Tag Archives: prayer

Praay With All Kinds Of Praayer

The Bible urges us to pray with all kinds of prayers (Ephesians 6:18). What are the kinds of prayer we should be using? A careful search of Scripture reveals at least five general categories of prayer:

Praise God. Praise God for who he is. He is holy. He is all-powerful. He is infinite and unchanging. He is faithful and righteous. God is love!

Praise God for what he does. He creates. He is the Maker of all things. God spoke into existence the heavens and the earth. The Lord made the earth rich in beauty and resources for our benefit.

God made us. He is the giver of all life. He gives us life. We praise him for our lives and for the provisions he makes to meet our daily physical needs. We are blessed by his abundance.

God saved us. He saved us from sin and condemnation. He sent Jesus to die for our sins and raised him up to be our Lord and our Shepherd. God sent his Spirit to dwell in our hearts and to transform us into the image of Christ, empowering us to live holy lives and enjoy God’s blessings to the fullest.

Praise and worship are an inspiring part of prayer.

Repent of Sins. If we deny that we are sinners, we make God out to be a liar. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just. He will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Our goal is to experience victory over sin, but when we stumble and fall, we have an Advocate at the throne of our Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous one. He gave himself as our atoning sacrifice. He was raised up and exalted to God’s right hand in majesty. Now he always intercedes for us.

Confession and repentance are necessary for approaching God in prayer.

Ask Favors from God. Ask and it will be given to us. Seek and we will find. Knock and it will be opened to us. For everyone who asks receives. The one who seeks finds. To the one knocking it will be opened.

God is our loving Father, Abba, who knows how to give good gifts to his sons and daughters. God desires to give his greatest gift of all: himself. Will he not give the Holy Spirit to those who are asking?

We can approach God’s throne of grace and mercy with confidence, believing that he will always do what is best.

Petitions and intercessions are heard and answered by God.

Ask Questions and make complaints. We can ask God our questions. In doing so, we must remember two things. First, never forget all the answers he has already provided. We should not let a mystery overshadow the many important revelations God has given us.

Second, we must trust God to know what we need to know. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may obey him.

In addition to our questions, the Lord will also hear our complaints. Obeying God in a world filled with rebellion and disobedience can be challenging, frustrating, and sometimes depressing. God knows our hearts already. We can pour out our most intimate thoughts and emotions to him.

Questions and complaints are welcomed by God in prayer.

Yield to God. We spend much time in prayer asking God to help us with our needs, to forgive us for our sins, to answer our questions, and to listen to our complaints. We can also bring something to give him: our commitments.

We can promise God to worship him and to walk in his ways, to obey him and to serve him. The Lord makes commitments and promises to us. We can make commitments and promises to him, agreeing in prayer to honor him in our hearts and in our households, through our worship and while we work.

Covenants and commitments can be made with the Lord both publicly and privately, both by individuals and by groups.

The various categories of prayer are not like the major parts of a car. A car needs an engine, a transmission, a body and suspension, an interior with seats and all the necessary controls for operating it on the street. If any of these things are missing, the car could be dangerous, or not function at all.

The different types of prayer are more like assorted colors of paint on the artist’s palette. The colors serve the painter. One picture may be dark with gray, black, and red. Another painting is bright with vivid yellow, green, and white. Our circumstances and mood will determine which types of prayer we use on any given day. Different prayers will use different categories, serving the one who has come to speak with the Lord.

We should be comfortable with all types of prayer. When the mood is right or the circumstance appropriate, we should be capable of praising, confessing, asking, or yielding. If we learn to use all the categories of prayer, we will enjoy a deeper and more satisfying dialogue with our Maker and Savior.

Bowing on our knees or standing with hands raised, joining together with other believers or alone in our prayer closet, speaking out loud or silently in our hearts, in public or in private, in sorrow and in joy, in the morning and in the evening, in the Lord’s house and in the world, we pray without ceasing. We pray believing. We pray in the Spirit with all types of prayer!

May God inspire us to commune often with him in prayer,

Brother Richard

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Enrich Your Prayer

“Lord, teach us to pray!” The question came from one of Jesus’ disciples. Not that they knew nothing at all about prayer. But they had been listening to Jesus pray. His prayers inspired them. They wanted more from prayer.

Jesus could have told his disciples that they had no need to learn about prayer. He could have told them that their prayers were good enough. But he did not.

Jesus could have told his disciples that they were unable to improve their prayers. He could have said that his proficiency at prayer was beyond them, that it would be futile for them to aspire to praying like him. But he did not.

Jesus apparently believed that his disciples could do better at prayer. So he instructed them. He taught them a model prayer that we often refer to as The Lord’s Prayer.

Many Christians have memorized the Lord’s Prayer and they recite it individually as a personal expression of communion with God. Believers also recite the Lord’s Prayer together in public worship settings. Using a common prayer enables a congregation to join their hearts in unison as they approach God’s throne of grace and mercy.

Others are uncomfortable with the idea of reciting a prayer from memory. Using someone else’s words can feel artificial and contrived. They prefer prayer that is impromptu, prayer that expresses their thoughts and feelings in their own words.

Did Jesus expect his followers to memorize and recite his prayer? Matthew and Luke each recorded Jesus’ prayer (in Matthew 6 and Luke 11). The two versions are very similar but not identical. This indicates that Jesus expected his disciples to use the prayer as a template.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer, which should probably be called the Model Prayer, can be divided into two main sections: (1) focus on God’s kingdom and (2) focus on our needs. This basic pattern can give some organization and direction to the content of our prayers. The basic pattern can be useful but need not confine or limit our expressions of thoughts and feelings when we talk to God.

The content of our prayers can come from at least three sources. First, we can use great prayers recorded in the Bible as templates or models without reciting them word-for-word. The patterns found in these prayers can give shape and direction to our prayers, providing frameworks for new content that is personalized to our circumstances and concerns.

Second, we can memorize and recite existing prayers. Doing so is a great way for Christians to share the experience of prayer and to learn from the prayers of other believers.

Third, we can pray without reciting existing prayers and without following any established pattern or outline. Freestyle prayer is certainly a valid approach to prayer. Many of the prayers in the Psalms are apparently impromptu (which is ironic since they are written!).

Finally, we can use hybrid prayers that combine recitation of memorized prayers, patterns modeled by prayers in the Bible, and freestyle prayer that depends on the words of the one praying. By employing all three approaches in combination, the possibilities are endless.

Jesus’ disciples were ready and willing to learn from the Lord about how to improve their prayers. As a result, they learned from the Master about how to talk to God.

We, too, can get better at praying. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we can be inspired by the prayers of our Lord which we read in the Bible.  His prayers create a desire within us to improve our ability to communicate openly and effectively with God.

Prayer is fundamental to our spiritual life. Prayer is our lifeline to the Lord. As we learn from our Savior how to get better at communing with God, we grow stronger spiritually both as individual followers of Jesus and as a church family.

Enrich your prayer.

May God inspire us and enable us to enjoy his presence to the fullest,

Brother Richard

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Enrich Your Prayer Life: Use All 5 Categories of Prayer

Giving thanks is an important part of prayer. We should express gratitude to God for the personal blessings he has given us. More than that, we should thank God for the promises he has made to bless us in the days ahead, including his promises for us in eternity. Gratitude for future blessings is an expression of praise.

Thanksgiving is one way of praising God. In addition to praising God for what he has done, we should praise God for who he is. We should also praise God for his attributes, his character. We can praise him because he is holy, because he is powerful, and because he is love.

By his power, he made the universe. He made us. He is worthy of our praise for giving us life and for giving us an incredible world in which to live.

By his love, God has given us salvation. We should praise God for sending his Son Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice for our sin.

Our sin reminds us of another category of prayer.

Confession and repentance are vital parts of our prayers. When we confess our sin, we affirm God’s holiness and righteousness. If we refuse to confess our sin, then we are defying God by rejecting his standard of goodness, his commands.

Repentance is also necessary. Not only do we agree with God’s standard of righteousness, including our agreement that we have fallen short, but we commit ourselves to turning away from sin and turning toward God. By following God and submitting to his Spirit, we learn to live in a manner that is not only in compliance with his standards, but in a manner that is pleasing to our heavenly Father.

After acknowledging God through worship and reconciling with God through repentance, we can move on to the next category of prayer: petitions and intercessions. Petitions are requests that we make to God for ourselves. God invites us to bring our requests to him in prayer. We should be transparent with God about the desires of our heart.

Intercession is like petition. We intercede by asking God to do something for someone other than ourselves. The other person may be someone we love deeply or someone we have never met. As followers of Jesus, we even intercede for our enemies and those who persecute us.

When we approach God with our petitions and intercessions, we must remember that God is not a cosmic vending machine. We don’t just ‘pull the lever’ of prayer and get anything and everything we want. Our wise and loving Father in heaven hears our requests and responds as he should. He sometimes says yes. Other times he says no, or not now, or yes, but. . . .

The fourth category of prayer may be a surprise to some people: questions and complaints. We can ask God questions in prayer. Most of us are full of questions about spiritual realities. God’s answers may come to us as we read the Bible, listen to Bible preaching and teaching, or through other avenues, but we can learn to recognize his responses to our questions.

Saints from Bible times onward have lodged their complaints with God. He is willing to hear them. The secret to complaining in prayer is to avoid disrespect. We can bring our frustration, disappointment, and impatience to God without slandering him.

The fifth category of prayer is covenants and commitments. Covenant is a word from Scripture that speaks of agreements between two parties. God has made certain commitments to us. We should make commitments to him. Prayer is an appropriate place to do so. We commune with God in prayer not just to get things, but also to give something.

The five categories of prayer are not rules to follow, but tools to handle. Having fewer tools makes the job more difficult. The more tools we have, the more details and the more beauty we can create in our prayers. Learn to use all five categories of prayer and your prayers will be enriched!

May God always hear and answer our prayers,

Brother Richard

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Praying During The Pandemic

How can we pray at such a time as this? Consider the Old Testament man of God, Daniel.

Daniel’s life was changed forever by other people’s mistakes. When he was just a teenager, he was taken by force from his home in Israel. His life would be spent in a foreign land: Babylon.

You might say that Daniel just lived at the wrong time. God’s chosen people Israel had persisted in disobeying the Lord for generations. God warned them. They refused to listen. Finally, God disciplined Israel.

Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by a Babylonian army. All who survived were carried off into exile in Babylon. God’s people would not return to the Promised Land for seventy years. So, Daniel would live and die in Babylon.

Daniel was truly an extraordinary man. He could have hated the Babylonians. After all, they destroyed his home and kept him in exile. Instead, he served in the Babylonian government with distinction and integrity.

Daniel could have been bitter toward God. After all, God could have protected Daniel, couldn’t he? But Daniel showed no bitterness toward God. He was devoted to God and faithful to God’s word. He was a man of prayer, even when praying risked his life (Daniel 6)!

Daniel could have been angry at God’s people and refused to have anything to do with them. After all, their sin kept him from living in the Promised Land. But Daniel had no malice for sinful Israel. His love for God’s people is evident in his prayers.

One of Daniel’s prayers is recorded in the Bible (Daniel 9:1-19). He began by confessing the sins of Israel. Surprisingly, he included himself. “We have sinned and done wrong,” he said to God.

Daniel was willing to reckon himself among God’s people, even though they were sinful and he was faithful. He knew God loved his people and had a plan to bless them, despite their past disobedience and despite their current circumstances.

Daniel appealed to God for restoration of his people Israel. Because Jerusalem was God’s city, and the Temple was God’s sanctuary, and Israel was God’s people, Daniel pleaded with God to restore them.

Daniel wanted God’s name to be honored among the nations. If God’s city and temple were destroyed and his people were defeated, then the other nations of the world would assume the God of Israel was weak and defeated.

The world around us is like Babylon, increasingly pagan. The church is too often like ancient Israel, distracted by countless idols. God seems to be distant, angry, allowing disaster to sweep across the land. How can we pray?

We can pray like Daniel. We can remain united with God’s people, the church, despite their shortcomings. We can appeal to God’s mercy for his people, remembering his promises. God promised that his church will be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it!

Daniel did not live at the wrong time. He was appointed by God to live faithfully in Babylon during the Exile. We are not living at the wrong time. God has called us to serve him now, in these circumstances. Let’s be faithful in our generation.

Brother Richard Foster

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Prayer For A Nation

God makes a promise about prayer in 2 Chronicles:

. . . and (if) my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I myself will hear from the heavens, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (7:14)

The Lord is speaking to King Solomon. At the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem Solomon prayed publicly and asked God to always answer the prayers offered at the temple.

Thirteen years later God is finally answering Solomon’s request. That’s a long delay but hearing from God is worth the wait!

To understand God’s answer to Solomon we must move back one verse. God tells Solomon, “When I stop the rain or send locusts to devour the land or if I send a pestilence, and my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray” etc.

God’s promise is about those times when he uses natural disasters to soften hard hearts and bend stiff necks. Extreme weather is now blamed on man-made global warming (or “climate change”). Nevertheless, God is still the master of nature and the Bible clearly says that he sometimes employs nature to get our attention (see Exodus 9).

Of course, every bad storm is not a judgment from God. Jesus used a storm on the Sea of Galilee to demonstrate his divine authority by commanding the wind and the waves to stop. He made no mention of any national sin.

The point is this: When God’s people disobey him and deserve his judgment, God offers a pathway to return to his favor.

First, God’s people must humble themselves. Genuine humility starts with attitude and stirs action. The Israelites often humbled themselves by fasting. Skipping meals was a way to demonstrate that they were contrite.

Next, God’s people must pray. When combined, prayer and fasting are powerful. By fasting and praying God’s people demonstrate their desire to connect with God.

In addition, God’s people must seek his face, that is, his personal presence. Seeking requires time and effort. When God’s people gather for combined prayer and fasting the purpose is to experience God’s powerful, personal presence.

Finally, God’s people must turn from their evil ways. No amount of fasting, praying and seeking will solve the problem if God’s people defiantly persist in disobeying his commands.

To simply turn from evil ways without turning to God would also be short of the goal. The objective is always to enjoy God and his favor.

God promises to hear from heaven despite the chasm between him and his people. God will then forgive their sin and heal their land, both spiritual and physical restoration. He is Lord of the visible and the invisible, of individuals and of nations.

As followers of Jesus we are God’s people now and we share in this wonderful promise about prayer. So let’s humbly seek the Lord in prayer, turning from sin to him. God will hear and restore.

May God always hear from heaven and visit us with his healing presence,

Brother Richard

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Culture Wars and Prayer

Elijah appears suddenly in the pages of the Bible in 1 Kings 17. He is a prophet, a man of God.

Elijah lives at a time of spiritual decline in Israel. God’s people are being led astray to forget the God of the Bible and to adopt a competing worldview.

The champion of this competing worldview is a woman named Jezebel. Jezebel is a Baal worshiper. Baal is an idol. Baal worshipers give this idol credit for controlling the rain, and thus having the power of life.

Jezebel is married to the king of Israel, a man named Ahab. She uses her political position to promote Baal worship. She also abuses her power to intimidate and persecute those who worship and serve the Lord.

Baal worship threatens to extinguish belief in the Living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So God sends Elijah to confront King Ahab with bad news. Rain in Israel will cease. Why? To prove to the people that Baal does not control the rain, God does.

Eventually Elijah faces a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. This event is one of the most dramatic in all the Bible (see 1 Kings 18). It is a contest to prove who is really God.

The contest was simple. The prophets of Baal would prepare a sacrifice and call on Baal. Elijah would prepare a sacrifice and call on the Lord. The one who answered by fire would be the true God.

The prophets of Baal cried out to the idol but, of course, it failed to answer. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord. In his prayer he called on God to turn the hearts of the people back again, back to the truth, back to the Lord.

Israel was experiencing what some would call a “culture war.” Two competing worldviews were struggling for the hearts of the people: Baal worship versus faithfulness to the God of their forefathers.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today, a time of frustrating spiritual decline. Powerful proponents of secularism are working diligently to erase the God of the Bible from the public square and from the hearts of the citizenry.

Whether we call this struggle a “culture war” or a “spiritual battle,” the stakes are high. Elijah recognized the fundamental issue in his struggle and he expressed it well in his prayer. The basic issue was not the laws of the land or the leaders on the throne. The basic issue was the hearts of the people.

Elijah’s response to the struggle in his time included bold prayer. His prayer called on God to turn the hearts of the people back again. We should follow his example and pray passionately for God to turn the hearts of the people back to the truth, back to the gospel, back to Jesus.

God answered Elijah’s prayer and brought a great victory. But the struggle continued. We can expect the same: great victories and continued struggles. We can be faithful in fighting the good fight, because we know that the ultimate victory belongs to the Lord!

May God’s Spirit inspire and enable us to be faithful,

Brother Richard Foster

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

How Can We Be Alert In Prayer?

Does your mind wander when you pray?

Praying alone in a quiet place can be a relaxing activity. In fact, it can be easy to doze off. When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane the night before his arrest, he asked his disciples to watch and pray with him.  They fell asleep . . . 3 times.

Being informed can make us alert. What if Jesus’ disciples had known that an angry mob with torches and clubs was coming to take Jesus away by force? I doubt if they would have fallen asleep!

The Bible urges us to be alert in prayer: “With every kind of prayer and petition, pray in the Spirit at all times; and to get this done, be alert by using all perseverance and prayer for all believers, and for me, that a word will be given to me when I open my mouth to boldly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:18-19).

Persistent prayer for all believers is one way to stay alert in prayer.  Pray for all Christians everywhere, those you know and don’t know, those you like and don’t like, those in your local church and not, those in your denomination and not, those in your country or culture and not. That’s a tall order!

There are tens of millions of Christians around the world, we cannot know each one personally. Instead, we must learn what we can about believers in faraway places so that we can pray for them.

God’s Spirit may stir in us a special interest for certain communities or circumstances. For instance, we may have a special compassion for persecuted believers.

Then it says, “and for me,” that is, pray for me. In addition to praying for all believers everywhere, we should also pray for individual believers we know personally.

But what about people who have not yet been saved? Shouldn’t we pray for them?

When Jesus saw crowds of folks looking like sheep without a shepherd, he had compassion on them. He urged his followers to pray to God, not for the lost sheep, but for believers to do the gospel work.

In the instruction above, the writer asks his readers to pray that he will be bold in making known the mystery of the gospel. A mystery in the Bible is not something that is difficult to understand. It’s something impossible to know until it is revealed. The gospel is the revelation about Jesus, that he died and rose again so that we can be forgiven and have eternal life.

The best prayer for lost people is prayer for saved people to be bold and share the gospel. We need prayer for boldness to witness because our natural disposition is to keep quiet about the gospel. Telling others about Jesus requires the inspiration of God’s Spirit.

Pray for God to give you the same concern for others that Jesus has. Compassion for others will keep you alert in prayer.

May the God’s Spirit inspire us to share in his great harvest,

Brother Richard Foster

Leave a comment

Filed under Prayer, Religion

The Theistic Fork in the Road

Everyone is on a journey of faith, even atheists.

We all start the faith journey by asking the fundamental question: Does God exist? How we answer this question influences our basic views about living in this world. Those who answer “No” and those who answer “Yes” have different conceptions of reality and different pathways in life. This does not mean that we cannot be kind and tolerant with one another. We can even work together on important issues. But there will be vital differences between the two groups.

Those who answer the fundamental faith question by believing that God does not exist are immediately faced with a second question: How do I live when life has no real meaning? Despite suggestions to the contrary, atheism leads to a philosophical position known as nihilism. Nihilism says that there is no real significance in life. Whatever one accomplishes will eventually be erased and forgotten. Our very universe will someday either tear itself apart from relentless expansion or crush itself in a Big Crunch. There is nobody in eternity to remember anything or anybody for good or ill – supposedly.

For those who follow nihilism to its logical conclusion the ultimate question is this: How should I commit suicide? Why? Because life in this world inevitably brings pain, sometimes intolerable pain. Since the atheist has embraced the (incorrect) notion that life is accidental and meaningless, then the most reasonable thing to do is avoid the pain and choose one’s method of death as soon as possible.

This is extreme, however, and so atheists rightly avoid such nonsense. Instead they often end up adopting some version of the position promoted by a dead philosopher named Nietzsche. This ‘enlightened’ humanistic thinker envisioned a sort of ‘superman’ who knows that life has no real meaning yet lives defiantly, pretending that life is meaningful. Is that honest? It sure doesn’t sound very ‘scientific.’

Penn Jillette, a magician, comedian, musician, (and perhaps several others –‘ian’s) is a well-known atheist. He is assertive about his atheism. He actively promotes his idea that God is myth. He works to convert us all to his way of thinking.

Surprisingly, Jillette recently decided that atheists should pray. He apparently recognizes some kind of personal therapeutic value in prayer and does not believe that atheists should be denied the benefits of prayer.

But how can you pray if there is nobody to address (unless you redefine prayer)? When people pretend to converse with someone, when there is no one, we usually take that as a sign that something is not quite right. . . .

So atheists believe life has no meaning but wish it did and they believe that God isn’t listening but wish he were (or someone?). All this time atheists have accused theists of pretense but it turns out that they are the ones who are pretending, pretending that life has purpose when they supposedly know that it doesn’t and pretending that ‘prayers’ to nobody have value.

Now for those of us who answer the first faith question with “Yes, God does exist,” we also face a second question: “Who is God? What is he like? What is he doing?” (Sounds like a lot of questions but they are related!)

As the atheist spends the rest of life trying to find meaning from meaninglessness, the theist spends life discovering the meaning and purpose that flows from the character and attributes of God. When we learn about God’s character we also learn about his mission and purpose. When we understand God’s mission and purpose we are challenged to join him.

Penn Jillette is right about this: prayer is beneficial. But the benefit of prayer is not some kind of personal therapy. The benefit of prayer is that it provides us with a personal connection to the invisible Living God who made us and who gives us purpose in this life and hope for the life to come.

The Bible is our primary document for answering questions about God. It is God’s word to us about who he is and what he is doing. The Bible helps us discover how we fit into God’s kingdom plan and experience meaning and purpose in life now.

God’s purpose for each of us cannot be taken away even in the midst of suffering and pain, issues that atheists regularly use to justify unbelief. But we need not despair even in the most painful of circumstances because God insures that our struggles are purposeful.

Theistic faith provides an answer for the question of why we instinctively believe that life should have meaning and purpose. God made us with an innate sense that our lives matter – because they do. We need not pretend that life matters, as atheists are forced to do. Believing faith enables us to live with confidence.

So each of us must choose to have faith in an accidental universe which can provide no meaning now and no hope for the future, or faith in a loving God who created us and promises us hope for eternity. I choose God.

Brother Richard Foster

1 Comment

Filed under Religion

The Beginning of Prayer

When did people start to pray?

In Genesis 4:26 we read that people began to call on the name of the LORD (Yahweh) in the days of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren, specifically a grandson named Enosh. People spoke with God before Enosh was born, but conversations with God prior to Enosh were initiated by God: God spoke to Adam in Genesis 3, God spoke to Cain in Genesis 4. In prayer, a man or woman initiates communication with God by calling upon him.

Eve makes a statement in Genesis 4:25 about the blessing of having a son to replace Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain. But she speaks of God in the third person (“he”). Prayer addresses God directly, in second person (“you”).

It seems natural to think that Adam or Eve or their son Seth (Enosh’s dad) prayed before their grandson Enosh and his generation were born. If they did, the Bible does not tell us. Instead, the Bible emphasizes Enosh and his generation. Enosh’s uncles, Cain and Abel, worshiped God in Genesis 4, but whatever Cain did was unacceptable to God and whatever Abel did died with him when he was murdered by his brother.

So we have no direct Scriptural evidence for prayer before Genesis 4:26. But in Genesis 4:26 we learn that Enosh and his generation began calling on the name of Yahweh at that time. In Genesis 4:26 something new begins.

“Calling on the name” is surely a reference to prayer. Enosh and his generation may have also sacrificed to God, as did Cain and Abel, but that is not mentioned. The emphasis is on prayer.

Many generations after Enosh, Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem. He was outraged by the distractions which the religious leaders had introduced in order to make financial transactions in God’s house. In an unexpected expression of righteous indignation, Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and drives out the animals with a makeshift whip. He accuses them of turning God’s house into a den of thieves.

Then Jesus makes a fascinating assertion. He insists that his Father’s house is to be a house of prayer. Think of all the activities which Jesus could legitimately mention: praise, sacrifice, teaching, preaching, giving, fellowship, healing, but the only thing he mentions is prayer. Why?

Prayer is at the heart of biblical faith. The soul of spirituality in Scripture is the communion of God with the saints, his people. Humanity is created to know God and to enjoy him and his blessings.

After Adam and Eve sinned and broke the close relationship between humanity and God there was something vital missing in every person, something crying out for completion. Prayer is the heart’s cry for the One who is absent until forgiveness and restoration is affected and a new connection is made with the Maker.

In the larger context of Genesis 4-5 this verse at the end of chapter 4 highlights the contrast between the line of Seth (which includes Enosh) and the line of Cain (who killed his brother, Abel).

Cain’s descendants go to work developing the bountiful natural resources provided by God in order to build an impressive civilization. (I am especially fascinated with Jubal, the first to make and play musical instruments, or perhaps the first to develop music significantly enough to be considered the ‘father’ of all musicians.)

The creative use of nature is in no way sinful in itself. God filled this world with resources and he blessed humanity with the curiosity, creativity, intelligence and energy to discover and develop, to fashion and create. But the line of Cain in early Genesis is distinguished in this instance mostly by an omission, and what is lacking in Cain’s descendants is any effort to call upon the name of the Lord.

Seth’s line, on the other hand, has a desire to seek communion with God through prayer. And so, early in human history the division between believer and unbeliever surfaces (a continuation of the break between Cain and Abel). This is a division which will be seen in Noah vs. the antediluvian world, in Abraham vs. the Canaanites, Israel vs. the nations, the remnant of Israel vs. unfaithful Israel, and finally in the Jewish-Gentile church vs. those who reject Christ.

From Enosh to Jesus to now, the great feature that distinguishes the people of God is prayer, not just haphazard flirtations with prayer, but a heart that is hungry for the presence of God and refuses to give up seeking the Lord until he is found.

Unbelievers pray, but they are not known for their prayer.

God’s people should be seen by the world as a people of prayer.

Brother Richard

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

If God Already Knows Then Why Pray?

Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6:5-13). First, he warns them not to use prayer as an opportunity to impress people. Instead, followers of Jesus are to pray to please God.

Jesus tells his disciples not to babble on and on like the pagan unbelievers in the first century. They apparently thought that their many words would guarantee them a hearing.

Now this is not necessarily a warning about long prayers. Some prayers recorded in Scripture are lengthy. Jesus is warning us not to use prayer as a battering ram to break down the doors of heaven.

God has already opened the door to his presence through his grace. Jesus died to pay the price of our admission and he is risen in order to bring us into the presence of God.

We need not coerce or manipulate God in prayer. After all, as Jesus goes on to say, our Father in heaven already knows what we need before we ask!

But if God already knows our needs and he already wants to bless us, then why pray? Instead of answering that question directly, Jesus goes on to give an example, a model prayer, often called the Lord’s Prayer.

He begins by telling us to address God as “our Father who is in heaven.” Consider the tension and balance in this statement. “Father” is a term of familiarity, addressing God as one who is close and personal. “In heaven” is a term of transcendence, a reminder that God is the Maker of heaven and earth and that he is high and exalted. Jesus invites us to draw near and know the majestic King of the cosmos!

“Hallowed be your Name; your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus teaches us to focus our prayers first on God and his agenda.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” After magnifying God’s person and affirming his agenda, we turn to our own need. This brings us back to our earlier question: Why pray and tell God what he already knows?

Our prayers are not intended to inform God about our needs. Instead, our prayers are expressions of acknowledgment that God is the only real source of all that we truly need, not just spiritual needs, but physical needs as well.

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus is talking about more than borrowing money. He uses “debt” as a symbol for wrongdoing, sin, transgression. As our body needs bread, our soul needs forgiveness, both forgiveness received and forgiveness given. And God both forgives us and enables us to forgive others.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.” God will test us in order to strengthen us. Satan tempts us in order to destroy us. This part of the model prayer is an acknowledgment that we are incapable of spiritual victory apart from God’s power in our lives.

So, Jesus teaches us to affirm and agree with God’s agenda, to acknowledge God as our provider for physical as well as spiritual needs, and to acknowledge God as our protector, our only hope for triumph against the forces of evil in this world.

Prayer aligns us with God’s agenda and directs us toward his provision and empowering. Any other agenda is doomed to failure. Any other provision is an illusion.

“For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen!”

May God’s Spirit inspire us to speak often with our Lord in prayer,

Brother Richard Foster

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion