PRAYER

PRAYER

Prayer is a subject that is often talked about, and it is often taught – yet, all too often, it is taught from a very narrow viewpoint – “Prayer is talking to God” – and it is often taught in a purely academic fashion. Furthermore, prayer is very often taught in such a way as to reinforce the idea that prayer is all about the results that are brought about by our efforts in prayer. This course is practical, participative, and it aims to widen the idea and concept of prayer so that it becomes as high as the heavens, as deep as the depths, and as wide as east is from west. The sections in the course are as follows:

PRELUDE TO PRAYER

Over the coming course, we are going to undertake a journey into prayer. First of all, what do you need for the journey?

  • Paper – at least A4…
  • Pens, markers, crayons…
  • Bible – printed or electronic…
  • Audio recording smartphone or similar device…

The pens and paper are not to take note of what I share with you from my teaching book – I will give you notes so you don’t have to do that. As we begin to explore seriously prayer together, you will need pens, paper, and an audio recording device in order to make tangible records of your experiences of prayer. Such records may consist of words, drawn pictures, dreams, visions, songs, Scriptures, poems, prophecies, and so much more as you record a whole variety of your experiences with YHWH over the period of exploration. Without such records, you would be in real danger of quickly forgetting what revelations, promises and experiences that you received from YHWH. The records that you keep will soon become a treasury of YHWH’s promises that you have personally received from YHWH for yourself

They will also become records of your personal encounters with YHWH – records that you will come to greatly value. That is all we now need for the journey – so now let us consider why we must undertake this journey. Before we set off on the journey, we must lay down some background that forms a foundation on which we stand.

ISRAEL

When YHWH adopted Israel as his own people, his own nation, the Jewish leaders in general either caused or allowed the people of Israel to fall all too quickly into an error that has pervaded Jewish society to this day. It was the error of believing that YHWH was on their side

This error led the people Israel into many follies, such as believing that:

  • YHWH’s favour on Israel was automatic…
  • YHWH’s favour upon Israel was absolute…
  • YHWH’s favour upon Israel was permanent…
  • YHWH would adapt himself to Israel’s ways…
  • YHWH would bless whatever Israel did…
  • YHWH would not be able to turn away from his people…

This error took many forms and found many expressions in the history of Israel. It was a common theme throughout the old covenant that Israel called on YHWH to physically annihilate and destroy her enemies. It was a common theme throughout the old covenant that YHWH could not possibly let Israel be humiliated or humbled by the nations of the world. But YHWH did exactly that…

While there were certainly times that it seemed as if YHWH was on Israel’s side, it was actually meant to be the other way around. YHWH never intended to learn Israel’s ways and adapt himself to them. It was actually meant to be the other way around. YHWH never committed himself to blessing everything that Israel did. It was actually meant to be the other way around…

UK

And today, the UK protestant church at large has fallen into exactly the same mistake:

  • We so easily think that it’s all about our church
  • We so easily think that YHWH is on our side…
  • We so easily think that YHWH should conform to our ways…
  • We so easily think that YHWH will adapt himself to our lifestyle…

For example, we add things to YHWH, we create traditions around YHWH, and we attribute sayings to YHWH that YHWH himself never actually said. We will explore some of examples of silly statements about prayer that are born out of merely human thinking:

  • God always answers prayer…
  • God does nothing except in answer to prayer.
  • God is too busy to listen to silly children such as us…
  • Coming to God will solve all our problems instantly…
  • God requires a high moral standard of behaviour from those who come to Jesus…

THE TRUE FOUNDATION

Now why is all of this relevant to the learning of prayer?

IF WE ARE TO TRULY LEARN THE REALITY OF PRAYER, IT IS CRITICAL THAT WE BEGIN FROM YHWH’S FOUNDATION – NOT OURS…

We need to learn prayer without imposing preconceived ideas on ourselves – as far as that is humanly possible. Our idea of prayer needs to be constantly growing and maturing – it cannot stand still, or else we will settle into a rut of sameness. Our ongoing experience of prayer must be based in YHWH and it must involve every fiber of our being in one way or another – or it is simply invalid as true prayer. We cannot apply human concepts to prayer and expect YHWH to bless those human concepts just because we call them prayer…

PATHS OF GROWTH

Paul wrote in Ephesians about paths of growth, but he was not being specific about what those paths looked like because he was writing to Christians who were living in a multi-cultural Greek society that is under Roman rule. Paul was also well aware of the huge cultural differences between Jewish society and European societies. We are going to consider what those paths of growth look for us – or rather, what they should look like…

POWER OF YHWH

We will explore from the Scriptures what we can know about the power of YHWH – how that power works and what it looks like, and so on.

SCRIPTURES

The Scriptures need to be read with your heart – not your head, because YHWH’s truth is made known in relationshipsnot in individualism. Furthermore, the Scriptures tell us far more about YHWH’s heart than they tell us about his mind…

MEDITATION

Everybody meditates – the only question is what everybody meditates on. Shopping, football, work, family, money, house, car – all of those and more are forms of meditation. Even worry is a form of meditation. Scriptural meditation is one of the most powerful forms of prayer, and yet one of the most neglected, because the word ‘meditation’ tends to get bad press. When we treat the Scriptures as a textbook or – even worse – as a collection of proof-texts, then we are doing the Scriptures a dreadful injustice. When we do not take time to think, reflect or meditate upon the Scriptures, we rob the Scriptures of much of their power…

VOICE OF YHWH

A personal study of the Scriptures and of the accounts of the lives of YHWH’s people that are recorded there leads me to the firm conclusion that hearing YHWH’s actual voice is the exception, rather than the rule. Major characters of the old covenant such as Abraham, Moses and Elijah, only rarely heard the voice of YHWH even though they lived very long lives, and there are very few recorded accounts of YHWH speaking to them…

Even a study of the life of Jesus himself shows that the Son of YHWH only rarely heard the actual voice of YHWH his Father – and some of those were occasions when his Father was really speaking to the crowds around Jesus – rather than to Jesus himself. Christians tend to spend a lot of time asking YHWH what he wants to say – we keep telling him: We need a word from you, Lord. What we actually need to do first of all is to truly receive, believe and realise what YHWH has already said to us in the Son…

PRAISE

Praise is essentially corporate, it is about “we” – worship is essentially individual, it is about “I”. [As a general rule, that is how you distinguish praise songs from worship songs…] But praise is not primarily about music or songs – praise is much more about the heart of those who praise YHWH in any way they choose to do so. Praise is ultimately entirely about the person of YHWH himself…

WORSHIP

Praise is essentially corporate – worship is essentially individual. Corporate means the body of Christ – and that is where two are three (or more) are gathered; it does not mean just gathered meetings such as church services. The primary purpose of praise is to bring each one of us into a worship experience with YHWH in the midst of the gathered company – whether it be two or three or two or three thousand…

VISIONS AND DREAMS

A dream is a vision during sleep. Everybody has visions and dreams that come through their imagination – but where do those visions and dreams come from? Everybody has an abundance of visions and dreams – but what or who is the source of those visions and dreams?

When I speak here and now about visions and dreams, I am always speaking about visions and dreams that are from YHWH – and not from any other source. Visions and dreams that are from YHWH will involve our imagination – but our imagination cannot help us very much in that regard unless it is free to roam under YHWH’s direction

We need to be open to receive from YHWH if we are to have visions and dreams that have real significance for us. The real and immediate significance of a vision or dream from YHWH may well be that it challenges our prejudices and causes us to change – or else our hearts will harden…

PRESENCE PRAYER

JOHN 14:23

Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them…

Prayer is at first the most natural and inbuilt part of every human being. I will say it again. At the beginning of human life, prayer is the most natural and inbuilt part of every human being. Every one of us instinctively knew how to pray long before we even knew that there was a YHWH to pray to! However, most of us quickly unlearned that kind of instinctive prayer and grew out of it – but, all-too-often, we did not grow into true prayer. This created a vacuum in our Christian lives that was rapidly filled by religious rules and regulations. Especially concerning prayer.

INTERCESSION

What is intercession? And what is it not?

TABERNACLE

The tabernacle in the Old Testament was a portable structure through which the Jewish people met with YHWH and in which the priests fulfilled their duties. It had an inner holy place that was separated by a curtain (veil) from the inner Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies). The veil shielded the Most Holy Place and protected the people from what was inside – the very manifest presence of YHWH. In Jesus’ day there was no portable structure but rather an actual temple that was originally built by King Solomon, and this temple also had a veil which shielded the Most Holy Place. At Jesus’ crucifixion, a remarkable thing happened to that veil that shielded the holy of Holies.

NEW COVENANT

LUKE 11:1

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus’ disciples were not asking him to give them a model prayer to be used as a religious centrepiece. They were asking something quite different. To understand this question, we need to understand the Jewishness of this encounter.

FATHERHOOD

The Old Covenant very rarely speaks explicitly about YHWH being the father of his children (Israel) – yet the Old Covenant is full of the experience and outworking of that relationship. The fatherhood of YHWH is very rarely mentioned explicitly in the Old Covenant – yet the evidence and outworking of YHWH’s fatherhood can be found on every page.

NAME

MATTHEW 6:9

Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…

Jesus said that – but his father in heaven doesn’t have a name – that was the point that YHWH made all through the old covenant. Other gods have names so that they can be identified, separated, recognised and distinguished from each other – but YHWH is the only one true God who has no name because he needs no namehe cannot be identified as just another god because he isn’t just another god.

KINGDOM

Every kingdom can only have one king (or queen) at any given time, because only one person can rule. The king or queen of the earthly kingdom changes person as succession happens. It is not so in the kingdom of YHWH…

PROVISION

MATTHEW 6:9-13

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one.

YHWH’s people are dependent upon YHWH not just for their daily food – though in the UK we barely even acknowledge that – but we are also totally dependent upon YHWH for our very life itself. This is not a new covenant revelation, however, nor has it come to us for the first time in the new covenant in Jesus – it has always been so from the beginning of time. But how quickly we human beings forget who the true source of all things is…

FORGIVENESS

MATTHEW 6:9-12,15

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

For if you forgive others their trespasses,

your heavenly Father will also forgive you;

but if you do not forgive others,

neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

A traditional understanding of forgiveness is that:

  • We sin against YHWH
  • We ask YHWH for forgiveness
  • YHWH forgives us

Summed up in this way: If you ask YHWH to forgive you, he will forgive you. But should this really be our understanding?

TRIAL

MATTHEW 6:9-15

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one…

Trial is not the same as temptation. This is not referring to every little – or big – temptation that we may face. Although the Greek word that the NIV translates as ‘temptation’ can indeed be translated that way – our modern popular idea of temptation (by the devil) is not what Jesus is referring to. Our difficulty today is that the word ‘temptation’ is almost always linked to sin. And it is almost always linked to us being tempted to sin every minute of the day and watching out that we do not give in to that temptation…

PRAYER

This course is designed to lead you into a widening of your concept of prayer that enables to relate to Jesus the Christ in new and perhaps surprising ways.