginable.
One of the failures in 1940 when France collapsed was bad communications. The French and British possessed armies good enough to beat the nazis. But they failed because the French had several bad Generals, the politicians were corrupt, and communications were non-existent. You will find time and time again throughout history that an inferior army in terms of size has won a battle because it was better organised and more disciplined. It was the ability of the British to keep calm, it was their self-discipline, they loyalty and determination, and their very real awareness that what they were doing was defending goodness and truth, that enabled them to win. We knew that the odds were against us, and they were, but when you have truth on your side, victory is assured, even if it may required great sacrifice. Britain truly was Great at that time. But if we were to go to war again as a nation today as we were forced to in 1940, I have absolutely no doubt that we would be defeated just as France was. Britain has lost its moral fibre. It's greatness has gone, a greatness which sprang from its Christian roots. As Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury lamented in an article in a newspaper the other day, Britain has become an atheistic nation and instead of turning to Yahweh, they now turn to their doctors. I am sure that exactly the same could be said of Norway too, though I wonder if they would turn to their doctors given the chaos in the health service there!
A hard-heart cannot approach God in prayer and gain access. It must first be softened. This may be achieved in many different ways. The most usual, sadly, it by creating difficulties' in a persons' life. That is a risky business because that person has a 50:50 chance of either crumbling and repenting, or getting more rebellious and hardhearted. Unfortunately, it's usually the only way to remove the walls of stubbornness and resistance which humans throw up when they are have lost their spiritual senses. We are, in our carnal nature, very defensive. It's an animal instinct that we were given to survive in a dangerous and hostile world. But we have a spiritual "instinct" as well. The choice we face is whether we respond to the lower nature or the higher one.
It took King David many months to finally confess the terrible sins of murder and adultery that he had committed. He lived in self-imposed darkness until Yahweh sent the prophet Nathan to expose him by laying him a trap. It was very clever, really, because Yahweh appealed to his sense of justice and got him to condemn himself. Then he poured his heart out, confessed, and spent many years repenting. It took a long time because of the awfulness of what he did - apart from blasphemy, murder and adultery are the two worst sins imaginable. The Book of Psalms are largely written by David - they are both songs and prayers which have inspired Israelites and Christians for thousands of years. They show clearly the path of repentance and, even more importantly, how God intervenes to bring joy and peace through forgiveness.
No, we have to be honest, and prayer is the place to do it. Instead of admitting they are wrong, criminals today hire expensive lawyers skilled in playing around with words who know their clients are guilty but are usually successful in getting them acquitted. It is a rotten world. We only have to think of the Bugn case in Norway a few years ago where nursery workers sexually molested small children. Everybody knows they are guilty but their lawyers were so clever that they got them off the hook. It is monstrous, to say the least.
If we want to know what to pray for to get ourselves right with God - if we want to open the prayer channels - then I recommend the psalms. Listen to what David prayed for: "Create in me a clean heart." What a wonderful place to start in prayer! He also asked for a "broken heart and a contrite spirit". And also, "Renew a steadfast spirit in me" (Ps.51:10,17). Finally, the man in the synagogue who said: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" whilst the self-righteous man thanked Yahweh for not making him like the sinner who was humble (Lk.18:13).
If we are to open that channel to heaven and be right before Yahweh, we must say from our heart the truth about our wrongs. You can't talk to someone from behind a suit of protective armour. You've got to be open and vulnerable. It's no use being like David who, in a moment of weakness, complained: "Awake" Why do you sleep, O Lord.... Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?" (Ps.44:23-24). Yahweh isn't asleep. If you try shouting to me from the kitchen when I am in the post office in the village and you can't hear me, does that mean I am asleep? And didn't Yah'shua (Jesus) who was asleep in a boat one day when there was a storm rebuke his disciples when they complained about Him being apparently unconcerned? You see, the human Yah'shua (Jesus) represents our perception of God at difficult times, but the divine Yah'shua (Jesus) - His invisible Spirit - is always awake. Seconds after the complaint, He said: "Peace, be still!" and the storm vanished. God is always next to you but we can't always see Him. Instead of complaining, we are wiser if we spent time opening the channels of communication by following Yah'shua's (Jesus') formula. Let's look at that now.
We are indeed most blessed to have been given a model prayer. For centuries Christians of all denominations have repeated it. There isn't any better. We are, however, free to expand it to address our particular situation and needs. Let's remind ourselves of its content:
1. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name,
2. Thy Kingdom Come,
3. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
4. Give us this day our daily bread
5. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
6. And led us not into temptation but deliver us from all evil
7. For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
If we wish to be successful in prayers, then we must follow these seven steps.
Step 1. Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name.
We are to pray to God the Father who is in heaven and not on earth. The word "hallow" means to keep holy - to reverence and respect. We are to deeply respect His Name which is Yahweh. We will never permit anyone to joke about it or blaspheme that Name. That Name represents His character, and translates: "I am that I am." It means that Yahweh is the ultimate reality and truth. There is nothing greater.
Step 2. Thy Kingdom Come.
Having praised Him, the next step is to say, "Thy Kingdom Come." In other words, our whole desire must be absorbed in wanting His Kingdom which is not yet on earth. His "Kingdom" is the spiritual and physical reality of the heavenly life, its purity, truth, holiness, goodness and joy. Before anything else, we must want His world, and not our own. Without that desire, the channel to heaven is closed because our agenda will be different to His.
Step 3. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Here's the next crunch. If we want a channel to heaven, we have to want what He wants, not what we want His Kingdom will only ever come to be if we do things His way. We could never build it. Men have tried to build utopias and all failed. In claiming we want to do His will before our own we are willing in principle to set aside everything that we think might be His will. That means acknowledging that we might be wrong and to accept that Yahweh may want us to go a different path. I shall always remember Percy Collett who was an international tennis player who was convinced that his tennis was a wonderful way to witness of Christ because of the public exposure he got. His tennis was his life and joy. But Yahweh told Him to give it up and become an evangelist.
Step 4. Give us this day our daily bread.
Or to put it another way, give us exactly what we need to be in your will. In its simplest elements, it means give us enough food, clothing and shelter to meet our basic needs. We do not need to ask for more. If we are given more, it is not because we have the right to ask for it, but because He chooses to give it to us. We have no right to ask more of Him. Interesting, isn't it?
Step 5. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
As we've seen, one of the most important functions of prayer is to seek forgiveness for sin. Without that, the channel to heaven closes and Satan can take over. But Yahweh gives us a condition: 'I won't forgive you unless you first freely forgive everyone who has wronged you without preconditions. If you won't, I won't forgive you.' That doesn't necessarily mean they will forgive you - that's none of your concern. You responsibility is to forgive them so that Yahweh will forgive you.
Step 6. And led us not into temptation but deliver us from all evil.
This part of the Lord's Prayer recognises that life is tough and that we need help. By keeping that communication channel open by doing all the above, Yahweh promises that he will help steer us away from tempting situations and make sure that evil does not overwhelm us. That's a pretty big promise and one we desperately need. But if we refuse to repent, then almost certainly we will lack the strength to resist temptation and be led into the power of evil. Keeping that communication channel open therefore becomes vitally important for us and for those whom we are responsible for.
Step 7. For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
We are to conclude our prayer in the same way we started it - by praising Yahweh. Once again we acknowledge that the Kingdom we have been praying for is His Kingdom and will be built the way He wants it, and not us. We acknowledge that all Power is His to do what we have just prayed for - if we try to do it in our own power we will. And finally, perhaps the most important statement of all, because it is a deathblow to pride and vain ambition, we give all glory and honour to Yahweh - we give God all the credit. All of it! And then, only then, have we the right to say "Amen", which means, "So be it", "Let this happen!"
If you are able to sincerely pray this prayer, in all honesty, with a pure heart, then I guarantee that the channel to heaven will open for you. You will be in the spirit of prayer - you will be in God's presence. But not before.
Next week, I will give you some examples of prayer and what Christians have experienced. In the meantime, I strongly urge you to memorise the Lord's Prayer if you have never done so, and then meditate on it. It was given by Yah'shua (Jesus) in response to a request to be taught how to pray. Now we know. Any other way will, I am sorry to say, lead not only to disappointment but self-delusion and, ultimately, control by Satan. And believe me, Satan answers prayers too, only he has his agenda too. He may give you much of what you want, but in the end it will destroy you. May the grace and peace of Yahweh be upon us all. Amen.
To Part 3
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Last updated on 21 February 2001
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