Do Your Prayers Put God to Sleep?

This article was inspired by my friend and brother in Christ who posts articles at For Freedom – Galatians 5:1.

In a recent post, he offered some insights on prayer. I left the following comment:

One of my pet peeves are those repetitious corporate prayers that are recited in many evangelical churches. For example:

“Lord, we just want to thank you for (long pause), Lord, this opportunity, Lord, to worship you, Lord. And, Lord, (very long pause) we thank you, God, for blessing us, Lord, with every good blessing.”

After a minute or so your mind starts to wander, and you’re thinking about lunch. Imagine if people spoke like this in normal conversation:

“Michael, I really enjoyed this article. You made really good points, Michael. I think, Michael, you’re a great writer.”

People don’t talk like this! Most corporate prayer I hear is so awkward. I think this is what Jesus meant by vain repetition — speaking just to be heard, but with nothing to say.

[End comment]

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:7).

Ellicott suggested that modern prayer has become mechanical — lacking emotion. Compare the standard church service prayer with Yeshua’s prayer on the Mount of Olives:

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44 ).

I hear so many prayers that are devoid of any thought or feeling. They’re nothing more than a robotic recitation as if the speaker has given no thought as to what they might say. Then there are the speakers who have something to pray, but they repeat it a dozen different ways. After the second reprise I start to get droopy.

A good source of study on prayer is a book by Benjamin Reynolds, The Ten Greatest Prayers of the Bible. It’s available in Kindle format, or you can read it online here.

The greatest prayer ever spoken was the petition offered by Jesus Christ atop the Mount of Olives, but who among us has ever prayed with such emotion that we sweated blood?

Reynolds begins his book with Hannah’s prayer. If you’ll recall, Hannah was barren and this caused her extreme grief and distress. She prayed for years that the LORD might bless her with children. I said, she prayed for years. How many of us pray once and when nothing happens we conclude one of the following?

God doesn’t hear my prayer.
God doesn’t answer prayer.
God said no to my prayer.

The Lord doesn’t work according to our timetable. Abraham and Sarah were promised a son, but it was 25 years before Isaac was born. We have to understand that God is not constrained, but sees the bigger picture. Why didn’t Messiah enter our world after the Fall? Why were God’s people enslaved in Egypt for 440 years? Why has the Lord delayed his second coming?

Hannah’s long story short was that she finally reached an emotional break point, and poured out her heart to the LORD. Eli, the high priest, thought she was drunk, but Hannah answered:

No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation (1 Samuel 1:15-16 ).

Within a year, Hannah gave birth to Samuel — one of the greatest figures in the Bible. As evidence that the LORD always provides more than we may ask, Hannah delivered five more children.

We cannot worship the LORD nor offer prayers in vanity, unbelief or with an unclean heart and expect that God will receive them.

There is so much more to say about this, but I wanted to share with you the story of Benjamin Reynolds. He was afflicted with ulcerative colitis. One day his wife found him unconscious on the bathroom floor. He was held lifeless in her arms as she prayed to God to save her husband.

His was an out-of-body experience so dramatic and detailed that it is difficult to dismiss. Yet, we believe Ezekiel’s testimony of being carried up into the inner court of heaven (Ezekiel 8:3, Ezekiel 11:24, Ezekiel 43:5), or Paul’s testimony of being caught up in the third heaven after he was stoned and left for dead (2 Corinthians 12:2), or even John in his vision of the Apocalypse (Revelation 4:2).

I strongly recommend that you read Benjamin’s testimony. Due to Fair Use copyright laws I am not permitted to post his story here, but he recounts it in the preface of the book which can be viewed in preview format on Amazon. (Simply click on Look Inside on the product image.) I sincerely hope that you take a few minutes and read this brother’s compelling story of how prayer healed his body and saved his life. It’s truly amazing. I know you will be blessed.

Book Review: The Ten Greatest Prayers in the Bible by Benjamin Reynolds.

The book received outstanding reviews on Amazon (93% 4-stars or above). There were only a few 3-stars, and none lower.  One of the 3-star reviews noted the poor editing, but they recommended the book as a “tremendous tool”. If you view the author’s bio you’ll see that he is rather accomplished and well-educated.

The book was poorly edited as if it had not even been proofread. However, I agree with the reviews that it is a useful tool if for no other reason than it encourages discussion, promotes Bible study and highlights the importance of prayer. For me, the Table of Contents is valuable as the starting point for further group study. The ten prayers are useful examples of how we should pray individually and as a body.

I posted the link to the free online version of the book. You don’t have to sign-up, and may close the box that asks you to log in. As a group study tool the book may inspire a deeper appreciation for the necessity of prayer.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

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Does the Bible Condone Illegal Immigration?

A rabbi and a priest led a protest gathering at the San Diego/Tijuana border. It was a Judeo-Christian defense of illegal immigration. The priest cited the principle of Christian charity while the rabbi compared it to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 22:21).

Catholic priest Roger Vermalen Karban posted an article this week titled,

The Bible Tells Us So: Concern for Immigrants is at the Heart of Faith

The title of the commentary reveals the author’s bias, and since I have recently posted an article on this topic I will only touch briefly on one or two points. Specifically, his citation of the prophet Malachi:

One of the last of the scriptural prophets — Malachi — couldn’t be clearer:

“I (Yahweh) will be swift to bear witness … against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says Yahweh of hosts” (3:5).

My response:

Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the issue is not about immigration, but unlawful violation of a nation’s borders?

As sojourners in Egypt the Jews were not illegal immigrants. They entered lawfully at the invitation of Pharaoh (Genesis 45:17-20).

Today, the issue is that 11 million foreign nationals have entered the United States illegally.

Illegally.

Ancient Israel did not have open borders. A sojourner in Israel represented one of three classifications — indentured servant, traveler, or proselyte (typically a Gentile who converted to Judaism.) Their residency was in accordance with Israeli law. Generally, a sojourner might best be described as a naturalized citizen.

In contrast, millions of “immigrants” have violated the laws and sovereignty of the United States by illegally crossing the border and residing in the country.

The author’s quotation of Malachi 3:5 is misleading. With regards to the “oppression of aliens” I would argue that the United States has been more than hospitable, generous, and tolerant. The Hebrew word גֵּר (ḡêr) can mean alien, stranger, foreigner, immigrant, or sojourner — all of whom were expected to abide by the laws of Israel.

Guwr, from which ḡêr is derived, means properly “a guest”. Illegal resident aliens are not exactly invited guests — certainly not like Jacob and his family.

To cite the Bible in defense of illegal immigration is, frankly, dishonest and deceitful.

Nancy Pelosi recently held a town meeting where, speaking in defense of illegal immigrants, she noted that they just wanted to come here and work hard.

What was that? They want to come here and work hard?

How can they obtain a job if it is unlawful for an employer to hire an illegal immigrant? Why did Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, withdraw his nomination? Because it was revealed that he hired an illegal immigrant. The Democrats feigned disingenuous outrage while yet clamoring for free and open borders.

No, illegal immigrants cannot be compared to the Jewish sojourners who dwelt in Egypt. Their story ended in Exodus out of Egypt. I don’t see 11 million unlawful residents parting the Rio Grande to return to Mexico.

Notes:

Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, she said that Americans can breathe a sigh of relief that Trumpcare which would have impacted them directly was withdrawn from a House vote.

Impacted them directly? Isn’t that what Obamacare has done? I can’t afford the premiums and deductibles. I can’t choose the plan I want. And I can’t see the doctor of my choice.

A caller to the Rick Roberts radio show complained that his son’s doctor visit cost over $1,000. The man said he couldn’t afford to pay, and asked if they had a cash price.

Yes, $200.

Why the difference? Because insured costs factor in a lot of paperwork, authorization and reimbursement.

For the record, I’m glad the Republican bill was not considered. The government — and insurance companies — have to get out of the health care business. We need a free market system like the guy who paid $200 for his son’s office visit.

Historically, medical care has been a target of totalitarian regimes. It’s all about denying you the freedom of choosing the best health care options for you and your family.

The insurance model tacks on a heavy premium because the insurers are in it to make money. That’s all well and good for their financial health, but not so much for your physical health.

I’m just sayin’ …

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Judge Ye Not

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Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1).

One of the most misunderstood (and misquoted) verses in the Bible is where Jesus commands us to not judge.

It is a convenient response to Christian expression that is otherwise deemed unfavorable by the one leveling the charge. To say that one is being judgmental is, in fact, casting judgment.

If I don’t like what someone says I am making a judgment on their expression. Now, their expression may be sound, but that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not even an expression, but a behavior. Let’s say my neighbor gets drunk every night, and I tell him he should stop drinking. I’m passing judgment on my neighbor, and that would be a sin according to those who say we should not judge. It would be a sin if I staggered over with a bottle of whiskey in hand, and told my neighbor to put down his can of beer. That’s the context in which Jesus is speaking. Reading further down in the passage Jesus says to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5). In other words, sober up, put down that bottle of whiskey, then go to your neighbor and discuss his drinking problem.

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To so cavalierly accuse Christians of being judgmental is really wearing thin. We live in a world where Christian expression is muzzled. We are not allowed to take a moral stand, have an opinion or quote the Bible without fear of being charged with hate speech. It’s preposterous, but if you level the charge often enough it becomes the truth; and Christians find themselves marginalized in a society that is predominantly anti-Christian. The lie becomes the truth — we are judgmental bigots.

Let’s examine more closely the Matthean passage. In the very next verse (Matthew 7:6) Jesus says:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Is Jesus telling us to judge? Clearly, there are unbelievers — characterized as dogs and swine — that we are to avoid. Dust off your feet, save your breath, exercise discernment (judgment) and do not share the Good News with such people.

Jesus said that? Seems kind of harsh in light of His earlier commandment to not judge. It’s only a problem if we don’t compare scripture with scripture, and in context. Obviously, we are to judge with righteous judgment which John Gill described as a sense and judgment of things, according to the truth and evidence of them. [1]

Paul, a chosen instrument of Christ, wrote:

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Corinthians 2:15).

What is Paul saying? That the Christian man or woman who is endowed with the Holy Spirit shall judge (or discern) all things, but shall be judged by no one who judges by feelings like one who is blind.

The assembly at Corinth was a complete mess. Paul wrote three, maybe four letters of correction to the disordered church. The congregation was rife with shameful behavior — idolatry, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, greed, thievery, drunkenness and all manner of defilement including the man who was caught sleeping with his father’s wife. Not even the pagans, wrote Paul, tolerated such behavior.

How did the church descend into such chaos? No one wanted to judge another’s behavior. They subscribed to a live-and-let-live attitude. It was a truly bacchanal society. Do your own thing — don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Paul laid down the law (1 Corinthians 6:2-3):

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Pastor John MacArthur:

It should be noted that this passage has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity.

If this greatest sermon by our Lord teaches anything, it teaches that His followers are to be discerning and perceptive in what they believe and in what they do, that they must make every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between the internal and the external, between reality and sham, between true righteousness and false: righteousness — in short, between God’s way and all other ways. [2]

Judgment can be defined as condemnation, or discernment. No one has the right to condemn. That is the Divine prerogative of Almighty God. But to say that Christians don’t have the right, or responsibility to exercise discernment is to strip us of our Divine calling to be light and salt. Light exposes, salt burns; And this is the judgment, saith our Lord, the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19).

Judgmental? Tell it to the Lord, but as for me I will continue to expose the darkness.

Notes:

1. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746-8).

2. John MacArthur, Judging Others: The Verse Pagans Love to Quote, April 19, 2016.

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