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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The Christian Twogger (Twog #2)

Subject: Acts 17:26

(Translated from the Aramaic) And from one blood he made the whole world of humanity to be dwelling on the whole surface of The Earth.

Ken Ham posted this on my news feed:

Quick Quiz

(Correct answers are green — incorrect red.)

To whom did Paul affirm that all the nations of the earth were made from one man? (Choose one)
The men of Athens
The Jerusalem Council
The Judaizers in Galatia
The chief priest at Corinth

Answer Key

Acts 17:22-27

Visit Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

A Plea for Unity

I wanted to clarify something I stated in my last post suggesting that the Catholic Church is the true church of Christ which might cause some Protestants to infer that they are not true Christians.

Please understand, Protestants are true Christians. The Catholic Church recognizes that those who are baptized according to Protestant faith are, indeed, brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is true that the Catholic Church traces its roots to the apostolic age while the Protestant Church had its origins in the Reformation. Churches that follow Protestant doctrine were only established in the last 500 years. To suggest that the Catholic Church is not of God is to claim that the disciples of Christ believed a lie for 1500 years. That is an inconceivable proposition to which I do not subscribe. If the Pope is the Man of Sin then the Church was deceived for fifteen centuries until Martin Luther received enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.

Young’s Literal Translation reads:

And I also say to thee, that thou art a rock (Πέτρος, Petros), and upon this rock (πέτρᾳ, petra) I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

Notice that the Greek uses two different words for rock. Very simply, it recognizes one as a proper name while the other as a common noun. In addition, Jesus spoke in Aramaic so that Young’s translation is, well, quite literal.

In the language spoken by Christ, rock is the same word whether used as a name, or noun. Peter is told that he is a rock upon which Christ will build his church. That is the literal meaning of the verse. Notice that Jesus calls himself the builder while Peter is a foundation stone.

Together, we are God’s house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself (Ephesians 2:20).

In Revelation 21:14 we read:

The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

There is no need to force any other interpretation as do Protestants who teach that the rock is a reference to Christ himself, or a metaphor for Peter’s confession of faith. Understanding that the apostles are foundation stones, and that Jesus is the chief cornerstone, it therefore is unnecessary to impose an awkward interpretation of what is a simple declaration.

Protestant interpretation is intended to challenge the Romish claim that the Pope is Peter’s successor. To disprove that claim might cast doubt on the assertion of Papal authority, and the legitimacy of the Catholic Church.

Did Peter fulfill the charge of Christ? Did the Apostle serve as a foundation stone in the apostolic age?

Most definitely, yes.

It was Peter who spoke to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost — the birthday of the church when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and 3000 people were baptized (Acts 2:14-41).

It was Peter who opened the church to Gentiles (Acts 10).

It was Peter (and James, the brother of Christ) who oversaw the church at Jerusalem.

When Jesus said to Peter, You are a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church, the Apostle clearly fulfilled this mission.

Is the Bishop of Rome in the line of Peter? Did the Apostle confer his role to succeeding Popes? Did Peter establish the church in Rome? Was Peter ever in Rome?

We know Paul was in Rome, but there is no scriptural evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. Author Loraine Boettner wrote:

The remarkable thing about Peter’s alleged bishopric in Rome is that the New Testament has not one word to say about it … and never is Peter mentioned in connection with it. There is no allusion to Rome in either of his epistles. Paul’s journey to the city is recorded in great detail (Acts 27 and 28). There is in fact no New Testament evidence, nor any historical proof of any kind, that Peter ever was in Rome. All rests on legend. (Roman Catholicism, p. 117)

Catholics cite 1 Peter 5:13 as scriptural evidence that Peter was in Rome, but is this a correct interpretation?

Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.

Babylon is said to be code for Rome, but in the context of Peter’s letter (written to the churches in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey) the Apostle had no reason to be cryptic. John Calvin, who favored a literal interpretation, believed that Peter actually meant Babylon.

The Jewish Encyclopedia estimates that 800,000 Jews lived in first century Babylon. Josephus, the Jewish historian, noted that tens of thousands of Babylonian Jews visited Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days. Many of them heard Peter’s sermon and witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Regardless of the meaning of Babylon there is sufficient extra-Biblical evidence that Peter not only visited Rome, but established the Holy See — ordaining Clement of Rome who later was consecrated as Pope. Irenaeus (Against Heresies) wrote that Peter and Paul set the foundation of the church in Rome. Clement of Alexandria wrote that (in Rome) Peter preached the word and declared the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit (from which we received the Gospel of Mark). Dionysius of Corinth, in a letter to Pope Sorter, noted that Peter and Paul planted the church in Rome. Tertullian (Against the Heretics) affirmed that Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome. There are many other ancient sources who documented Peter’s connection to Rome so that by the time of Augustine it was widely accepted to be factual.

It is not even necessary to establish a succession between Peter and the Popery. Indeed, if the Romish Church sought validation it could rightfully claim apostolic succession through the Apostle Paul. Irenaeus (Against Heresies) wrote:

After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:21).

How does this all relate to the Catholic-Protestant rift?

To Martin Luther, the doctrine of faith alone (Sola Fide) was the essential underpinning of Christian theology. Luther opposed what he called merit-based salvation. Protestant doctrine correctly proclaims that a person is saved by simple faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Roman Catholic Church also teaches that people are saved by grace through faith — that no one can earn their salvation. The disagreement hinges on this passage from the Book of James:

You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

There is a fine distinction between justification and sanctification that, quite frankly, Luther failed to grasp. James, the brother of Jesus, was writing to Jewish Christians. They believed that simple faith absolved them of any Christian duties. Freed from the law of Moses they could go on sinning. Good works were deemed non-essential and irrelevant to the doctrine of saving faith.

Is this what Christ taught? Read again the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-9). See also Matthew 7:19Matthew 21:18-19, John 15:2.

James rightly taught that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Make no mistake, a dead faith will save no one. Where Luther saw conflict between Paul and James there was none. Their teaching is consistent with our Lord’s.

Luther insisted that the church stands or falls on the doctrine of faith alone. He rejected the apostolic authorship of James, and relegated the book to the index of the Lutheran Bible.

Is Luther’s theology heresy? At the very least it borders on false teaching. If the church stands or falls on the doctrine of Sola Fide then Protestantism might lead people astray. I see it in the witness of so-called Christians who lead a fruitless, sinful life. They invariably say, “Oh, but I’m covered by the blood of Jesus.”

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)

To be saved by faith does not mean a life void of good works. Catholics point to James to affirm that we are not saved by works, but saved for good works — mischaracterized by Protestants as merit-based salvation.

This is Catholic doctrine:

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (James 2:18)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

The Catholic Church, whatever its faults, has withstood 2000 years of spiritual warfare both internal and external. Pray for Christian unity as division is not a good witness. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical UT UNUM SINT (That They May Be One), wrote:

… I think of the grave obstacle which the lack of unity represents for the proclamation of the Gospel. A Christian Community which believes in Christ and desires, with Gospel fervor, the salvation of mankind can hardly be closed to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who leads all Christians towards full and visible unity. As Pope Paul VI wrote … “May the Holy Spirit guide us along the way of reconciliation, so that the unity of our Churches may become an ever more radiant sign of hope and consolation for all mankind”.

It is worth noting that the Pope signed the 2500 word encyclical … servus servorum Dei … which is Latin for servant of the servants of God — a humble title for one who supposedly represents the seat of Antichrist.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ