Chapter 3 Print
Have you ever heard anyone say; "God knows what I need even before I say it, and so it is okay to pray general prayers without being specific?" They could be right but let us reflect a bit on God, and what we know about God.
We go to the Bible to get historical data on the relationship between mankind and God. The teaching books in the Old Testament are Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Proverbs, Jonah, Ruth and The Song of Solomon. Then we also learn about God through history, in the relationship of the patriarchs, Kings and the prophets, with God Almighty. So there is a description of God in the Old Testament.
Jesus and the relationship between God and mankind
In the New Testament Jesus lives as the promises of God, having (as God does) compassion, love, and mercy on humanity. He teaches them of a loving God of mercy and a heavenly home. Then Jesus became the pathway, along which we can enter that heavenly home, when he became the sacrificial lamb for a sin offering for the whole world. (A sacrificial lamb is part of the Jewish tradition, set up by God and Moses, for the cleansing of sins to make a person fit for God.) The Apostles, as followers of Jesus, clarified the relationship between God, Jesus, and mankind, and built a Church community, so that people can participate in this gift of eternal life that Jesus claimed for all humanity.
Ecclesiastes finds that God loves everyone the same
In the Old Testament, we find out most about God when a person actually questions if God has been thoroughly righteous. Ecclesiastes got quite upset by the fact that God is good all the time, and is good to the righteous and the unrighteous persons. God judges us when we die and get to heaven. God is totally fair. God gives everyone the same goodness because he loves everyone the same. Ecclesiastes thought that this was wrong, and so he made a study to see if God's justice rewarded the good and punished the bad in mankind, while upon earth. He did not really like what he found out; he found that God is exactly the same to everybody. We want to believe that we are special to God because we are good, but that would limit God's love and because God loves the good and the bad the same, there is an inherent redemptive quality in God that lets us know He is still there, and loves us, even when we are bad.
Mankind had trouble with the concept that God loves everybody whether good or bad, and insisted that purity in life is necessary before going to worship God. So religion put into place a method of cleansing a person from all sins by offering a sin offering and a prayer offering once a year. This made them cleansed enough to be able to talk to God for a whole year. This was put into place because man required it, not God. His love is given freely to all no matter how we behave which is what Ecclesiastes found out. In fact God says that he blots out our sins for His own sake.
Ecclesiastes was reputed to be a very wise man, and the research showed him that he should live righteously and love God. He conducted his life living righteously and loving God despite the knowledge he had gained about the equity of God's goodness to all mankind. He lived righteously in anticipation of eternity with God. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
Satan fights us to weaken us
The Old Testament seems to propound that mankind does its own good or evil as directed by one's own free will. A God given free will cannot be directed by Satan. What Satan directs his demons to do is to corrupt our thoughts and our logic so that we freely bend our own free will to do the devil's will, and we then do evil. A terrible sin is to curse God, so Satan makes particular efforts to attack our bodies and cause us to be sick, hoping that in our weakened state we will curse God and open ourselves up to becoming Satan's property.
What God demands of us
Job is a man who knows God
This strategy of Satan to corrupt mankind's willpower was all set out clearly in the book of Job. God was very pleased with Job as an example of goodness upon the earth. Satan reckoned that God was too generous to Job and that he could find Job's weakness, and topple him off the lofty pedestal that God had him on. God believed that Job would not curse Him, no matter what Satan did to him. Satan attacked Job's household, family and property, but Job still worshipped and followed God. Then Satan went back and attacked Job's body with boils from head to foot, and Job still did not curse God. Job was encouraged by his wife to curse God and die; but Job would not curse God. The importance of God to Job was greater than all the afflictions Satan could heap on him.
Then Job wants an answer from God as to why all this happened to him. Job knew that he had been good and done everything right according to the religious law, yet evil had afflicted him. His friends try to convince him that the system of laws that they all live by are infallible; he must have sinned to be so badly afflicted by God. But Job knew he did everything right (a situation acknowledged by God at the beginning of the Book of Job.) At this time, Job had stopped sacrificing daily; he was publicly grieving his losses.
When God does talk to Job, He speaks out of a whirlwind. God came to Job and said "Job your knowledge is so infinitesimal compared to mine; you must trust me. I am so powerful yet you want to be my judge and have me answer to you for not behaving in the set way that you and your friends expect of me. That is where you are in the wrong" But Job was right about not sinning. He was right that his afflictions had not been caused by his own sin, (the afflictions had been caused by the Devil (Job Ch1&2)) and God agreed with Job. Eventually Job realizes that he has a new way of communicating with God; instead of with burnt offerings, God wants Job to speak to Him directly, and that is what we do today. We pray to God, and in the same way that God promised to hear Job, we are still heard by God when we pray.
One of the things that Satan noticed was Job's weakness. His weakness was his children. So Satan attacked Job's children. It was obvious that Job worried about them because he sacrificed on every feast day for himself, and for each of his sons and daughters. That was a bit excessive. Job points out that Satan attacked the things that he most feared losing. (Job 3:25) Had he trusted in his sacrifices, he would have sacrificed only once a year and had faith in God's goodness. He would have trusted in God and not be in fear of God's retribution, and he would not have had a fear for Satan to pick on.
It seems we can be good in many ways. We can know exactly how to behave righteously, but knowledge of right behaviour might not translate into active right behaviour throughout our life. We have to connect our knowledge and behaviour to accomplish righteousness.
Fear is a very powerful feeling and can dominate even a right minded person like Job. Job was very well versed in the prescribed behaviour of Jews as set out in the Talmud (Old Testament). Yet fear prompted him to go overboard with his religious fervour, and Satan saw it as a weakness and attacked what Job most feared losing, (and that was that he wanted his children be in a right relationship with God at all times.)
Job finally realizes that God wants a two way street. Job talks to God in prayer, and God will talk to Job and fulfill his desires. God is very busy so when in (Job chapter 40), Job wants to put his hand over his mouth and not say a word to God again, which would bring the relationship between Job and God back to "Square one" (beginning) again, God was not too pleased and said in Job 40:6 "then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, (v7) Gird up thy loins like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me." So God said: I God will speak to you, and you will speak to me. That sound like God is asking us to pray!
Jesus paraphrases the ten commandments
What God demands of us is set out in the Bible and paraphrased by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40; (36) Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
When we concentrate on loving God, then there is nothing to fear. When we all love ourselves, and love our neighbour as we love ourselves, then society is glued together with love and again we have nothing to fear. If we can get these two greatest commandments right, then we can live in peace and harmony world wide, and we cannot do better than that.
So that is what God demands of us and the rest of Job 40:7 reads "Declare thou unto me." God wants us to ask for what we want. There are no limits. Jesus said in Matthew 7:7&8: (7) "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek: and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (8) For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be open."
So when we declare unto God in our prayer, there is nothing we cannot talk to God about. If we do not talk to God, then we cannot expect our prayers to be answered. God has a lot of things to take care of that do not have the power to ask for what they need. When God gave us free will and the power to ask, He was not joking with us; he expects us to use both of these gifts. For God's part, He has faith in us that we will use these gifts for the betterment of ourselves and mankind.
God expects us to use our free will to help ourselves
We have free will. What a lot of faith God has in us to give us free will. God could have made us with body requirements that would occupy all our waking hours. If we were like cattle, we would have to eat all day to be able to sustain life. We are not like that. We have many hours in every day that we can choose to fill with any occupation we want; we do have time to make choices in our lives. I am probably like many people and I get my free will tied up for a number of years in my job, marriage, children etc. The trick is to know yourself, and not to accept any behaviour that does not meet stringent standards of the ethical code you live by.
Free will seems to be the answer to the question why God lets bad things happen. We get ourselves into situations that are unpleasant, and then blame God for not stopping bad things from happening. We often feel certain that God saw the bad thing coming. As soon as something bad seems immanent, start praying and ask God for help. Use your free will to ask God. He always sends help when asked. God does not interfere with our free will. If we want to mutilate the earth, then we can also expect to have to live in what we create. When something is too big for us to change, ask God; start asking early; ask with concentrated prayer; keep faith that God will do something.
Quite honestly, we can do nothing by ourselves. But God's respect for free will means that He will do nothing unless we ask. St Augustine wrote, "Without God we cannot and without us He will not." So I am re-iterating in many words what St Augustine said in a few words. God is always there and can do everything, but we have to ask for what we want.
King David knew how to pray
King David in the Old Testament lived a life that pleased God most of the time and angered God some of the time. (A life that is not unlike ours.) Whatever the situation King David knew how to pray. When David was righteous he considered that God loved him because he was righteous (2 Samuel 22:25).
Later on in David's life, he did some things that did not please God. David had an affair with another man's wife. The lady was Bath-Sheba and her husband's name was Uriah. Uriah was a warrior in David's army. Bath-Sheba got pregnant by King David. To solve the problem, David told Uriah that he needed a holiday and to go home and sleep with his wife. Uriah would not go because he felt that he should not leave his comrades who were ready for battle. When Uriah would not leave the war front David sent word to his commander of the troops to put Uriah in the thick of the battle, and let him be killed. This behaviour of David's did displease David himself and possibly God.
All was not lost. David knew how to pray. In Psalm 51 we read David's prayer for the remission of sins. In it, David acknowledges God's loving-kindness and multitude of tender mercies. He asks God to blot out his transgressions and cleanse him of the sin and guilt. In verse eleven, David says "Cast me not from they presence: and take not thy Holy Spirit from me." Then he asks to be restored and delivered from blood guiltiness. For David's part, he would teach others of God's righteousness and convert sinners to know God. David recognizes that God does not want burnt offerings as a sacrifice to amend for sins. God wanted David to feel sorrow for what he had done; to feel deep sorrow and remorse. David needed to really mean it when he asked for forgiveness. As David noted, God does not despise the feelings of remorse and sorrow. (King David was a warrior and gentle feelings might have been despised in the army.) Note that in the psalms King David mixes his requests always with praise and gratitude and with the certainty of God's goodness and greatness.
From Job, we learn to demand of God. From Ecclesiastes, we learn that God is good all the time. From King David, we learn to take all problems to God in prayer. From Jesus we learn about faith in God (among other things.)
A great theme in the Psalms that were written from a deep well of distress in life is that once dead mankind cannot serve the Lord God on earth. The promise is often that the redeemed (saved from death) will sing God's praises, and as David said, he would teach others about God. It is not something like "If you, God, let me win the Lottery I will give $10,000 to charity," The deep well of distress might be that you need the money but that kind of bargain with God is a little bit futile since God is all powerful. It is more like "Let me keep my life my Lord God, and I will promote Your loving peace on earth." What you promise God, is for God and mankind. King David was very successful at praying for what he wanted.
Our relationship with God is dynamic. We get what we ask for whether it be good or bad, so we cannot be lazy about it. We have to decide what will be best for ourselves and ask for it, this is part of the responsibility of having the gift of free will. Be careful, it is easy to curse ourselves by what we say about ourselves i.e. "I am ......."
Sandwich prayers between gratitude and praise
A successful prayer life has got some structure. The Lord's prayer had requests sandwiched between gratitude and praise. That seems to be the message that Jesus was trying to get through to us about prayer. Some people are naturally in love with the things that God has put around them and thank God frequently for them. They know that everything comes from God so they are always praising God for the enjoyment they feel in their daily life. These people are always in a state of prayer to request things of God and have their prayers listened to by God. Others benefit from a more routine prayer life where they take time and care to start and end with praise.
In a day I would probably do all of these things:
Praise - hymns from the Ancient and Modern Hymn book.
Reading from the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John only.)
The Lord's Prayer
Pre Deliverance prayer asking God to be with me
Put on the armour of God
Cast out demons from my body, home and life
This sounds like a long morning routine but if I can get to do it in the morning I find that it saves time in that it gives me a better day, and it cuts down on the time wasted because of misery. The devil just has to get us into a state of misery and time simply passes without our knowing it. This prayer life is meant to direct me to living life as Jesus wanted us to. Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Jesus knows what is good for us!
Prayer and Health
When we pray for health, we should be aware of the physical problem; muscle, heart, bone, organ etc. After giving the problem to the Lord to fix, we should praise God for fixing it. Faith is a view of the future as if it is already done. So prayer without faith that the future holds good health is shortened in effectiveness. After saying a prayer for healing, the next continual process after that is to thank God for doing what we have asked for (praise); e.g. for the common cold my healing prayer would include prayer for my sinuses and nasal cavities to clear of congestion and become perfectly healthy, and my throat to heal so that it is normal again. I will ask that the viruses and bacteria that are unhealthy in me should die and be eliminated out of my body, with no ill effects to me. Then I would say "Thank you God." and really feel it and mean it.
After praying for healing for example in my respiration system, if I get a twinge of discomfort to remind me of illness I have prayed for, I will say "Thank you God that my whole respiration system is getting better and better all the time because I know that you have already healed me." I am saying thank you because I can see in the future that it will be healed. That is, I have faith that I will be heal. At the same time I am reminding any demons that have come in to afflict me that Jesus has already healed me of that illness and I am no longer available for that affliction.
When we pray we need:
Wisdom We have a physical problem that has to be alleviated. We ask for healing and we get it, or begin to get it. We need the wisdom of God to manage the gifts of God. We need wisdom of belief to let God finish what he has started. After doing the healing prayers set out in chapter 1, we need to have the wisdom to avoid nullifying them. If we say negative things to our body and thereby strengthen the illness again, we are inviting evil to infect our body again. If you hear yourself saying anything negative by mistake, say a prayer to rid yourself of the negative mistake again.
Faith. This is the theological virtue defined as a secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will. Faith is a view of the future. We know what tomorrow will bring. We have faith that the earth will keep on turning and we will see the sun and daylight tomorrow. That is - faith is a view of what isn't seen at this time, but we know that it is. Also we have faith that God exists to heal us (among other things.) Faith can be a gift of God, or it can be built by observing the existence of God in the world, or it can be built by living the faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God that is: starting from theory, then to practice, which leads to sure knowledge from our own observation and experience.
Belief (1) That God will heal us. (2) That God can heal us. (3) That we are worthy of God's love (4) That in the future we will be healthy again.
Patience We often think of Jesus' miracles of healing as instant happenings. But Jesus sent the ten lepers on a journey to a particular place to see the priest, and on that journey they were healed. There was a time factor. (Luke 17:14) When Jesus was in Cana of Galilee there was a nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum and Jesus healed him without going to Capernaum to touch the son. The fever left the boy at the time Jesus spoke the words of faith to heal. But the scripture says "What time did he begin to amend. (John 4: 40-53) If Jesus realized that we need time to heal; then we must agree to wait that time with faith, belief, patience and wisdom.
God comes early as opposed to late, not necessarily immediately, but early after the prayer request. Remember He is God, so you can expect the healing to be relentlessly moving towards good health. If after a day you do not feel better, start the healing prayers again making sure to bind Satan before you start.
Praise. Praise seems to be how we keep faith, belief, patience and wisdom in our body and mind. When we praise with enthusiasm and the words are coming out of our mouth, then the brain cannot be busy with doubts and fear. (For instance, I might say: Thank you God that you have killed the bacteria that causes this problem. Thank you God that you have killed the virus that causes this problem. Thank you God that they are being eliminated with no ill effects to me. Thank you God that my throat is healed. Thank you God that the cancer has died and is leaving/left my body with no ill effects to me. Thank you God that I have medication to alleviate the symptoms while you heal my body.) There is no end to the praise. Also to sing hymns and psalms brings joy to the whole body. It is far better to praise God than to whine about still having the problem. I for one did not realize the true value of praise with regards to my health until I lived it.
There was a puzzle associated with praise. Many people reference their experiences of heaven as being a place where many angels and people are forever singing the praises of God. I now believe that the sound of their praise has a real function on earth. Since the time that I have experienced the realm of evil, I know that there is a sound associated with the evil beings that inhabit the earth. I have done many experiments to get rid of the noise such as casting out demons making an effort to pin point the noise and source, but I could never make it do more than reduce in intensity. I have subsequently found that the sound of children singing choruses and hymns is far more effective at reducing the noise to a minimum if not silence for a while. The sound of adults singing hymns is not as effective because adults often sing for beauty and not necessarily for praise. The children sing with love in their heart for God. There is a product called The Kid's Bible (The Word and Worship Series, American Bible Society) and it is CD's of the New Testament read for children and they are very enjoyable to listen to. Interspersed in the reading of the New Testament are one hundred choruses sung by children. The reading of the Bible itself does not make the difference to the intensity of the noise that the demons make, I know because I have played tape recordings of the adult version of the Bible without the children singing, and the noise of the demon realm continues, but the children singing praises that is the best formula for silencing the evil realm. It seems that little children really are our nearest relatives to angels. The sound of children singing God's praises and joining their voices with angels in heaven really can do a lot to stem the tide of evil in the world. (The Canadian Government has taken the sound of children singing the praise of God out of our schools!)
Prayer with wisdom, faith, belief, patience and praise works much better when we put some effort into it. We need to make prayer a personal conversation with God who is the best pal we could ever have. When we talk to our best pal we tell him/her everything. That is the kind of trust, respect and love we need in our conversation with God.
The usefulness of the Church
Many people do not know why it is useful to go to Church. The Church will tell about God. The Church will help in giving directions to behaviour that will give eternal life. They will tell how Jesus washed away all sins of those who know and turn to him. Through Jesus we have mastery over Satan and all the evil in our life. We need to go to Church to establish roots of knowledge. Unfortunately many people today find that there is too little time in the week to actually fit in a Church service as well as everything else in our life, so why make the extra effort to go to Church? We all have a spiritual life and a physical life. Although our spirit might soar into other realms when we are asleep, it truly is restricted by our physical life. We cannot simply send our spirit to Church on Sunday; we have to be there physically for our spirit to be there
Why should our spirit go to Church? It should be there because it needs time for reflection and meditation. The Church service concentrates on God, and with the time centred on God, it is God whom we talk to in the Church, when we pray. Concentrated prayer does not spontaneously happen for most of us. We have to put some effort into concentrating, and it truly requires an environment that is conducive to prayer. The most important personal part of the service is after we have done the singing and the praises, we have listened to the Bible being read, and also the sermon. These things get us thinking about God. The most important part is when we kneel, and get on with talking to God. To pray means to ask earnestly, and that is what our prayers should be, an earnest request, earnest thanksgiving and earnest praise.
So you say I can do that at home. I can pray anywhere! We often do short request prayers, especially if we are in danger. But our lives cannot be conducted in a spiritually healthy fashion by doing prayers that are only stimulated by short term events. Maybe we can go for a walk in the country and pray. Strangely enough I have been for walks in the desert and on mountain plateaus and very quickly felt the presence of God, and there it is easy to talk to God. But I walk through countryside that is abounding with life where the stimuli is more than elemental; what happens to me is the countryside crowds in on my senses and distracts me from my intended talk with God.
The Church is more like the desert. The desert is beautiful and so are our Churches. In the desert, the highlights of the day are dawn and sundown. In the Church we have Sunday services in the morning and in the evening. The environment of the Church is beautiful and changes very slowly with the daylight, just like in the desert. It does not interfere with our talk with God. When Church is over, close your eyes and concentrate, and tell God all your troubles. Tell Him about the good things that have happened and thank Him. Ask for what you need including health and well being. Focus your attention on the talk with God. Ask God to cleanse your life and your body.
So you may ask. Why go to Church so often? Like it or not, we appear to be bombarded by evil in many forms, directly into our own body, and indirectly through other people. In a warped sense, we can get our own back on the evil demons that reside inside of us by making them uncomfortable in Church. There might be another advantage; I have experienced demons leaving my body as I drove my car and sang God's praises. There was a funny feeling as I felt them leave my legs. (I did not even know they were there until I felt them leave.) It seems that the demons got fed up and left. So I have found that prayer and praise have an added physical benefit of making demons uncomfortable or even moving demons out of our body. Church helps to keep my life focused on a living ever loving God, and it only takes a few hours a week. When I do not give any attention to God, I miss out on the strength of God that is in my life.
Maybe you have forgotten or you have never learnt how to pray. Just talk to God the way you would talk to a friend, He is listening. How to pray could be one of those mysteries that we are supposed to know without ever being taught. Prayer is quite simply a chat to God. Address God as Dear God, you can add Almighty because that is who we are talking to. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus suggests "Thy kingdom come" that is, he requests that God's heavenly kingdom of beauty, justice, mercy, compassion, honour, glory, and everything that is heavenly good, be here on earth with us. OR is he referring to when the end time comes, and God's glory fills both heaven and earth, so that God's will is done in earth as it is in heaven. "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Satan was sent to inhabit inside the earth and we ask that Satan does the will of God wherever he is. At the same time we ask that our will is also the will of God. . (When we say in earth as opposed to on earth we are including the official Satan's realm in the earth, and our realm on and above the earth.) Then Jesus suggests that we ask for what we need, that is our daily needs. We ask that God forgive us for our sins in the same way that we behave in a God fashion and forgive others who have sinned against us. We ask God's help to be kept out of the way of situations that would be bad for us, and ask to be delivered from evil. Then we bless God and acknowledge his mighty status, and that he is the all powerful God for ever. AMEN.
Jesus has suggested that we sandwich the requests between a proper address and affirmation that we want the will of God to be done on and in the earth, and acknowledgment that God is all powerful.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father, Which art in Heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, (expand on this at will)
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us. (expand on this at will)
And lead us not into temptation, (expand on this at will)
but deliver us from evil. (only God can do this so ask as hard as you can)
(Then you put your own request in for healing etc.)
(We then finish the prayer with.) For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. For ever and ever. AMEN
How often might we pray
We could ask how often we should pray. We notice in the book of Job, that Job overdid his need to sacrifice to God. It reflected a weakness in his belief in the annual redemptive sacrifice to God; that the law suggested. So we can overdo prayer. In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus told a parable about ten virgins who went to a wedding feast, and whose job it was to wait for the bridegroom to come. When they saw him coming, they had to light their lamps and accompany him into the marriage feast. The ten virgins had oil lamps, but only five of the ladies brought enough extra oil to keep their lamps lit while they waited for the bridegroom. The other five virgins did not bring extra oil, so that when the bridegroom came, they could not light their lamp. While they went to fetch more oil, the doors to the feast closed and they missed going into the wedding feast with the bridegroom. Bringing the parable back to prayer, we find that we must do that which is necessary for us to be in a right relationship with God. Then we can enter into heaven. The virgins did not have to do much to be ready; all they needed to do was to trim their wicks, keep the lamp lit, and take enough oil to keep the light going. The job was not arduous; they needed to think about what would be needed before going, be vigilant to see when the bridegroom was coming, and to look after the lamps. Metaphorically speaking, we must pray enough so that we have oil for that little lamp, and also be ever mindful of God. It was a small lamp and like all fire, it needed to be watched, but not tended to at every moment of every day. We need to pray every day, according to the needs of the day, but we do have to do it to keep that lamp of prayer burning. So we always require maintenance prayer. Every moment of every day we must keep our sights on the Lord God, and with it comes a desire for righteousness, and the constant knowledge that we are right with God and ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven with him.
Prayer for Healing
We can and should always pray positive prayers for our own healing, but if you know someone who truly believes in the healing gift of God then get them to pray for you. Whereas Satan attacks us when we pray with doubts and we might put some time in on doubting God's will to heal us, when another person prays for us they probably pray believing and then leave the action of the prayer to God. That way Satan does not have the opportunity to negate the prayer by sewing seeds of doubt into the healing. Obviously pray positive prayers for yourself too.
Copyright © Cheryl Shepherd - Canada