Prayer Series III
Dialogue in Action
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 18 November 2000
Back to Part 2
There are many people in the world who are good talkers. We say that such people have the "gift of the gab" - put them into any situation and they somehow manage to not only retain their composure but are equally able to slip effortlessly into conversation.
It is said that politicians have this gift. I have one very amusing recording of Peter Sellers making fun of a politician - he speaks beautifully for ten minutes but at the end of his speech you realise that he has said absolutely nothing at all. He has been spinning words but they have no substance to them whatsoever.
When I was at Oxford I remember the Master of our College going around talking to the students and lecturers. He did so, it seemed to me, almost without effort. And when you were with him you felt that you were the most important person in the world. He was, in fact, a retired diplomat. But what he was doing was playing a game - weaving words into a comfortable mental chair in which you could recline for a few moments but which afterwards simply evaporated. There was no substance to what he said at all - we had not really connected, merely played with words.
The art of prayer is not, as we have seen over the last two weeks, about the skilful weaving of words. It's about getting into the very presence of God. Indeed, we discovered that prayer isn't really about words at all, but about the intentions of our heart. Words, we saw, played the part only of allowing us to concentrate and to communicate what our spirit wants to say when we are praying with others. In our study of the Lord's Prayer we discovered the perfect pattern of prayer which we divided into seven parts:
1. Praising the Name, and therefore, character, of Yahweh, the eternally present God;
2. Making sure that our ultimate motive and aim is to realise the heavenly kingdom in our lives and throughout the world:
3. Making sure that our will takes a firm second place to His;
4. Asking for our daily bread - what we need to survive - and not more;
5. Asking forgiveness for sin but with the clear understanding we won't get it unless we freely forgive the wrongs others do to us first;
6. Asking for the power to resist temptation and to be rescued from evil;
7. Praising Yahweh again and once more acknowledging that our one and only aim, is to bring glory to His Name by committing ourselves to building His Kingdom, which is His Church on earth.
You may be absolutely sure that it is no accident that the Lord's prayer is in seven parts. These seven elements are what life is all about, just as there are seven primary colours in the rainbow, and seven days in the week. To give you an idea of what true prayer is actually about, and how much time we should spend praying for what, let us imagine that we spread the seven themes over a whole week. It's not a bad exercise, actually. If you want to come into the presence of God to hear Him and be heard, this will give you a pretty good perspective. It will also help you get right the proportions of what you pray about. We will profit well by this practical lesson.
Sunday is the first day of the seven week cycle. Throughout the day at the times you normally prayer you do nothing else except meditate on the character of Yahweh and praise His Name. Absolutely nothing else. As we saw last week, you can't actually get into God's presence until you spend time praising Him by thinking of everything that He represents: love, goodness, kindness, patience, long-suffering, courage, determination, holiness, purity, honesty, reliability, consistency, faithfulness, and so on. For one day that is all you will do - meditate and comment on what He is. It is profitable to compare this with the first day of Creation. What did He do on that day? He created LIGHT. Prayer, then, must always begin by focusing on LIGHT - all that is positive, good, and desirable in the character of God. I think that's one reason I love Hanukkah so much, which we shall be celebrating next month.
Monday is the second day of the week. On this day in our little exercise we are to do nothing but think about the Kingdom of Yahweh. A Kingdom is a society. It is composed of many people united under one head. The Kingdom of Yahweh is also known as the Church of God or Assembly of Yahweh. If God is the first most important thing in the Christian's prayer life, then God's people are the second. Notice that "self" hadn't even entered into the picture so far. On Monday we are only to think of God's people, the saints, by praying for them - don't even think about yourself! More importantly, keep in focus the goal to which we are all heading - the heavenly world, or Zion as we call it, the society of the blessed. The second most powerful impulse in our hearts is to build this Kingdom. That means, bringing the message of salvation to others and bringing them together into a holy fellowship or family, the Church.
Now what did Yahweh do on the second day of Creation? He separated the water that was on the surface of the earth from the water that was in the atmosphere. In a similar way, we must remember to separate the thoughts, feelings and actions of the heavenly kingdom from the earthly one and never confuse the two. We must use time to make sure we clearly understand the difference between the two by studying God's Word. Where Christians so often go astray is in that they fail to make a distinction between the world system and God's Kingdom, or between the Holy Spirit and their own carnal impulses. We must therefore invest two sevenths of our prayer and study time making sure that we are focussed on the heavenly way and being absolutely certain we can tell the difference.
Tuesday is the third day of the week. We have spent one day focussing on the nature of our Heavenly Father and another making sure we can tell the difference between His domain and Satan's. We need to use a lot of prayer asking the Lord to give us that clear discernment. Having done that, we must now make sure that our will is in complete subjection to His. Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". We are now moving towards that part of prayer where we come to God with our personal requests, but before we do that we must be absolutely sure that we are in His will and not our own. The fact that we have spent two whole days focusing on Yahweh's holiness and on His Kingdom is a reminder to us that knowing God's will may not be as easy as we at first supposed. It is extremely easy - far too easy, in fact - to delude ourselves into thinking that what we want and like is what God wants for us. And the reason we tend to believe this is because our own will tends to make us feel rather good inside, and we assume that those nice feelings are from God. More often than not they aren't which is why we must spend A LOT of time trying to understand God's nature and society, since we are supposed to be imitating it.
There are many people these days who are what may be called "independent Christians" - they stick to themselves, for whom Monday's prayer isn't too appealing. They usually aren't interested in the family of believers, or Church, and that is their fatal error, and because they try to go it alone, they very rarely, if ever, find themselves in God's will, because God's will is absolutely that we serve our Christian brothers and sisters by building up the Kingdom together with them. When I meet Christians who are not committed to any local church, or don't want to be (many find difficulty finding one, to be sure), I know without a shadow of a doubt that they are almost certainly not in God's will and have wandered off the path. They might as well give up praying because their praying ended on Monday. Being in Yahweh's will means doing everything that He wants you to do, and the only way you'll ever find out if you're doing that is (a) studying the Scriptures, (b) making your public confession of Christ and being baptised by immersion, and (c) serving a Christian congregation. If you're not doing this you've disqualified yourself quite soon after the starting line. You see, on the third day of Yahweh's Creation, the water that covered the entire surface of the earth began to recede and land appeared for the first time, along with vegetation. To be in Yahweh's will means to have your feet placed on terra firma, on the real, solid world where you can visibly live out your religion. Christianity is not just a collection of doctrines - it's about action, and the place where it acts is in and through the Church, the fellowship of those who belong to Christ.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and we haven't even started to think about ourselves and what we want! 43% of our prayer has been about God, His Kingdom, and His will, and nothing else. This is his wavelength and if we're not on it, then we're tuned to the wrong spiritual radio station. And if we're not on God's station, we're either on Satan's or our own...which is much the same.
Wednesday is the fourth day of the week, what the Germans call "Mittwoch" or midweek, and it is only midway in our prayer that we can start asking God for our needs. And what are those needs? Our daily bread - in other words, what we need to see each day through. We are to ask Him for the basics only - food, clothing, warmth and shelter. How we get these is God's business, not ours. It is a mistake, therefore, to start at the wrong end by saying: "Lord, I want to be the President of the United States," or "I want to own a mansion house," or "I want to be a famous football player." These things don't interest the Lord. If He wants to make you President of the USA, give you a luxurious mansion, or make you a football star, He will only do so if it fits in with His will, which is why He asks you spend three days making sure you know what that will is and learning to be happy with it.
A true Christian will only ask for a career which builds up the Church of God, the Assembly of Yahweh: he will not be asking these things for himself. Our only right is to the basic necessities of life - anything surplus he may give us must be consecrated for the building up of His Kingdom and not for our pet interests. That's why we spend all of Monday praying for the Kingdom - we must want it with a burning desire. If we don't, we aren't in the true spirit of prayer! Not one bit! If the Church of God is completely out of our mind, then God's will is out of your mind also, and therefore God as well. That is what Yah'shua's (Jesus') prayer is teaching us.
On the third day of Creation what did Yahweh make? Well, the basic staples of life, of course, PLANTS! Plants to give us oxygen to breathe, plants to give us our basic diet. In short, the ingredients for bread. But also wood to build houses and to make fires to keep us warm. Wednesday is about the basic necessities of life. Nothing fancy. And that, brethren and sisters, is all that we are to ask for ourselves! Check out the Lord's Prayer for yourself and you will see that it is so. But Yahweh has been creating more on the fourth day - we read that it was at this time that the cosmos was created - the sun, moon and stars. These are physical lights, not the light which was created on Sunday, which is heavenly light. These lights exist only to help us in our physical lives just as we need physical skills to earn our daily bread, build homes, sew clothes, and meet out bodily needs. Physical things come in FOURTH place - mark that well!
Thursday is the fifth day of the week. Having meditated deeply on the nature of God and gained a clear picture of the world He wants to build through us - having made sure we have abandoned selfish ambition and are learning to walk in His will, and having asked us for the basic necessities of life and no more, we ought, then, to be getting a vision of just how HARD it is to do these things. In following His will we begin to understand that life is TOUGH, that we are naturally REBELLIOUS, that we tend to desire the things which He does not want us to desire. Building the Kingdom in the physical dimension is tough, but it is completely impossible if we haven't built it in the spiritual realm first.
It is as this point we should become aware of the awful truth that we are SINNERS and have a tendency of making a pretty bad job of things. If we haven't reached this point then it is because somewhere between Sunday and Thursday we fell flat on our faces and turned away from God. Many people get lost on Wednesday because they are physical-world focussed. All they see is what is visible to their natural eyes. And that is why so much time must be spent on spiritual things else we shall easily lose our way. The physical world with all its passions and desires is governed by powerful forces which, is we focus too much on them, tend to blind us until we can no longer see the spiritual clearly. The battle between spiritual sight and physical sight is rough. You have to fight to retain a spiritual focus. Like a person swimming in the sea must struggle to breathe on the surface and not to sink as he starts trying to carry excess baggage on him, so we must keep our head above the carnal impulses and breathe in spiritual air. Once we start carrying too much carnal baggage we shall drown.
A person who is not aware that he or she is a sinner is, in truth, lost and unsaved. If we think we're basically OK, basically good, basically doing pretty well, we are actually full of conceit and pride, because the path to holiness isn't that easy. To be seeking the face of God which Sunday demands that we do, to be desiring God's Kingdom on Monday instead of our own personal kingdom, to be desiring to do what He wants and not what we want on Tuesday, to be asking for no more than our three meals a day, simple clothes, warmth and shelter on Wednesday, means for sure that we're going to find out some pretty ugly things about ourselves, for we will discover, if we have remained honest and truthful, that we are quite rotten inside.
Of course, if we do not seek the things that Yah'shua (Jesus) taught us to seek for, we shall remain blind to this gigantic character flaw which is in the human race, and we shall be lifted up in our pride and conceit and think that we're on the way to heaven and that everything is fine. It is on Thursday that most Christians want to go no further, and then backtrack all the way back to Sunday and then altogether wander off the road that leads to eternal life. And it's not helped by the fact that the modern New Age-inspired culture teaches us that there is no such thing as sin, that we're basically good, and that guilt is just a psychological trap. And because sin is an illusion, they say, we don't need to repent - we don't need to feel sorry for wrongdoing , don't need to ask for forgiveness anymore. Some may acknowledge the need to ask forgiveness from fellow human beings, which is good, but few will acknowledge that God is offended by sin, that it cuts us off from Him, and that unless we deal with it, our prayer life will come to a grinding halt, and the door to heaven will be shut against us.
By Thursday the way is getting really, really tough, and yet we haven't even made it to Saturday yet! It is certainly wonderful that we are on the road, it is indeed a blessing that we have accepted Christ and are trying to live a good life through trusting in Him, but unless we see it through to the end, everything will have been in vain. And if you want to know why there are so few active Christians today in the West it's because they want everything to be easy - they want to take all the shortcuts, they want something for nothing, they want a fast-food kind of salvation which you can throw in the heavenly microwave after taking it out of a pretty-coloured box called "Joe Bloggs' Broad Road of Christianity". But heavenly food - that real food that gives eternal life, means you have got to make it yourself. Your salvation is not ready-made - you have got to get down and do some hard spadework in yourself so that when you plant the Word of Christ in your soul, it will find a soil in which it can naturally grow. And that is why so much time must be spent from Sunday to Wednesday on preparing your soul in the correct manner before it can be ready to enter the full spirit of prayer.
People have grown lazy and want an instant gospel of salvation. Their excuse is "it's too difficult, I want an easier way." There isn't one. However, Satan has most certainly stepped in to that corner of Satan's market and is offering easy counterfeit gospels that lead nowhere. There are false churches everywhere marketing their off-the-self salvation kits and making a lot of money out of it. The people are starving even though they've been brainwashed into believing that they have full spiritual bellies.
Thursday is about repentance for our wrong-doings which can only come about by becoming conscious of Yahweh's holy law and of His will for you. And repentance inevitably requires sacrifice - the giving up of something that you think is important but which is in actual fact impeding your spiritual growth. And as if that wasn't enough, the Lord says that in order to qualify for His forgiveness and so enter His presence, we must freely forgive others of anything bad they may do or say to us. He doesn't expect us to work our sins off because forgiveness is free if we are trusting in Christ provided we forgive what others do to us, otherwise we would be hypocrites, wouldn't we? You don't expect God to do something for you if you in your turn aren't prepared to do it for your fellow human being. Yes, salvation is free, but there's a condition - a very important condition indeed.
Yes, Thursday is a tough day. On the fifth day of Creation Yahweh created all the sea creatures and all the birds of the air. The sea represents our emotional life and the air our thought life. We must begin by sorting these out in our repentance. To think and feel in the right way means to harmonise your thoughts and feelings with the Bible - to think and feel as God, Christ, the prophets and the apostles thought and felt. You need to literally bathe in the Word of God, to let it shape your mind and heart. It is only by doing this that we can discover what is true or false, and so change our lives when we go down a wrong path. Repentance means to change direction - sin means to miss the mark. All sin starts with wrong thinking, and then wicked feelings are conceived. Long before we deal with evil actions - the bad things we do - we must get to the thought and feeling roots. If we fail to sort them out, we will simply get trapped in an endless cycle of sinful behaviour.
Friday is the toughest day of all. It's been pretty awful since Wednesday, hasn't it? You see, Yah'shua's (Jesus') model prayer is wonderfully instructive about the reality of life in this wicked world, so much so that on Friday we must get down to real spiritual warfare: "Lead us not into temptation," He said, "but deliver us from evil." He knew only too well that we would come face to face with the horror of temptation and power of evil - that we would meet Satan and his demons face to face in the wicked deeds all around us. It was on the sixth day of Creation that Yahweh produced all animal life on the land. Though it was at peace at that time, after the Fall nature went to war. We are land-creatures and the fallen animals are not at all unlike those angels who were once like us but fell to become lesser beings. The viciousness of the shark, the creepy eight-legged spider, the parasites that drain us of our life energy, the bacteria and viruses that make us sick, and all that is a part of the violence of nature, reminds us just what kinds of adversary we face in Satan's servants, the demons. They hate us, and wish our destruction. To do that they attack our thoughts and feelings on Thursday and on Friday lay temptation before us in the form of ten thousand-and-one different carnal delights, so-called, consisting of anything and everything to keep us away from the spirit of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We were made on the sixth day, like the animal world, though we were not created in the same way and are quite distinct from it. We were made to be like Yahweh Himself, and like Lucifer before he fell.
To survive the spiritual battle on planet earth we need a lot of help. We need to spend a whole day fighting temptation and the attempt by evil powers to overwhelm us. If we're in Christ, evil will wage a vicious war against us, but so long as we are fulfilling the prayer instructions of Sunday to Thursday we'll be all right. Paul talks a lot about this kind of spiritual warfare, telling us that the real wars that are fought in this world are on the invisible, spiritual plane. This kind of prayer activity is almost completely dead in most churches today. A lot of Christians don't even believe demons exist, let alone Satan, so what is there to fight as far as they are concerned? They lose the battle of salvation on the very evening when they should be entering into the their Sabbath Rest, which is Saturday. They are finally overwhelmed because they did not recognise the existence or tenacity of their foe. Paul said that we must resist the devil, and promises that if we do, he will run away and leave us alone. But if we have not invested out time wisely on Sunday to Wednesday, we will be weak and unprepared. Satan offers temptations in proportion to your personal weakness - he knows your weak spots. He knows how to appeal to your pride, your vanity, your conceit, your greet, your lust, and to every known human weakness. He is a connoisseur in his art - he is subtle, charming, sly, and cleverly conceals his hatred and evil behind his mask of luring smiles. He is like the child-catcher in Chitty-Chitty, Bang-Bang, only the victims are adults and the sweets and ice-creams much more varied and subtle. His bate is money, power, sex, fame, and anything else that the carnal nature enjoys and wallows in. There are custom-built temptations for weak Christians and strong Christians, respectively. There is no end to his variety of choice, much of it specially designed for your personal weakness.
It is here that the battle is either won or lost. It is at this stage that you begin to see for the first time the true forces that lie behind sin. Before this time, all you just see is the sin and the people sinning - like theft, adultery, greed, fornication, bad language, rudeness, unkindness, and so on. By Friday you discover that there are armies of demonic entities that are behind them all, well organised and fatally effective against those who are not prepared. Sunday to Thursday is your training so that you can see your enemy for who he really is - without it, you will be blind, and excuse your sinning, minimising its seriousness, and underestimating the power of your enemy. Making a serious mistake at this time might mean being lost for eternity - many Christians have fallen on the day before they might have entered heaven. Many great Christian men and women have been destroyed on that fateful Friday. Beware.
Saturday is the seventh and last day - it is also the Sabbath Day, the Day of Rest. This is the day when all our strivings are over, it is the day when we finally make it to heaven. And what do we find there? Yah'shua tells us in the Lord's Prayer: "For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen." Those who diligently hold out to the end, finally overcoming all temptation and the attempts by evil to overwhelm us, enter into the literal Kingdom of Yahweh, the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly Place, Zion, restored Paradise, the Millennial earth. And we have returned, have we not, back to Sunday, when we first started by saying: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name", and on Monday and Tuesday said, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
The Kingdom is in heaven, it is not here. This is Satan's world. All the kingdoms belong to him. The whole world system is his. But we are to start incarnating the Kingdom of Heaven within us and by building up His Church. That is the Kingdom here today. And one day, if we make it, that heavenly Church - the true Church made up of all true believers everywhere - will gather together as one great family and celebrate its victory through Christ.
The Sabbath rest is available to anyone here and now but it is only attained as we work our way through the other six days, days on which Yahweh worked, and on which we must work too. Three days with our minds and hearts exclusively focussed on Yahweh, His Kingdom and His will, and three days on our basic physical needs, on the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ, and fighting against temptation and the powers of evil that seek to destroy us. Then the seventh day is given to us without any work whatsoever - it is a day of grace, of reward for the faithful, the consummation of everything we have looked forward to.
I had intended to give you examples of the prayer lives of Christians today but the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) moved me powerfully to share this message with you instead. But I shall keep my promise next week.
The Lord's Prayer, as we have seen, is actually a map of the Plan of Salvation. It shows us the way, and it shows us how to find the way through prayer. We cannot go wrong if we abide by its precepts. But first we must overcome our own fallen nature and get our focus right. We have to get God-focussed and put self in a firm second-place. There is absolutely no other way Everybody I have ever met who has started at Wednesday by skipping Sunday to Tuesday has gone off the way and got lost. And there are regrettably far too many who already believe they have reached Saturday and delude themselves terribly. Whilst I am not suggesting that you divide the Lord's Prayer up on seven days of the week as I have done here in order to teach some basic principles, I certainly don't think there is any harm in placing an emphasis on one of the seven parts of the Prayer on the particular day concerned. It would certainly make a very helpful personal liturgy for individual Christians and for those who pray together during the week. I'm going to recommend that we do this in our family in our evening meetings from now on so that the pattern of the Lord's Prayer becomes well-established.
May the Lord's Prayer show you the Way so that you may enter upon it and come to life in your daily prayers, so that prayer becomes rich and meaningful to you, and not simply just a dull and boring ritual. If we do it Yahweh's way, I am absolutely convinced our prayer life will never be the same again. "For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen."
To Part 4
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Last updated on 21 February 2001
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