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Foundation of Faith: Bible Studies through Deuteronomy

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Person Who Prays - Loves Other People


In last week’s Bible study, we learned what Peter meant when he told the believers in Asia Minor to have sound judgment and be sober-minded when they prayed. We came to understand this means believers must exercise self-control and consider themselves humbly in relation to God. This self-control comes through the indwelling Holy Spirit, if we let Him control our thoughts, emotions, actions, and words. With a sober mind, we believers can stay calm and collected in the face of persecution, trials, and adversity remembering Jesus faced these without sinning. Jesus’ life testified to God’s love, mercy, and grace continually. A believer, Jesus said, will face hard times so we should be guarded knowing hard times will come. Because we are believers, we can know the Holy Spirit is available to protect and guide us.

In the earlier Bible studies on the effective person of prayer, we learned the Bible teaches this person is to be righteous, alert, and fervent, believe God can do what we ask, pray in solitude, pray ceaselessly, and approach God with his or her whole being. This week we will learn from Jesus, Peter, and Paul. As believers, our relationship with other people – husband to wife, believer to believer, and believer to all people – affects our communing/prayer time with God.

Jesus’ Teaching – Relationship among Believers

Prayer with God is communing with Him through petition, intercession, thanksgiving, adoration. Communing with God includes all acts of worship while at church and in our daily lives. Prayer requires speaking and listening to God, just as any other growing relationship requires speaking and listening. God is not the only one who listens; we are supposed to listen to Him, too. Listening to God comes from reading the Bible, listening to preachers and teachers, and being aware of the Holy Spirit’s inward changes of our thoughts and resultant actions.

Being in a relationship with God means worshipping Him, too. Adoration results in worship. Within worship, believers sing, pray, listen, read, and bring offerings. True worship requires harmony between Christians. Jesus spoke to this point in Matthew 5:23-24. He said,

“Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your offering.” [NASB]
In this passage, Jesus spoke about the relationship of Christians to each other. He said if anything hinders your relationship with another Christian it will affect your relationship with God. Jesus instructed the people to reconcile with other believers whom they offended or who had offended them then take their offering to God. Remember, God said He will hear the prayers of righteous people, not the unrighteous (Proverbs 15:29; Psalm 17:1 and 19:14; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 4:3 & 5:16; 1 Peter 3:12, and 1 John 5:14-15). He will listen to the prayers of those who genuinely seek Him. To be righteous before God, we must repent and confess our sins. By going to the fellow believer who has something against us and making the relationship right, we acknowledge our sins and repent of them.
We show our repentance by correcting our actions, words, and attitude. We turn from our old way of life to the new way Jesus has made for us and empowered us to have through His Holy Spirit living in us. After we repent and renew our walk in God’s ways, we go before God seeking His forgiveness. When Christians do these two things – repent and confess – God promises to forgive them of all their unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). When forgiveness occurs, we can be in His presence and He will accept our prayers and offerings.
When we as Christians reconcile with another believer, we are following Jesus’ teaching. Our offerings to God become acceptable because He made us righteous and holy through the forgiveness of our sins by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we are made righteous by God, He will be with us and allow us to be in His presence, and will accept our offering. By obeying Jesus’ teaching and God’s command to love our neighbor, we show our love for God. Reconciled relationships among believers can bring unhindered prayer/communing with God.

Peter’s Teaching – Relationship between Husband and Wife

Jesus taught about right living in one kind of relationship – Christian to Christian. Peter taught of another important relationship that needs to be right before communing with God. In 1 Peter 3, Peter spoke to the believers in Asia Minor about the husband and wife relationship and its relevance to prayer. He said in verse seven, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman, and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life so that your prayers will not be hindered.” [NASB]

In this verse, Peter taught Christian husbands to live with their wives recognizing she is physically weaker, and show her honor as a fellow heir of God’s grace. He reminded the husbands women are generally weaker physically. This fact is known and understood. More than that, and different than what the world knows, Peter told them to honor their wives because they are heirs of God’s grace, too. [Paul taught also about the love of a husband for his wife in Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 3:19.] Unlike the cultural thought that women were property and only had status in the community by being the wife or mother of a man, Christian wives – Christian women – have value because God created them and saved them. They have the same status in God’s kingdom as men; they will inherit eternal life just like male believers. This value explains part of the definition of “honor” used in this 1 Peter 3:7. The honor due to women is two-fold. Honor women because God created her in His image. Honor Christian women because they will inherit the kingdom of God because of His grace.

Made in His image and redeemed by His blood - women, wives, men, husbands – all people have value. To view and treat them as lower than one’s self is sin and hinders prayer. The last part of this verse is the main point. To love God in word, but not in action shows that “love” to be false. True love of God shows itself in a person’s life, by godly actions, words, and attitudes. These show the real heart of a person. If one truly loves God, one will follow God’s commands, laws, and precepts. Jesus summed these up with two commandments. He said we are to love the Lord God will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Though women and wives of the time had no value or status, the husbands and men were to treat them as having value. They were to honor them.

This holds true today. God made each person. He loves everyone. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died for the sins of all people. That is true love. Who are we to devalue the people for whom Christ died? To be right before God so our prayers will not be hindered and He will listen to them, we must live right in this world. We must treat each person with respect because God made them. A Christian woman or man must honor her Christian husband or his Christian wife because she or he is a joint heir of God’s grace. We must love our neighbor as our self. Peter emphasized this when he repeated part of David’s prayer in Psalm 34:15-16. He said, “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” To look down on your spouse and dishonor him or her, Peter said, is unrighteous, and the Lord is against those who do evil. Come before the Lord in obedience. Come before Him seeking forgiveness and an unhindered relationship with Him.

Paul’s Teaching – Relationship among All People

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught Christians to live in harmony among themselves so their offerings to God would be acceptable to Him. In 1 Peter 3, Peter taught Christian men to honor their wives so their prayers would not be hindered. Paul taught about relationships and prayer, too. When he wrote to Timothy, he said in 1 Timothy 2:8, “Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray lifting up holy hands without wrath and dissension.”

In this passage, we learn about Paul speaking to Christians regarding their relationships with all people, not just their spouse or other believers. He told them to lift up holy hands –hands that have done no sin. Hands are important for worship. For by the hands, worshippers present offerings to God and they praise Him. Hands are offered to God for His service in the world. For God to receive and use something from a sinful person, it must be presented with holy hands, hands that have not sinned or been a part of sin. To have holy hands requires having a clean heart and performing only acts of love and care. It affects the heart, mind, and body, the areas by which a person is to love God. Having holy hands comes from loving God with one’s whole being, just as Jesus and Moses taught in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37-39. James taught this, too, in James 4:8. He said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded.” James spoke about the whole part of the being when he talked of cleansing hands and heart.

For a Christian to have holy hands, one of two things must occur. He or she must not sin, which is highly improbable because each person sins and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) or he or she must confess and repent upon which God will forgive him or her. The latter is most probable for a person to have holy hands because all people sin. Paul recognized the source of most uncleanness of hands. He said it comes with wrath and dissension. These words from the Greek language mean to be angry, have a temper and be violent, to doubt and dispute, to argue, and to question what is true. Wrath and dissension lead to a breakdown in relationships and chaos in community. God is not a God of chaos, but of love and peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). True worship and prayer to Him cannot come from chaos, anger, violence, and doubt. That is why Paul taught people to lift holy hands. He knew and taught people to seek God, confess and repent, receive His forgiveness, and restore a right relationship with Him. When people are cleansed of their sinful actions and words, which come from a person’s heart and mind, they have holy hands and can offer to God unselfish prayers, God-centered worship from a clean heart, and love offerings to God by their actions and words.

Jesus’ Teaching – The Greatest Commandments

Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ question is the primary lesson about right relationships to God and all people. With these relationships being right, our offerings, prayers, and worship will be righteous and unhindered. God will commune with us and hear and answer our prayers.

In Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:29-31, and Luke 10:27-28, Jesus taught we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our selves. The teachers of the Law knew this. They learned it from their teachers who learned it from God through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Jesus reiterated it for the Jews who followed Him. He, Paul, and Peter taught it to the diaspora Jews and the Gentiles they discipled. By consolidating all God’s laws into these two great commandments, Jesus taught all the laws of God are about the love of God and the love we are to share with Him to other people. By teaching them side by side, he taught the love of other people is a top priority of God. When we do not love other people like God loves them, we do not love God with our whole being. We qualify our love. The teacher in Luke 10:29 wanted to qualify it, too, and justify himself when he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable tells us our neighbor is any person whom we meet or know about, not necessarily our family or neighbor by proximity. The Jewish teacher understood the person who showed mercy to the beaten man was the man’s neighbor. Jesus commanded him to go do the same. Be the same to someone else. Our neighbor is any person who needs mercy and love.

Relevance and Conclusion

A person can only truly love the Lord God by obeying Him that includes loving your neighbor as yourself. Hosea taught this in Hosea 6:6. He recorded God saying, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Samuel said it to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22 when he said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Jesus carried this teaching forward and further. In Matthew 12:33, He spoke about the character of the person. He said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” With this passage Jesus condemned the Pharisees for leading the people astray with their teachings. These Pharisees could not worship God with clean hearts nor pray unhindered because they were not righteous. They had not accepted God’s grace, and it had not made them clean from their sins. If the Pharisees had loved God, they would have loved the people as God does. This showed their sinfulness and their split loyalty to God and their own selves. We must each decide if we will love our neighbors as our self and love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The teachings and commandments are still real and relevant today.

What have we learned from this lesson today?
  • Every person has value and is worthy of love, care, honor, etc. because God created and loves him or her.
  •  Honoring a person means you recognize the person’s value and worth in the eyes of God and act toward him or her with proper respect and care.
  • When we honor and love the Lord, it should show in our actions as honor and love of our neighbors – all other people.
  • When we do not honor and love other people, it shows we do not truly love and honor God.
  • To go before God with offerings, prayer, and worship, we need to have holy hands, hands pure from anger, dissension, bitterness, hate, and neglect.
  • To have holy hands, we must either not sin or repent and confess our sins to God and be forgiven by Him.
  • When God reveals to us our negative attitudes towards a person, we should go make things right with the person. Only by obeying God’s commands to love your neighbor are you showing God’s love.
  • The teachings of Peter and Paul about love of people and right worship and prayer are not their own teachings. God told these commands to the Israelites through Moses in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Jesus reiterated and consolidated them in His teachings recorded in the Gospels.

Are your heart and hands clean before God?
Will your prayers, worship, and offerings be acceptable to Him?
Do you hold bitterness, anger, or hatred toward other people in your heart?

God offers a way for you to commune with Him.

Confess and repent of your sins to Him and He through His righteousness will forgive you and impart righteousness to you.
Come, now is the time to worship and pray with your whole heart.

God will be with you and hear you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Person Who Prays – Self-Controlled


In earlier Bible studies on the person of effective prayer, we learned the Bible teaches this person is to be righteous, alert, and fervent, have belief God can do what we ask, pray in solitude, pray ceaselessly, and approach God with his or her whole being. This week we learn from Peter, Paul, Luke, David, and Solomon. Three main verses will help us understand what is meant by self-control when referring to prayer and the life of the person of effective prayer. As in approaching God, each part of our life – heart, soul, mind, and strength - must be affected by self-control.

The Basis

In 1 Peter 4, Peter wrote to several churches in Asia Minor. The Christians in these churches were experiencing suffering and oppression in their cities, towns, and country. Peter reminded them Christ suffered in the flesh and they would, too, so told them to arm themselves with the same purpose, to live for the will of God. He told these Christians not to be surprised the unbelievers harm them and their reputations and reminded them God will judge these “Gentiles”. In verse seven Peter stated, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” [NASB]

Our study today begins with this verse because by understanding what Peter meant here we will understand another facet of the attitude, attributes, and actions of an effective person of prayer. What did Peter mean by his words “sound judgment” and “sober spirit”? Did he mean not being intoxicated with alcohol and drugs? It would make sense if a person wants to be effective in prayer he or she would have a clear mind. Yet it means more than that.

“Sound Judgment”

The words “sound judgment” come from the Greek word sophroneo, which means of sound mind, exercise self-control as in putting a moderate estimate up of one’s self and to think of one’s self soberly (with a serious quality or without embellishment). Besides Peter, Paul and Luke used this phrase of “sound judgment”. Let’s consider how they used them as we try to understand what Peter meant when he wrote these words.  

New Testament.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” Sound judgment in this book Paul wrote means not to have grandiose thoughts of one’s self.  It means to have humility. In 2 Corinthians 5:13-15, sophroneo is translated as “sound mind”. Paul said in this passage,

 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died, and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” [NASB]

This means if we are sound of mind, it comes from the love of Christ who controls us whom we made Lord and Master of our lives. Further in the Bible, Paul wrote to Titus in Titus 2:6. When speaking about the role of different people within the family and church, he said, “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible.” “Sensible” comes from the Greek word sophroneo. It means having sound judgment through Jesus Christ so Christians can deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:12). Even Luke wrote about this being able to happen in Luke 8:35 when he wrote about when Jesus healed the man of the demons who had taken over his life. Luke said,

“The people went out to see what had happened and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, and sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they became frightened.” [NASB]

When Jesus comes into the life of a believer, He makes a new creation. The old life is gone and the new has come because of Christ. Jesus made new three parts of the demoniac. The parts He made new were his heart, his mind, and his spirit.

These passages show us that “sound judgment” in the New Testament means being humble and letting the love of Christ control us. Sound judgment comes through Jesus Christ’s actions on the lives of the believers when they allow God to be Lord and Master of their lives. A believer’s self-control comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Old Testament.

A few Old Testament writers spoke about the characteristic of humility, just as Peter did, in regards to prayer. Both David and Solomon spoke of being servants of God in their prayer life. Solomon said in his prayer in 1 Kings 8:28, “Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today.” Solomon, because he knew God and His might and salvation, understood his smallness as compared to God’s greatness. He recognized himself in the lowest position of life – as a servant. His father, David, called himself a servant of God  many times in the Psalms while praying. In Psalm 35:13, David said, “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth. I humbled my soul with fasting and my prayer kept returning to my bosom.” David acknowledged his lowness and humbled himself. He actively recognized God’s greatness in his prayer to Him. We can read of David recognizing himself as a servant of God in Psalm 19:11 & 13, 27:9, 31:6, 69:17, 78:70, 79:2 & 10, 86:2, 4, & 16, 89:3, 20, & 39, 90:13 & 16, 102:14 & 28, 109:28, 116:16, 119, 132:10, 143:2 & 12, and 144:10. The important thing for us to realize is that David recognized for himself God’s greatness and worth to be praised and his own lowness. He recognized this and placed himself in this status. David and Solomon exhibited humility - "sound judgment".

Godly men and women of the Old Testament knew God and testified to His greatness as Creator, Provider, Protector, and Savior. They did not know Jesus Christ at that time, but they saw, understood, and recognized God in His actions and knew within themselves He is almighty and they were not. Paul spoke of this testimony in Romans 1:20. Jesus spoke of it in Luke 19:40 when He said even the stones would cry out about God’s plan of salvation for every person if people silenced His disciples. This tells us the person who recognizes God can choose to use “sound judgment” in life and in prayer to God. He or she can choose to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit put within him or her upon his or her confession of faith in Jesus Christ. If the person is not a Christian that person still can choose to use the sound judgment God gives each person in life and in prayer. Because God created us in His image, we can exercise sound judgment by following Him and not following the ways of Satan and the world.

“Sober Spirit” 

 The words “sober spirit” Peter used comes from the Greek word nepho, which means to be calm and collected in spirit, to be dispassionate and circumspect (cautious, wary, careful, and guarded). Soberness of spirit comes by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. What does “soberness of spirit” look like in a person? How is it used in prayer? Paul and Peter wrote about a “sober spirit” in three passages in the New Testament.

In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter spoke to the believers in Asia Minor concerning living during a time when Gentiles orally and physically persecuted Jesus-followers. He reminded them they have an imperishable and undefiled inheritance through Jesus Christ. Peter told them God protected them with His power through faith. They can rejoice, he said, even though they experience trials because their faith, though tested, will cause praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus. Peter told them they preached the Gospel to other people through their words, actions, and attitudes just as the prophets did before them. Peter said in verse thirteen, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The followers of Jesus can keep a sober spirit by being calm in spirit, by being dispassionate so that what is happening in action and word does not discourage them, and by being careful and guarded so they are not taken by surprise. This soberness of spirit comes through the indwelling Holy Spirit within the life of the believer. It comes when a person professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and allows the Holy Spirit to guide, guard, teach, remind, and admonish him or her each day. By following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a believer will be able to stand strong during trials and persecutions and will stay prepared because of his or her growing closeness with God, his or her growing love relationship with God, and his or her growth in Christlikeness.

Besides Peter, Paul wrote regarding soberness of spirit. In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 & 8, he spoke to them of the dark times the believers faced then. Paul reminded the believers they were sons and daughters of the light and of day (God) and are they are not of darkness or night (Satan). He encouraged them with these words.

“So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 5:6-9, NASB]

Christians do not sleep, but are ready. They are alert and sober. Believers are aware of what is going on around them, but are prepared by the Word of God teaching and empowering them through the Holy Spirit in their lives. With prayer Christians have put on the armor of faith as Paul taught in Ephesians 6:10-18. Soberness of spirit, Paul said, prepares you to overcome the darkness of the world and reminds you about the inheritance - the hope - you have through the salvation Jesus Christ bought for you. Be sober spirited and alert.

Paul wrote about a sober mind in 2 Timothy 4:5. He wrote to Timothy charging and encouraging him to do that for which God appointed him. Paul reminded Timothy God would judge the living and dead when His kingdom comes. So, he said, “preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” [2 Tim. 4:2, NASB] Paul continued telling Timothy that people would turn their ears away from the truth and would turn to myths. He said in verse five, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Even though Timothy faced hardship and people would not listen to him when he preached the word of God, Paul exhorted him to be sober in all things. He meant to be calm and careful. Paul meant for Timothy not to let anger arise because the people did not heed him. Instead he said to know (this is the part to be careful and guarded about) that darkness is around and people will choose to follow what strikes their fancy instead of following Jesus, of whom he preached. If Timothy had allowed anger or frustration from the people’s lack of listening to enter his voice, actions, or attitude, his testimony for God would have been less powerful and may even have caused him to stumble.

  • ·         For the task to which God appointed Timothy, he would need to rely upon the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, guard, protect, teach, and encourage him. Self-control as a Christian comes from the Holy Spirit’s filling so he could have a sober spirit.

  • ·         For the ability to stand in the light even as darkness surrounds one, Paul taught the Thessalonians believers to keep alert and sober minded. Stay calm and collected in spirit and be guarded. With prayer put on the armor of God and stand strong.

  • ·         For the believers of Asia Minor, Peter taught them to keep a sober spirit. He told them to prepare their mind for what is coming. Be careful and hopeful. Fix their hope on the grace of Jesus Christ and be holy in all their behavior through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 4:7 Redux

What then did Peter mean when he told the believers in Asia Minor to be of sound judgment and sober of spirit for the purpose of prayer? Believers in Jesus Christ must exercise self-control and put on a moderate estimate of their selves. They must recognize God’s greatness and their smallness in relation to Him. Believers in recognizing this might consider themselves the servant of God as David, Solomon, and Paul did. These believers must recognize who God is and who they are not and exercise self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit in their daily lives recognizing that fact. That is “sound judgment”. Peter spoke of a sober spirit, too. The believer would, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, be able to stay calm and collected in the face of persecution, trials, and adversity remembering Jesus faced these without sinning. He testified to God’s love, mercy, and grace continually. Besides this, the believer would be cautious and guarded knowing that trials, persecutions, and adversity will come. Jesus said His followers would face what He faced and more. Yet, even with the knowledge trials will come and facing them, the Christians of Asia Minor were to realize, accept, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and control them so God’s gospel continued to reach people in darkness. Having a sober spirit meant knowing trouble would come, but God’s Holy Spirit would protect and guide the believer through it.

Having sound judgment and sober mind enables a believer to pray as the Lord prayed. He prayed that no person would be lost to the darkness. Jesus prayed that everyone would come to know God’s love and mercy. He prayed for the sinner who died on the cross next to Him.

Relevance and Conclusion

Are our prayers reflective of this sound judgment and sober spirit? Do we allow our emotions to dictate our prayers to God or do we pray as God wills – for the salvation of that criminal, for that dying child, for that suffering depressed person, etc.? That is humility. Do we exercise self-control (Spirit-control) when praying each day so we recognize God’s will needs to be done, not ours? That is servanthood. Do we pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven? Do we pray for other believers to stand firm in their faith and do their God-appointed tasks? That is soberness of spirit.

  • ·         We must recognize God’s greatness and our smallness.
  • ·         We must seek His will that none be lost.
  • ·         We must remember God is in control?
  • ·         We must allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, hearts, actions, and words.

Remember, only when we are communing with God with each part of our being, that is loving Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, are we truly allowing the Holy Spirit to bring us to the depth of relationship with Him and the true purpose of prayer – for God’s will to be done that all people might be saved and enter a relationship with Him. Paul stated this in John 3:17 and 2 Timothy 2:4.

  • ·         Yes, prayer is for your growth in your relationship with God.
  • ·         Yes, prayer is for your growth in Christlikeness.
  • ·         Prayer is also for the salvation of all people of the world.

Will you pray with sound judgment and sober spirit so that no one will be lost?

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” [John 3:17, NASB]

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Person Who Prays – Approach of God


In an earlier Bible study called Prayer part 1: What, Why, and How, we learned from the Bible we are to approach God recognizing His existence, mercy, power, faithfulness, and righteousness. Because of these, we are to approach Him with reverence, pray to Him only, and ensure our prayers give testimony of God. The question this current part of our study considers concerns the physical/spiritual action required. Yet approaching God cannot easily be separated as just physical and spiritual. Each facet of a person’s approach of God involves more than one part of the person’s self. How do we approach God and be with Him? Eleven verses in the New Testament teach about this.

Prayer – Communing with God through the His Spirit

Before His death and resurrection, Jesus told His disciples what was to come. He explained He would be arrested and crucified. When the disciples expressed fear and unbelief, He comforted them. Jesus told them He would ask the Father and the Father would give them another helper to be with them forever (John 14:16-17). This Helper, He said, would be the Spirit of truth that only believers can receive because they know God and He abides in them just as God abides in the Son.

 “Helper” comes from the Greek word parakletos and means one who pleads another person’s case, who is an advocate and intercessor for, and who leads the person to a deeper knowledge of God and the gospel. This Helper is the Spirit of God who abides continually in the heart of the believer and intercedes for the believer with the Father in heaven, just as Jesus did for His disciples while he lived on earth. The Spirit, Jesus stated in verse twenty-six, will teach believers all things and bring to remembrance all Jesus said. He will encourage, remind, and make strong believers as they live on earth after Jesus’ resurrection and before His return.

Paul spoke of the Spirit of God regarding prayer. In Romans 8:26, Paul said, “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” He stated the Spirit is our intercessor to God. Earlier Jesus said the Spirit would be our teacher, encourager, and would abide as the presence of God within us. Now Paul teaches that the Spirit can speak for us to our Father when we are communing with Him and do not know how to put into words our heart, mind, and spirit. God’s Spirit joins with our spirit and conveys to the Father the depth of our appeal and emotion. This joining of our spirit with the Father through the Holy Spirit is the ultimate expression of communing with God. Truth, pure love for God and humankind, adoration and worship, and petition combine to flow between the Father and His child, the believer, through Holy Spirit.

Paul taught the Ephesians in his writing of Ephesians 6:18 that prayer and petition at all times should occur in the Spirit. As we commune with God, prayer should occur through the Holy Spirit that abides with each believer when he or she becomes a child of God. In this passage that Paul wrote the Ephesian believers, he expressly taught as they put on each piece of the armor of God, they  should pray in the Spirit for God’s guidance, protection, and glory, not only to protect one’s self. The fight for each armor bearer is not for life and death – flesh and blood, but for eternal salvation for all people and righteousness. It was a fight to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…against “the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly place.” (Ephesians 6:11-12) Victory requires God’s full strength which requires continual prayer/communing with God that comes through the Spirit, our intercessor.

Prayer – Communing with God with Your Mind and Spirit

That section title sounds like an elementary and trite statement. It sounds so fundamental that one wonders why it needs consideration. Yet, Paul spoke on it and the writer of Daniel regarded it in Daniel’s life. What is necessary beyond bended knee, bowed head, and folded hands like children are taught by their parents and Sunday School teachers?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians speaking to them concerning spiritual gifts and speaking in tongues. His basic point was if a person’s speaking in tongues is not followed with an interpretation of what was said, then it is not of the Spirit since it does not edify a person in the church. This word spoken in a strange tongue does not enlighten or improve anyone’s understanding of God and His truth when no interpretation is given. Since the Holy Spirit is given to each believer to teach, instruct, admonish, and encourage, then the word spoken in a strange tongue could not be said to have come from the Spirit. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 when he said, “If I pray in a tongue my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.”

Paul brought this lesson to a personal level. He did not intend it only to teach the whole church body. Paul recognized for a person to pray to God that person must connect with Him in both body and spirit. Because God is spirit, we speak with and worship Him in spirit. Yet we must remember we are more than spirit. God made us with minds, hearts, and bodies. For a person to be taught that person’s mind must be engaged. When Moses spent the forty years in the desert with the Israelites, he continued to teach them who God was and what He was doing so the Israelites would see, perceive, recognize, know, and relate to Him. In the same way, when a person prays to God, the spirit of the person should be one part of the person to commune with God.

Paul said if his spirit spoke in tongues to God and his mind did not, what he said to God did not edify his mind. He did not grow in his relationship with God because more than his spirit is involved in his relationship with God. That was what Paul meant with his rhetorical question in verse fifteen. Paul realized praying to God involved more than the spirit for him to know God better and grow his relationship with Him. That is why he stated after this question, “I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also. I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.” Praying to and communing with God requires more than one part of our being. Here Paul taught our mind and our spirit must join in communion with God. A person who wants to commune with God must approach Him with his or her whole being – heart, mind, body, and soul.

The life of Daniel teaches this same lesson. The messenger from God who spoke to Daniel expressed Daniel set his heart on understanding God and His vision. He humbled himself before God and sought understanding. In Daniel 10:12, the writer records the messenger saying, “Then he said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.’”

The messenger spoke of a “heart understanding” by Daniel. Daniel sought knowledge for his mind that would affect his heart and the way he lived. He desired to know God’s mind and understanding on what was happening to him and the Israelites of the time. His earnest desire to know God’s will and understanding shows how the heart and mind often cannot be separated when considering a person and what is important to him or her. Daniel communed with God through prayer seeking His knowledge. He humbled himself before God. His communing with God involved his head, heart, and spirit. With the messenger’s next words, we realize Daniel’s commune with God involved him physically, through his mouth. Daniel spoke to God, and the messenger arrived to speak to him because of his words to God.

Daniel’s prayers to God, his communing and seeking God, involved his whole being. He sought God and His understanding while approaching him with humility and genuine care. Daniel approached God with his physical being by speaking his heart to God with his mouth. Most probably, in his humility, he bowed before God in his seeking for heart understanding and God’s wisdom. Daniel was an effective prayer. He communed with God, and God heard and answered him.

Prayer – Communing with God with Your Body

Communing with God involves all parts of a person’s being – heart, soul, mind, and strength (physical body). Just as Daniel did not pray with some of the parts of his being, most people, when truly communing with God, commune with Him through their whole being. Daniel used each part of his being when praying with God in Daniel 10. David recognized the need to commune with God in multiple ways, too.

In Psalm 19:14, David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” This verse shows us David recognized his commune/prayer time with God came not just from his heart, but form his mouth. He recognized praying involved his body – his mouth to speak – and his mind and spirit through meditation. David recognized a physical side to communing with God. From one’s mouth most often comes what is in the heart; however, that is not always the case. Sometimes the mouth speaks from the mind only to flatter the hearer and gain something for self. This type of prayer is self-motivated and not motivated on wanting to commune with and know God more. Self-motivated prayer comes from a person’s desire to get something out of the prayer he or she says.

Jesus recognized these types of prayer when he explained a parable to Peter and the other disciples. He said what comes from the heart that determines if a person’s actions, words, and attitudes are God-glorifying. If a person’s heart is not right and truly seeking God, then the words the person utters do not bring them to a closer relationship with God.  Jesus expressed this in Matthew 15:18 when He said, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart and those defile the man.” (Consider also Mark 7:20 and Matthew 12:34). The heart (intentions and motivations) matters and the words reflect the heart’s condition.

What does this say concerning the rote prayers we learned as children or “baby” Christians? Are they deficient or self-serving? The rote prayers we learned as children and seekers or new believers in Jesus Christ are good prayers. They teach us how to pray to God. Yet, if those prayers are said as an appeasement to us that we have said our prayers today so we are okay with God, then

·         We have not grown in our relationship with Him since we were children or baby Christians,
·         We are not truly communing with our Father,
·         We are not becoming more Christlike, and
·         We are stagnating.

 Jesus told His disciples not to be like the Gentiles who use meaningless repetition (Matthew 6:7-8). Jesus said,

“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentile do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

Some of the rote prayers we learned that you may still use and that could be “meaningless repetition” could be these –

Ø  “Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Ø  “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we have received from Thy bounty through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” or
Ø  “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”

Each of these prayers is a worthy prayer. They teach us to seek God for protection and to realize God is the protector of our souls. These prayers teach us to recognize the blessings we have come from God and to thank Him. These are good prayers. Yet if all you say to God is this and you pray only when you awake, lie down, or eat, you must ask yourself if you are truly praying/communing with God? Are you growing in your relationship with God? Have you truly asked Christ to be your Lord and Savior?

Prayer – Communing with God as Jesus Taught

In the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus calls God Father. He teaches believers to recognize God as Creator and the Provider of all things. Jesus helps believers understand and address God as the Father of our selves who are born again through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Giving God the title of Father was an honor reserved for those who taught and led the Israelites from their wisdom and experience. This title applied to God means approaching Him with the understanding and acknowledgement of His superior wisdom and understanding.

Within the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to recognize God’s greatness. He is greater than them and anything they can see or imagine. He created all they see. God lives and reigns in heaven. Recognizing this requires a heart acknowledgement of one’s smallness and God’s greatness.

Jesus taught His disciples to recognize God the Father is their Provider. He gives everything people need for sustenance and survival. His children can go to Him with their physical needs. They can know His power reaches to all nature to provide food for His children. People can approach Him physically with their words and their physical needs.

Jesus further taught God is greater than our spiritual selves. He is holy and almighty. God has power over sin and death and can forgive sin. He will forgive the sins of the people who confess and seek His forgiveness. We approach God with our spiritual selves and are taught to practice the mercy God gives us by forgiving people who have harmed us.

We further recognize and approach God with our spiritual selves when we recognize because God is holy, He has the power to keep us from sinning, from falling to temptation. He can deliver us from evil. God wants us to seek Him to avoid temptation and sin. By doing this we do not sin and can be in His presence. This means approaching God with our heart, soul, and mind. We must choose to let God be our Lord so we walk in His ways.

Prayer – Loving God with Our Whole Being

When we are in a growing and loving relationship with God, we learn to love Him with all our being – our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus taught this in Luke 10:27 and God taught this to the Israelites through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5. Communing with God – praying to God, reading His Word, listening to Him from His Word and from His shepherds, and meditating on what He is saying – requires the desire a love relationship gives. Just as our love for our spouse, children, or parents makes us want to listen to, speak with, and help them, our love for God should lead us to do the same with Him. Active communing with someone involves our heart, mind, and strength. Active communing with God requires these, too, as well as involving our spirit. Our spirit is joined with His Spirit, our intercessor, when we become His children upon our profession of faith in Jesus Christ and our confession and repentance of sins. Communing/praying to Him without our spirit would be like have hot cocoa without the cocoa powder. It’s just not communing.

Relevance and Conclusion

John 4:24 tells us, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” To truly love God and be in a growing relationship with Him, we must love Him as Jesus taught, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To approach God as a person of effective prayer requires we approach Him with our whole being – with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

v  We must pray in the Spirit, the Helper, who came from Jesus when He ascended into heaven – our spirit speaking through His Spirit.
v  We must pray with our minds, recognizing God for who He is – Father, Creator, Provider, Savior, and Redeemer.
v  We must pray with our hearts recognizing God’s greatness and our smallness, bowing ourselves in humility before Him.
v  We must pray with our physical beings speaking with our lips and bowing with our knees and heads recognizing almighty God.

Loving the Lord God with all of who we are is communing/praying with God. Without love of God, we would have no desire to truly, genuinely commune with God. Communing with God is praying. It is speaking and listening to and for Him.

When did you last seek to be with God?
When did you last pray to Him, genuinely pray to Him?

It’s not too late to seek Him now, to reach out to Him with your whole self. God promises He will forgive you. Yes, anything you put in your life above God means you have sinned against God. Yet John said in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Come to God.
Seek Him.

“When you seek Him, you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart, soul, and mind.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Receive Forgiveness.

Commune with God.