Comments on Prayer

    Prayer, like all things that come from God, is a gift.   As Christians, we are entitled to pray.   Not because we are holy, righteous, or special, but because the God we serve is our Father.    The word father is defined as "Life Giver" and all life in all its varied appearance flows from our Heavenly Father.

   Now any good earthly father will be concerned with the welfare and happiness of their children.   Supplying shelter, food and clothing, along with all the rest of the needs that make life worthwhile and hopefully productive. These physical requirements we all understand, but along with the physical are the concerns of the children's emotional condition.   In order for a parent to understand and assist a child in matters concerning the emotions, it is necessary that communication be established.   With our earthly father, language is the means that this is carried out.   With our heavenly father, communication has been granted to us through prayer.   God has granted this because He is not just some aloof, omnipotent being who created a universe and then moved on with no concern to its outcome.   Indeed, God created the universe with a very specific purpose behind it.   That purpose was to create a spiritual family.

   Now I have heard it said that God did this because he was lonely.   This of course can be proven Biblically incorrect.    To begin with, He wasn’t alone.   He had with Him from the very start, the firstborn of creation, His only begotten Son.

Colossians 1:15-16 And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.

16 For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him. (NAS)

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (NAS)

   Along with this, he had His entire heavenly host of angels.   In the beginning, Christ and the angels were all spiritual beings, existing in the same spiritual realm that God Himself exists in. Therefore, loneliness was not the reason behind God's desire to created a physical man that would be given the chance, as adopted children from the earth, to join this spiritual realm or family.

Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (KJV)

   Now, just as communication between God and his heavenly family is obvious from the word, direct communication between Adam and Eve and God was also established.   Even after Adam and Eve had fallen from righteousness, this form of communication continued.   God spoke directly to Cain, before and after Cain’s crime against his brother Abel.   This ability to converse directly with the creator has not disappeared, for God spoke directly to Moses on Mt. Sinai.   He did so also with other men such as Jonah and Ezekiel.   Just the same, direct conversation is not the only form available for communicating with the creator.   God has also made his many prophecies known to us with visions implanted through dreams to many, such as Daniel and John.   In short, prayer is just another means of communication between mankind and our heavenly father.   Indeed, the Bible itself is a means to communicate with the creator.    True Christians can therefore look upon prayer as something far more than a wishful desire on our part, but as something quite tangible.

Nonetheless, prayer is not a magical wishing well. We can equate what was just said to a son asking his father to use the family car for a Saturday night date.   The son is making a hopeful supplication of his father.    Whether the father grants that wishful request from his son depends on a lot of things.   Does the son have enough experience to be responsible for the safety of himself and his passenger?   Does the son’s response to smaller demands of obedience from the father give that parent the confidence that the son will obey the speed and traffic laws?   Is the son adult enough to be relied on in a vehicle that is capable of death itself?   Even granting that all these are so, does the family have a greater need for the car that evening?   If the latter were the case, would denial of the son's request mean that the father did not love his son?

   The father must consider these things, and all have a direct bearing on the request from the son.   So also, it is with prayer or supplications to our heavenly father.

Matt 7:9-11 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (KJV)

   Just the same, what we want and what we really need are two different things.   What is ultimately good for the whole family and us, as individuals, are well known and weighed by the creator.

   If, to continue our analogy, the creator hands us the keys to the family car, would it not be expected from the son, out of honor to our father, gratitude, respect and love that the son would say thank you?    The point here is that prayer always was and always will be a two-way communication.   Now most all know that speaking to our heavenly father in prayer can be both a supplication and a thank you, but few stop to think about what a prayer should not be.

Matt 6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (KJV)

   The scripture above is from an explanation by Jesus as to how to pray, which most will recognize as the Lord's Prayer.    However, before Jesus gave this prayer, He devoted some time as to what we should not be doing concerning prayer.   In fact, Matthew chapter six is devoted to the Lord's prayer and an explanation of not only how, but also why one should speak to his heavenly father in the manner Christ is setting out.   Christ began this by relating what pagans do and ended it with the warning in verse 8 above "…Be not ye therefore like unto them…"

   Let us therefore look at these verses and keep in mind this is our Lord, the Word, giving us these instructions.    Particularly since it is through our Lord that, we speak to our father in prayer.

Matt 6:1  "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (NAS)

In some versions of the Bible, righteousness and alms are interchanged as meaning the same thing. Although I could see piety as a means to achieve righteousness, I would question seriously whether they were synonymous.    Just the same, In Jesus' time, the word 'righteousness' was tied closely to the word 'alms.'   It is clear then that the above scripture is telling us that this is considered wrong and God ignores those doing it.   Paul explains this in:

2 Cor 13:7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. (KJV)

   Notice "…Not that we should appear approved…" but "…Do that which is honest…"

   It is a common practice among religions of the world to hold prayer meetings or revivals.   You can see these on cable most any weekend with appropriate close ups of the pastors, priests, ministers, or whomever, properly looking as pious as possible.   Now, whether these people are sincere in their efforts is not the point, or for us to judge.   However, making something as special as prayer into a spectacle to appear as a sign from God, is.    Something Christ made an issue of in the next verse of Matt 6.

Matt 6: 2  "When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (NAS)

   The point of the above scripture is that to be seen and honored by men, is all that those who practice this get for their efforts, for God knows what is in the heart of each of us.

Matt 6: 3. "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (NAS)

   Why is God telling us this?   God is here, as elsewhere, telling us that if you give as something calculated because you feel it as an obligation, or something one does to appear righteous to God, then you are:

Prov 25:14 {Like} clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely. (NAS)

   Rather, God is telling us as a father to a child:

Prov 27:11 My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him who reproaches me. (NKJ)

   The word reproach above also means to do something dishonorable such as to dishonor the meaning and intent of doing alms.

Matt 6: 4  that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (NAS)

   Why does God say this?   We might gain and insight to this questions from Paul who tells us in Gal 5 how and why we should walk in the spirit.

Gal 5:18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

Gal 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

          23  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Gal 5:25-26. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

          26. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, (NAS)

   The ultimate point of the above scriptures concerning alms is that it is something we as Christians should want to do simply because it is right, not because we are to gain from it. Jesus in Matt chapter six is stressing this also, concerning prayer.

Matt 6: 5  "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (NAS)

   Why is Christ telling us this?    When one prays to appear righteous to others, that person is in effect attempting to steal or share glory with God, something absolutely none of us have a right to do.   We are human, and imperfect humans to boot.   As such, we are subject to an unbalanced attribute of pride.   Moses himself fell into this misapplication of pride when he struck the rock that God produced water from.

Numbers 20:10 "… And he said to them, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" (NAS)

   "What do we have to do for you"?   Moses was asking, as though suddenly he had become a partner with God in their deliverance.   As though it was through his efforts, that water gushed forth from the rock.   This human failing of pride caused God to punish Moses by not allowing him to enter the Promised Land.

Num 20:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. (KJV)

   From the above, it is clear that unwarranted pride in ourselves is clearly something we are to avoid in prayer.    This explains the next verse in Matthew that Jesus is instructing us with:

6. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (NAS)

   Now, Christ always spoke in parables, so he is not actually stipulating or telling us to find a special room somewhere to pray in, but rather that prayer is something special; a personal, heart-to-heart conversation between Father and son, and should be quietly done between you and God.   No Christian will doubt the righteousness of Jesus, yet going off by himself to pray, in most cases, was just what Christ did in His prayers to His Father.

   He offered the Lord's prayer publicly because he was answering a question by his apostles as to how to pray.   He offered a prayer in raising Lazarus to show those present that it was from God that this power to return life to Lazarus was originating. (John chapter 11)   In fact, when He offered prayer, He even offered an apology to His father for doing so.

John 11:41-42 And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me.

              42 "And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me." (NAS)

   Clearly, in the above verses, Christ is most markedly placing the glory where it belongs, a glory that Christ rightly considers belonging to His Father only.

   There is something else in Matt that Christ is warning us against doing in prayer.

7."And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. (NAS)

   The Chinese originated something they call a prayer wheel.   A thousand prayers were written on a cylinder, and when one spun it, they believed these prayers were offered as long as the wheel turned.    Personally, I find this far more efficient than repeating prayers counted off with beads, but just as Christ is telling us… God considers them meaningless.

Christ concludes this instruction on prayer with:

8. "Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. (NAS)

   Since Christ is telling us from all this that prayer is something special and private between each individual and God, does that mean that there is never a time that public prayers are to be offered.   Not at all!   It is most assuredly proper to pray as a group when the circumstances dictate it.

   Whenever a group of God's children gather for worship or study, we all know the Holy Spirit is present.   Because we know this, it is only proper and respectful to gratefully acknowledge that powerful presence supplied by the creator.   After all, that same mighty power we know as the Holy Spirit was used to create the whole universe.   Therefore, to ignore it would not only be disrespectful but quite foolish as well. The Bible itself also shows instances of people having group prayer:

Acts 12:12  And when he realized {this,} he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.  (NAS)

Acts 16:25   But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;  (NAS)

Acts 21:5    And when it came about that our days there were ended, we departed and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until {we were} out of the city. And after kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. (NAS)

   Those that follow Christ know that He prayed consistently while here on earth.   If this example of Jesus were not enough for one, then the words telling us to do so were written for us also by Paul:

1Thessalonians 5:17-22 Pray without ceasing.

18  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19. Quench not the Spirit.

20. Despise not prophesying.

 21. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22  Abstain from all appearance of evil.

   Paul summed all this up by concluding his remarks in 1 Thessalonians with:

25. Brethren, pray for us. (KJV)

  Of course, Paul no longer needs our prayers and it would be wrong for us to do so.   For it would be showing a form of doubt that God had granted Paul what the creator has already given all of us His word on.   Just the same, we can follow this advice for brothers and sisters, presently living, in need of comfort and strength from God.   Often praying with one who is sick or dying acts as an immediate physical and spiritual comfort to that person through an hour when the body needs it most.

   It is understandable to pray to God to heal or cure an ill, stricken, or dying person.   However, regardless of the outcome of that prayer it should be understood that God sees the flesh as being in the realm of this world, while eternal life is in the spiritual realm of God.   A prayer for God to heal a stricken person’s spirit, or for God to give them the inner strength to face their ordeal with courage, honor, and dignity, lets the person know that God is there no matter what the outcome of the illness may be.   That while that person has breath, God can be spoken to.

   Prayer is a means of communicating with God and He intended it to be used often.   Not just to tell God your troubles but to express gratitude for His gifts, to seek advice on how to remove a stumbling block and to simply converse with Him; to let Him know what's in your heart.  Like any good father, God enjoys listening to His children.  So talk to God.   Even though He knows your innermost thoughts, He wants to hear them from you.

Psalm 102:1   Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to Thee.  (NAS)

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