Month 8:29, Week 4:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year 5935:229 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Thursday 24 November 2011
Prayer & Worship III
Getting Answers from Yahweh
Continued from Part 2
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el!
Today we resume the third part of our series on prayer and worship and I want to begin straight off by asking you a question: Have you ever wondered why Yahweh doesn't seem to answer some prayers? Well, of course the answer is 'yes' because everybody - saint and sinner alike - has unanswered prayer, and wonders why. And the reason that much prayer is not answered may be attributed to what somone once called 'answer-blockers'. I have identified at least five of these answer-blockers and perhaps you can think of others.
1. The Wicked Prayer. We'll start with the most obvious, namely, praying for something which Yahweh has already forbidden in His Torah. Obviously Yahweh is not going to answer a prayer that asks Him to kill your unpleasant neighbour, or to strike him down with the plague, to to hurt his nearest-and-dearest for being so mean to you. These are wicked prayers that Yahweh will not hear because He cannot - and will not - ever break His own mitzvot (commandments). To pray and get answers we must stay within Yahweh's promises and laws, and to do that you need to know what they are. That ought to be common sense. So study your Scriptures! If we get out of these promises and laws, Yahweh will not hear our petitions. The apostle James warns:
Those who live to do wrong to others do not have access to the ear of our Heavenly Father until they have repented and sought the welfare of others, including their most obnoxious enemies! The word "pleasures" can also be rendered "lusts" which in this context means eagerly desiring, and praying for, something simply to spend on our sensual gratification. The chief aim is to discover Yahweh's will for our lives, not our own, for His will always takes our needs into account. He does not neglect us - ever. If we do what is right, putting the needs of others ahead of our own, He will ensure that our own needs will be addressed in abundance and overflowing.
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3, NKJV).
2. The Unforgiving Prayer. If you try to pray with bitterness in your lev (heart), Yahweh cannot answer until you are willing to repent. Praying with a bitter heart is a bit like picking up the telephone and cutting the cable - we can talk until the cows come home but their is no connection. Yahweh will not connect to a bitter lev (heart) but to a repentant one. The only time we can expect answers from Yahweh at all, is when we have forgiven all the wrongs others have done us, and have been forgiven all our own wrongs by Yah'shua (Jesus):
A lot of people come unstuck over this mitzvah (commandment) of our Master. But there is no wriggling out of it. Engrave this on your lev (heart). It is integral to the Lord's Prayer:
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25-26, NKJV).
What this means is that we are in debt to Yahweh because of our sins, so if we are in debt to Him, how can we do anything but cancel the sin debts of others which we hold against them without being guilty of hypocrisy? I am sure you remember the parable Yah'shua (Jesus) told Peter about this principle. As it is so important let us remind ourselves of it:
"And forgive us our debts (sins), as we forgive our debtors (those who sin against us)" (Matt.6:12, NKJV; cp. Lk.11:40).
You see, we are that wicked servant when we refuse to forgive those who have wronged us, not because they are not debtors to us, but because we have an even greater debt to Yahweh because of our sins. If we refuse to forgive those who wrong us, then Yahweh hands us over to the "torturers" who are, of course, demons. In those circumstances, can you understand why Yahweh does not hear the prayers of believers who refuse to forgive those who have wronged them?
"Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Master, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Yah'shua (Jesus) said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his lev (heart), does not forgive his brother his trespasses'" (Matt.18:21-35, NKJV).
If you would like to see a contemporary movie that teaches this principle so well, then I recommend you see, The Grace Card starring Michael Joiner, Michael Higgenbottom and Louis Gosslett, Jr.
I would like to suggest to you that unforgiveness is one of the biggest answer-blockers to prayer and once you understand how Yahweh views unforgiveness, you will understand why.
3. The Selfish Prayer. When we are only praying with our personal interests in mind, and not Yahweh's glory, we are praying selfish prayers. There is a reason we are to pray 'in the Name of Yah'shua (Jesus)' and it's not because it's some ritualistic prescription. When we pray in the Messiah's Name it means that we come to the Father Yahweh as Yah'shua (Jesus) would Himself! To come in the "name" of some country is to come with its best interests at heart, and with all its rights and powers represented in your request. It is to come in the character and peronality of that Name, not our own! To come to the Father and pray in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name is to come with the best interests of Elohim (God) at heart, and to come representing the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). When Yah'shua (Jesus) prayed, He did not pray just so that he could be more happy, but that His Father and the whole of Heaven could be more happy. And as we are a part of Heaven (or are supposed to be, if our emunah/faith is genuine), then it follows that we will be more happy too.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of selfish prayer because when we do, we forget Who we belong to. We forget that we are supposed to grow beyond the personal, childish interests of the spring festivals (Pesach, Chag haMatzah and Yom haBikkurim), orientate ourself towards as a spiritual youth as the community of Israel in Yahweh (Shavu'ot), and then prepare ourselves diligently as adults as the Bridegroom's allegorical Bride as we work through the autumn/fall festivals (Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur and finally Sukkot). We are supposed to grow and mature in prayer from the infant to the fully-mature grown-up, from selfishness to selflessness!
4. The Clueless Prayer. Sometimes we have no idea what we are praying for, no understanding of what we are doing. We don't know enough of the Davar (Word) of Elohim (God) to pray wisely. Paul asked Yahweh three times to take away his "thorn in the flesh" but the Master had left it there as a safeguard to protect His apostle from getting to proud of what Yahweh had done in his life:
Sometimes annoying and even painful obstacles are put in your life to save you from a spiritual fall. Coming to terms with this may be hard. However, you do have a right to know why Yahweh sometimes allows such irritaing and distressing things in your life, and He gives His reason: to keep us humble, reminding us that His grace - His undeserved loving kindness, His unmerited favour - all the things we have been given by Him that we don't deserve - is enough. We may think we need more, but only He knows what we need.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Master three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Messiah (Christ) may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Messiah's (Christ's) sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor.12:7-10, NKJV).
Not going beyond what He wants for us and not demanding more will therefore prevent further answer-blockers to prayer.
5. The Self-Righteous Prayer. Secretly comparing ourselves more favourably than others is self-righteous prayer - thinking we are better than others. This kind of prayer only bounces off the ceiling. We don't come to Yahweh on the basis of 'how far' we have advanced in the Gospel Life. We come only on the basis of the Cross and the blood of Messiah shed for our sins. We come only as people whom He has brought back from sin and death by His grace - His undeserved loving kindness, His unmerited favour:
This really is self-explanatory. The moment we think we are superior because we are more sanctified, more saved, more handsome, more beautiful, more charismatic, more social, more 'with it', more righteous, more knowledgeable, more privileged, more worthy, more advanced, more loved, more deserving, more loving, more aware, more Torah-compliant, more anything, we have thrown a spanner into the works of our prayer life and guaranteed ourselves an answer-blocker. Such people eventually stop praying altogether because they are self-sufficient, full of pride, and revolting to Yahweh.
"Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'Elohim (God), I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'Elohim (God), be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:9-14, NKJV).
6. The Doubting or Faithless Prayer and also the Wordy False Prayer are also types of prayer that won't get answered. To pray and get answers, don't even bother praying unless you really believe Yahweh will answer you! And strip your prayer-life of all wordy, foolish talk just for the sake of hearing yourself speak, or that's all that will happen. That's no different that rehearsing what you plan to say to someone without ever actually getting around to do it. It stays inside you as talking to yourself. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
Yahweh isn't interested in a quota of words being fulfilled to make up a prayer. It's content that matters, and that content is emunah (faith). Don't doubt:
"When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him" (Matt.6:7-8, NKJV).
In other words, your emunah (faith) will accomplish great things like the moving of a mountain - the impossible will become possible!
"Assuredly, I say to you, if you have emunah (faith) and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matt.21:21-22, NKJV).
"Yah'shua (Jesus) said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes'" (Mark 9:23, NKJV).
Finally, a word about praying in the Name of our Messiah. It isn't a charm or just a nice way to end a prayer. The Name of Yah'shua (Jesus) is our toqef (authority) to speak with a Pure and Set-Apart (Holy) Elohim (God): it is a seal that ensures that all we pray for is in line with the will of Yahweh, and that it is for His final glory: and it has power over the Enemy and his evil hosts. Prayer works when we do it right, with pure motives. And it works dramatically!
We will be taking this theme firther next time. In the meantime, may we all have a more effective prayer life that is solidly based in emet (truth)! Amen.
Continued in Part 4
 Winkie Pratney, Doorways to Discipleship (Communication Foundation Publishers, Lindale, Texas: 1975)