Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Excerpt: How to Be Heard in Heaven

Seven Keys in Christ's "Model" Prayer by Eddie Smith

¶ Have you ever mailed a package only to have it returned to you? I'm afraid that a lot of my prayers through the years have been returned "undeliverable." I'm no longer interested in rituals, religion, rote, and routine. I do not want to waste words, insult God, or play games. I want to know how to pray effectively.

How to be Heard in Heaven

¶ Jesus' disciples were no different. One day they asked Him to teach them to pray. I'm convinced that their request wasn't so much "teach us how to pray" as it was "teach us to pray as you pray". The disciples knew how to pray. After all, they saw people gather several times a day to pray at the temple during the time of the burning of incense. Theirs was a praying culture. Pharisees were known to pray in the streets. No, they didn't want to simply know how to pray, but how to pray as Jesus prayed. When Jesus prayed, God heard Him and things happened! That was what they wanted to learn. As Christ's disciples today, we want to know the same thing.

Jesus began his instruction on prayer with a strage statement. He said, "The Father knows what you need before you ever ask Him" (Matthew 6:23). Which begs the question: "Well if He already knows what I need, then what's the point in my asking?" Clearly, based on what Jesus said, its primary purpose is to meet our needs. Jesus went on to say in v. 33 of that same chapter that if we would seek His kingdom first and foremost, our needs would be met. We have been discovering throughout this book what the primary purpose of prayer is: to acknowledge and adore God, to extend His Kingdom, and to see the knowledge of His glory cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. (See Habakkuk 2:14.) God's kingdom is His "thing." As we begin to seek "His thing," He'll take care of "our things."

¶ When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He responded by giving them a model prayer in which we can find seven keys to effective prayer. In some ways, these keys underscore what we've been learning. Remember, we aren't after some illusive promise that God will answer every prayer, or give us all we want. Frankly, if God had given me all I've asked Him for through the years my life would be a mess today! We're talking about moving up to new levels of maturity in prayer; praying kingdom-oriented prayers; prayers that honor God and accomplish His purposes.


Key #1: When you pray to the Father, call Him Daddy. He loves that.

¶ Jesus' model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 begins with the words: "Our Father in heaven." Interestingly, Jesus' discourse about prayer doesn't begin with man, or man's need. It begins with God. Before He created the earth, God was a Father who had a Son. As mentioned in Chapter Two, Old Testament saints could only pray to "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." But Jesus prayed to "Abba" (Daddy). And when Jesus prayed, things happened!

¶ Thirteen times the Old Testament refers to God as "Father." (See Deuteronomy 32:6; 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Psalm 68:5; 89:26; Isaiah 9:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 31:9; and Malachi 2:10.) "However, in the New Testament, Jesus referred to God as His father more than 150 times, and thirty times He refers to God as our Father." In the Old Testament He was seen primarily as the Father of the nation, while in the New Testament we see Him as our personal heavenly Father.

¶ When I pray about a personal concern, I have the assurance that Christ is praying (Hebrews 7:25) and that the Holy Spirit is praying (Romans 8:26). Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us that "a cord of three strands is not quickly broken." There is strength when Christ, the Holy Spirit, and you pray in one accord.

¶ John 5:17-18 makes it clear why Jesus' calling God His Father so exasperated the scribes and the Pharisees (Israel's religious leaders). It says,

¶ "Jesus said to them, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.' For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

¶ Today, we so readily speak of God as our Father that we may have lost the significance of this privilege. It's not until we hear variations of it that it grabs our attention and touches our hearts. I remember hearing an intercessor in Cincinnati, Ohio as she passionately prayed to her "heavenly Daddy," and "Daddy God." Hearing her call Him that reminded me again of our amazing privilege to know God as Father.

¶ Our second oldest grandson, Adriel, was only about two years old when visiting our house one day. His dad, our son-in-law Baruch (an Israeli), had gone to get something from his car, when Adriel came through the room looking for him, crying, "Abba! Abba! Abba!"

¶ In the model prayer Jesus invites us to approach God exactly the way that He did--as our daddy, our "Abba." Abba is the tender title a small Israeli child uses to call his father. Later the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 4:6, "God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father'." And in Romans 8:15 he wrote, "You received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"

¶ Since the Holy Spirit is the spirit of Christ, and Christ referred to God as His Abba, it's no surprise that when our prayer is Spirit-produced and empowered, so will we.

KEY #2: When you pray, brag on His name. He's crazy about His name.

¶ Praise is as indispensable to prayer as fuel is to an automobile. So, Jesus tells us to say something like, "Hallowed be Your name." (In other words, Lord, make your name holy). Even while delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, God expressed His primary purpose. In Exodus 14 we find them on the shore of the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his army breathing down their necks. They cried out in desperation for God to save them. And three times He said something like, "I will get glory from Pharaoh and his army, then everyone will realize that I am God!" Whatever you are addressing in prayer, suggest to God that He make His name holy in the matter! In the final analysis, He does what He does for His glory!

KEY #3: When you pray, remind Him that He's the boss.

¶ Say something like, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I once asked my preacher daddy, "Dad, where is the kingdom of God?" He thought for a moment, looked over the top of his glasses with a smile, and said, "Why son, the kingdom of God is anywhere that God is King!"

¶ His kingdom is established in us, and as we grow in knowledge and grace, His kingdom is extended through us! You see, God's never had a boss. He has always been in charge. He answers to no one. So, let Him know that you like it like that.

¶ At this point, you have His complete attention. Now you can begin to present your petitions.

KEY #4: Ask Him to give you your daily bread--what you need for that day

¶ Rather than give us a once-for-all miraculous provision that would enable us to be independent of Him from that point on, He instructs us to ask for "daily bread" to teach us the discipline of walking by faith (see Galatians 3:11).

¶ So we are to ask every day, if we are to receive. We are to continually "lean on His everlasting arms." As we continually place our faith in our Provider, every day's provision is miraculous! Just as the children of Israel were sustained by manna from heaven during their wilderness wandering, God will sustain us. But their supply was daily. And they couldn't eat tomorrow what God provided today. They had to trust Him a day at a time. (See Exodus 16:19-21.) The psalmist, in Psalm 37:25 said, "I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." Thank God for His faithfulness to feed you and meet your other needs.

¶ I believe "bread" in this passage represents all of our material and physical needs. And, the significant point here is that we are to ask for them daily--every day.

KEY #5: Ask Him to forgive you, as you forgive those who sin against you.

¶ I deal with this at length in my book, Breaking the Enemy's Grip , published in 2006 by Bethany House Publishing.There is so much to say about the importance of forgiveness that I dedicated two chapters to it. Unforgiveness is poisonous. It does more damage to the vessel in which it's store, than to the person on which it's poured.

¶ In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus tells us that before we can come before God, we must first be reconciled to others. How can we say we love God, who we cannot see, when we do not love our fellowmen who we can see?

I don't forgive others because it's an obligation. My forgiving them is not an admission that what they did wasn't hurtful. I forgive them because Christ died for their sins. I cannot hold them accountable to me, when Christ has already paid the price of their sin. To do so would to dishonor His sacrifice.

KEY #6: Ask Him for a restraining order against the enemy.

Most of us pray reactive prayer. We wait until the devil assaults us on some level, then we begin to pray about it. It's time for us to learn to pray proactive prayer. Ask God, in advance (proactively), to deliver you from temptation and to place a restraining order against the devil on your behalf. God's the Judge! He can do that. The angels of God, which are sent to minister to those of us who are heirs of salvation (see Hebrews 1:14), are heaven's police force. They enforce that law by wrestling with and containing forces of darkness.

¶ James tells us, "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone" (James 1:13). So when Jesus instructs to us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation" it can be confusing. God doesn't actually lead us into temptation. Satan is the source of temptation. Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5 speak of him as the tempter. We discover him first as a liar and tempter in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.

¶ Although Satan is the source of temptation, the instrument of temptation is our Adamic nature. James writes, "But each one [of us] is tempted when, by his own evil desire, Expect and celebrate in advance, God's "exceeding, abundantly above all"...answers to your prayers! he is dragged away and enticed" (James 1:14). So Satan tempts us, as he did Eve, through our lower (sinful) Adamic nature.

¶ If God never leads anyone into temptation, then why would Jesus tell us to ask God not to lead us into temptation? And why pray for God's protection since Psalms 91 promises us His protection? Interestingly, God feeds and protects the birds without them asking. And He also promises to provide for and protect us.

¶ Unlike the birds, we have an advanced God-given ability to reason, to choose, and to believe. So we are given an additional requirement. We need to ask in faith. James wrote, "You don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it" (James 4:2 NLT).

¶ Sure, God has promised to feed us, as He does the birds, but we should still ask Him for our daily bread. He has promised to protect us from temptation and destruction, but we are to ask Him not to lead us into temptation and to deliver us from the evil one. Daily, we are to pray and ask God for provision, protection, and a heavenly restraining order against the evil one, for ourselves and our families.

¶ The bottom line is this. God's your Dad. As long as you are delighting in him, you can ask Him for literally anything your heart desires. What you receive will, of course, depend upon His will for you. But go ahead and ask! If you're off target, He'll tell you.

KEY #7: Exit properly.

¶ When leaving the throne room, Jesus said to say something like... "For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." Let Father God know that your primary concern is the same as His. All you pray is for His kingdom, His power, and His glory.

¶ This model prayer, or as some call it, "The Lord's Prayer," along with Christ's prayer life provide a template or example for us. From His teaching and example we see the qualities that should be evident in our praying. However, we can make a subtle but serious mistake at this point.

¶ A pastor once overheard a lady in his congregation refer to him as "a model pastor." He was unsure what she meant by that. So, when he returned to his office he looked up the word "model" in the dictionary. The definition? "A cheap imitation of the real thing."

¶ The Christian life isn't about us imitating Jesus. That would be a "cheap imitation of the real thing." We're not to imitate Him; we are to allow Him to live His life in and through us--and that includes His prayer life. He didn't come to repair us; He came to replace us. He is alive, and He's here! It's His life in us, being lived through us, that produces God's glory (see Colossians 1:27). We are to be crucified (executed), and He is to be our life (see Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:4).

¶ When He is Lord of our lives, certain qualities of His life, including His prayer life, will inevitably be displayed through us. Death to self and to sin is not the end--it is the means to the end. The end is that Christ's resurrected life can be seen in us for the Father's glory.

¶ Learning about Christ's prayer life isn't for the purpose of learning to pray in some formula way. It's so we can learn to recognize when we are praying "in the Spirit." When we are filled with the Holy Spirit (which is the Spirit of Christ), He will pray through us as He did in Galilee 2,000 years ago. Why would I think that He will pray differently now than He did then?

¶ One who claims to be a Christian who isn't demonstrating Christ's life, including His prayer life, is deceived. The New Testament reveals to us the prayer life of Christ as a gauge by which we can measure Christ's activity in us.

¶ So, if it's all about Christ and His kingdom, do we still have the right to make our desires known? Can we pray for a specific job that we want, for instance? Absolutely. The psalmist said, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart" (Psalm 37:4 amp).

¶ And Christ? He demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His crucifixion that we can certainly ask for our desires. He desired that God would "take this cup" from Him. (See Luke 22:42.) What was the cup? Was it His crucifixion? More than likely it was that awful moment when He would become sin for us, and for the first time God the Father would turn His head away from His Son. Christ had never known the filth of sin, and He didn't want to "become sin" for us. He knew the Father couldn't look upon sin, and He didn't want to be forsaken by the Father. That was His desire. Yet, the Father didn't allow Jesus to have what He desired on this occasion. Why? Because it wasn't in line with the Father's will. Notice that although Jesus felt perfectly free to express His will to the Father, He never elevated His desire above the Father's will.

¶ Feel free to express your desires to Him. He's your Father, so ask Him for anything you want. But ask with the humility and submission with which Christ asked. Never elevate your desire above His will. He is a God of purpose, and will only answer our prayers according to His purposes. When you don't know what they are, ask Him to reveal them to you. Then allow Him to sort out the issues as they relate to His will, as Jesus did--"Yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).

¶ Certainly, as any loving father does, God wants us to come to Him with our needs and desires. But don't forget: He is more than our Father. He is the eternal Sovereign Ruler of the universe--a King with a kingdom. As long as our praying extends no further than ourselves, our needs, and our desires, we will never become the kingdom partners God intends for us to be and we will not see God's kingdom come. Why? Because His kingdom will have to be established before it can be extended . (See Luke 17:21.)

¶ There is a difference between what we hear and what we listen to. As you read this line of type you actually hear the ambient noises around you. There you are listening to them. Again, there is a difference between what we hear and what we listen to, what captures our attention, and in some cases, demands a response from us. I don't want to be a person who God simply hears. I want to be a person to whom he listens. I want my prayers to capture His attention. I want Him to lean in to hear what is on my heart.===>Click headline to order the book . . .

Posted with permission of the author

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