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Chapter 2: Proposed Solutions

In order to get our bearings, we will begin by surveying the primary interpretive options for the identity of the harlot. Some of these are considered more viable than others at the modern table of academic discussion (and such will be noted when appropriate), but this step should help us to form a well-rounded perspective on how the issue has been handled historically. It should be noted that, to a great extent, one’s choice of referent is tied inherently to one’s approach to the book as a whole (i.e., historicist, futurist, idealist, or preterist); this will become clearer as we proceed.

Furthermore, to get a grasp on the issues at stake in each case this survey will also include a basic introduction to notable difficulties for each position, i.e., weaknesses that should caution us from embracing these options hastily (and some positions, of course, will inherently have fewer apparent weaknesses than others). However, it is not the object of this chapter to accomplish a thoroughgoing critique of all of the views contrary to this thesis. The reason for this is that the very enigmatic nature of apocalyptic writing inevitably creates a situation in which several different interpretations may be made to plausibly fit the evidence. Therefore, much of the argument for the particular position represented by this thesis, rather than being focused on deficiencies in opposing views, will be contingent upon what I perceive to be the balance of the relative weight of evidence in favor of the Jerusalem view vis--vis the other options. In other words, I will try to show that the traditional preterist view makes the most sense of the most facts and on this basis is to be preferred.

The Roman Catholic Church

The first view will we will look at is the idea that the harlot represents Roman Catholicism, a belief that became popular in the days following the Reformation, for obvious reasons. This view is tied closely to the historicist view in general, which sees the Book of Revelation as describing the whole of church history. With the continuing demise of historicism, however, proponents of this interpretation have become few and far between.1 It should nevertheless be recognized that this identification was once quite dominant, and has been held by Jonathan Edwards,2 Adam Clarke,3 E. B. Elliott,4 and a host of others.5 Having said that, we should take note that this position is probably best understood as a natural Protestant outgrowth of the Reformation controversies.

Support for this view has been found in several areas. A key argument would be the nature of the adultery motif, which may imply that the harlot is a character that has at one time been allied with God and has since apostatized, rather than a merely pagan figure.6 In other words, the Apocalypse would be portraying Catholicism as an institution that at one time in history constituted the very people of God, but at some point forsook her God, presumably by corruption and abandonment of the gospel (the primary contentions of the Protestant Reformers).

Moreover, the adornment of the adulterous woman (17:4) has been seen to exemplify pompous worship in Catholicism, or perhaps even the actual colors of the robes of the popes and cardinals.7 Also, the woman’s drunkenness from the saints’ blood (17:6) could be read to align with the Catholic persecution of Protestants throughout history.8

However, despite its strong historical following, there are significant problems with this option. First of all, it is worth noting that the proponents of this view also regard the beast figure of Revelation as a Papal/Catholic symbol. This creates a conundrum for the historicist that will plague some of the other views as well, namely, the relationship between the beast and the harlot. As we will observe below, these two figures are often treated by some as having the same referent, but such a standpoint is difficult to reconcile with Revelation’s portrayal of the two as distinct characters—characters that, moreover, actually war against one another by the end of chapter 17.9

But perhaps the key difficulty for such a position is that it feels suspiciously like a reaction to many commentators’ own contexts. This should give us pause as to whether such interpreters have been more influenced by sound exegesis or historical and theological agendas. Granted, this is not specifically an interpretive problem associated with the text itself on this approach, but it does raise some incriminating “red flags.” All of us, no doubt, read Scripture through the lens of our own struggles and cultural parameters, and it is quite understandable that we should find such polemically loaded interpretation arising in such trying times of religious crisis. Still, even if some alleged evidences can be found in the text itself for this position, it is probably a healthy caution to keep in mind that any of us in any period of history can find apparent prophetic parallels from Scripture relating to our own experiences if we look hard enough. If anything, it may be best to see this view as a possible application of the text via analogy, rather than its strict interpretation. If there are greater strengths to consider in competing views, we can probably feel confident in leaving this one in its own time and moving forward.

Related to this issue is the question of how such a meaning would have had relevance to its original audience. This question must continue to be active in our mind as we survey the major viewpoints. Granted, we cannot always put our full confidence of interpretation in what may or may not have been the understanding of the intended audience, but since the Book of Revelation presents itself as a source of encouragement and blessing to those who were to receive it, it seems unlikely that its contents would be focused on the fall of an ecclesiastical institution centuries away.10 Does it not appear that this interpretation is curiously more comforting to persecuted Protestants of the sixteenth century than to first-century Christians?

Thus, F. F. Bruce sternly comments, “No important contribution to exegesis of Revelation was made by [historicists], whether J. A. Bengel in Germany or Joseph Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, and William Whiston in England—eminent as these exegetes were in other fields of study. The book itself has suffered in its reputation from the extravagances of some of its interpreters, who have treated it as if it were a table of mathematical conundrums or a divinely inspired Old Moore’s Almanack.”11

Perhaps even more devastating is Tenney’s observation: “The historicist view which attempts to interpret the Apocalypse by the development of the church in the last nineteen centuries, seldom if ever takes cognizance of the church outside Europe. It is concerned mainly with the period of the Middle Ages and the Reformation and has relatively little to say of developments after AD 1500.”12

For these reasons, the view that regards Babylon as a symbol for the Roman Catholic Church is largely regarded today, and rightly so, as the least defensible.

Rebuilt Babylon

Some strict futurists see in Revelation the expectation of a renewed Babylonian empire in the eschaton that will dominate the world and persecute the followers of Christ. While a view like this could merely expect a generic future empire in the vein of historic Babylon’s tyranny,13 some writers prefer the simplicity of letting the name stand, and expect an actual revival of Babylon itself on the river Euphrates (most prominently, Robert L. Thomas and Charles Dyer).14 This is, of course, due to adherence to a strict literalism in interpreting prophecy that is not generally regarded very highly among scholars.

Granted, such a view holds the advantage of being the easiest method of deciphering the text, but it is far from a foregone conclusion that Scripture consistently yields itself (especially in prophetic contexts) to the easiest interpretation.15 Moreover, there is obviously little to critique regarding whether this view can fit the details of the description of Babylon, given the fact that it considers Babylon the referent; the consistency is somewhat tautological. Nevertheless, there are serious problems with this position when we consider how this imagery is presented in its context.

First of all, the harlot’s name (or at least the presentation of the character16) is a “mystery” (musthvrion), which should already give us pause regarding a literalistic interpretation. Beale regards the term as describing “a hidden meaning of ‘Babylon the

Great’ that needs further revelatory interpretation.”17 Similarly, Morris remarks, “Mystery will indicate that the significance of the harlot’s name is not open and obvious to all.”18 This is not determinitive for a non-literal assessment of the name, but this approach is strengthened when we consider an earlier passage. Interestingly, in 11:8, we see that “the great city” being discussed in that context can be “spiritually called Sodom and Egypt” (kalei'tai pneumatikw'" Sovdoma kai Ai[gupto").19 This gives a key precedent to symbolically naming a city with the name of an enemy empire of Israel’s past in this book. Moreover, it should be noted that even Robert Thomas is unable to consistently apply a strictly literal hermeneutic in this passage. Amazingly, after arguing that the term “mystery” should not lead us away from a face-value handling of Babylon, he proceeds to claim that, “the ‘seven hills’ can and probably does have a nonliteral meaning… .”20

Dyer runs into problems as well by attempting to press the notion that the Old Testament prophecies declaring that Babylon’s destruction will be permanent (without the possibility of rising again)21 have yet to be realized.22 This requires him to push the limits of technical literalism in addressing texts like Jer 51:26, which warns that Babylon’s stones will not be used again for building. Commenting on this passage he cites evidence that some nearby villagers actually used stones from the city in their homes, thus apparently proving that to some extent Babylon still stands.23 Such hermeneutical maneuvers create more problems than they solve.24

Thus, the major problem with this position is that it fails to adequately address the way the image of the harlot is presented in the passage with regard to apocalyptic style and the general thrust of the rhetoric in terms of audience relevance. This is perhaps most clear from the fact that such a view requires the reader to presuppose the future rebuilding of the empire of Babylon on the Euphrates without any textual indication of such an event, purely on the assumption that the referent is in the distant future—a time when this empire, as history has now shown, would otherwise be a distant memory. In other words, seeing the harlot as a representation of this literal kingdom in the future requires one to posit a future rebuilding, without any warrant from the text (that is, there is no description of a rebuilding or secondary rise anywhere in Revelation itself).25

All in all, this view is attractive if we are seeking easily accessible answers, but it is ultimately unsatisfying in light of the greater complexities of the apocalyptic genre that are now so widely recognized. And, as we have noted, the real issue for our study is not whether or not a case can be made for a given view, but rather whether one particular interpretation seems to have the most evidence that it is the best answer.

Apostate Christianity

The theory that the harlot represents an end-time apostasy of the church (a believing remnant notwithstanding) is similar to the Roman Catholicism view described above, but with less ties to specific historical contexts. William Milligan is probably the most notable representative of this view,26 although Beale and Hamstra have sympathies with it as well.27 Like the Catholicism view, this position relies heavily on the implications of the adultery motif.28 Basically, it accepts the theory that adultery in prophetic terms implies former alliance with God and then casts this theme in a futuristic context. Christianity en masse is thus taken as the group that has defected from its Lord.

The obvious strength of this hypothesis is that it seems to fit well with the themes of the context and yet avoids the arbitrary imposition of a commentator’s own historical setting back onto the text. Still, even this interpretation feels a bit distant from the original audience, and it may not do justice to the detail of imagery John employs in order to hint at the proper solution. Otherwise, there is admittedly little to object to when considering this position exegetically, and it is therefore in my estimation one of the stronger options. My reason for being unpersuaded by this view, as in the case of several others, is not that there is an insurmountably high volume of counter-evidence against it, but rather that the evidence in favor of another position is strong enough so as to displace the other views, rendering them unconvincing by default.

Rome

By far, the majority view among modern scholars is that the Babylonian whore represents first-century Rome. This view is held by prominent commentators Aune29 and Mounce,30 and Beale incorporates elements of it as well.31 Probably the strongest evidence for this interpretation is the well-attested fact that after A.D. 70 Jewish literature often used Babylon as a metaphor for Rome.32 Peter himself could even be identified as one who uses this device (1 Pet 5:13), assuming he is writing from the traditional location of Rome.33 Rome’s world dominance, paganism, and persecution of the saints (all traits of the harlot34) in the first century are a matter of historical infamy. Who else so perfectly fits the title “the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth” (17:18)? Furthermore, who held such great economic sway as that described in chapter 18? The connection is obvious. Especially with the assumption of a late date of the book, Rome, the “city on seven hills,”35 is a prime candidate for Babylon.36

However, there are several problems with this view. First, if the book is more properly dated before A.D. 70 (see below, chap 3), the political and social background for the scene changes, and Rome is no longer the only obvious enemy of the saints.37 We cannot therefore simply assume Rome as the church’s antagonist if the date of the book remains in question. The bigger problem, however, is the relationship between the harlot and the “beast” on which she rides.38 As Gregg remarks, “That the beast from the sea is closely identified with Rome will scarcely be disputed by members of most interpretive schools.”39 This is due largely to the dependence of the image upon Daniel 7 in which the fourth beast/empire that persecutes God’s people40 has, like this beast, ten horns and is noted for its blasphemies.41 The identification of both of these creatures with the Roman Empire seems clearly to be intended.

What then of the harlot? This is a highly underrated difficulty for those who follow the Babylon = Rome interpretation. John seems to be at great pains to distinguish Babylon and the beast as two distinct characters. In 17:3, the woman is depicted as sitting on the beast.42 Verses 11 and 18 specifically interpret the two images as different entities. Moreover, and this is key: in verse 16 the beast, with its ten horns, “will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will devour her flesh and will burn her up with fire.” Thus, the idea that the harlot is merely a recapitulation of the image of the beast is fraught with difficulty, precisely because the two interact. Worse yet, the beast hates and destroys the harlot.

Furthermore, this option, while hitting the mark with regard to relevance for the original audience, makes little connection to the theme of adultery (that is, if this theme is, in fact, related to being at one time allied with God). Rome had always been the enemy of God.

However, this interpretation certainly has its merits, and has convinced most of the academic community. In fact, despite its problems, I tend to think I would personally lean toward this view myself if I were not persuaded of another perspective. Again, the argument of this thesis is not that all other views beside the Jerusalem interpretation are necessarily burdened with overwhelming difficulties, but simply that the reasons to adopt this option sufficiently outweigh those offered for other alternatives.

The Evil World System

One plausible interpretation that carries a lot of weight within the camp of idealism is that Babylon in Revelation simply represents pagan society or forces as a whole, regardless of the age. This allows the idealist to include portions of previous options under the more generic umbrella of “the world.” Representative of this position are Beale43 and Hendriksen,44 as well as a more cautious Hamstra.45 The obvious advantage with this position is its inherent inclusiveness. By its very nature, it can make room for most interpretive requirements, gladly incorporating apparently correct observations from any of the other camps.

While this position is no doubt theologically sound and meaningful, and is certainly attractive in light of its intrinsic “non-falsifiability” (i.e., with this position, one cannot technically be “wrong,” right?), the problem this raises is whether this in and of itself represents a satisfactory understanding of the nature of apocalyptic literature, especially within the canon of Scripture. Of course, we must be cautious of grouping all such literature together, as if second-temple Judaism was less than diverse. But general patterns, most notably in the biblical prophetic tradition, are probably better understood as showing a concern with history, not merely theology.46 Wright has gone to great lengths to contend “[Jews of the period] knew a good metaphor when they saw one, and used cosmic imagery to bring out the full theological significance of cataclysmic socio-political events.”47 Or, as he asserts elsewhere, “It will not do to dismiss … ‘apocalyptic’ [language] as ‘merely metaphorical.’ Metaphors have teeth; the complex metaphors available to first-century Jews had particularly sharp ones, and they could be, and apparently were, reapplied to a variety of scenarios, all within this-worldly history.”48 Various and sundry applications can be drawn from the idealist position, but if the evidence points to a more specific referent in the mind of the author, we should be willing to recognize what may be the more primary emphasis of the images in question.

Jerusalem

Although many students of the Book of Revelation are perhaps not even aware of this position,49 I am persuaded thus far that the many lines of evidence that illuminate our understanding of this mysterious metaphor are best synthesized in the view that the harlot Babylon is intended first and foremost to represent the city of Jerusalem in the first century, being judged by God in her desolation by Rome. Others who share this view include Ford,50 Russell,51 Terry,52 Chilton,53 Gentry,54 and apparently, N. T. Wright.55 I believe this solution can answer the most questions surrounding the text, and that it fits most naturally with the themes of the book and in the ears of the original audience. Moreover, I believe there are several direct hints and clues given by the writer to help the reader properly identify the promiscuous character. We will therefore devote the remainder of this study to examining the evidence regarding this view, beginning with an assessment of its chief objection: the date of Revelation.


1 “Although widely held by Protestant interpreters after the Reformation and into the twentieth century, no critical New Testament scholar today advocates this view” (M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, Interpretation, ed. James Luther Mays [Louisville, KY: John Knox, 1989], 49, [italics mine]).

2 Edward Hickman, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (London: Billing & Sons, 1834), 807.

3 Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, vol. 6 (New York: Abraham Paul, 1823), 617–23.

4 E. B. Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae, 4th ed., vol. 4 (London: Seeleys, 1851), 24–46.

5 Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli were all also historicists (cf. Steve Gregg, ed. Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary [Nashville,TN: Nelson, 1997], 34), though I have been unable to find their precise interpretation of this passage.

6 This issue will be discussed more thoroughly in chapter four, as it is heavily pertinent to the argument for this thesis.

7 So Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae, 30.

8 Ibid., 31.

9 For more on this, see “Rome” below.

10 No doubt biblical prophecy can sometimes focus on far future events, but if even the themes seem unusually disconnected with the homiletical/applicational ends of the work, perhaps the lack of coherence is cause for skepticism of such an interpretation. That is, a prophecy of the future arrival of the Messiah, for example, would still be relevant to an OT saint hoping for the eventual restoration of Israel. But how will it “bless” first century Christians to know that someday God will judge Roman Catholicism? Maybe a connection could be produced, but it certainly seems much more reasonable that this interpretation reflects the historical interests of those who conceived it, rather than the original message the churches were supposed to hear.

On the other hand, it is admittedly possible that room could be made for this issue in a “multiple fulfillment” approach, in which an earlier fulfillment might meet the criteria for audience relevance, while the Catholic Church would remain as a more distant prophetic object. However, I know of no author that has proposed such a scheme, and moreover, this question would by definition step beyond the bounds of the present investigation, which, as stated in chapter one, aims at the referent intended by the human author for his immediate audience, if such exists.

11 F. F. Bruce, Revelation, The International Bible Commentary, ed. F. F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison, and G. C. D. Howley (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1595.

12 Merrill C. Tenney, “Revelation, Book of the,” in Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1975), 96 (italics mine).

13 It is worth noting that one such variation of this view is that the empire will be linked with some sort of Roman empire revival, perhaps in the form of some great last-days European alliance epitomized in the beast figure. The evidence for such a view would be concordant with that of the “Rome” view, discussed below, but would then be recast in a futuristic context. Thus, Babylon itself becomes either the capital of Antichrist’s empire or a symbol for the worldwide religio-economic power of his rule. This position most often shows up in popular eschatology (e.g., Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming [New York: Bantam, 1975], 189–90; John MacArthur, ed., The MacArthur Study Bible [Nashville, TN: Word, 1997], 2015–17). However, see also John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1966), 240–41.

14 E.g., Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 307; Charles H. Dyer, “The Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17–18,” Bibliotheca Sacra 144 (1987): 305–16, 433–49; also, J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ, 10th ed. (New York, NY: Cook, 1909), 397–400; G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (London: Oliphants, 1945), 299–305.

15 Cf. 2 Pet 3:16, which explicitly claims that Paul’s letters are “hard to understand” (δυσνόητά). The point here is simply that, contrary to some popular notions that interpretation should be done from a plain, surface-reading perspective because God would not make his word hard to understand, the scriptures themselves express that some portions are in fact hard to understand, and we cannot therefore assume that the “easy” path is the correct one; see also Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1991), 227–32; Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1993), chaps. 2–3; Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, chap. 10.

16 See G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 858.

17 Ibid., 859.

18 Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 200.

19 The rendering of the term pneumatikw'" as “spiritually” is intentionally literal in translation for the sake of interpretive neutrality. Other translations, however, make the point more sharply, e.g., the NET Bible, which actually opts for “symbolically.”

20 Thomas, Revelation, 289.

21 These include Jer 28:39; 50:39–40; 51:24–6, 62–4; Isa 13:19–22.

22 Dyer, “Identity of Babylon,” 444–46.

23 Ibid, 446–49.

24 For further discussion of the hermeneutical difficulties of this view, see Beale, Revelation, 829–30.

25 The future Rome view only fares worse: in this case, this rebuilding idea would be even more of a stretch for the original hearers than for those of us who have the benefit of the subsequent historical record; since Rome was still standing and dominant, they would have to assume (again, without any word from John) both the idea that the empire was going to fall, and the idea that it would rise again, only to fall again!

It might be objected that we have a similar phenomenon in the gap between the advents of Christ, unforseen before the New Testament. But this is precisely the issue. The New Testment actually reveals a future coming of Christ—it is not merely assumed. There is no rebuilding of “Babylon” revealed at any point in the Apocalypse. It is certainly not impossible, but it is absent from the text, though central to such an interpretation. This argument from silence cannot disprove the theory, but it should raise suspicions against it.

26 However, while he sees this as the ultimate reality of the image (William Milligan, The Book of Revelation [New York: Armstrong, 1903], 904), he considers the archetype present in John’s mind to specifically be Jerusalem (ibid., 289–315), for which see below, chapter four.

27 Beale, Revelation, 884; Sam Hamstra Jr., “An Idealist View of Revelation,” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation, ed. C. Marvin Pate (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 117–18.

28 Beale, Revelation, 884–85.

29 David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Bruce M. Metzger et al., vol. 52c (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1998), 959.

30 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed., New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 308.

31 Beale, Revelation, 886. Other works that take this view include R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John, vol. 2, International Critical Commentary, ed. S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, and C. A. Briggs (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), 75; Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 3d ed. (London: Macmillan, 1911), 226; G. B. Caird, The Revelation of Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. Henry Chadwick (London: Black, 1966), 213; Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. 2 (New York: Newman, 1845), 322.

32 Cf. 4 Ezra 3:1–2, 28–31; 2 Apoc. Bar. 10:1–3; 11:1; 67:7; Sib. Or. 5.143.159–60.

33 See discussion in Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, rev. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 794.

34 Cf. 17:18, 17:4, and 17:6, respectively for these characteristics.

35 This was well-known nomenclature for Rome (cf. Caird, Revelation, 216; cf. Rev 17:9).

36 Some commentators, so confident that this position has long been established as correct, simply assume it with little or no argumentation: e.g., Mounce: “The prostitute is Rome” (Revelation, 308); also, Aune: “While ‘the great city’ is applied to Jerusalem in 11:8, in Rev 17–18 the phrase ‘the great city’ refers clearly to Rome” (Revelation, 959, italics mine).

37 The other primary option, the Jewish leadership, will of course become the focus of this thesis in chapter four.

38 Cf. Rev 13; 17:3.

39 Gregg, Revelation, 276.

40 The first three are usually understood as historical Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece.

41 Cf. Dan 7:7, 25.

42 Which accounts for why she is sitting on the seven hills/mountains. These are associated with the seven heads, which fits perfectly with the idea that the adulteress is riding on the back of the beast, not identifiable with it (so J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vol. 38 [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975], 280 [proposing that the relationship involves mutual favors between local rulers and foreign powers]; David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation [Tyler, TX: Dominion, 1987], 436, n. 14). However, note Beale’s caution that it may be better to take o[ro" here in its normal sense in the Apocalypse, i.e., that of a mountain, not a hill. From this view, the mountain imagery represents strength, specifically that of kings/kingdoms (this being common symbolism in the OT as well as other Jewish writings), and therefore we are simply revisiting the “seven heads” idea (Beale, Revelation, 868). Either way, it is far from necessary to conclude with Swete that, “No reasonable doubt can be entertained as to the meaning of these words [considering that] the Seven hills of Rome were a commonplace with the Latin poets” (Swete, Apocalypse, 220). Moreover, Jewish parallels to this sort of “seven mountains” language may clarify the matter further (see below, chapter four, under “The city on seven hills”).

43 Beale, Revelation, 885–86; it should be noted, however, that Beale does want to recognize some connection of the book of Revelation with historical events, at least in so far as they are related to the ultimate establishing of Christ’s kingdom with the last judgment. For this reason he prefers to describe his position as a “redemptive-historical form of modified idealism,” or “eclecticism” (a far more manageable term) rather than simple “idealism” (p. 48).

44 William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1944), 200–202.

45 Hamstra, “An Idealist View of Revelation,” 117.

46 While a satisfactory evaluation of the debate surrounding apocalyptic literature would presently take us too far afield, it should be understood that the perspective on apocalypticism discussed in chapter 1 (see chap. 1, n. 8 for sources providing further discussion) informs this point of the argument.

47 N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, vol. 1, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 333.

48 N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 321–22, italics mine.

49 And many commentators do not adequately address it, even if they are aware of it; cf. Mounce, Revelation, 308, who gives it only a passing reference in a single footnote: “Ford tries to build a case for Jerusalem rather than Rome as the harlot of Rev 17, but without much success.”

50 Ford, Revelation, 54–59, 93, 259–307.

51 J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming (London: Unwin, 1887), 482–98.

52 Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1898), 426–39.

53 Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 421–66.

54 Kenneth L. Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation, ed. C. Marvin Pate (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 73–79.

55 Who makes an interesting comment in a footnote in Jesus and the Victory of God (regarding what he perceives to be an underlying theme of the Olivet Discourse): “This conclusion [that Babylon’s ultimate fall as predicted by the prophets occurs in A.D. 70] may be held by some to carry implications for the reading of Rev 17–19, where some recent commentators have suggested that the great and wicked city is not Rome but Jerusalem. I have discovered that this suggestion arouses anger in some circles, which is not explained simply as annoyance at an exegetical peculiarity… . What is at stake here, and for whom?” (Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 358, n. 141). This, of course, may be a point of great importance: anti-Semitism is a charge quite frequently leveled in modern theological debate. It may in fact be that we have not yet begun to discern the extent to which New Testament studies have been impacted by nobly motivated biases left over from the aftermath of Auschwitz’ terrors. Could it be that some modern scholars are hesitant to advocate a view such as the one presented in this thesis because it inherently sounds disturbingly anti-Semitic?

Also, other representatives of the Babylon = Jerusalem view include A. J. Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse with Particular Reference to the Role of the Church’s Enemies (New York: de Gruyter, 1987), 93–102; Eugenio Corsini, The Apocalypse: The Perennial Revelation of Jesus Christ, trans. & ed. Francis J. Moloney (Wilmington, DE: Gazier, 1983), 313–30; Cornelius Vanderwaal, Search the Scriptures: Hebrews—Revelation, vol. 10 (St. Catherines, ON: Paideia, 1979), 79–111; Keith Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1999), 152–54; Iain Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 From an Old Testament Perspective,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 64 (1996), 81–100; Philip Carrington, The Meaning of the Revelation (New York: Macmillan, 1931), book 6.

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)

Chapter 3: Dating the Apocalypse

The Significance of the Date

One of the biggest difficulties for our interpretation of the material in Revelation 17–18 has always been the date of the writing of the book. While other aspects of the Jerusalem view will be considered below, a more thorough investigation must be made regarding the date issue before any defense of this interpretation is set forth, primarily because many of the scholars who reject preteristic interpretation of the book do so quite often a priori on the basis of the currently dominant view that the Apocalypse was written in the 90s, which of course quickly rules out the stance that much of the book is a prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70.1 This objection, therefore, must be overcome at the outset if any serious consideration to preteristic interpretation is to be given.

Just how pivotal is an earlier date to the Jerusalem = Babylon argument? For some, it is not necessarily decisive. Writers such as Provan and Corsini believe that Jerusalem is in view despite their insistence on a late date.2 These positions could be held simultaneously if one considered the imagery of the harlot to merely be reminiscent of A.D. 70’s tragedy or if it is prophecy ex eventu. These scenarios allow some leeway for the Jerusalem view even in the case of a late date, and it may therefore be said that a decision on the time of writing need not necessarily end the discussion. However, the first option may not fit well with the form of the book, which seems to clearly represent itself as predictive prophecy (cf. 1:1, 1:3, 1:19, 4:1, et al.), and the second is short on evidence when we consider the parallels in other Jewish apocalypses that employ the ex eventu technique. As Collins notes, “[U]sually the entire work is clearly set in an earlier time and the seer is a venerable figure of the distant past. Revelation does not have these characteristics.”3

Thus, the late date is not a deathblow, but it must certainly be admitted that it significantly lessens the likelihood of our interpretation. On the other hand, we need not necessarily prove a pre-70 date, per se, in order to take seriously the Jerusalem view either. Our goal for this chapter will rather be to simply make clear that the door is still quite open, and that the preterist view of the Apocalypse is still in play.4 Moreover, it is my personal estimation that the internal evidence (especially the issues raised in this thesis) may actually help us to evaluate the date itself, rather than vice versa, as has been the common order of method.

One related issue is worth noting at this point. Some difficulty arises in this question from the fact that the Book of Revelation differs so greatly in style from the Gospel of John. It seems unlikely that if the two were both written by John the Apostle they could have been written in the same decade. This obviously creates a conundrum for anyone who places both either in the 60s or the 90s. However, when we consider the fact that the authorship of both books as well as the date of both books remain unresolved questions for many scholars, there are enough variables to allow for several plausible scenarios. For instance: some recent scholars, such as Wallace, have gone against the flow of the consensus and argued strongly for a pre-70 date for John.5 However, the Gospel of John itself never claims to have been written by the Apostle, and it is common knowledge that many commentators prefer to ascribe it to someone else.6 Thus, if we were to accept the early date of the Gospel, it could still be that John wrote Revelation pre-70 and another author penned the Gospel. On the other hand, skepticism of the identity of the “John” who wrote Revelation emerged as early as Eusebius7 and is certainly a common view to this day. Therefore it could just as easily be claimed that John wrote the Gospel pre-70 just as some other unknown author was crafting the Apocalypse. Regardless, the overwhelming majority of scholars take a late date of John anyway, and this, if correct, would only fit better with an early date of Revelation. In other words, the authorship question is not crucial here.

What is crucial is the question of why the date under the Roman emperor Domitian has become so widely accepted. It seems in many circles to be an issue one dares not question. And yet, in recent years, a number of highly reputable scholars are reconsidering the party line and have come out in favor of the pre-70 position. Major

New Testament scholars such as C. F. D. Moule8, Joseph Fitzmyer9, F. F. Bruce10, E. Earle Ellis11, and J. A. T. Robinson12 have all recently supported the early date position.13 Moreover, this is far from novel. In reality, these writers are merely returning to what was once the foregone conclusion of nearly the entire New Testament studies world. As Wilson notes, “Throughout the nineteenth century the majority of New Testament scholars favored a pre-70 dating of the Book of Revelation.”14 Robinson echoes, “It is indeed a little known fact that this [a pre-70 date] was what Hort calls ‘the general tendency of criticism’ for most of the nineteenth century… .”15 Indeed Lightfoot, Westcott, Hort, and a host of others held strongly to an early dating of the book,16 so much so that one author in Lightfoot’s day agreed this date to be universally accepted by all competent critics.”17

How then did the pendulum swing? Before the turn of the century, the date seemed unshakable, and by the middle of the twentieth, the same had become true for the opposing position! What sparked this overturn? Why are so few willing to come out in favor of an earlier date today?

To answer these questions and get a grasp on the issues regarding the time of the Apocalypse’s writing, we will consider the areas of evidence that seem to be most compelling to modern scholars. These fall largely into three major arenas discussed below: the historical testimony of writers in the church, the nature of the imperial reign of Domitian Caesar, and certain important internal indications of date.

The Testimony of the Church

Overwhelmingly, the key reason why most scholars reject an early date for the book is a supposed unanimity among the church fathers regarding a Domitianic date. Statements abound in the literature such as, “[The external evidence] almost unanimously assigns [Revelation] to the last years of Domitian,”18 and, “[E]arly Christian tradition is almost unanimous in assigning the Apocalypse to the last years of Domitian,”19 and, “[U]ndoubtedly a strong argument in favor of a Domitianic date is the fact that the earliest and the weightiest external witnesses attest it.”20 However, in current studies this claim is coming under regular fire, and perhaps for good reason. When we consider the actual evidence in the fathers, the picture is not as clear as some have led us to believe, as we shall see below.21

    The Evidence of Irenaeus

Irenaeus (A.D. 103–202) was certainly one of the most distinguished figures in the opening centuries of Christianity. Thus, his testimony has been highly regarded in a number of matters, not the least of which is the date of the Apocalypse. The understanding that Irenaeus dates the book to the end of the first century has in and of itself been enough evidence for many scholars to hold firmly to a late date. J. P. M. Sweet, for instance, says, “The earlier date may be right, but the internal evidence is not sufficient to outweigh the firm tradition stemming from Irenaeus.”22

The quotation from Irenaeus that has become so important in the debate is generally translated as follows: “We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.”23

This seems straightforward enough, but there are several problems here. First of all, there is a translational ambiguity. While our only extant complete text of the work containing this passage is in Latin, Eusebius preserves Irenaeus’ Greek.24 In the Latin, the ambiguity is removed, the scribe having made a decision on the matter, but the Greek deserves careful consideration: eij de e[dei ajnafandon ejn tw'/ nu'n kairw'/ khruvttesqai tou[noma aujtou', di j ejkeivnou a]n ejrrevqh tou' kai thn ajpokavluyin eJorakovto" oujde gar pro pollou' crovnou eJwravqh, ajlla scedon ejpi th'" hJmetevra" geneav", pro" tw'/ tevlei th'" Dometianou' ajrch'".

The difficulty arises in Irenaeus’ statement, as translated above, “… that was seen …” The Greek text simply reads eJwravqh. The subject of the statement is simply subsumed in the verb, and there is therefore no grammatical indicator as to the referent; it could be the Apocalypse, or it could be John himself. In other words, the English could just as easily be, “… he was seen …”25 While it might seem initially odd to refer to a person as being “seen,” Hort acknowledges that Irenaeus has a general tendency to use oJravw of persons more commonly than visions or things.26 Moreover, the larger context speaks explicitly of “those who have seen John face to face” (ejkeivnwn tw'n kat j o[yin ton jIwavnnhn eJorakovtwn).27 This translation may in fact fit better with the logic of the passage as well. Note the thematic analysis of Chase:

The logic of the sentences seems to me to require this interpretation. The statement that the vision was seen at the close of Domitian’s reign supplies no reason why the mysterious numbers should have been expounded “by him who saw the apocalypse,” had he judged such an exposition needful. If, on the other hand, we refer eJwravqh to St. John, the meaning is plain and simple. We may expand the sentences thus: “Had it been needful that the explanation of the name should be proclaimed to the men of our own day, that explanation would have been given by the author of the Book. For the author was seen on earth, he lived and held converse with his disciples, not so very long ago, but almost in our own generation. Thus, on the one hand, he lived years after he wrote the Book, and there was abundant opportunity for him to expound the riddle, had he wished to do so; and, on the other hand, since he lived on almost into our generation, the explanation, had he given it, must have been preserved to us.28

This all seems plausible enough, but there are some factors that weigh against it. For one thing, Irenaeus seems to claim elsewhere that John lived until the reign of Trajan,29 and it is also to be noted that the Latin scribal choice opts for the other view.30

Thus, even some early date advocates such as Stuart and Robinson still take Irenaeus to mean the Apocalypse dates to the 90s.31 It seems to me that the evidence is inconclusive.

Nevertheless, there remains another problem with the Irenaean witness. To what extent are we to take as trustworthy Irenaeus’ historical claims? Caird (no doubt overstating the case), remarks that, “… second-century traditions about the apostles are demonstrably unreliable.”32 Whether or not this generalization is fair, in Irenaeus’ case there is legitimate reason for us to remain skeptical. In one place he portrays James the Apostle as the same person as the brother of the Lord,33 and in another, he astonishingly informs us that Jesus lived to be between forty and fifty years old!34 Lapses like these have understandably led to assessments such as Guthrie’s caution that Irenaeus’ historical method is “uncritical,”35 as well as Moffatt’s comment, “Irenaeus, of course, is no great authority by himself on matters chronological.”36 Such being the case, should we really place the great confidence in this testimony that many scholars have?

It may seem excessive to dwell so thoroughly on this single witness, but it must be understood that for many scholars, this piece of evidence has been the linchpin of the late-date case. Moreover, it is pivotal that we recognize clearly the questionable quality of this witness for one crucial reason: the so-called “unanimity” of the fathers’ witness on the matter apparently stems entirely from the Irenaean source.

Now it should first be noted that the “unanimity” is nothing of the sort. As we shall see, there is much more diversity among the witnesses than is often admitted. But for now, suffice it to say that the allegedly numerous “testimonies” to the Domitianic date are in reality merely a chorus of voices echoing one testimony. Bell highlights the little-known fact that “all later witnesses to this date seem to derive directly from Irenaeus.”37 Milton Terry concurs: “[W]hen we scrutinize the character and extent of this evidence [i.e., the external witnesses], it seems … clear that no very great stress can safely be laid upon it. For it all turns upon the single testimony of Irenaeus.”38 And as Randell adds, “Eusebius and Jerome, in the fourth century, do not strengthen what they merely repeat.”39 Even Collins, who elsewhere uses Victorinus, Eusebius, and “other writers” as support for the Domitianic date, goes on to concede the likelihood that the writers after Irenaeus are simply parroting him.40 How many late-date advocates would accept this sort of evidence in defense of the so-called "Majority Text" when dealing with textual criticism?41

In sum, we have a historically questionable, grammatically ambiguous single source that has become a “unanimity among the church fathers,” and this evidence is serving for many as the decisive clue to the date. Furthermore, the fact is that there exists a greater diversity than many realize in the external witnesses, and we will thus explore these briefly.

    Other Major Witnesses

The matter of the external testimony is only complicated by the fact that the fathers do not speak with one voice on the date of Revelation. Many favor an early date, while others may not support the late date as clearly as many have supposed. We will here consider a few of the most striking cases.

Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Two of the key witnesses commonly claimed as sources for a Domitianic date are Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 150–215) and Origen (c. A.D. 185–254). Mounce takes this view, as do Charles and Swete.42 However, when actually examined, we find that in neither case is Domitian actually referenced. In both writers, the passages allegedly supporting a Domitianic date simply speak of the banishment of John under the “tyrant,”43 or the “King of the Romans.”44 The link to Domitian is an arbitrary imposition by modern commentators based on the assumption of a great Domitianic persecution, which, as we shall see, is a highly dubious supposition.

On the other hand, Apollonius of Tyana (b. 4 B.C.) says Nero was “commonly called a Tyrant.”45 Similarly, Lactantius (ca. A.D. 260–330) describes the persecutor whose reign led to the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, recording that afterwards, “… the tyrant, bereaved of authority, and precipitated from the height of empire, suddenly disappeared.”46 The assumption that the “tyrant” in Clement and Origen must clearly be Domitian is unwarranted.

Also pertinent to the question of whether Clement believed in a Domitianic composition of the Apocalypse is the following quote from his Miscellanies: “For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero.”47 Unless Clement considers John’s Apocalypse to be outside of the teaching of the apostles, he seems to imply he believes the Scriptures were completed by the end of Nero’s reign.48

At the same time, Clement has historical problems of his own, such as his limiting of the ministry of Jesus to a single year.49 Of course, any element of unreliability based upon an apparently uncareful handling of historical details does not positively serve either view of the date of the Apocalypse, it merely makes Clement’s testimony even less decisive.

In light of all of this, we must ask ourselves: can we really claim Clement of Alexandria as a clear witness to the late date of Revelation?

Origen’s quote in and of itself is quite ambiguous as well, and is even less helpful when we recognize he was a student of Clement’s tutelage, and may merely be following his master’s say on the matter, whether he himself knew the identity of the particular “King” or not.50 Hort finds the absence of a specific name in both Clement and Origen to be perhaps telling, remarking that the “coincidence is curious.”51 Some scholars are more suspicious than that.52

Thus, it seems quite presumptuous to lean too heavily on these two commonly touted sources.

Eusebius and Jerome. Another two witnesses that are claimed for the Domitianic position are Eusebius (ca. A.D. 260–340) and Jerome (A.D. 340–420), both of which are cited by Charles and Swete.53 However, again, being later, they both reflect Irenaean tradition, explicitly so in Eusebius’ case.54 Moreover, both witnesses seem to reflect conflicting tradition, elsewhere either implying that John was banished under Nero or approvingly reusing testimonies to such and then recasting them in another light.55 This at least reveals competing traditions in their times.

The Shepherd of Hermas. One interesting, if somewhat inconclusive, source that might give light to Revelation’s date is The Shepherd of Hermas. The date of this work is difficult to establish. The external evidence (specifically the Muratorian Canon) certainly points toward a date of about A.D. 140–155, but the internal evidence may push the book much earlier,56 and some scholars, such as Edmunson and Robinson, have argued for a date between 85–90.57

The relevance of this source is the fact that it bears strong indications of dependence on the Apocalypse in its contents. Charles gives a compelling case for this noting the following similarities:

Thus the Church, Vis. ii.4, is represented by a woman (cf. [Rev] 12:1 sqq.); the enemy of the Church by a beast (qhrivon), Vis. lv.6-10, [Rev] 13: out of the mouth of the beasts proceed fiery locusts, Vis. iv. 1, 6, [Rev] 9:3: whereas the foundation stones of the Heavenly Jerusalem bear the names of the Twelve Apostles, [Rev] 21:14, and those who overcome are made pillars in the spiritual temple, [Rev] 3:12, in Hermas the apostles and other teachers of the Church form the stones of the heavenly tower erected by the archangels, Vis. iii. 5.1. The faithful in both are clothed in white and are given crowns to wear, [Rev] 6:11 etc., 2:10; 3:10; Hermas, Sim. viii. 2.1, 3.58

Again, the date of Hermas is debatable. But if the early date is right, and if literary dependence upon Revelation is present (again, a common conclusion, but not certain), then these factors would press the writing of the Apocalypse into a period significantly earlier than Domitian’s reign.

The Muratorian Canon. Having just mentioned the Muratorian Canon (ca. A.D. 170), we should note that it happens to stand as an easily overlooked, yet very important witness to an early date. The key passage relevant to this question is the statement that “the blessed Apostle Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name.”59 Obviously the Johannine writing being referenced is the Apocalypse (addressed as it is to seven churches), and here it is implied to have been written before the completion of Paul’s writings. Whether or not the credibility of the report may be established, this is clearly a very early example of an early-date opinion for Revelation’s composition.

Tertullian. Tertullian’s (ca. A.D. 160–220) relevance to the matter comes from his account of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul and the banishment of John. In discussing their fates, he ties the three together as a unit, implying they happened together, amidst the same persecution. He declares that Rome is “where Peter had a like Passion with the Lord; where Paul hath for his crown the same death with John; where the Apostle John was plunged into boiling oil, and suffered nothing, and was afterwards banished to an island.”60 Jerome certainly understood Tertullian to mean John was banished under Nero,61 and Schaff states, “Tertullian’s legend of the Roman oil-martyrdom of John seems to point to Nero rather than to any other emperor.”62 One obvious problem with this testimony is the questionable historicity of the oil-boiling event. And there is, to be sure, an element of ambiguity in the statement (it seems to me that Tertullian’s words could merely be emphasizing similarity between the apostles’ fates, rather than temporal proximity between them), but it is probably a somewhat safe conclusion that Tertullian thought John’s banishment took place under Nero.

Victorinus. The fourth-century bishop Victorinus (d. ca. A.D. 304) clearly held to a Domitianic date for Revelation. There is an interesting difficulty with his testimony, however, in the fact that he also tells us that while on Patmos, John was working the labor mines as part of his sentence. The idea of a man in his nineties working the mines under the lash ought to give us pause, though anything is possible. Nevertheless, we should again remember, “[T]he whole concatenation of witnesses in favor of [the Domitianic date] hangs upon the testimony of Irenaeus, and their evidence is little more than a mere repetition of what he has said.”63

Epiphanius. Upon first glance, Epiphanius (ca. A.D. 315–403) seems a curious voice in the debate, twice dating John’s banishment to the emperorship of Claudius.64 However, Guthrie, Moffatt, Robinson, and Mounce all agree that Epiphanius, or at least his source (likely Hippolytus) is merely using Claudius as one of Nero’s other names.65 Regardless, here exists another clear early-date testimony.

Unfortunately, Ephiphanius is also another example of inconsistent credibility in historical matters, in one place, for instance, making the unusual claim that Priscilla was a man!66 Therefore, this witness, too, must be taken with a grain of salt.

Other early date witnesses. There remain several other historical sources worth noting that attest to a pre-70 date for Revelation. For example, the Syriac History of John, the Son of Zebedee (6th c.) and both Syriac versions of the Apocalypse (6th c., 7th c.) explicitly refer to John’s banishment by Nero.67 Arethas (A.D. 6th c.? 9th c.?), furthermore, taught that the book was written before A.D. 70, and understood it to be largely predictive of the Roman siege on Jerusalem.68

There is therefore certainly a very present competing tradition to the Domitianic date throughout the history of the church. Consequently, any claims to an alleged “unanimity” are grossly overstated. Furthermore, as has been said, the Domitianic witnesses are dependent upon Irenaeus’ single testimony, which is not without its own problems. The external witness, then, is far from conclusive for supporting a late date, and can even be cited in some cases as evidence for pre-70 composition.69

Domitian’s Reign

The second major proof for most who hold to a Domitianic date for the Apocalypse is the apparent theme of imperial persecution and the assumption that this portrayal fits better against the backdrop of Domitianic persecution of the church. This line of evidence is pivotal to the discussion for two reasons: first, it is most likely the case that this particular issue was the catalyst for the scholarly revolution regarding the date after the nineteenth century, and second, it is being recognized more and more that as far as Domitian being the second great persecutor of the Church, “There is extremely little evidence that such was actually the case.”70 In fact, “Most modern commentators no longer accept a Domitianic persecution of Christians.”71

To develop these points, we will first briefly look at the role of J. B. Lightfoot in the history of views among commentators. This will show the importance of these issues and the influences that went into a belief in a Domitianic persecution among twentieth-century writers. This will be followed with an examination of the Domitianic persecution evidence itself, as well as the related issue of the imperial cult.

    The Influence of Lightfoot

After many decades of agreement among New Testament scholars that the Apocalypse was a pre-70 document, the twentieth century dawned and brought with it very quickly three excellently crafted critical commentaries that would set the tone for Revelation studies for many years to come, namely those by Charles, Swete, and Beckwith.72 As Wilson writes, “The three, and especially Charles, would profoundly influence all subsequent English language scholarship on Revelation.”73 Unexpectedly, all three commentaries broke with the previous century’s consensus and dated the Apocalypse to the end of Domitian’s reign. Why the sudden shift?

Part of the answer (in combination with reliance upon the Irenaean tradition) is a strong emphasis in all three works on the social/historical context of the book, specifically with reference to the major theme of persecution. Sensing that the book has been written against the backdrop of heavy-handed recent persecution, all three commentators found the reign of Domitian to be the most suitable Sitz im Leben for its apocalyptic cry, and this line of argument plays strongly into each of their respective cases for a later date.74 It would seem that what historians had come to know of this heinous Caesar had finally tipped the scales in the argument.75 Of course, once these key commentaries had set the stage, the majority view quickly followed suit.

The important anomaly in this development, however, is the basis upon which these three commentaries argue for this profound persecution by Domitian. When perused for validation of this historical reconstruction, in all three cases we find invariably that their basic justification of the position is explicitly the influence of nineteenth-century New Testament authority J. B. Lightfoot. Wilson elaborates strikingly:

All three contend that Revelation was written with a historical background of recent persecution of the Christian Church by the Roman authorities. Each points to the persecution under Domitian. All three use Lightfoot’s work as their basis. They accept Lightfoot’s work and refer to it without criticism and without making any significant critical inquiry of their own into the validity of the claims of a Domitianic persecution. Charles merely states in a footnote, “On the persecution under Domitian, see Lightfoot, Clem. Rom. 1.1.104–115.” Swete simply notes, “Lightfoot has collected a catena of passages which justify the belief that Domitian was the second great persecutor.” Beckwith writes, “The general testimony of early Christian writers leaves no reasonable question that [Domitian’s] reign became a time of special suffering for the Christians, though details of his measures are for the most part wanting.” At this point Beckwith has a footnote referring to the appropriate pages in Lightfoot.76

Ironically, despite Lightfoot’s influence upon these commentators toward a late date view, Lightfoot himself, as mentioned above, held to a pre-70 date. Nevertheless, his arguments for the persecution of Domitian had a significant impact on these revolutionary commentaries, and it is therefore important to consider his case. If it is found to be unconvincing, of course, this does not in and of itself end the question, since it is merely one scholar’s argument. But it must be remembered that the apparent dependence in subsequent authors upon Lightfoot for this point creates a scenario somewhat akin to the former situation involving the Irenaean tradition. What appears to be a strong consensus may upon closer scrutiny be the mere repetition of a singular voice.

    The Domitianic Persecution Reconsidered

The evidence for a Domitianic persecution is largely limited to that which Lightfoot himself expounded, so we may justly focus on his form of the argument, especially in light of its role in future influence. To be sure, later Christian writers after Eusebius claim the historicity of such a persecution, but whether their claim has any real veracity or is merely the corollary of a Domitianic Apocalypse date must be weighed in light of the actual historical record. This, we shall see, even in Lightfoot, is greatly lacking.

The main evidence supplied by Lightfoot stems from the account of the death of Flavius Clemens and his wife Domitilla’s exile. Dio Cassius tells us their fates were related to the charge of “atheism,” which he further connects with Jewish practices.77 Lightfoot surmises this must have meant Christianity, and refers to Flavius Clemens as a “Christian martyr.”78 Notably, a century earlier, Suetonius had recorded the same incident with no reference to Judaism, simply attributing the event to “some trivial pretext.”79

Next, seemingly sealing Lightfoot’s argumentation, we learn that a cemetery owned by Domitilla was excavated that contained Christian symbols. However, it has now been shown that none of the remnants of Christianity can be dated before the middle of the second century.80

If this evidence were not dubious enough, the account from Dio Cassius only survives in the eleventh-century epitome of Xiphilinus and Zonarus’ twelfth-century summary.81 And regardless, we are still left to suppose that Dio Cassius, writing in the third century, would not know to distinguish between Christians and Jews. Both Bell and Wilson find this unlikely.82

In a fascinating move, Lightfoot goes on to speculate, admitting it to be a mere conjecture, that Clement of Rome grew up in Flavius Clemens’ household and received his name. Thus, he finds what he considers to be a likely evidence for Christian heritage in this “family,” reinforcing his hypothesis that Flavius’ “martyrdom” under Domitian was for his Christian faith.83

In addition to this major point, Lightfoot gives several pages of texts entitled “Notices of the Persecution under Domitian and of the Family of Flavius Clemens.”84 These “notices” are all either post-Eusebius or exceedingly oblique, consisting in one case, for example, of nothing more than the claim that both Nero and Domitian misrepresented Christians.85 Yet, despite these weaknesses, the early twentieth-century commentaries took these arguments for a Domitianic persecution very seriously, and combined with the statement of Irenaeus, the late-date position was firmly established, and the shift was underway.

However, most New Testament scholars are now quite aware of the problem. By the late 1900s, confidence in the existence of a Domitianic persecution was on its last leg. Having reexamined the historical record more closely, few were willing to hold such a position any longer. Collins, a staunch late-date advocate, confidently remarks, “There seems, therefore, to be no reliable evidence which supports the theory that Domitian persecuted Christians as Christians.”86 Similarly, Sweet declares, “The evidence that [Domitian] persecuted the church, as opposed to a few individuals who may or may not have been Christians, dissolves on inspection.”87 And again, “Most modern commentators no longer accept a Domitianic persecution of Christians.”88

The Neronic persecution of the 60s, on the other hand, is no matter of debate. It is a matter of historical infamy, and should surely, in Wilson’s words, “be given at least as much attention in dating Revelation as the possibility of a perceived crisis [under Domitian] is given.”89 This is not to say that the earlier setting solves all the problems either. It is generally recognized that we lack any solid evidence for Neronic persecution beyond Rome itself.90 This silence in the provinces is undoubtedly a difficulty for an early-date view. But placing the Apocalypse in the 90s only heightens the hurdle, since under Domitian, as we have seen, we do not even have firm evidence for persecution in Rome itself! The critique cuts both ways. If a late date is to be established for the Book of Revelation, it cannot be done on the grounds of the backdrop of persecution.

    Rise of the Imperial Cult

One closely related issue to that of Domitianic persecution is the question of whether or not the perceivable presence of emperor worship in the Apocalypse can be anchored to any escalation of such under the Domitian regime. Suffice it to say the evidence for increased demand from the emperor for self-deification fares no better than the evidence for Christian persecution.

The main line of argument used for the claim of a greater imposition of the imperial cult is that we know of an epigram that applies the term Dominus et Deus Noster to Domitian. However, we have no evidence that there was any pressure for such deification from the top down, and it may in fact be the case that Domitian actually discouraged divine forms of address.91 At the very least, most agree that the imperial cult in the 90s was not being advanced in any new or unprecedented manner,92 and certainly not to the degree it had been under Augustus, Caligula, or Nero.93 Thus, the issue of emperor worship is much like the related problem of persecution. Domitian’s reign simply does not show evidence that either of these practices was unusually rampant to any extent that would lead us to consider his era the prime candidate for the fueling of Revelation, and this is even less tenable vis--vis the legendary rule of Nero.

Important Internal Considerations

Looking at the internal evidence concerning the date of the Book of Revelation, we find several key factors that seem to point to a pre-70 setting. These were in fact the primary reasons that nineteenth-century scholarship advocated an early date. However, there is some internal evidence that has been advanced on behalf of a late date, and this is worth examining as well. We will consider the latter first, especially regarding the condition of the seven churches addressed in the letters. Perhaps more helpful, however, are the issues that follow, namely the identity of the “sixth king” in chapter 17 and the presence of the temple in chapter 11.

    The Condition of the Churches

Some have argued that the descriptions of the churches to which John writes do not fit a setting in the 60s and necessarily call for a much later context. There are basically three evidences that are cited in this vein. The first is that not enough time has elapsed since the churches’ establishment for such complacency and sin to have set in.94 This, of course, is a very subjective argument. How long does backsliding take? On this basis, do we need to reconsider the date of Galatians? What about Corinth?

A more manageable point is raised by some concerning the establishment of the church at Smyrna, which is alleged not to have been set up until after Paul’s death.95 The evidence for this is supposed to be from Polycarp, the second century bishop of that church, who writes, “But I have not observed or heard of any such thing among you, in whose midst the blessed Paul labored, and who were his letters of recommendation in the beginning. For he boasts about you in all the churches—those alone, that is, which at that time had come to know the Lord, for we had not yet come to know him.”96 However, Robinson is quick to note, “[A]s Lightfoot observed long ago, all that Polycarp actually says is that ‘the Philippians were converted to the Gospel before the Smyrneans …’ It is astonishing that so much has continued to be built on so little.”97 In other words, Polycarp adds virtually nothing to the debate.

One final argument that has been advanced from the letters is that the Laodicean church is addressed as a location of affluence, which may be difficult to harmonize with the fact that Laodicea was almost completely decimated by a well-known earthquake around 60–61.98 However, we know from Tacitus that the city took great pride in the fact that it rebuilt itself quite promptly, without even requiring outside funds from the empire.99 Thus, this argument does not carry very much weight either, and even late-date advocates such as Collins can concede, “This bit of evidence is of no help in dating the book.”100

None of these lines of evidence seem to really lead anywhere. The letters to the churches must be concluded to be of little or no value for establishing a late date of the book. The following internal issues, however, may be more useful to the discussion.

    The Sixth King

In chapter seventeen of Revelation, we are told there are “seven kings” (basilei'" eJptav), and while “five have fallen” (oiJ pevnte e[pesan), “one is” (oJ ei|" e[stin).101 This passage has been the subject of much debate. The kings are generally agreed to be Roman emperors, but which seven are in view is a more difficult question. Some writers, struggling to come up with a list that fits their scheme, have preferred to simply consider the list symbolic of pagan world power, not linking the individual kings with any specific emperors.102 This could possibly correct; like the idealist view of the book overall there is nothing to absolutely rule out such a non-specific handling of the text, but many feel this view does not go far enough for the level of detail and style of description given by John.103 This difficulty is highlighted by the Jewish parallels of the period such as Sib. Or. 5:1–50 and 2 Esdras 11–12, which use similar head/king imagery in contexts which are plainly intending specific emperor lists.104

The interpretation that seems most tenable is simply to understand the Caesars to be paraded before us in order in this passage. This has been the most common way to attempt to interpret the passage, but many commentators have struggled to find a list that works. There are two basic issues here. First of all, where do we start counting? Julius was the first Caesar, and appears at the front of the list in several ancient sources.105 However, the empire officially starts with Augustus, and thus some writers begin the list with him.106 Collins has even suggested beginning with Caligula because he was the beginning of the “beastly” Caesars that gave the Jews such difficulty,107 though few have found this scenario persuasive.

Even so, once the beginning point is established, a second problem arises as to whether or not we should include Galba, Otho, and Vitellius due to the brief and rebellious nature of their reigns in between Nero and Vespasian. Swete and others prefer to skip them as inconsequential.108 Obviously, this would shake up the list substantially.

On the matter of where to start, both Julius and Augustus seem viable. The Caligula theory has not won many followers, and being combined as it is in Collins with the omission of the three short-term emperors, it seems perhaps too conveniently structured toward the preservation of an intact backward count from Domitian as the sixth.109 Moreover, “[P]roposals offering reasons for the exclusion of the three brief reigns have not been persuasive to many.”110 All of the ancient lists include them.111

Starting, however, with either Julius or Augustus, the sixth king who “is” at the time of writing is naturally either Nero or Galba, respectively. Either of these cases would imply a setting in the 60s. Even Beckwith concedes, “It requires then a certain degree of arbitrariness to avoid making the sixth king either Nero or Galba.”112 It may be that how one handles the infamous Nero redivivus myth113 at this point with reference to the mortally wounded head in the passage decides which of these two is more likely, but for now we may simply say that this most plausible reading of the text has led many to consider this section to bear clear marks of pre-70 composition.114 Even many late-date advocates concede this, even to the point of taking a source-critical approach to explain it as the inclusion of early material by a Domitian-era editor.115 The employment of such a technique in the debate hints at the fact that we have here a very difficult piece of evidence, one which may point quite strongly to an early date for Revelation.

    The Presence of the Temple

An issue that has for some been determinative of the date is the presence of the temple in 11:1–2. In fact, this argument was the most persuasive issue to most early-date scholars of the nineteenth century.116 For them, it seemed unthinkable that such a passage could be written after the leveling of the temple in A.D. 70 without any mention of the event. It certainly does seem that at the time of writing the Herodian temple is still standing. In fact, most late-date scholars even admit these verses must have been written before 70.117

How then do these scholars continue to hold to Domitianic composition of the book? There are basically two answers here. The primary response has been, once again, to resort to source criticism. Collins goes so far as to attribute the downfall of the early date to the rise of source-critical methods, which gave many scholars a way out, so to speak, of this compelling argument.118 The retort therefore has been to concede the pre-70 writing of 11:1–2, but to then speculate that these verses are simply being incorporated by the Domitian-era author from earlier material. It seems difficult, however, to account for the inclusion of such obsolete material without any updating. This is what Robinson chides as the “resort of commentators to treating anything that will not fit a Domitianic date as the incorporation of earlier material, though (for reasons they do not explain) without subsequent modification.”119 Seams from such use of a source are not visible, and of course if one holds to the unity of the book as a whole, the pull of this evidence is especially difficult to escape.

Another way to respond to this argument has been to treat these verses as merely symbolic, depicting an ideal temple, not the actual Herodian building.120 This seems unlikely however for a couple of reasons. First of all the seer is quite explicit in the book when dealing with heavenly versus earthly realities involving Jerusalem and the temple. In chapter 21 of course we vividly have the New Jerusalem descending from heaven itself to earth, and John is careful to note that within it there is no temple. Similarly, in the very passage in question, chapter 11, we are later given a vision of the heavenly temple, in which the ark of the covenant appears.121

Second, all of this seems to be in contrast with the temple described in 11:1–2, which is to be trampled by Gentiles, and is clearly located in the city of Jerusalem, where the witnesses will prophesy.122 It would seem John is at great pains to identify for the reader the literal, earthly temple in historic Jerusalem.123

One could possibly relate the whole passage to a future, rebuilt temple, but in the context its presence is merely presupposed. Without any informing of a future rebuilding in the text, the author, writing so soon after the Jewish War in a late date paradigm, would have surely confounded his readers. In Gentry’s words, “Where is there any reference to the rebuilding of the Temple in Revelation so that it could be again destroyed? … If there is no reference to a rebuilding of the Temple and the book was written about A.D. 95, how could the readers make sense of its prophecies?”124

While these approaches to the problem are certainly not impossible, they all involve some degree of conjecture for the sake of maintaining late composition, and the most plausible explanation remains that John is speaking of the integrity of the temple in his own day. And if this is the case (and if we find the source-critical pleas unconvincing), then we have a very important piece of evidence pointing to a pre-70 date for Revelation, just as former scholars once widely recognized.

Summary of the Evidence

In light of all the evidence, it seems incredible that so many consider the issue so decisively weighted in favor of Domitianic timing. The two key arguments for this view that are consistently noted by its advocates are the testimony of the church fathers and the grim background of Domitian’s reign. The first of the two, as we have seen, is not the “unanimity” that it is often purported to be, but rather a faade. In reality, it all boils down to the testimony of Irenaeus, which is grammatically ambiguous, and even if translated in the traditional manner remains the word of one writer, and a historically questionable writer at that. Would we really turn the whole matter on the witness of a single voice, let alone a voice that tells us that Jesus lived into his forties? Moreover, as we have also observed, there are many more historical sources that attest to an early date than are usually admitted.

The second argument, that the setting of Domitian’s great persecution of the Church is a more likely context for the writing of the Apocalypse, cannot be defended. In recent decades the academic community has basically discarded the notion of a Domitianic persecution as a myth, and rightly so. The evidence is simply not there, and therefore this argument too is forceless.

On the other hand, certain internal factors we have noted strongly imply a pre-70 date for Revelation, especially the identity of the sixth king who “is” at the time of writing, which can most plausibly be understood as either Nero or Galba, and the present integrity of the temple in Jerusalem in 11:1–2.

But the case for a late date of Revelation is a three-legged stool. While the first two legs are seriously compromised by the actual evidence, we must now consider the third argument, which we have saved due to its relevance to this thesis. This is the question of the identity of the harlot, Babylon. Many scholars use the application of this name to Rome as proof that the work must have been composed after A.D. 70, after Rome, like Babylon, had razed the temple, and several Jewish sources of the period are noted examples of this particular polemic.125 The presupposition that Babylon = Rome in the Apocalypse is of course the very issue that is questioned by this thesis. If this leg is undermined, the stool falls.

For our purposes, it is sufficient to say that the early date is still very much an option; the late date argument cannot be used to preempt the view that Babylon represents Jerusalem from the outset. At the least, the evidence for deciding the date may be considered inconclusive. At most, the evidence may be taken by some (as it has by many prominent names we have above noted) to tilt in favor of a date somewhere in the 60s, before the fall of Jerusalem. The only major question that remains is the subject of this study, the identity of “Babylon,” and to this we now turn.


1 Note, for example, the somewhat reactionary comments of D. A. Carson regarding David Chilton’s preterist commentary on Revelation, The Days of Vengeance: “… Chilton ties his interpretation of the entire book to a dogmatic insistence that it was written before A.D. 70, and that its predictions are focused on the destruction of Jerusalem. Although there are some excellent theological links crafted in this book, the central setting and argument are so weak and open to criticism that I cannot recommend the work very warmly” (D. A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 5th ed. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001], 129.

2 Iain Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 From an Old Testament Perspective,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 64 (1996): 81–100; Eugenio Corsini, The Apocalypse: The Perennial Revelation of Jesus Christ, trans. Francis J. Moloney (Wilmington, DE: Gazier, 1983), 313–40.

3 Adela Yarbro Collins, “Myth and History in the Book of Revelation: The Problem of Its Date,” in Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith, ed. Baruch Halpern and Jon D. Levenson (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1981), 388.

4 Similarly, Gregg (compelled by Gentry’s arguments): “At the very least, the possibility of the early date keeps the preterist approach legitimately in the debate” (Steve Gregg, ed., Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary [Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1997], 18).

5 D. B. Wallace, “John 5,2 and the Date of the Fourth Gospel,” Biblica 71 (1990): 177–205.

6 Cf. Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII, Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vol. 29 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), xxiv–xl.

7 See discussion in Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 3d ed. (London: Macmillan, 1911), clxxvi.

8 Though hesitantly: “The Apocalypse may be before A.D. 70” (C. F. D. Moule, The Birth of Christianity, 3d ed. [San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1982], 174).

9 J. A. Fitzmyer, Review of Redating the New Testament, by J. A. T. Robinson, Interpretation 32, no.3, (July 1978): 309–13.

10 F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (New York: Doubleday, 1969), 411.

11 E. Earle Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents, Biblical Interpretation Series, ed. R. Alan Culpepper and Rolf Rendtorff, vol. 39 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 210–16.

12 J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1976), 221–53.

13 It is an interesting side note that while the discipline of New Testament studies has inclined toward a late date in the past century, modern classicists seem to continue to be persuaded of the earlier date position (See intriguing discussion by Robinson, Redating, 225).

14 J. Christian Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” New Testament Studies 39 (October 1993): 587.

15 Robinson, Redating, 224. Robinson goes on to cite Peake regarding the “remarkable consensus of ‘both advanced and conservative scholars’ who backed it,” (ibid., 225) and even remarks wittily that, “It must have been one of the few things on which Baur and Lightfoot agreed!” (ibid., 225, n. 25)

16 Ibid., 224.

17 J. B. Lightfoot, Essays on the Work of Supernatural Religion (London: Macmillan, 1889), 132 (italics mine), citing the anonymous author of Supernatural Religion.

18 R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John, vol. 1, International Critical Commentary, ed. S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, and C. A. Briggs (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), xci.

19 Swete, Apocalypse, xcix.

20 Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, rev. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 956.

21 For much of this section I am indebted to the detailed study on the matter in Kenneth L. Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, rev. ed. (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1998), 41–109, which provides the most comprehensive survey of the relevant historical sources I have found. In fact, I have found no pertinent testimony cited in the wider secondary literature that is not also examined in Gentry. This does not mean all of his arguments can be fully endorsed, but his work in this area is an invaluable guide for the subject.

22 J. P. M. Sweet, Revelation, Westminster Pelican Commentaries (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1979), 27.

23 Irenaeus 5.30.3 (translation given is that of Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1 [New York: Christian Literature, 1885], 559–60).

24 Eusebius The Ecclesiastical History 3.18.3.

25 So Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 48–57.

26 F. J. A. Hort, The Apocalypse of St. John: I-III (London: Macmillan, 1908), 42.

27 Irenaeus Against Heresies 5.30.1. This is not to deny that the “apocalyptic vision” is also seen/beheld in the preceding line, but simply to point out the legitimate plausibility in this passage of John being the referent.

28 S. H. Chase, “The Date of the Apocalypse,” Journal of Theological Studies 8 (1907):431.

29 Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.22.5 and 3.3.4, although there may be some question as to whether John’s death and the time of his being “seen” in this context (i.e., available to the audience/Irenaeus to preach on the matter) would have been the same thing; in other words, these passages may not be contradictory on this interpretation at all anyway. It should also be added that there is perhaps another curious piece of evidence in his statements elsewhere worth noting. Eusebius records Irenaeus’ words regarding the number of the beast: “As these things are so, and this number is found in all the approved and ancient copies” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, trans. C. F. Cruse [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998], 5:8:5–6). Gentry argues that this implies that to Irenaeus, the writing of the Apocalypse was more than “ancient,” in that many of the copies were to him “ancient,” even though he considers the end of Domitian’s reign “almost in our day.” “Ancient copies” suggests for Gentry at least two, if not more generations of scribal reproduction—i.e., some copies are earlier copies and some are more recent. If we allow time, then, for the Apocalypse to be written, circulated, and copied through multiple scribal cycles so that the earlier ones can be called “ancient,” we might well ask whether Irenaeus would write this way of a work composed less than a hundred years earlier. While far from conclusive, the question is certainly intriguing (see Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 58–59).

However, the term translated here “ancient,” ajrcai'o" has a fairly wide semantic range, stretching from the meaning “[having] existed from the beginning” to merely “old,” or, “for a long time” (Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. Frederick William Danker, 3d ed. [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], s.v. “ajrcai'o"”, 137). In light of this lexical flexibility, it seems hasty to make as much of Irenaeus’ comments here as Gentry would like.

30 Though we may want to be careful how much stock we place in this when we consider Schaff’s judgment that this extant translation employs “barbarous Latin.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 2 [New York: Scribner, 1889], 753) Similarly, Stuart refers to it as “a dead literality” (Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. 1 [New York: Newman, 1845], 119), and the translators of Irenaeus for the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Roberts and Donaldson) claim, “… the Latin version adds to these difficulties of the original, by being itself of the most barbarous character … Its author is unknown, but he was certainly little qualified for his task” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, 311–12).

31 Stuart, Apocalypse, 1:263; Robinson, Redating, 221.

32 G. B. Caird, The Revelation of Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentary, ed. Henry Chadwick (London: Black, 1966), 4.

33 Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.22.5.

34 Ibid., 3.12.14.

35 Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 24.

36 James Moffatt, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in The Englishman’s Greek Testament, vol. 5, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910), 319.

37 Albert A. Bell, Jr., “The Date of John’s Apocalypse: The Evidence of Some Roman Historians Reconsidered,” New Testament Studies 25 (October 1978): 93.

38 Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1883), 237.

39 T. Randell, Revelation, The Pulpit Commentary, vol.22 (London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1909), iv.

40 Adela Yarbro Collins, “Dating the Apocalypse of John,” Biblical Research 26 (1981): 33, 35.

41 It could also be noted that this is very similar to the situation behind the persistent historical testimony to a Semitic language origin of the Gospel of Matthew, a tradition which has likely come down to us as a mere repetition among the church fathers of Irenaeus’ questionable interpretation of Papias (see Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 44–48).

42 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed., New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 16; Charles, Revelation 1:xciii; Swete, Apocalypse, xcix.

43 Clement of Alexandria, Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 42.

44 Origen, Commentary on Matthew 16.6.

45 Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 4.38. Interestingly, this passage also repeatedly describes Nero as a great and wild “beast” (see Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 70). It should also be noted that these quotations of course do not prove Nero is the tyrant in question for Clement or Origen, but they do show that evidence for which emperor would have been regarded as such by early writers is divided at best. “Tyrant” allusions cannot be assumed as referring to Domitian.

46 Lactantius On the Death of the Persecutors 2.2 (translation given is that of William Fletcher in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7 [italics mine]).

47 Clement of Alexandria Miscellanies 7.17 (translation given is that of William Wilson in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2 [italics mine]). The Greek of the last sentence reads hJ de tw'n ajpostovlwn aujtou' mevcri ge th'" Pauvlou leitourgiva" ejpiV Nevrwno" teleiouvtai.

48 Gentry further notes that Clement elsewhere recounts an incident after John’s release from exile in which he allegedly pursued a young apostate on horseback “with all his might” (Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 83–84, with reference to Clement of Alexandria, Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved 42), which might appear unusually vigorous for a man perhaps well into his nineties (in the late-date scenario). Granted, the historicity of the event may not be verifiable, but it is at least clear that Clement believed such. Therefore, for Gentry, harmonizing Clement’s thought at this point is much easier if he was thinking of release from a Neronic banishment. In fact some, such as Ratton, consider this strong evidence that Clement is “a firm believer in the Neronian date of the Book” (J. L. Ratton, The Apocalypse of St. John [London: Washbourne, 1912], 27).

However, this argument seems empty in light of a couple of factors. For one thing, John is described in terms of his advanced age throughout the passage. Moreover, his riding of a horse involves being led by another. This is probably not the striking curiosity Gentry wants it to be.

49 Clement of Alexandria Stromata 1.21.146. Cf. Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), 46.

50 So Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 99.

51 Hort, Apocalypse, xv.

52 See the comments of Stuart, Apocalypse, vol. 1, 272, which reach a crescendo with the claim, “We cannot well come to any conclusion here, than that Origen knew of no way in which this matter [of the “King’s” identity] could be determined.”

53 Charles, Revelation, 1:xciii; Swete, Apocalypse, xcix, c.

54 The passage cited by Charles and Swete climaxes with, “Irenaeus, in his fifth book against the heresies … spoke in the following manner respecting [John]” (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.18 [translation given is that of C. F. Cruse in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, rev. ed., trans. C. F. Cruse (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998)]).

55 Eusebius connects John’s banishment with Peter and Paul’s executions in Evangelical Demonstrations (see discussion by Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 103–4); Jerome repeats Tertullian’s account of John’s torture and banishment, which, as we shall discuss below, is indicative of a Neronic dating of these events. Jerome, however, then ties this tradition to the Domitianic banishment tradition (Jerome Against Jovinianum 1.26).

56 Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 703.

57 George Edmunson, The Church in Rome in the First Century (London: Longman’s Green, 1913), 203–21; Robinson, Redating, 322.

58 Charles, Revelation, 1:xcvii; Many voices of agreement could be noted including Swete, Apocalypse, cx and Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 929.

59 Canon Muratorianus 3 (translation given is that of S. D. F. Salmond in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5).

60 Tertullian The Prescription Against Heretics 36 (translation given is that of Peter Holmes in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3).

61 Jerome Against Jovinianum 1.26.

62 Schaff, History, vol. 1, 428; see also Ellis, Making of the New Testament Documents, 213.

63 Stuart, Apocalypse, vol. 1, 269.

64 Epiphanius Heresies 51.12, 33.

65 Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 956; Moffatt, “Revelation,” 505; Robinson, Redating, 224; Mounce, Revelation, 15, n. 74.

66 Index discipulorum 125.

67 See William Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, vol. 2 (London: Philo, 1871), 55; the references in the Syriac versions of Revelation are given in the title.

68 See discussion in A. R. Fausset, Revelation in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, vol. 2 (Hartford, CT: Scranton, n.d.), 548.

69 Summarizing the same sentiment, Wilson poignantly asks, “Why should we prefer the date of Irenaeus to that in the prefaces of both the Old Syriac versions and also in Theophylact, all three of which ascribe the banishment of John to the reign of Nero?” (J. Christian Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” New Testament Studies 39 [October 1993]: 599). Still, Wilson’s confidence in Theophylact is probably misplaced. His citation here is in reference to the fact that Theophylact states that John was banished thirty-two years after Christ’s ascension, which of course would lead to a date in the 60s. However, Theophylact’s late date (d. 1107) and contradictory statements elsewhere that Revelation was written under Trajan (certainly an anomolous claim!) make him of little use (see Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 108).

70 Collins, “Dating the Apocalypse of John,” 34.

71 Leonard L. Thompson, The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 16.

72 Charles, Revelation, 1:cxv; Swete, Apocalypse, chap. 9; I. T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of St. John: Studies in Introduction with a Critical and Exegetical Commentary (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 204.

73 Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 588.

74 See Charles, Revelation, 1:xcv; Swete, Apocalypse, chap. 9; Beckwith, Apocalypse, 204.

75 Again, this is particularly true of English scholarship. German scholars have tended to default to the evidence of Irenaeus’ quote (Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 588–9), for which, see above.

76 Wilson, “The Problem with the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 588.

77 Dio Cassius Roman History 67.14

78 J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers: Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp: Revised Texts with Introduction, Notes, Dissertations, and Translations (London: Macmillan, 1890), part 1, 1.34–37. It should be noted that the importance of this example cannot be overstated because it is the only specific instance that can be produced of such alleged Domitianic martyrdoms of Christians, and the evidence that it even is an example of this at all is quite scanty.

79 Suetonius Domitian 15.

80 Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 590–91.

81 Ibid., 591; The epitome, by the way, was considered by Cary, translator of Dio’s Roman History for the Loeb Classical Library, to have been made “very carelessly,” apparently involving frequent rhetorical embellishment, (Dio’s Roman History, trans. Earnest Cary, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1 [London: Heinemann, 1914], xxiii).

82 Bell, “The Date of John’s Apocalypse,” 94; Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 591.

83 Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, part 1, 1.61–62.

84 Ibid., pt. 1, 1.104–15.

85 Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.26.7.

86 Collins, “Dating the Apocalypse of John,” 38.

87 John Sweet, “Revelation, The Book of,” in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford, 1993), 653.

88 Thompson, Revelation, 16; to this list of skeptics of a Domitianic persecution could be added Moule, Birth of Christianity, 153; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 374; F. F. Bruce, New Testament History, 412; D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 474; et al.

89 Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 597 (italics mine). The reference to a “perceived crisis” alludes to Collins’ position that, in light of the fact that we know there was no Domitianic persecution, the Apocalypse must have been written under the tension of a “perceived” potential for one (Collins, “Dating the Apocalypse of John”).

90 G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 12; Beale does note, however, that it remains possible that “John may have seen the outbreak of persecution in Rome as the first step of expanding persecutions elsewhere in the Empire.” While plausible, this is of course simply a conjecture. Going further, Gentry actually attempts to demonstrate that there may in fact be some evidence of empire-wide persecution, but his arguments likewise are little more than speculation (see Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 297–98).

91 Wilson, The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 596, citing unspecified evidence from Statius.

92 Note Warden’s blunt statement: “In fact there is no evidence that emperor worship was promoted with any particular fervor during the time of Domitian” (Duane Warden, “Imperial Persecution and the Dating of 1 Peter and Revelation,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34 [June 1991]: 207).

93 See Robinson, Redating, 236–37 for a thorough discussion of the prominence of the imperial cult under the rule of these emperors.

94 Such as that in Rev 2:4–5 and 3:15–19. For this argument, see Beale, Revelation, 15; also, Swete, Apocalypse, c–ci.

95 So Charles, Revelation, 1:xciv; Moffatt, Revelation, 317; et al.

96 Polycarp Philippians 11.3 (translation provided is that of J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer in The Apostolic Fathers, 2d ed., ed. Michael W. Holmes [London: Macmillan, 1891], 128.

97 Robinson, Redating, 229–30; so Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 954; Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 323–24.

98 Mounce, Revelation, 19 represents this approach.

99 Tacitus Annals 14.27.

100 Collins, “Myth and History,” 402.

101 Rev 17:9–10.

102 E.g., Beale, Revelation, 870.

103 See the thorough discussion by Robinson, Redating, 245–49.

104 Ibid., 247. This is of course not conclusive, but must be taken as corroborating evidence.

105 E.g., Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars: the Divine Julius 76; Dio Cassius Roman History 5.

106 Tacitus Annals 1.1 is the most common example, though see Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 154.

107 Collins, “Myth and History,” 389; Collins does point to two other writers who have held to this position, namely, A. Strobel and Lyder Brun.

108 Swete, Revelation, 220.

109 See defense in Collins, “Myth and History,” 389.

110 Beale, Revelation, 873.

111 See Bell, “The Date of John’s Apocalypse,” 99.

112 Beckwith, Apocalypse, 705. In fact, the difficulty of reconciling this phenomenon with a Domitianic date has actually been the catalyst for many scholars to give up on counting “heads” and to simply go instead with the symbolic interpretation; see, e.g., Caird, Revelation, 217–19, who finds it too complicated to harmonize the list with the statement of Irenaeus and proceeds to move to the symbolic solution as the safest alternative. In response to this approach, note the indictment of Robinson, Redating, 247–48: “The contortions to which the commentators have been driven in the interpretation of ch. 17 are I am convinced self-imposed by the ‘discrepancy’, as Beckwith calls it, between the clear statement that the sixth king is now living and what Torrey called their ‘stubborn conviction’ that the book cannot be earlier than the time of Domitian. Drop this conviction and the evidence falls into place” (italics mine).

113 Which, by the way, arose much earlier in the first century than is sometimes asserted (see Bell, “The Date of John’s Apocalypse,” 98; Ellis, Making of the New Testament Documents, 212).

114 Collins in fact admits that she feels the Galba theory makes most sense of the text, but then rejects it outright on the grounds that Galba reigned before 70 and the book could not have been written then. Interestingly, her primary contention for this is the “fact” that chapters 17 and 18 use “Babylon” as a moniker for Rome. This issue will of course be the very point disputed in chapter four of this thesis.

115 E.g., Charles, Revelation, 2:69–70; Arthur S. Peake, The Revelation of John (London: Johnson, 1919), 348. One serious problem with this view is the question of why the later writer would not have updated his source; obviously he would have known which king “now is” in his day.

116 Collins, “Dating the Apocalypse of John,” 36.

117 Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” 604.

118 Collins, “Dating the Apocalypse of John,” 37.

119 Robinson, Redating, 242.

120 E.g., Caird, Revelation, 130–32.

121 Rev 11:19.

122 Rev 11:2–8.

123 So Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 169–74.

124 Ibid., 173–74.

125 Even Beale, otherwise an idealist who prefers trans-temporal interpretation to historical references, argues this as “one of the strongest pieces of internal evidence that the book is to be dated after 70 A.D.” (Beale, Revelation, 25).

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come), Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

Chapter 4: The Evidence For Jerusalem As The Harlot

The case for identifying Jerusalem as the intended referent for the harlot image in Revelation proceeds on several fronts. Some are related to internal evidence throughout the Apocalypse, others involve the background of the rest of Scripture and general thematic emphases of biblical prophecy. But when taken together, I am persuaded that these lines of argument point in one primary direction, as we will see in the following evaluation of the evidence.

Common Objections

The first step in examining the Jerusalem case, if we are to have a fair hearing of the evidence, is to consider the main objections that are offered by opponents to the this view. Of course, the most common is the contention that the Apocalypse was written after A.D. 70 and could therefore not be concerned with a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem. This objection has been thoroughly analyzed in chapter three above, and the arguments related to such need not be repeated here. There are however a few others that warrant deliberation.

Babylon Imagery in Jewish Sources

One of the chief reasons many have contended that Babylon represents Rome in the Apocalypse is the widely recognized fact that a number of Jewish sources use this device to critique Rome.1 Certainly this is not uncommon, and it is understandable that many commentators find this compelling. Moreover, this argument presupposes the understanding that these Jewish writers used such imagery in light of the destruction of the temple, an act first executed by historical Babylon, and later recapitulated by the Romans.2 Of course, tied to this approach is the assumption that the book was written after the second destruction, which is also when all of the aforementioned Jewish instances of this representation for Rome occur.3

Beale takes the argument a step further, noting that there is no example in Jewish literature of the use of the name Babylon for Jerusalem.4 But this particular silence argument seems weak. It is to be expected that the Jews would not apply the name “Babylon” to themselves. Who would?5 It is, in fact, the very unexpected dramatic irony of such imagery that makes John’s use of the label from a Christian perspective so striking and meaningful if Jerusalem is in view.

Beale also points out that Sodom has precedent for being used as a metaphor for Israel,6 but not Babylon.7 But this argument, too, carries little weight. Most of the prophets were written before Babylon had fallen (many before she existed!), the few exceptions being written shortly thereafter.8 Therefore, she naturally would not be used as an ancient fallen enemy of God, the way Sodom or Egypt would. This would have carried about as much thrust of clarity and style as calling Jerusalem “Rome” in the Apocalypse while Rome was still standing. It would have been confusing, and would not follow the precedent of previous prophets.

On the other hand, now that Babylon’s horrific rule had become a distant memory, application of her name to apostate Jerusalem, like the names of Sodom and Egypt, which of course have been used for Jerusalem in this very book,9 would be absolutely appropriate. It would mean Christians were living in exile in the center of heathenism (not even Rome, but God’s adulterous wife!), but they would soon be rescued and vindicated as she was judged by God, just as had happened with Sodom and Egypt before.

There is a further point to be made here regarding the purpose of the Babylon metaphor. As has been said, most scholars understand the connotations of the image to relate to the destroyer of the temple, which would of course not fit Jerusalem. However, Wilson has argued that, while these connotations with Babylon became the major thrust post-70, the focus in earlier writings was on Babylon as the place of exile, the pagan place where God’s people sojourned.10 In this vein, Revelation does not at any point connect Babylon to the temple’s destroyer. The image is only employed in terms of a pagan city that persecutes the saints, out of which God’s true people are to flee. Wilson, in fact, considers this usage more consistent with other pre-70 sources, and thus considers it to be suggestive of an early date for the book.

Whether or not these ideas may be decisively established, it does seem fair to say in light of these issues that the Jewish usage of the name Babylon for Rome, while perhaps worth considering as a useful piece of evidence in favor of the Rome view, does not preclude usage by John with reference to Jerusalem; the task remains for us to consider the corroborating evidence as to which referent is more likely in this context.

Language of Exaltation

A second difficulty with the Jerusalem view for some is the lofty language used by the author of Revelation to describe the city of Babylon, especially in 17:18 which reveals the identity of the harlot as “the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth” (hJ povli" hJ megavlh hJ e[cousa basileivan ejpi tw'n basilevwn th'" gh'"). Most commentators make a very natural move in jumping to Rome as the most obvious candidate, considering the dominance of the empire in John’s day.11 From a sheer political standpoint, this seems very persuasive.

In order to deal with this objection, we must look at the two composite parts of this phrase individually in the light of their literary background within the context of Revelation. The first part, the title “the great city” seems at first glance an odd name to apply to Jerusalem, especially if considered in contrast to the glory of Rome. However, there is much to be said not only in defense, but also in favor of the Jerusalem view at this point from the perspective of historical sources as well a literary-contextual perspective within the bounds of the Apocalypse itself. There is strong precedent, and perhaps even direct indication that this phrase is synonymous with Jerusalem in the book, and such will become a major piece of evidence for our view based on the more elaborate discussion of this specific question below under “‘The Great City’.” If the argument given there about this point stands, we need not discard the Jerusalem view as a reaction to the use of this phrase.12

The second part of the title, “which has dominion over the kings of the earth,” appears to be more difficult. Again, from a sheer political standpoint, this seems to be fairly straightforward. Rome would be an easy choice. Who else “has dominion over the kings of the earth”? Can this be said of Jerusalem in any sense?

Certainly, this is one of the more problematic issues for the Jerusalem view, but a case can be made that this sort of language is not out of line in a context such as this. There is in fact a fairly substantial precedent for similar hyperbolic language of exaltation for the city of Jerusalem in the Old Testament as well other early Jewish sources.13 For instance, in Ps 48:2, Jerusalem is said to be the “exultation of all the earth” (#r,a'h'-lK' fAfm.) because it is the “city of the great king” (br'( %l,m, ty:r>qi). The NET Bible, commenting on this verse, summarizes well: “The language is hyperbolic. Zion, as the dwelling place of the universal king, is pictured as the world’s capital.”14 Ford proposes that Rev 17:18 “is probably a similar hyperbole; cf. 4QLam which describes [Jerusalem] as ‘princess of all nations’.”15 The paradigm undergirding such descriptions is the preunderstanding that as God’s covenantal mediators, it is Israel through whom God exercises His kingly rule. The very fact that Jerusalem is called “the great city”16 at all during a time of pagan occupation shows that the author may be viewing it theologically, not with a political literalism, which would perhaps be out of place in the context of this work.17

In fact, we may have a good indicator within the text of the Apocalypse itself that this type of thinking lies behind the phraseology of 17:18. Specifically, there may be a literary connection with previous usage of this kind of language within Revelation. In 1:5, Christ himself is described as “the ruler of the kings of the earth”(oJ a[rcwn tw'n basilevwn th'" gh'"). The term for ruling authority here is of course a[rcwn rather than basileivan, but the meaning certainly overlaps with 17:18, and it seems likely that an allusion to the same concept or background is intended. In 1:5, the Old Testament text in the background is Ps 89:27,18 which is taken from a thoroughly messianic context. The overtones of the Psalm are overtly related to the implications of the Davidic Covenant, and being placed in the position of authority over the kings of the earth is construed as the messianic role. It seems probable, given the near identical phrasing, that 17:18 hearkens back to 1:5 and its allusion to Christ’s messianic rule. This then puts us at a crossroads. It is possible that this type of language is used at this point in the Apocalypse merely as a dark parody of the rule of Christ as manifest in Roman sovereignty (or whichever referent other than Jerusalem one might prefer). On the other hand, the messianic connotations of this language may narrow the options of what city should be in view here. It is quite plausible that the choice of this messianic terminology is most rightly associated with the messianic city, the place of the Davidic rule.19 It seems to me that this literary link should at least be given due consideration alongside the common reading based on the political atmosphere of the day.20

Once again, there seem to be valid arguments on either side. The point to be made here is simply that there is enough credible evidence for the Jerusalem interpretation even in an apparent problem area such as this that we need not disregard this theory from the outset. The case for the Jerusalem view must still be considered on the merits of the evidence in its favor.

The City on Seven Hills

Advocates of the Rome view have regularly argued that strong, if not conclusive support for their interpretation can be found in Rev 17:9 which describes the “seven hills/mountains” (eJpta o[rh) on which the woman sits. It is beyond dispute that Rome was very commonly called the “city on seven hills” because of its topography.21 A number of references to this in ancient literature could be cited, including, for example, Virgil,22 Horace,23 and Cicero.24 Understandably then, many commentators see this verse as a clear indicator that John is speaking of Rome and doing so in the common language of the day.25 Certainly, it cannot be denied that this is a very significant argument for the Rome view. However, this line of reasoning is not without its problems, and I believe there may be a more suitable understanding of this verse, one that seems to have been largely overlooked by most writers.

One hindrance to an assured link here is the question of how widespread this terminology for Rome really was. Few actually raise this issue, but the truth is that the evidence to which we have access only places this “seven hills” language in the Western Mediterranean regions. As far as whether this usage was familiar in the East, we simply do not know. There just is not any record to indicate this for us.26 It may be hasty therefore to automatically presume that this Roman reference would be the shared understanding in Asia Minor.

It could be added, as Beale observes, that every other occurrence of o[ra in Revelation refers to a mountain, not a “hill,” and this may caution us further against viewing 17:9 as a reference to the “hills” of Rome.27 Certainly, the term can go either way lexically, but within the context of this book, a departure from the “mountain” image evoked elsewhere would be unexpected, and should probably be avoided in our translation if possible. A more likely connection is the association of mountains with the symbolism of power and kings/kingdoms that is to be found in the Old Testament and other Jewish works.28 “Seven,” of course, is often symbolic of completion or perfection, and thus it may be that the seven mountains are best understood from a Jewish mindset as a symbol of completeness of authority, or fullness of royal power.29 Still, in harmony with this imagery there is background material to be considered here that may very well give us insight into which royal power we are dealing with.

As a number of scholars have recognized, the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch bears numerous striking affinities with the Apocalypse of John; several are even persuaded of literary dependence of portions of the Apocalypse upon Enoch.30 Others are more cautious; Bauckham for instance feels we may not have enough evidence to conclusively identify literary dependence on such a work, though the parallels that must be acknowledged at least give clear testimony to traditional imagery that was already prevalent in Jewish culture prior to Revelation.31

The significance of 1 Enoch for our study is that certain passages paint images that are intriguingly similar to Rev 17:9. In 1 Enoch 24–25,32 the writer describes his journey to a certain place on earth where he encounters a great mountain. This great mountain, as the angel Michael explains, is the location of “the throne of God … on which the Holy and Great Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit when he descends to visit the earth with goodness.”33 Furthermore, this place is associated with God’s end-time city-paradise where the elect will find the “fragrant tree” (v. 4) that will give them “fruit for life” (v. 5) in the eschaton, and this tree will be planted “upon the holy place” (v. 5). Clearly, in some sense Jerusalem (albeit in its eschatologically idealized form), or at least the future mountain-throne of Yahweh, is the site being painted with such gloriously vivid language. This passage is in fact regularly cited by commentators for background imagery underlying John’s depiction of the New Jerusalem with its great mountain, throne, and tree of life in Rev 21–22.34

What is not mentioned in these discussions is that the passage also says this great mountain is seated among “seven dignified mountains” (24:2). These “seven mountains” (v. 3) are elaborately described as to their appearance and formation in 24:2–3, and the central, taller mountain of the seven is then revealed as the place of God’s earthly rule (25:3–6).35

In surveying the major commentaries, I have been surprised to find no mention of this passage in connection with Rev 17:9, though it is repeatedly cited as background for the New Jerusalem.36 If this passage of Enoch bears such close resemblance to the Apocalypse, how is it that an apparent reference to Jerusalem sitting on “seven mountains” is ignored? Is this not easily as significant as the typically cited idiom for Rome? Interestingly, Beale references 4 Ezra for more imagery of the restored Jerusalem, and even notes that work’s amplification of “great mountain” imagery to “seven great mountains,”37 yet he makes no connection with the “seven mountains” of Revelation.38 This seems an unfortunate oversight. Nonetheless, this gives a second example in the apocalyptic tradition for portraying the place of God’s future earthly rule (no doubt the idealized Jerusalem) as located among seven mountains.39

Based on this evidence, I do not find the “city on seven hills” argument for Rome to be as persuasive as I once did. It would seem that a very compelling case can be made that the stream of Jewish apocalyptic tradition energizing Revelation more naturally evokes the image of Jerusalem as the city seated on seven mountains in 17:9 than Rome. The view that Babylon is a cipher for Jerusalem in the Apocalypse cannot then be dismissed on the basis of this common objection; not only can it be defended that the evidence of 17:9 can fit Jerusalem, there are strong reasons to believe that it in fact does most properly fit Jerusalem.40

Idolatry after the Exile

It has been argued by some that the element of idolatry in Rev 17–18 strongly militates against the possibility that Jerusalem is being described because Judaism was, in the first century, strictly monotheistic, and never compromised with the idolatry of their pagan neighbors.41 This would seem to make it difficult to maintain that the Jewish leadership is being portrayed as idolatrous at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse, especially when Rome’s rampant idolatry is so historically notorious.

However, we may be missing John’s point if we assume that only literal idols can be the issue in a book full of symbolic polemic. There is in fact very good reason to suppose otherwise when we consider the connotations of idolatry in the book, especially in the letters. There is much to be said here, but for now I would simply note that certain parallels set forth in earlier sections of Revelation strongly imply that the idolatry with which John is concerned is related to the “paganism” of Jewish rejection of Christ and aggravation and persecution of the saints in collaboration with Roman authority. This will be elaborated at some length below under “False Jews and Idolatry,” and if the connection is defensible, the idolatry question should not be seen as an obstacle to the Jerusalem = Babylon position.

Extent of Sea Trade

One final objection commonly leveled against the Jerusalem interpretation of the harlot is the great wealth and extensive sea trade described in chapter 18. This imagery is seen by many to be clearly indicative of Rome (or at least some ideal or future world dominating power) in its sheer vastness.42 Much ink has been spilt over the economic elements of this passage, yet while such discussions are understandable when we consider the extravagant language of the chapter, they may be misguided. Old Testament scholar Iain Provan has recently argued that the form of the passage recalls familiar lament song patterns from the Old Testament tradition, and that the function of the use of this form is to echo God’s past judgment of pagan peoples, rather than highlighting the economic details, which, according to Provan, are likely simply the carry-over of the language of the original songs that are being reused.43 The point of the rhetoric would not be to actually focus on financial abuses, but rather to compare the fall of the city in the present context to the fall of other pagan peoples in the Old Testament. To this end Provan asks poignantly (regarding Rev 18’s list of cargoes), “[D]oes this list signify economic critique of Rome as such, or is it there simply because it is the sort of thing that one finds in biblical laments and dirges?44

Moreover, the especially striking thing about Provan’s article is that in considering the actual contents of the text from this perspective, he finds certain details to have been altered from the original Old Testament source material that is being reapplied. These alterations, he argues, all amend the lament song for Babylon with embellishments that redirect the critique to another city, namely, Jerusalem.45 In fact, whereas many New Testament scholars have found the language of chapter eighteen to be fatal to a Jerusalem reading, Provan (rather than being persuaded to a Jerusalem interpretation on the basis of the literary features of chapter seventeen that compel most advocates of this view), as an Old Testament scholar, is primarily persuaded that Jerusalem is in view precisely because of what he sees at work in John’s crafting of Rev 18, and he argues the case from this evidence.46

If Provan is accurately grasping John’s use of the Old Testament here, then something that has been seen as an obstacle to the Jerusalem view may actually turn out to be a supporting argument for it. Some of the key elements of this proposition will be examined in more detail under the section entitled “Economic critique and Revelation 18,” but the point to be made for this stage of the argument is that it seems fair to say that all of the major objections to seeing Jerusalem in this passage are manageable, at least to varying degrees. Moreover, as we have noted, in several cases a deeper investigation of the issues behind the objections may in fact reveal that these too hint at Jerusalem.

The Case for Jerusalem

It is hoped at this point that at the least a fair case has been made that these more difficult elements of the discussion can be made to fit with the view being proposed by this thesis with a reasonable amount of exegetical credibility. Given thoughtful investigation, none of the objections raised decisively precludes Jerusalem as the harlot of the Apocalypse. The burden of proof still lies on the cumulative evidence that can be used to support this interpretation. Therefore, having surveyed the major solutions that have been proposed for this passage, and having now taken into account the primary objections to the solution proposed by this thesis, the case for Jerusalem will be set forth.

“The Great City”

One of the simplest, yet strongest clues that Jerusalem is to be understood as the harlot of Babylon is that John seems to give the answer away directly to the observant reader in a couple of key places in Revelation. At the end of chapter 17, the interpreting angel tells John the identity of the adulterous woman explicitly: “The woman whom you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth” (hJ gunh h}n eide" e[stin hJ povli" hJ megavlh hJ e[cousa basileivan ejpi tw'n basilevwn th'" gh'"). This phrase “the great city” seems to be set forth with the assumption that the reader knows what city that would be, and the phrase is tossed around several more times in this passage.47 Moreover, the phrase appears to be used quite exclusively in the book of Revelation. Outside of this passage, in which it occurs many times, all of which clearly refer to Babylon, the phrase only appears twice in the rest of this twenty-two-chapter book. The first, and most important occurrence of the designation “the great city” is in 11:8, which reads, “And [the two witnesses’] bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (to ptw'ma aujtw'n ejpi th'" plateiva" th'" povlew" th'" megavlh" h{ti" kalei'tai pneumatikw'" Sovdoma kai Ai[gupto" o{pou kai oJ kuvrio" aujtw'n ejstaurwvqh).48 This verse is extremely significant. In it, we have two major pieces of information relevant to our study.

First, it is all but indisputable that “the great city” as identified here is Jerusalem, “where also their Lord was crucified.”49 This alone sets a powerful precedent for the term before we come to chapters 17 and 18. This term is not used carelessly for many cities in the book, but rather only twice without explicit reference to Babylon. It is hard to imagine this reference not ringing in the ears of the original audience when they would arrive at 17:18. It would easily be the most natural step, if a somewhat shocking one.

Secondly, the writer also sets a precedent for using metaphorical names for Jerusalem, specifically names of Israel’s ancient enemies. This tells us two things: we should not be surprised if he does it again, and Jerusalem is being painted in a very negative light in Revelation.

A similar occurrence of the phrase “the great city” is found in 16:19, where again we have a vital clue to the identity of the harlot who appears later. The verse reads, “And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell” (kai ejgevneto hJ povli" hJ megavlh eij" triva mevrh kai aiJ povlei" tw'n ejqnw'n e[pesan). The key point to be made here is that “the great city” is apparently contrasted with “the cities of the nations.” It could be that the great city is merely one of the cities of the nations, but it seems more likely that the two are to be distinguished; we are not told that the other cities of the nations fell, just that the cities of the nations fell, as distinct from the great city. As Ford comments, “The juxtaposition of this phrase with the ‘cities of the nations’ suggests that it is not a Gentile location, such as Rome.”50 This also becomes more probable in light of the lexical ambiguity of the Greek. For neutrality’s sake, the translation given above has simply rendered tw'n ejqnw'n “of the nations.” In Greek, of course, the term may be translated either in this manner or more specifically as “of the Gentiles.” The NET Bible notes this as an alternative translation, and if we take this option, the text is even more telling. In this case “the great city” would be juxtaposed against “the cities of the Gentiles.” In light of the last use of “the great city,” in which it was identified as the place “where also their Lord was crucified,” this does not seem unlikely. What makes this especially significant for our present study is that this verse may bridge the gap between 11:8 and 17:18 in that the remaining portion of 16:19 fills out the image of this “great city” by identifying it explicitly as Babylon.

In addition, this interpretation can be further validated by the Old Testament background of the city’s fate in this passage. As several commentators have recognized, the splitting of the city into three parts seems to echo Ezek 5:1–5 in which God has the prophet divide his hair into three parts as a depiction of coming judgment upon a city, specifically, the desolation of Jerusalem, which will occur in thirds.51 Taking together the precedent of Rev 11:8, the contrast with the cities of the nations/Gentiles, and the background of Ezek 5, we have very compelling reasons to think 16:9, like 11:8, may be referring to Jerusalem as “the great city.” Not only that, “the great city” is here also clearly connected to the name “Babylon.” Again, these are the only two references to “the great city” in the book before we get to chapter 17. There is no other “great city” to be found in the Apocalypse, no other precedent to follow. If Jerusalem is not the harlot, it is worth asking at this point why John, who uses the phrase “the great city” so colorfully in chapters 17 and 18 has been so uncareful as to let it slip at two other places in the book, both of which would likely lead one to see Jerusalem as God’s enemy, if not Babylon itself.52

One other similar phenomenon occurs in chapter 14, in which “the winepress was trodden outside the city” (ejpathvqh hJ lhno" e[xwqen th'" povlew" [14:20]). Almost all interpreters identify this city as Jerusalem53 (due to the grapes/vine imagery that is so commonly associated with Israel in the Old Testament54), yet the only “city” mentioned thus far in the chapter is “Babylon the great” (Babulwn hJ megavlh) in verse 8. The identification seems to be taken for granted. If this is the case, then all three passages in the book that anticipate the revealing of “the great city” in chapters 17 and 18 can be said to be evocative of, if not indicative of Jerusalem, and this necessarily sets a powerfully consistent motif in the mind of the reader by the time these later chapters are encountered.

Her Adornment

When we examine chapters 17–18, one striking feature of the image of the harlot we see emphasized is her adornment. She is arrayed in “purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (porfurou'n kai kovkkinon kai kecruswmevnh crusivw/ kai livqw/ timivw/ kai margarivtai" [17:4; 18:16]). As Beale observes, this combination of words in the Greek is identical to the LXX description of the high priest’s garments.55 In other words, the city is being represented as having the role of high priest, or at least an association with the Jewish priestly system. Certainly Jerusalem is the most natural referent.56 It is also interesting to note a comment by Josephus that the veil covering the temple gate (which was over 80 feet high and 24 feet wide) was “a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen [cf. Rev 18:16], and scarlet, and purple.”57 There may be no connection—the LXX reference is a stronger link—but it is not unreasonable to wonder if this could possibly have been in the mind of John at the time of the writing of Revelation. Regardless, the high priestly nature of Jerusalem seems to be the point of this attire.

Harlotry in the Prophets

One of the most important issues in this discussion is the meaning of harlotry in prophetic literature. The woman in Rev 17 and 18 is depicted as “the great harlot … with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication” (th'" povrnh" th'" megavlh" . . . meq j h|" ejpovrneusan oiJ basilei'" th'" gh'" [17:1–2]), “the mother of harlots” (hJ mhvthr tw'n pornw'n [17:5]), and related images. Her fornications are the reason for her judgment (ch. 18). This theme cannot be overemphasized. In the Old Testament prophets, the imagery of a people or city committing adultery, or being labeled a harlot, is consistently a reference to covenant unfaithfulness.58 A multitude of passages in various prophetic books use the harlotry theme to condemn Israel for her sin.59 In fact, of the many passages that illustrate this constant theme, the only two exceptions to Israel being the referent are two prophecies against Tyre60 and Nineveh61, both of which had formerly been in covenant with Yahweh.62

The point here is too consistent to be overlooked: one cannot commit adultery against God if one is not married to God. It is difficult to conceive of any city other than Jerusalem that would be described as the covenant-breaking harlot in Revelation, especially in light of the dozens of times she has been given this appellation already throughout the Old Testament.63 It would be highly unprecedented to expect another referent. Over and over again in biblical prophecy, Israel is the harlot.64 This issue becomes all the more striking when we recognize that a great deal of the substance of Revelation comes from John’s reapplication of the contents of Ezekiel,65 a work which is consumed largely with the prediction of Jerusalem’s approaching destruction because of her great adultery, which is followed by a vision of the New Jerusalem. The connection is not insignificant.

Lastly, on this point, it is worth noting that the call for the harlot to be repaid “double according to her deeds” (ta dipla' kata ta e[rga aujth'" [18:6]) is used in the Old Testament only against God’s people, Israel.66 The Old Testament image of the doom of Babylon has been conflated with language from the prophetic tradition against Jerusalem. Moreover this is no anomaly—this is a common pattern throughout the entire section.

Her Forehead

“And upon her forehead a name was written a name, a mystery, ‘Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth’” (kai ejpi to mevtwpon aujth'" o[noma gegrammevnon, musthvrion, Babulwn hJ megavlh, hJ mhvthr tw'n pornw'n kai tw'n bdelugmavtwn th'" gh'" [17:5]). The writing of this title on the woman’s forehead seems to hearken back primarily to two Old Testament texts, both of which are incriminating for Jerusalem as the harlot. The most obvious is Jer 3:3,67 in which God says of Israel, “You had a harlot’s forehead” (%l' hy"h" hn"Az hV'ai). The other is Exod 28:36–38, in which the high priest’s cap (which, as Beale observes, is also made of some of the same materials as the high priest’s garment discussed above68) is to have written on it “Holy to the LORD” (hw")hyl;( vd,qO). This gives stark contrast to the figure wearing the priestly colors in Revelation, whose forehead bears the title “mother of harlots.” Regardless of which passage is the greater influence here, both seem to point in the same direction.69

On the other hand, it is commonly claimed that the forehead writing here is to be associated with the Greco-Roman culture of the day, in which prostitutes are said to have worn headbands with their names on them.70 However, the evidence for this practice is less than scanty, and several scholars are now questioning its occurrence altogether.71 Nevertheless, even if this custom could be tied to history, should it really be considered a more likely background for the imagery than the Old Testament precedent of Jer 3:3? This Old Testament source is especially significant in light of the fact that, in the succinct words of Beagley, “Jeremiah soon afterwards warns faithless Judah that, dressed in scarlet as she was, her lovers have turned upon her and are now seeking to kill her.”72 Read in concert with the gruesome turn of events in Rev 17:16, in which the beast and the ten horns turn on their mistress the harlot and destroy her, this passage gives us several strong links to Jerusalem.

False Jews and Idolatry

In the Old Testament passages regarding harlotry, often idolatry is a large part of the “spiritual adultery,” and this seems to belong to the images of compromise with the nations and being involved with “unclean things” and “abominations” in Rev 17 and 18 as well.73 As we discussed before, some have therefore objected to the Jerusalem view on the basis that first-century Judaism was not given to idolatry, and did not compromise with Rome.74 This, however, overlooks certain factors.

For several reasons, “idolatry” as a concept should perhaps not be too concretely limited in this context. Chapters 2–3 in fact may give us something of a hint of the kind of “idolatry” that is plaguing many of the churches of John’s day. The letters to the seven churches are often noted for their literary crafting, which probably reflects quite a bit of subtle theological design, rather than merely epistolary form and content.

For instance, it is likely that the letters serve to introduce many of the themes of the book, and they also clearly form a chiastic pattern.75 Moreover, it has been argued that the individual letters follow the so-called “covenant” form of ancient Near Eastern treaties, much like the Book of Deuteronomy.76 These features are mentioned here simply to highlight the point that we ought not be surprised to find theological motifs being hinted at in these passages, both structurally and symbolically. There is, in other words, legitimate reason to not view these letters as mere letters.

The significance of this observation for the present discussion is that the theme of idolatry is certainly very important in the seven letters,77 and we may find subtle hints in this section of John’s connotations for the concept. Specifically, there are parallels between the heresies condemned in the letters that have been regularly recognized by commentators, parallels, in fact, that are so close that these heresies are generally considered to be the same idolatrous teaching under different names, at least in the cases of the Nicolaitans, the Balaamites, and Jezebel.78 Moreover, it is instantly recognizable that the latter two echo names of Old Testament figures, and should therefore automatically strike a chord with us that there is perhaps some form of intentional symbolism being implied. As far as the Nicolaitans, few commentators have been able to find a satisfactory connection as to the identity of these aggravators.79 However it is often noted that part of the reason the Nicolaitans and the Balaamites should be so closely identified is the similar etymology of their names, which is related to one who “overcomes/consumes the people.”80 It may be that the name of the Nicolaitans is based on a Greek translation of Balaam’s name. Regardless of whether that oversimplifies the matter, the semantic connection here that parallels with the heretical connection gives further justification for supposing we may be dealing with the same problematic teaching, which is then recapitulated in Jezebel.

Moreover, the two Old Testament characters utilized here happen to be a false prophet and a harlot, two roles that will be played by villainous figures in later chapters of the Apocalypse.81 If valid, this connection seems fairly significant, in that it may mean the letters are subtly introducing the themes that will later be developed in the rest of the book, and this type of structuring and theological insinuation would certainly not be out of character with the multi-layered literary sophistication we find pervading the book. 82

There is, however, one other key worker of evil in the Apocalypse, the driving force behind the entire iniquitous drama—the Serpent, Satan himself. In perfect harmony with the pattern above, Satan too is revealed in the letters, especially in the letter to Pergamum. This city is depicted as the place where Satan has his throne, and there too, the people are plagued by the teachings of the Balaamites and Nicolaitans. The idolatry into which these teachers are leading the people is tied to the hidden forces of the Dragon, who is working the whole wicked scheme from behind the curtains. In fact, he is not only working in these contexts that appear to be what we would consider blatant idolatry, he is also rearing his scaly head in two other places in the letters. In the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia, we are told of a sinister “synagogue of Satan” (sunagwgh tou' satana'),composed of “those who call themselves Jews and are not” (tw'n legovntwn jIoudaivou" ei ai eJautou" kai oujk eijsivn).83 The language of being a “synagogue of Satan” quickly declares one thing: the Judaism in view is considered paganism. While purporting to be the worship of Israel, it has become idolatry; these are not “true” Jews. This then gives us a remarkable precedent for the meaning of idolatry and pagan worship in Revelation. Especially when we consider the fact that the Satanic teaching in all of the other church contexts was essentially synonymous, it is quite possible that apostate Judaism is here being given the connotations of idolatry, in keeping with the parallels in the other letters, and this sets the stage for later stark portrayals of non-Christian Judaism such as Rev 11:8.

Naturally, the “paganism” of which these false Jews are guilty cannot be separated from interaction with Rome. If the basic contention of this thesis is correct and the Babylon of chapters 17–18 represents apostate Jerusalem, then chapter 18 certainly links much of her sin to compromise with other nations. Similarly, chapter 17 focuses on the harlot’s riding of the beast, using its authority to persecute the saints and commit sin. This depiction, while quite disturbing, would be very appropriate from John’s perspective for those who are working with Roman power to persecute the followers of Christ.

Furthermore, the Jerusalem leadership was certainly guilty of the ultimate pagan compromise with Rome, the rejection and crucifixion of Christ Himself. This would more than qualify as sufficient basis for seeing Jerusalem as having committed adultery with Rome’s paganism, and as having rejected the true God. No doubt this event would have left a permanent impact on John’s view of Jerusalem as one who makes illicit ties with an idolatrous nation for her own rebellious gain.84

Economic Critique and Revelation 18.

As we have discussed above, certain elements of chapter 18 are often seen as troublesome for a Jerusalem connection to Babylon, especially the vast nature of the sea trade described and the overall economic power and influence. In fact, in the beginning stages of compiling the research for this thesis, I must admit that I found this problem quite difficult to handle as well, and wondered if there was a reasonable response to this objection at all. While other evidences seemed quite persuasive for the Jerusalem view, this questioned appeared at least as of yet unanswered, if not unanswerable.

For this reason I am quite indebted at this point to the work of Old Testament scholar Iain Provan, whose article mentioned above, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 From an Old Testament Perspective,” has been a welcome source of insights. For Provan, the complex language of Rev 18 is not only not a hindrance to a Jerusalem perspective, it is one of the strongest arguments for it. Provan’s contention throughout is that it is a false assumption that the detail of imagery present in a passage such as this must be taken at face value in all its particulars as a literal description of the situation of the day when the language being employed is clearly a reapplication of a major portion of an Old Testament text. His reason for believing this is related to his own study in the area of traditional “lament songs,” which informs his understanding of the use of such language in this passage.85 Clearly the “lament” form is at work in Rev 18, as is plain from the fact that much of the content is taken from a previous lament for Tyre found in Ezek 26–28 (combined of course with OT oracle language against Babylon, the namesake of Revelation’s “great city”). The use of such a traditional form is significant to Provan, who notes, “[I]t is not simply Old Testament language and imagery which has shaped Revelation 18, but also the very form and structure of Old Testament texts—the very manner in which they have been composed.”86

The general point that is relevant here is whether we should look for historical reference for each detail of such a reapplication of imagery, or whether the function of the imagery is more properly to provide an echo of the form traditionally used when a city such as Tyre falls from a great height. For instance, regarding the vivid list of cargoes given by John (18:12-13), Provan asks, “[D]oes this list signify economic critique of Rome as such, or is it there simply because it is the sort of thing that one finds in biblical laments and dirges?”87 In other words, if the author is employing Old Testament language to express the fall of a city or people in familiar prophetic terms, can we be sure we have warrant to read the language as (for the author) contemporarily literally applicable? Again, “How can one say [as Bauckham does] that the presence of wheat on John’s list [of cargoes] shows how the general population of Rome survived only at the expense of the rest of the empire, when wheat appears on the very list in Ezek 27 that provides the basis for John’s list?”88 No doubt the details could correspond, but the fact that they are employed rhetorically for their connotations with the fall of arrogant enemies of God in the Old Testament calls us to consider hermeneutical questions of whether the language demands historical correspondence, or is rather subservient to the driving point of the severity of the fall of a people judged by God. The point may simply be, “You, ‘Babylon,’ are tragically fallen just as Tyre and historical Babylon before you.”89 This is certainly the great thrust of the passage; whether or not there is reason to seek application for all of the details is an area that must be admitted to involve some degree of ambiguity. Caution seems quite justified, however, when we recognize the fact that the details cannot even be made to comfortably fit Rome (for most, the necessary referent of the passage) with consistent literalism either, considering it was not a major seaport or trading city.90

However, the argument of Provan’s article is not merely that we ought not get caught up in the details of material that is being structurally appropriated for a rhetorical point. The issue that catches his eye is the fact that at many points, the author of Revelation does not leave the reapplied language in its original form, but instead subtly alters it. It is these fresh literary features, not the details imported from a previous context, that may be of most use to us for tracking with John’s thought. It is these areas in which he has not merely compared the present villain to previous ones, but has added original critique to the message, and has perhaps hinted at the identity of his antagonist.91

Examples of this phenomenon noted by Provan include the addition of chariots to Ezekiel’s cargo list (quite likely an import from the list of goods in 1 Kgs 4, which subtly reminds the Old Testament audience of Solomon’s disregarding of the former command not to widely accrue horses and chariots in Deut 17:16),92 the language of the “clinging” of the harlot’s sins (the term kollavw, having LXX covenant language connotations, being added to a Babylon oracle [v. 5]),93 the use of an Old Testament oracle against Judah and Jerusalem in verses 23–24 in the middle of borrowed Tyre lament language,94 the double recompense (in the Old Testament, only ever used against Israel) warning of verse 2 in the middle of Babylon allusions, and a number of echoes of passages from Lamentations reflecting on Jerusalem’s fall.95

The point of this sampling is simply to show that it is quite plausible that what the author is doing here is adapting an Old Testament lament song for his own purposes by invoking Jerusalem judgment language at various points, thereby redirecting the reader to the true identity of this harlot. Whether this evidence on its own is as noteworthy as the precedent of Rev 11:8, the attire of the woman, or the charge of adultery is up for discussion. But the cumulative evidence of the use of the Old Testament in chapter 18 was at least enough to get one Old Testament scholar’s attention.

The Origin of This Image

As we have said before, we do not necessarily have to find any previous instance of Jerusalem being called Babylon outside of Revelation in order to take this possibility seriously here—it could simply have originated with John’s vision. But there is perhaps more that can be said on this issue. Is John truly without precedent in this application of imagery? If this proposal had already existed in early Christianity, we would certainly have a much stronger case that this is John’s intention. And, in fact, I think a case can be made that such a precedent can be found for equating Babylon with Jerusalem; moreover, the precedent is drawn from one of John’s most substantial influences, the teaching of our Lord Jesus Himself.

In the Olivet Discourse, Christ prophetically warns of Jerusalem’s impending doom. Even among those who prefer to keep preterism at a distance it is generally a universal recognition that at least some of Jesus’ words apply to A.D. 70. The point worth noting here is that while it is obvious that much of Jesus’ language alludes to the Old Testament, it may not be as obvious what many of the allusions have in common. Specifically, N. T. Wright has extensively argued that much of the discourse is heavily dependent upon prophecies of the destruction of one particular enemy of the people of God: Babylon.96 This is especially true of the warnings for the people of God to flee the city when her judgment has come, which eerily echo the “Come out from her!” passages of Jeremiah.97

Beagley likewise sees this motif underlying the discourse, and approvingly notes van der Waal’s suggestion that Christ is specifically applying Jer 51:45 (concerning Babylon) to Jerusalem.98 The scenario we may have on the Mount of Olives, then, is this: Christ warning of impending judgment, warning the people of God to escape when they can, and pronouncing Old Testament prophecies directly against Jerusalem, when these prophecies were known to originally apply to Babylon. In Wright’s words, “Luke’s reading of Mark is quite clear: all this language refers to the fall of Jerusalem, which is to be understood against the background of the predicted destruction of Babylon.”99 If this is correct, the paradox must have been truly shocking. One can imagine the disciples’ absolute astonishment as they began to realize the horrifically ironic implications of Jesus applying these words to their great city. “He’s calling Jerusalem Babylon!” perhaps quickly became an uncomfortable whisper among the men. Again, Wright remarks, “Here … is the all-important change of roles. Jerusalem has become Babylon; Jesus and His disciples have become Jerusalem,” and, “The new Babylon was to be destroyed in an instant, and flight was the only appropriate action, the only way of salvation for Jesus’ renewed Israel.”100

If such a reconstruction is valid, we must take seriously the impact this event would have had on John’s thinking.101 If this interpretation is correct, then John would not be inventing the “Jerusalem has become Babylon” theme. Rather, it would have originated with Jesus. In composing the Apocalypse, John’s use of this imagery would be a natural retelling of Jesus’ own teaching. And, of course, many have noted the point that much of Revelation seems to simply be a reworking of the Olivet Discourse.102 It would be of no surprise, then, if this metaphor reappeared with more vivid narration. Not to mention the fact that if much of Revelation truly is, to whatever extent, a rehashing of Olivet themes, then Jerusalem’s impending judgment, an important emphasis of the discourse, has a high probability of being a primary theme in the Apocalypse as well. Indeed, it would perhaps be somewhat surprising if this were not so.

It seems, then, that a very plausible scenario can be constructed out of which John would have likely produced the depiction of Jerusalem as the enemy Babylon. This certainly does not prove that such must be the case, but it does give some roots of credibility to the hypothesis.

The Blood of the Saints and Prophets

One of the most important themes in Revelation that seems to have been drawn from Jesus’ prophetic warnings in the gospels is that “in her [Babylon] was found the blood of the prophets and saints and all who have been slain upon the earth” (18:24).103 This is almost unmistakably a reference to Jesus’ words found in Matthew 23:34–35: “… I am sending to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, so that upon you might fall all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.”104 Likewise, Luke 11:50–51: “… in order that the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world may be required from this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary; yes, I say to you, it will be required of this generation.”105

While Rome certainly had her hands stained with Christian blood, as Gentry points out they could not be charged with the death of the Old Testament prophets,106 especially in light of Jesus’ direct charge to Jerusalem that she will be held responsible. Again, if we can suppose John’s dependence upon Christ’s prophetic teachings, then Jerusalem must be most appropriately understood as the guilty party indicted in Rev 18:24.

Her Desolation by the Beast

Another point that should not be overlooked is how well Jerusalem fits into the picture of Babylon’s fate at the hands of the beast. Here the Rome view runs into great difficulty because of the fact that the beast is viewed by just about everyone as having some link to Rome.107 But in chapter 17, the beast and the harlot not only interact, the beast even hates and destroys the harlot. This prompts Beagley to ask, “[I]n what sense can it be said that the Empire or one specific Emperor turns against the capital city and destroys it? How can Rome destroy Rome?108 On the one hand, this probably overstates the issue, in that Nero’s apparent role in the fire at Rome (A.D. 64) could fit this image quite reasonably.109 But while this approach cannot be dismissed outright, it may not do sufficient justice to the distinction between the two characters.

If, however, Jerusalem is the harlot attacked by beastly Rome, the imagery in 17:16 makes obvious sense: “… the beast … will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will devour her flesh and will burn her up with fire.” This certainly fits perfectly against the backdrop of the Olivet Discourse,110 and sounds very much like a reference to the events of A.D. 70. Interestingly, Beale gives lengthy treatment to the dependence of the imagery in this verse upon Old Testament descriptions of Jerusalem’s impending destruction, yet stops short of granting what might seem to be the natural implications of this phenomenon:

The portrayal of the harlot’s desolation is sketched according to the outlines of the prophecy of apostate Jerusalem’s judgment by God in Ezek. 23:25-29, 47: “your survivors will be devoured by the fire … they will also strip you of your clothes … and they will deal with you in hatred … and leave you naked and bare. And the nakedness of your harlotries will be uncovered … they will burn their houses with fire.” Likewise, Ezek. 16:37-41 prophesies against faithless Israel: “I will gather together all your lovers with whom you have consorted … they will break down your house of harlotry…and they will leave you naked … they will burn your houses with fire.” … The Ezekiel picture is supplemented by similar OT descriptions of Israel’s coming judgment, which prophesy that God “will strip her naked and … make her desolate” (Hosea 2:3; cf. also Jeremiah 10:25; 41:22 LXX; Micah 3:3 …).111

Note the consistency of the application of this language to apostate Israel. It seems difficult to imagine the weight of this background not giving the original readers the sense that Jerusalem is the city being made desolate in 17:16, especially if the aggressor is understood to be Rome.112

Milligan solemnly elaborates:

[I]t is difficult not to think that there was one great drama present to the mind of the Seer and suggestive of the picture of the harlot’s ruin, that of the life and death of Jesus. The degenerate Jewish Church had then called in the assistance of the world-power of Rome, had stirred it up, and had persuaded it to do its bidding against its true Bridegroom and King. An alliance had been formed between them; and, as a result of it, they crucified the Lord of glory. But the alliance was soon broken; and, in the fall of Jerusalem by the hands of her guilty paramour, the harlot was left desolate and naked, her flesh was eaten, and she was burned utterly with fire.113

New Jerusalem/Old Jerusalem (or The Bride Versus the Harlot)

Finally, a consideration of a general theme of the Apocalypse may serve to bookend the evidence on this matter quite neatly, particularly that of the contrast between Babylon and the New Jerusalem of chapter 21. Revelation is full of “yin/yang” style contrasts, including the Lamb versus the Dragon, the Father’s name versus the beast’s name on people’s foreheads, and, here, the image of the bride versus the harlot, or, New Jerusalem versus Babylon.114 As was mentioned before, it is not a great leap from the apparent background of Jeremiah 3 (which includes Yahweh’s “divorcing” of Israel for harlotry) in our Babylon passage to the estimation that the harlot in Revelation is being dismissed by God as an unfit wife for Christ. There is clearly a deliberate literary contrast present between the bride of chapter 21 and the harlot of chapters 17–18 in the language of their respective (and closely parallel) introductions, characterizations, and environments.115

As we have already noted, Jerusalem’s rejection of her Messiah, who had come as her husband, sets the stage for the Messiah to take another bride. And if this new bride is called the “New” Jerusalem, a likely corollary is that the former, unfaithful woman was the Old Jerusalem.116 This ties the two sections together perfectly and logically, and suddenly creates a very natural harmony of purpose and flow of thought for the Apocalypse in broad strokes. Simply stated, it makes much sense of the book.

This, then, is the bulk of the evidence for the Jerusalem view, evidence which I think is highly significant. Certain points may be stronger than others, but overall I think their cumulative weight warrants careful consideration.


1 Cf. 4 Ezra 3:1–2, 28–31; 2 Apoc Bar 10:1–3; 11:1; 67:7; Sib. Or. 5:143159–60.

2 See Adela Yarbro Collins, “Myth and History in the Book of Revelation: The Problem of Its Date,” in Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith, ed. Baruch Halpern and Jon D. Levenson (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1981), 388; also, G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 19.

3 Although, see E. Earle Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents, Biblical Interpretation Series, ed. R. Alan Culpepper and Rolf Rendtorff, vol. 39 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 211, who argues for first-century B.C. examples of this association from Pss. Sol. 8.15 and 1QpHab 2.

4 Beale, Revelation, 25.

5 Perhaps the Qumran community, as a counter-temple movement, could be the exception and a possible candidate to use such language against Jerusalem, but of course their not doing so proves nothing for us. It is interesting to note, however, that they do frequently treat Jerusalem in harlotry language. The consistent application of this terminology in line with OT usage was in fact one of the decisive arguments for Ford, who makes much of the Qumran evidence for her Babylon = Jerusalem case (J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vol. 38 [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975], 276–307).

6 Isa 1:10; 3:9; Jer 23:14; Ezek 16:44–58.

7 Beale, Revelation, 25. Interestingly, Beale also speaks of precedent for Israel being referred to as Egypt (ibid.), but all of the passages he cites (all of which are listed in n. 6, above) are examples of the Sodom language. In fact, I know of no passage in the OT that uses Egypt in this way (cf. Ford, Revelation, 172; David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation [Tyler, TX: Dominion, 1987], 281). Beale’s apparent oversight here is interesting because of the fact that Rev 11:8 uses both Sodom and Egypt with reference to Jerusalem. If John can use Egypt for Jerusalem without precedent, why not Babylon? This seems to more or less cancel out Beale’s argument.

8 Even if Daniel is taken to be late, it is written from the perspective of the Babylonian era.

9 Cf. Rev 11:8.

10 J. Christian Wilson, “Babylon as a Cipher for Rome and the Dating of Early Jewish and Early Christian Documents,” unpublished paper read at the 1994 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, cited in Beale, Revelation, 19. Apparently, Wilson has surveyed OT, LXX, DSS, and Pseudepigraphal sources. Beale questions the strength of Wilson’s handling of the background sources, but no explicit counter-evaluation is given (ibid.).

11 So Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 3d ed. (London: Macmillan, 1911), 226; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed., New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 221; G. B. Caird, The Revelation of Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. Henry Chadwick (London: Black, 1966), 216-17; et al.

12 In preview, I would simply note there are very telling uses of this phrase, as well as the similar, shortened title “the city,” in three other locations in Revelation, specifically 11:8, 14:20, and 16:19, all of which imply, if not require a Jerusalem association.

13 E.g., Ps 48:2; Isa 2:2–3; Lam 1:1; 2:15; Mic 4:1–2; Gen R. 23:10; Exod R. 23:10; also, Matt 5:35; so Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 443; Kenneth L. Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation, ed. C. Marvin Pate (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 74.

14 The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2001), 956, n. 11.

15 Ford, Revelation, 285. See also the thorough discussion of this tendency in Jewish thought by Hans Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1–59: A Commentary, trans. Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Ausburg, 1988), 127–28. Kraus argues heavily that ancient Jews saw the world, even in times of oppression, as under the rulership of the Davidic dynasty, because God had chosen Israel and established Jerusalem as His world’s capital.

16 As it is in Rev 11:8.

17 It could also be pointed out that there is strong precedent for the use of the title “the great city” for Jerusalem in several ancient Jewish sources, especially Jer 22:8; Sib. Or. 5.154, 226, 413; cf. Josephus Against Apion 1.197, 209. This is certainly not conclusive, but rather corroborative, especially considering the fact that Rome also receives the title in some writers (e.g., b. Pesahim 118b; Pesikta Rabbati 14).

18 This is clear from the connection between the “kings of the earth” and “firstborn” language.

19 In support of this possibility we may note that the language here employed is only applied in Revelation to Christ and the great city.

20 It might be objected that it would be contradictory for Jerusalem to be simultaneously portrayed as both glorious and adulterous. But this is where the brutal irony of the rhetoric lies. Though God has declared her His world capital and wife, she has played the harlot. She has been established as the queen, but her sins have caught up with her, and she will reap the consequences (For more on this, see below, “Harlotry in the Prophets”). Similarly, Lamentations paradoxically calls her “princess of the provinces” (tAnydIM.B; ytir'f') in a passage indicting her for fornication (Lam 1:1–2), and Jeremiah calls her “great city” (hl'AdG>h; ry[il') in a passage about her judgment (Jer 22:8).

21 See Caird, Revelation, 216; Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1993), 395.

22 Virgil Georgics 2.535.

23 Horace Carmen Saecularae 7.

24 Cicero ad Atticum 6.5.

25 E.g., Mounce, Revelation, 315; Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. 2 (New York: Newman, 1845), 325; Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 203; Caird, Revelation, 216; Bauckham, Climax, 395.

26 See A. J. Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse with Particular Reference to the Role of the Church’s Enemies (New York: de Gruyter, 1987), 103.

27 Beale, Revelation, 868.

28 E.g. Isa 2:2; Jer 51:25; Dan 2:35, 45; Targ. Isa 41.15; et al.

29 So Beale, Revelation, 868–9; Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1898), 431; J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming (London: Unwin, 1887), 491–2.

30 E.g., R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John, vol. 1, International Critical Commentary, ed. S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, and C. A. Briggs (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), lxv, lxxxii–iii; Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, rev. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 967.

31 Bauckham, Climax, 39.

32 I owe this reference to Eric B. Sowell, who graciously pointed it out to me, having rightly recognized its great relevance to this thesis.

33 1 Enoch 25.3 (translation given is that of E. Isaac in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983], 26).

34 E.g. Caird, Revelation, 270; Ford, Revelation, 345; Beale, Revelation, 1065.

35 Cf. also 18.6; 32; 77.5.

36 Mounce actually does mention the seven mountains of 1 Enoch, but only in the context of the New Jerusalem. He makes no connection to 17:9 at all (Mounce, Revelation, 389).

37 4 Ezra 2.19.

38 Beale, Revelation, 1108; 4 Ezra of course is a later work, but this gives more attestation to the stock image of “seven mountains” in Jewish thought which may be influencing Rev 17:9.

39 Of course, the parallel is not perfect, since these other works are concerned primarily with Jerusalem in the eschaton. This may make the link less strong than it could be, but the correspondence of language cannot be dismissed. Furthermore, the preceding discussion of the Jewish tendency to speak of the holy city in the present through the eye of proleptic idealism mitigates this tension. Describing Jerusalem upon “seven mountains” (like Enoch and 4 Ezra) in the author’s own day would be consonant with the aforementioned portrayals as “princess of all nations” and “exultation of all the earth,” in which that which is ideal and theologically true is depicted as present reality.

40 These issues of course spill over into the fact that the seven mountains are also the seven heads of the beast. This can however be dealt with fairly naturally in that the imagery of the seven mountains represents the power base of the city, which, given the fact that the harlot is riding upon the beast, relates to the Roman authority that is empowering the city’s sin and persecution of the saints (see below, “False Jews and Idolatry”). The shared imagery of completeness of power behind both the seven mountains and the seven heads allows the two to be interchangeable for John. They represent the same thing, though viewed from different perspectives.

41 So Beale, Revelation, 887.

42 See especially Bauckham, Climax, chap. 10.

43 Iain Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 From an Old Testament Perspective,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 64 (1996), 81–100.

44 Ibid., 86 (italics mine).

45 Ibid.

46 It should be noted that Provan does feel that the nature of the rhetoric of the passage points to greater trans-temporal powers behind Babylon that can rightly be applied in other contexts than historical Jerusalem; nevertheless, having surveyed all of the major emendations John has made, he summarizes what he considers to be the primary focus by stating, “The case for Babylon as Jerusalem, then, is in my view a compelling one” (Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance,” 96).

47 Cf. 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21.

48 The term pneumatikw'" has been translated quite literally here for the sake of interpretive neutrality. The RSV prefers “allegorically,” and the NET Bible reads “symbolically.” Bauer's Greek-English Lexicon elaborates that the usage of the term denotes “in keeping with the spirit with reference to the divine pneu'ma,” remarking specifically of this verse, “[I]f one follows the spiritual … understanding of scripture … , Jerusalem lies concealed beneath the name Sodom. Something more is involved here than mere allegory of figurative usage” (Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. Frederick William Danker, 3d ed. [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 837). The meaning may be more than “symbolically” or “allegorically;” it is certainly not less.

49 As with most “indisputable” issues, there has been the occasional voice of exception, most notably Mounce: “The majority of commentators take ‘the great city’ to be Jerusalem in spite of the fact that in the seven other references in Revelation it consistently refers to Rome … In view of the consistent use of the term elsewhere in the book as a reference to Rome … it is best to conclude that the witnesses meet their death at the hands of the Antichrist, whose universal dominion was in John’s day epitomized by the power of Rome … The inclusion of a reference to the crucifixion is not to identify a geographical location but to illustrate the response of paganism to righteousness” (Mounce, Revelation, 220–21). In other words, Mounce’s conviction that the harlot in Rev 17–18 is Rome leads him to claim that the phrase “where also their Lord was crucified” refers not to Jerusalem, but to Rome, even though the original reader of the book would come across this passage first. How could this verse, as the first reference to “the great city,” not conjure up the image of Jerusalem for the audience? Are they expected to proleptically read Rome into it from a certain interpretation of chapters 17–18 (before reading them) against the connotations of the imagery? As Thomas remarks, “[I]f language has any meaning at all, it is hard to identify ‘the great city’ as anywhere else but Jerusalem” (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8–22: An Exegetical Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1995], 94; so Swete, Apocalypse, 138; Ford, Revelation, 292; et al.). This is especially true in light of the reference to “the holy city” (thn povlin thn aJgivan) just six verses earlier (11:2).

50 Ford, Revelation, 264.

51 So Russell, Parousia, 488; Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, 425; Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 415. Moreover, v. 5 of this passage of Ezekiel is especially relevant for its strong statement against Jerusalem and its contrast of the city with other “nations,” the very sort of thing that may be happening here. I would note that I have found no other suggestion by any commentator for the background of the threefold splitting of the city. Often this detail is simply passed by without interpretation (cf. Beale, Revelation, 843–44; Swete, Apocalypse, 211; Caird, Revelation, 209); by some, it is merely set aside as “symbolical” (cf. Stuart, Apocalypse, vol. 2, 317, who employs this term with no further explanation).

52 One final note on 16:19: obviously, the “cities of the Gentiles” did not literally “fall” in A.D. 70, and this could be perceived as an obstacle to seeing Jerusalem here (though see Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 416). However, we are not arguing that a larger collapsing of apocalyptic/prophetic images is not at play in Revelation; it is certainly likely that the fall of Jerusalem, the fall of the Roman empire, the judgment, and the parousia are being telescoped as conflated events from the seer’s perspective. The present contention is merely that the underlying features of the text point to the idea that John is viewing Jerusalem as “the great city” here.

53 Cf. Steve Gregg, ed., Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1997), 404.

54 See Russell, Parousia, 487.

55 Beale, Revelation, 886, citing Exod 25:3–7; 28:5–9, 28:15–20, 35:6; 36:9–12; 36:15–21 LXX.

56 So Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 429; Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” 76.

57 Josephus The Jewish War 5.5.4 (translation given is that of Whiston in The Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987]).

58 So Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, 427; Russell, Parousia, 491; Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 424–428; et al. In Ford’s concise words, “It is the covenant which makes the bride, the breaking of it which makes the adulteress” (Ford, Revelation, 285).

59 Cf. Ezek 16:15, 17, 28, 35, 41; 23:1–21, 44; Isa 1:21; 57:3; Jer 2:20; 3:1; 13:27; Hos 2:2–5; 4:12, 15, 18; 5:4; 9:1; Mic 1:7.

60 Isa 23:15–18.

61 Nah 3:4–5; notably, in 4QpNah the Qumran community reapplies this passage to indict Jerusalem!

62 Chilton elaborates: “It is noteworthy that Tyre and Nineveh—the only two cities outside of Israel that are accused of harlotry—had both been in covenant with God. The kingdom of Tyre in David and Solomon’s time was converted to the worship of the true God, and her king contracted a covenant with Solomon and assisted in the building of the Temple (1 Kings 5:1–12; 9:13; Amos 1:9); Nineveh was converted under the ministry of Jonah (Jon 3:5–10). The later apostasy of these two cities could rightly be considered harlotry” (Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 424, n. 2). Even Beale recognizes this to be the likely explanation for these two exceptions: “Perhaps part of the reason that Tyre and Nineveh are the only two cities outside Israel referred to as harlots in the OT is that at one time they were in a covenant relationship with God and subsequently became faithless toward God by returning to idol worship …” (Beale, Revelation, 850).

63 So Russell, Parousia, 489–90; Keith Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1999), 153; Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” 74–75, who argues strongly that the imagery is being primarily taken from parallels in Jer 3, in which the subject is explicitly Yahweh sending the northern kingdom, Israel, away in divorce because of her harlotries, a theme which Gentry argues is also being picked up by John. Ford too sees the divorce theme at work in the book (Ford, Revelation, 93–94). Considering the contrasting of the judgment of the adulterous woman with the bringing in of the new bride for Christ, there might actually be some support for this.

64 See the comprehensive discussion in Ford, who also notes the persistent presence of the Jerusalem = harlot message in the Qumran scrolls, thoroughly examining the occurrences of this phenomenon and arguing heavily from the consistency of this evidence (Ford, Revelation, 283–85).

65 See Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 20–25; also, Beagley, “The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse,” 93; Beale notes widespread “agreement” that Ezekiel is the greatest influence on the book (though he himself prefers to emphasize Daniel) (Beale, Revelation, 77); Carrington is even willing to say (with some degree of hyperbole), “The Revelation is a Christian rewriting of Ezekiel” (Philip Carrington, The Meaning of the Revelation [New York: Macmillan, 1931], 65).

66 Isa 40:2; 61:7 Jer 16:18; 17:18; cf. Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 98; Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance,” 94.

67 Again, this text occurs in the passage Gentry argues is the primary backdrop for Rev 17 and 18 (see above, n. 61).

68 Beale, Revelation, 886.

69 A survey of the commentaries on this verse revealed no other suggestions for an Old Testament source. It is of course not the case that all elements of the book must be related to OT allusions, but as any student of the book well knows, the vast majority of the imagery is a recapitulation of previous prophetic material, and if there are text(s) that appear as though they may be in the background of John’s thought, we are typically on safe ground in supposing some degree of OT reliance.

70 So Mounce, Revelation, 311; Charles, Revelation, 2:65; Bauckham, Climax, 344; Morris, Revelation, 200; et al.

71 Cf. Beale: “… the validity of the references attesting this [is] doubtful …” (Beale, Revelation, 858); see also the more thorough inquiry by Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 102.

72 Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 102.

73 Beale, Revelation, 885.

74 Ibid., 886; however, Gentry notes the following passage from Josephus, who writes, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation, and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Josephus Antiquities 14.10.1–2 [translation given is that of Whiston in Works of Josephus (italics added)]); cf. discussion in Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” 78.

75 Beale, Revelation, 223–28.

76 Ibid., 227–28.

77 Cf. especially 2:14, 20.

78 So Caird, Revelation, 38–45; Mounce, Revelation, 81, 87; Beale, Revelation, 261.

79 Cf. Caird, Revelation, 38.

80 See Beale’s discussion, Revelation, 251.

81 It fact, there are several clear literary parallels that tighten the link between Jezebel in Rev 2 and the subsequent harlot, Babylon. For this, see Beale, Revelation, 262.

82 Of course the sophistication referred to here is that of form, structure, and imagery, not grammar or syntax, two areas in which Revelation is certainly notoriously less than refined.

83 2:9; 3:9.

84 In addition, this rejection of the arrival of her husband, the Messiah, fits perfectly with the idea of her destruction making way for Christ’s true bride, the “New” Jerusalem (chap. 21). They reject Him in idolatry/adultery, so He takes a new bride. For more development of this theme, see “New Jerusalem/Old Jerusalem (or The Bride Versus the Harlot)” below.

85 Ibid., 82–84.

86 Ibid., 84.

87 Ibid., 86.

88 Ibid., 88.

89 From this perspective, there is structural justification for use of the Tyre allusions (the Tyre lament from Ezekiel is an adaptable, prime example of a lament dirge) and thematic justification for the Babylon allusions (the entire context being the depiction of the great city as “Babylon”), but the constant interweaving of Israel/Jerusalem allusions (cf. Provan, “Fouls Spirits, Fornication and Finance,” 87–95) must be accounted for—if John is portraying Jerusalem as the lamented Babylon, there is an excellent coherence to such a maneuver.

90 Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 108; Also, Jürgen Roloff, The Revelation of John, trans. J. E. Alsup, Continental Commentaries (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 206, who writes, “Rome was neither a port city nor a shipping center. But here John hardly intended to copy precisely the real situation; rather he wanted to round off the scene of lament by means of a third group, and for that purpose he used the material that Ezek 27:29–33 provided him.”

Moreover, Provan argues that the economic problem should probably not be seen as the ultimate cause for the critique anyway, but rather as a manifestation (even in the original OT context) of the problem of idolatry. This he sees as the real sin under critique: “One could certainly not deduce from [the contents of the cargo list] in Revelation 18 that we are dealing here with specific criticism of Rome’s economics, rather than with the sort of general criticism that world-powers receive in the Bible as a whole. That general criticism is much more about religion than it is about economics; or to put it another way, economic sins are only ever a function of idolatry, so far as the Old Testament is concerned, and it is on the idolatry that the emphasis falls, rather than upon the economics” (Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance,” 88). Regarding idolatry, see above, “False Jews and Idolatry.”

91 Provan, “Fouls Spirits, Fornication and Finance,” 87–95; so Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben of the Apocalypse, 95–96; Ford, Revelation, 300–307.

92 Provan, “Fouls Spirits, Fornication and Finance,” 88.

93 Ibid., 94.

94 Ibid.

95 Ibid., 95. Provan suggests at least six such allusions; cf. Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 95–100 for a number of other examples of alterations in this lament passage that may point to Jerusalem.

96 Wright suggests a number of OT texts that are apparently influential here, including Isa 13:6, 9–11, 19; Isa 14:4, 12–15; Isa 48:20; 52:11–12; Jer 50:6, 8, 28; 51:6–10, 45–6, 50–51, 57 (N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2, Christian Origins and the Question of God [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996], 354–60). Certainly, other texts are recalled in the passage including famine warnings (Isa 5:13–14;), earthquake predictions (Hag 2:6–7), and descriptions of cosmic disturbances (Isa 13:9–10; 24:18–20; Joel 2:1, 30–31). The claim here is not that only Babylon language is used by Jesus, but simply that such is a key image in the discourse. If we have here an instance of Christ applying anti-Babylon texts to Jerusalem, then an important precedent is established for such a rhetorical device before Revelation, even if other stock images reflected in the Olivet Discourse are at John’s disposal as well.

97 Most notably Jer 50:8; 51:6, 9, 45; cf. Rev 18:14.

98 Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 97.

99 Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 359.

100 Ibid., 356, n. 137; 360 (italics mine); cf. the references to “those who say they are Jews and are not” in Rev 2:9; 3:9.

101 This presupposes apostolic authorship, but such a presupposition does not make or break the argument. Regardless of who wrote Revelation, the Olivet Discourse tradition would certainly have been well known to whomever it was, and other parallels between the two make clear that such was the case (see n. 102, below).

102 E. g., Robert Thomas, Revelation 1–7: An Exegetical Commentary, ed. Kenneth Barker (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992), 53; C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr., Doomsday Delusions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), 37–44; and Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” 52–53.

103 Also, 16:6; 17:6; again, we are not necessarily claiming literary dependence on the gospels, merely dependence on Jesus’ teaching tradition, which clearly seems to be reflected in the Apocalypse at a number of points (see above, n.102).

104 Italics mine; so Swete, Apocalypse, 241; Morris, Revelation, 217; Eugenio Corsini, The Apocalypse: The Perennial Revelation of Jesus Christ, trans. and ed. Francis J. Moloney (Wilmington, DE: Gazier, 1983), 338; Beale, Revelation, 923.

105 Italics mine; so Caird, Revelation, 231; Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” 76.

106 Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” 75; So Ford, Revelation, 300; Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 94–95; Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 466. The identification here of the prophets as Old Testament prophets is of course specifically related to the warnings of Christ rather than the Revelation text—the Apocalypse does not technically declare which prophets are in view, but this may be hairsplitting; if we do have tradition dependence, a corresponding inference seems justified.

107 See above, “Rome.” This near-universal understanding in fact leads proponents of the Rome = Babylon to statements such as, “The two figures of monster and woman are really alternative representations of a single entity” (G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible Commentary [London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1974], 249). Theologically this might work, but the events of this passage make a double Roman referent more than a little precarious. This problem is heightened by the fact that the beast is reserved for separate punishment in chapter 19, long after the harlot has already been destroyed. It seems quite clear that John is intending us to understand a distinction between the two characters.

108 Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse, 92 (italics mine).

109 Kenneth L. Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, rev. ed. (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1998), 71.

110 As well as Christ’s warning to the Jewish leadership, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate!” (Matt 23:38; italics added)

111 Beale, Revelation, 883.

112 Another possible indication of this connection is the fact, as noted by Ford, that the normal OT sentence for adultery was stoning—only the daughter of a priest was to be burned (Ford, Revelation, 292; also Carrington, Meaning of the Revelation, 287).

113 William Milligan, The Book of Revelation (New York: Armstrong, 1903), 68.

114 So Gregg, Revelation, 404.

115 This is clearly shown by Gentry’s chart on page 78 in “A Preterist View of Revelation;” so Beale, Revelation, 1063–65; Swete, Apocalypse, 283–84; Mounce, Revelation, 388–89; et al.

116 So Russell, Parousia, 485–86; Carrington, Meaning of the Revelation, 276; Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, 460; Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 422; Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” 87. It should be noted that this is not necessarily to claim a complete “replacement” of “Israel,” but certainly to claim a replacement of Jerusalem.

Incidentally, this contrast of “Old Jerusalem” and “New Jerusalem” obviously carries striking echoes of Paul’s “present Jerusalem” / “Jerusalem above” language in Gal 4—certainly not an insignificant parallel.

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)

What is a “prayer meeting starter” ?

A “prayer meeting starter” is a short Bible study on the subject of prayer, designed to get the pray-ers focused on the task at hand and to give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to prepare us for prayer.

A real prayer meeting is not a Bible Study. When we try to combine them, the meeting becomes a Bible study and prayer is minimized. The difference between a Bible study and a prayer meeting is in its primary purpose. The Bible study’s purpose is to communicate the truth of what the Bible says. The prayer meeting’s purpose is to unite in real and fervent prayer. To try to do both in one meeting is more than the human mind and body can endure in one meeting. Prayer deserves to be maximized and is worth a meeting exclusively for prevailing in prayer.

Robert Murray McCheyne said “A great part of my time is spent in getting my heart in tune for prayer.” This is true for the individual in secret prayer, but it is also true for the corporate prayer meeting. Corporate prayer needs careful and prayerful preparation: we need to prepare our hearts, pray for those leading the meeting, and pray for the Holy Spirit to make it the meeting He wants it to be.

How do we have a prayer meeting that is not a Bible study but is still nurtured by The Word of God? We suggest that the meeting be started with the Word of God. Not just the reading of it but the explaining and applying of it to our lives. Further, we suggest that the subject matter be “prayer” not a miscellaneous topic or text from the Bible. We need to hear what the Bible has to say concerning prayer, especially when we start to pray. It is at that time that we need to prepare our hearts and get our spirits in a praying mode.

Following are articles designed for the leader to use as “starter talks” to begin the prayer meeting. The “starter” should be long enough to develop a single idea and prepare the hearts for prayer, but not long enough to detract from prayer time. It should not become an end in itself, but a means to the end of prevailing prayer. It seems that it takes at least ten minutes and should normally take no longer than fifteen minutes. A one-hour prayer meeting with 15 minutes of receiving what the Word of God says about prayer and 45 minutes of fervent praying is a good basic plan to follow.

The need for the “starter” is that the pray-er is not always and naturally in a mental and spiritual mood to pray. These starters are designed to stir our hearts and minds to prayer. They could be used for corporate or personal prayer times.

We cannot anticipate specific needs and situations. Our plan is to give enough material for a beginner to be able to communicate a complete thought if he just reads the material with a few comments. Those leaders with more experience may not want to use all the material given. We suggest the "cafeteria" method---pick out what is right for the particular occasion.

It might be desirable to give the starter notes to the pray-ers in the meeting. They can keep them for future use in their secret prayer time and/or use them when they pray with others.

Eph 6:17-18 says “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.” The Word of God is the Spirit’s sword, not ours; it is for Him to use as He sees fit. We hope that the starters will be an instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit to inform, inspire, and invigorate the pray-ers as they start to prayer.

Related Topics: Prayer

Prayer in the Old Testament

A Prayer of David - Ps 25

This is a good portion of Scripture to meditate on as we go to prayer and even to pray to God as our prayer. Our experiences are not that much different from David’s, remember, "These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come." 1 Cor 10:11

1-7
David speaks to the Lord for Himself
1 O Lord, I come before you in prayer.” Prayer is a specific act, not merely an attitude. It is something we do, not just think about.
“2 My God, I trust in you.”
Trust here means “to confide in, so as to be secure and without fear” Who else can we go to. None other can understand or help.
Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!” David prays for himself as he confronts his enemies. If we are in God’s will, our enemies and God’s enemies are the same. God cannot be defeated and neither can we.
“3 Certainly none who rely on you will be humiliated.”
God is trustworthy and will not fail us. David could sympathize and pray for others because of his own experience. We can never go wrong relying on God.
“Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.”
God will deal with the wicked in His time.
“ 4 Make me understand your ways, O Lord! Teach me your paths!”
This is the attitude of an effectual pray-er. We must seek God with all of our heart and complete submission. We must be teachable and leadable.
“5 Guide me into your truth and teach me.”
Truth and doctrine are inseparable from one who is in communion with God.
“For you are the God who delivers me; on you I rely all day long.”
It is vain to look for our help from any other source.
“6 Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lord, for you have always acted in this manner.”
It seems that we humans constantly forget the goodness of the Lord, but He doesn’t forget to be compassionate to us.
“7 Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts! Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O Lord”


8-10
David acknowledges the character of the Lord
“8 The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live. 9 May he show the humble what is right! May he teach the humble his way!”
The proud cannot learn the things of God nor can they pray when they have a stubborn will.
“10 The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.”
God’s methods and objectives are always good to His people.

11
David appeals to the Lord for forgiveness
“11 For the sake of your reputation, O Lord, forgive my sin, because it is great.”
David is concerned about God’s honor, he want his sin forgiven and his life maintained so God will not be dishonored. All of us have a great weight of sin but it is those who come to God that feel it most. Feeling our sinfulness is not a disqualification of coming to God but it is an integral part of it.

12-15
David speaks about what the Lord does
“12 The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. 13 They experience his favor; their descendants inherit the land. 14 The Lord 's loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them. 15 I continually look to the Lord for help, for he will free my feet from the enemy's net.”
They that pray to know God’s will are assured to know it, understand what He wants from us and have his protection. God reveals His secrets to those who dwell in secret with Him. We have no greater enemy than our depraved nature that so often snares us; but the Lord will deliver us as we commune with Him.


16-22
David speaks to the Lord again
“16 Turn toward me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and oppressed! 17 Deliver me from my distress; rescue me from my suffering! 18 See my pain and suffering! Forgive all my sins! 19 Watch my enemies, for they outnumber me; they hate me and want to harm me. 20 Protect me and deliver me! Please do not let me be humiliated, for I have taken shelter in you! 21 May integrity and godliness protect me, for I rely on you! 22 O God, rescue Israel from all their distress! ”
Many negative words are used to describe David’s condition. When we are going through the trials it feels as if we are alone. All we can do and all we should do is rely on our God; He is able to rescue us.

(NET)

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The House of God - the Gate of Heaven

In Gen 28 we have the story of Jacob deceiving his father and his having to leave for fear of Esau. Verses 12-19 tell us of the dream he had as he traveled, “He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it and the Lord stood at its top. He said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants. I am with you! I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!’ Then Jacob woke up and thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!’ He was afraid and said, ‘What an awesome place this is! This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!’ Early in the morning Jacob took the stone he had placed near his head and set it up as a sacred stone. Then he poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel...” The Hebrew for Bethel means “house of God.” Jacob was afraid but not with a servant-like fear, but child-like fear; not a fear of the wrath and displeasure of God, but an awe of the greatness and glory of God.

When Solomon had built “the Lord’s temple” the Lord appeared to him and promised to accept their future repentance and then said in 2 Chr 7:15, “Now I will be attentive and responsive to the prayers offered in this place. Now I have chosen and consecrated this temple by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there.” Here God is making prayer especially important and associating it with His presence. This is not a reference to the omnipresence of God, but to His special and spiritually manifested presence. Here we have the first physical representation of “the house of God.”

Isaiah says in 56:5-8 “‘I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument that will be better than sons and daughters...I will set up a permanent monument for them that will remain. As for foreigners who become followers of the Lord and serve him, who love the name of the Lord and want to be his servants—all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, and who are faithful to my covenant. I will bring them to my holy mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.’ The sovereign Lord says this, the one who gathers the dispersed of Israel: ‘I will still gather them up.’” Here we have again the temple, or “house of God,” associated with prayer, but it includes more than the Israelites. It is broadened to include ‘foreigners who become followers of the Lord...for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.’” God intends His temple “the house of God” to have prayer as a prominent ingredient.

Our Lord quotes this passage in Isaiah, “Then they came to Jerusalem. Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple courts. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. Then he began to teach them and said, ‘Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of robbers.” Mk 11:15-17 Jesus was very upset about “God’s House” not being used for prayer. We should ask ourselves, “How does the Lord Jesus feel about our churches today that have fine buildings, great organization, good entertainment and little or no prayer?” It is sadly obvious that almost all of our churches are not characterized by prayer.

In 1 Tim 3:14,15 Paul tells Timothy “I am writing these instructions to you...to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God.” He is referring to 1 Tim 2:1-3:13 where the first thing he deals with is prayer-- “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people...Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior...So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.” Paul is instructing Timothy to lead the people of God to pray as a people of God in “the house of God.”

If the “house of God” is to be a “house of Prayer,” then the leaders need to lead the people to be proficient in this exercise. “It is a tremendous responsibility to lead God’s people to God’s throne and into God’s presence in public prayer. God can so strongly anoint the one who leads in prayer that all present are brought into consciousness of God’s presence until the one praying is forgotten and the people as one in heart and soul unit and agree in the prayer.” Wesley Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p 129

When we put prayer in its proper place in “the house of God” that we are worshiping in, we will say as Jacob did “This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!” Our prayer experience will be like “a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens” with the angels of God going up and coming down it and the Lord standing at the top. Angels are messengers and represent our prayers that go up and God’s responses that comes down. God will be at the top speaking to us and we will stand in awe of the greatness and glory of God.

God dwells not only where, O’er saintly dust,

The Sweet bells greet the fairest morn of seven;

Wherever simple folk love, pray and trust,

Behold the House of God, the Gate of Heaven.

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Come to the morning-prayer;

Come, let us kneel and pray:

Prayer is the Christian pilgrim’s staff,

To walk with God all day.

At noon, beneath the Rock

Of Ages, rest and pray;

Sweet is that shelter from the heat,

When the sun smites by day.’

At evening, shut thy door;

Round the home-altar pray;

And, finding there the house of God,

At Heaven’s gate close the day.

When midnight veils our eyes,

Oh, it is sweet to say,

I sleep, but my heart waketh, Lord,

With thee to watch and pray.

James Montgomery (Quoted in Prayer and its Remarkable Answers, William Patton p 32)

Related Topics: Prayer

Prayer in the New Testament

But Prayer

In Acts 12:1-18 we have a story of a prayer meeting that got it’s answer

while they were praying.

“About that time King Herod laid hands on some from the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, executed with a sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too. (This took place during the feast of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison, handing him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him. Herod planned to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison...” Ac 12:1-5

God is making darkness for His light to shine into, so that, we will better appreciate it and He will be more glorified. When diamonds are displayed it is done on a black background under bright lights. The black background gives contrast for the light that come through the diamond. God let all the circumstances build against these early Christians and especially Peter. He shines His grace and goodness on them and they sparkle for His glory. God is still bigger than all the circumstances even though they are combined in a single event. Things looked bad, the execution of James, the arrest of Peter and under heavy guard, the cruelty of Herod, the hatred of the Jews, but it is simply a matter of God having them where He wants them for His purpose.

 

Everything was about as bad as it could be—“But.” But someone prayed. “but those in the church were earnestly praying to God for him.” Not just a repeated prayer like “now I lay me down to sleep.” Nor, was it individual or momentary prayer. It was corporate prayer that was earnest. They had important things to be earnest about. So do we, the difference between them and the average church today is that they felt the urgency and they prayed. The average church today is content and unconcerned wile being surrounded with problems of eternal consequences. Luke says they were “earnestly praying.” Literally it could be translated “They were continually stretching themselves out.” This was no doubt some serious praying. This is the kind of praying that is necessary to advance the kingdom of God today.

In Eph 2:16 we have another “but,” the Divine “but” of our salvation that “And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest… 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— 6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” We were lost , dead, hopless, worthless–“but God.” This made all the difference. The “but” of Eph 2 and the “but” of Acts 12 illustrate both the divine and human energies involved in advancing the Kingdom of God.

“On that very night before Herod was going to bring him out for trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the prison cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly!” And the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” Peter did so. Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your cloak and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 After they had passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went outside and walked down one narrow street, when at once the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from everything the Jewish people were expecting to happen.’ When Peter realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered together and were praying.” Ac 12:6-12

In the Divine order of things prayer is the circumstantial cause of what is prayed for and realized. God could have delivered Peter without the prayer meeting. But “Through prayer God gives humankind the dignity of limited causality.” Pascal God could fulfill the “Great Commission” without our involvement but He gives us the priviledge of being involved, to give, to pray, and to sacrifice for His glory. God is the first cause and ultimate cause of all things and He includes in His plan instrumental and circumstantial causes.

“When he knocked at the door of the outer gate, a slave girl named Rhoda answered. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she did not open the gate, but ran back in and told them that Peter was standing at the gate. But they said to her, “You’ve lost your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was Peter, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” Now Peter continued knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were greatly astonished. He gave them a signal with his hand to be quiet and then related to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. He said, “Tell James and the brothers these things,” and then he left and went to another place.” Ac 12:13-17

It seems that it was harder for Peter to get into the prayer meeting that it was for him to get out of jail. I wonder if God feel like it is harder to get His people praying that it is to get His preacher out of jail. The answer was just too good to be true.., “You’ve lost your mind!” they said to Rhoda. There is nothing that encourages the people of God more than God’s answer to prayer, especially when it is their own prayer that He has answered. In our prayer meetings we need to prayer for specific needs and to share the answers to those prayers.

Prayer is at the same time the greatest and most unused resource that Christians have. It ought to be the first recourse and the most used resource we have. There is nothing that we cannot pray about. If it weren’t for times like these we wouldn’t pray at all. It is the trial and suffering that makes us pray. Many of us can testify that we do our best and maybe our only real praying when there is a crisis.

What is the state of our families and of our churches. When David saw the Philistine giant, Goliath, he expressed his concern and his brothers scolded him but he said, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” 1 Sam 17:29 There was a cause for David to take action and such is it with us. We can conquer all of our enemies and problems with prevailing prayer. History is replete with situations in which someone prayed. There are great needs today, will you be one that will pray.

God has appointed prayer as his way of dispensing, and our way of obtaining all promised good.

The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

A church is never more like the New Testament church than when it is praying.

He answered prayer–not in the way I sought

Nor in the way that I had thought He ought;

But in His own good way; and I could see

He answered in the fashion best for me.

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Jesus’ Dying Prayers

Jesus prayed three times while He was on the Cross. We have all heard of “death bed” prayers. Jesus died a death completely different from the comforts of a bed. He used His dying breath to pray for others and commit Himself to God.

1. His prayer of intercession.

Lk 23:32,34 “Two other men, both criminals, were also led away to be executed with him. So when they came to the place that is called ‘The Skull,’ they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. But Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ Then they threw dice to divide his clothes.” It is easy for us to pray for those nearest to us that we love and who love us. We even pray for our friends. Our “Christianity” is not very Biblical if this is the only way we pray. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they?” Mat 5:43-46 Jesus could have prayed for the Father to extinguish his persecutors, He was not deserving of such treatment and it would have been right for God to end it all and throw the wicked men into Hell fire. Instead, Jesus prayed for their forgiveness. What an example for us in our prayer life. If we can’t pray for someone who hates us, then we haven’t really learned to pray. What about the person that has lied about us or cheated us out of something we should have had? Can our prayers stand the test?

2. His prayer of confession.

Matt 27:45,46 “ Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Out of Jesus’ darkest hour we can hear Him pour out His heart to God. Not the confession of sin, for Jesus never sinned and could not sin. “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corth 5:21 Jesus did not have any personal knowledge of sin and therefore had no sin to confess. But He did confess His true feelings to His Father. When all the world around us goes dark, can our voice be heard crying out to God? The Son of God that had never, from eternity past, known a moment of separation from the Father’s loving fellowship was now forsaken. Jesus suffered the loss of the presence of God for a short time so we would not have to suffer that for ever. In a time when things were the most opposite to everything He had ever known, He confessed His true feelings.. So must we, be completely open and honest with God. “And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to his eyes to whom we must render an account.” Heb 4:13

3. His prayer of resignation.

Lk 23:46 “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And after he said this he breathed his last.” Each one of us is going to breath our last. None of us know when it will be, therefore, we should live as if each day were the day we would breath our last. Jesus was a dying sacrifice totally resigned to the will of His Father so should we be a living sacrifice totally committed to our Father’s will. “Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1 This is the way to glorify God and satisfy our souls. Each morning when we awake we should, commit our lives into the hands of our Father, in every experience of our life we should commit it all to our Father, our every desire should be submitted to the sovereign will of our Father. “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20 Our prayer life should acknowledge our complete commitment to the will of God. We should verbalize this as Jesus did, we should express our love for our God and our desire to be completely committed to Him in everything and ask for His help to live such a life.

He prayed upon the mountain,

He prayed for you and me,

He prayed in humble dwellings,

He prayed beside the sea.

He prayed in early morning,

Prayed with all His might,

He prayed at noonday and at dusk,

He prayed all thro’ the night.

He prayed for those who scorned Him,

For those who killed Him, too,

He prayed, “Father forgive them:

They know not what they do.”

He prayed when He was lonely,

He prayed when He was sad,

He prayed when He was weary,

He prayed when He was glad.

He prayed for those in sorrow,

He prayed for those in sin,

He prayed for those in trouble

That they might come to Him

D.W.L.

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Prayer Meetings

Condensed from a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.”— Acts 1:14

The subject, therefore, this evening, suggested to me by the fact that we are going to meet for a day of prayer to-morrow, is that of prayer-meetings —assemblies of the people of God for worship of that peculiar kind which consists in each one expressing his desire before the Lord. Let us then go through very briefly: —

I. The Apostolical History of Meetings for Prayer.

They were, doubtless, every-day things. The first meeting for prayer which we find after our Lord’s ascension to heaven is the one mentioned in the text, and we are led from it to remark that united prayer is the comfort of a disconsolate church. Can you judge of the sorrow which filled the hearts of the disciples when their Lord was gone from them? They were an army without a leader, a flock without a shepherd, a family without a head. In the deep desolation of their spirits they resorted to prayer. They were like a flock of sheep that will huddle together in a storm, or come closer each to its fellow when they hear the sound of the wolf. Poor defenseless creatures as they were, they yet loved to come together, and would die together if need be. They felt that nothing made them so happy, nothing so emboldened them, nothing so strengthened them to bear their daily difficulties as to draw near to God in common supplication. Beloved, let every church learn the value of its prayer-meetings in its dark hour. There is but one remedy for these and a thousand other evils, and that one remedy is contained in this short sentence, “Let us pray.” One of the first uses of the prayer-meeting, then, is to encourage a discouraged people.

Again, if you look at the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, you will perceive that the prayer-meeting is the place for the reception of divine power. “They were all with one accord in one place,” making their prayer, and, as they waited there, suddenly they heard the sound as of a rushing, mighty wind, and the cloven tongues descended upon them, and they were clothed with the power which Jesus had promised them. Common fishermen became the extraordinary messengers of heaven. Illiterate men spake with tongues that they had never themselves heard. Now, the great want of the Church in all times is the power of the Holy Ghost. Now, if we want to get this, the most likely place in which to find it is the prayer-meeting. Oh! yes, this is the place to meet with the Holy Ghost, and this is the way to get his mighty power. If we would have him, we must meet in greater numbers; we must pray with greater fervency, we must watch with greater earnestness, and believe with firmer steadfastness. The next incident in this apostolic history you will find in Acts 4:31 and there you will see that the prayer-meeting is the resource of a persecuted church. Peter and John had been shut up in prison. They resorted to prayer, and we read that “when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the Word of God with boldness; and the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” Anything that would make us pray would be a blessing, and if ever we should come to times of persecution again we must fly to the shadow of the Eternal, and keeping close together in simple, intense prayer, we shall find a shelter from the blast. In Acts 12 you find the prayer-meeting made a means of individual deliverance. Peter was in prison, and Herod promised himself the great pleasure of putting him to death. He was sleeping one night betwixt two soldiers, chained, and the keepers of the door kept the prison. But prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him. And so in the middle of the night an angel smote Peter upon the side, and raised him up, and his chains fell off; he put his garments about him; every door opened as he advanced, and Peter found himself in the street, and wondered whether he was awake, or whether it was a vision. In Acts 13:13 we find a prayer-meeting suggesting missionary operations. Whilst the servants of God were met together in fasting and in prayer, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them,” and when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. I think if we were oftener on our knees about God’s work, we should oftener do right, and the right methods and the right men, and the right plans would come to us. Oh! that we would but pray for such men, and, having got them, pray that God would make them full of himself, for they cannot run over with blessings to others, until they are full of blessing themselves. We should understand what the prayer-meeting is, if we did this. What was the first Christian service that was held in Europe? Do you know? Why, it was a prayer-meeting, in Acts 16. Paul went to the place where prayer was wont to be made by the river-side, and there he met with Lydia, and preached to her, and her heart was so opened that she received the truth. Very often, I do not doubt, in a Christian enterprise, the first foothold that a cause gets is the prayer-meeting. This, then, is the missionary’s lever; he begins with the prayer-meeting. I have gone through the early history of prayer-meetings, and shown you the extreme value of such to the Church of God.

II. What Are the Uses of the Prayer-meeting?

The prayer-meeting is useful to us in itself, and also very useful from the answer which its gets. It is a very useful thing for Christians to pray with each other, even apart from the answer. God has made our piety to be a thing which shall be personal, but yet he looks for family piety and makes us feel that all the saints are our brethren and sisters, and that, therefore, our meetings as Christian families, and as Christian Churches in the prayer-meeting, become the natural outgrowth of social godliness. The prayer-meeting sometimes also generates devotion. Some of the brethren may be very dull and heavy, but others who are at that time in a lively state of mind may stimulate and excite them. When you have been busy all the day, and are not able to shake off the cares of business, you get warmed up by getting near to each other in your prayers. And, more than that, the united fires being placed together on the hearth, the fire-brands are made to burn with greater power. There is a kind of divine force comes upon us sometimes at the prayer-meeting. Oh! it is a grand thing thus to be made fit again, with joints all oiled, and muscles all braced, and nerves all strung, for the battle of life. United prayer, then, serves this purpose, and therefore is it valuable. But, again, united prayer is useful inasmuch as God has promised extraordinary and peculiar blessings in connection with it, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” God asks agreement, and, once the saints agree, he pledges himself that the prayer of his agreeing ones shall be answered. Why, see what accumulated force there is in prayer, when one after another pours out his vehement desires; when many seem to be tugging at the rope; when many seem to be knocking mercy’s gate; when the mighty cries of many burning hearts come up to heaven. When, my beloved, you go and shake the very gates thereof with the powerful battering-ram of a holy vehemence, and a sacred importunity, then is it that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. When first one, and then another, and yet another, throws his whole soul into the prayer, the kingdom of heaven is conquered and the victory becomes great indeed. The prayer-meeting is an institution which ought to be very precious to us, and to be cherished very much by us as a Church, for to it we owe everything. When our comparatively little chapel was all but empty, was it not a well-known fact that the prayer-meeting was always full? And when the Church increased, and the place was scarce large enough, it was the prayer meeting that did it all.

III. What Are the Hindrances to the Prayer-meeting?

There are some hindrances before the people come. Unholiness hinders prayer. A man cannot walk contrary to God, and then expect to have his prayers heard. Discord always spoils prayer. When believers do not agree, and are picking holes in each other’s coats, they do not really love one another, and then their prayers cannot succeed. Hypocrisy spoils prayer, for hypocrites will creep in, you cannot help it. But there are some things which hinder the prayer-meeting when we are at it. One is long prayers. It is dreadful to hear a brother pray us into a good frame, and then, by his long prayer, pray us out of it again. Long prayers spoil prayer-meetings, for long prayers and true devotion in our public assemblies seem pretty much to be divorced from one another. Prayer-meetings are also hindered when those who get up to pray do not pray, but preach a little sermon, and tell the Lord all about themselves, though he knows their own better than they do, instead of asking at once for what they want. Prayer-meetings are often hindered by a want of directness, and by beating about the bush. I did admire a prayer I heard last Monday night, in which a brother said, “Lord, the orphanage wants 3,000; be pleased to send it.” Prayer-meetings are sometimes hindered by a want of real earnestness in those who pray, and in those who pray in silence. I fear that much of our prayer is lost because we do not sufficiently throw our hearts into it. But the prayer-meeting may also be spoiled after we have been to it. “How say” say you. Why, by our asking a blessing, and then not expecting to receive it. God has promised that he will do to us according to our faith, but if our faith is nothing, then the answer will also be nothing. Inconsistency, too, in not practically carrying out your desires will also spoil the prayer-meeting. If you ask God to convert souls, but you will not do anything for those souls; if you ask God to save your children, but you will not talk to them about their salvation; if you ask God to save your neighbors, and you do not distribute tracts amongst them, nor do anything else for them, are you not altogether a hypocrite? You pray for what you do not put out your hand to get. You pray for fruit, but you will not put out your hand to pluck it, and all this spoils the prayer-meeting. Earnest prayer, however, is always to be followed up by persevering efforts, and then the result will be great indeed.

IV. What Should Be the Great Object of the Prayer-meeting, And That for Which We Should Seek the Answer?

First, it must be the glory of God, or else the petition is not sufficiently put up. Pray that King Jesus may have his own. Pray that the crown-royal may be set upon that dear head, that once was girt with thorns. Pray that the thrones of the heathen may totter from their pedestals, and that Jesus may be acknowledged King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And then, in subservience to that, let us pray for a blessing on the Church. We ought to exercise a little of our love for one another in praying for our fellow-members. Pray for the minister, for he needs it most; his necessities in that direction are the greatest, and therefore let him ever be remembered. Pray for the church officers: pray for the workers in all organizations: pray for the sufferers: prayer for the strong, for the weak, for the rich, for the poor, for the trembling, for the sick, for the backsliding, for the sinful. Yes, for every part of the one great body of Jesus let our supplications perpetually ascend. Then we should also pray for the conversion of the ungodly. Oh! this ought to be like a burden on our hearts; this ought to be prayed out of the lowest depths of a soul that is all aglow with sympathy for them. They are dying; they are dying; they are dying without hope. It is of no use my preaching to the people, my dear Christian brethren, unless you pray for them. It may be that you who pray have more to do with the blessed results than we who preach. He has given us his pledge that he will answer: believe it, and you shall see it, and you shall have the joy of it whilst His shall be the glory. Amen

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"Pray without ceasing"

1 Thess. 5:17

(From Works of Ezekiel Hopkins, 1874, Vol. 3, pp 579-581)

1.

That may be said to be done without ceasing, which is done constantly, and at set times and seasons. So we have the word used, Gen. 8:22: "'While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter. and day and night, shall not cease:" that is, they shall not cease, in their courses and appointed times. So, here, "Pray without ceasing:" that is, observe a constant course of prayer, at fixed and appointed times; still keeping yourselves from any superstitious observations. And, thus, Exod. 29:42: the daily sacrifice is called "a continual burnt-offering;" and yet it was offered up only every morning and every evening, and yet God accounts it a continual offering. So here "Pray" continually, or "without ceasing:" that is, keep up frequent and appointed times for prayer, without intermission.

2.

To pray without ceasing, is to pray with all importunity and vehemence. So, in Acts 12:5, "the Church" is said to pray for Peter "without ceasing;" that is, they were very earnest and importunate, and would give God no rest until he heard them. So, also, in the parable of the unjust steward, which our Saviour spake on purpose to show how prevalent with God importunity is, Luke 18:1, it is said, that the Lord would teach them that they "ought always to pray:'' that is, that they ought to pray earnestly and importunity is not giving over till they were heard. So, also, I Sam. 7:7,8, the children of Israel entreated Samuel not to cease crying to the Lord for them: that is, that he would improve all his interest at the throne of grace to the utmost in their behalfs. So we are bid to "pray without ceasing:" that is, to be earnest and vehement, resolving to take no denial at the hands of God. But yet we must do other duties also, though we are vehement in this. We may learn how to demean ourselves in this case towards God, by beggars who betimes come to your doors and bring their work along with them: they beg importunately, and yet they work betwixt whiles: so also should we do: we should beg as importunately of God, as if we depended merely upon his charity; and yet, betwixt whiles, we should work as industriously as if we were ourselves to get our livings with our own hands.

3.

To ''pray without ceasing,'' is to improve all occasions, at every turn, to be darting up our souls unto God in holy meditations and ejaculations. And this we may and ought to do, when we hear or read the word, or in whatever duty of religion we are engaged: yea, this we may and ought to do, in our worldly employments. If your hearts and affections be heavenly, your thoughts will force out a passage, through the crowd and tumult of worldly businesses, to Heaven Ejaculations which are swift messengers, which require not much time to perform their errands in. For there is a holy mystery in pointing our earthly employments with these heavenly ejaculations, as men point their writings sometimes with stops [periods]; even now and them shooting up a short mental prayer unto heaven: such pauses as these are, you will find to be no impediments to your worldly affairs. This is the way for a Christian to be retired and private, in the midst of a multitude; to turn his shop or his field into a closet; to trade for earth, and yet to get heaven also into the bargain. So we read of Nehemiah 2:4, that, while the king was discoursing to him on the state of Judea, Nehemiah prayed unto God: that is, he sent up secret prayers to God, which, though they escaped the king's notice and observation, yet were so prevalent as to bow and incline his heart.

4.

There is yet something more in this praying ''without ceasing." And that is this: we may then be said to "pray without ceasing" when we keep our hearts in such a frame, as that we are fit at all times to pour out our souls before God in prayer. When we keep alive and cherish a praying spirit; and can, upon all opportunities, draw near to God, with full souls and with lively and vigorous affections: this is to "pray without ceasing." And this I take to be the most genuine, natural sense of the words, and the true scope of the Apostle here; to have the habit of prayer, inclining them always freely and sweetly to breathe out their requests unto God, and to take all occasions to prostrate themselves before his throne of grace.

Prayer worth calling prayer, prayer that God will call true prayer and will treat as true prayer, takes for more time by the clock than one man in a thousand thinks. Alexander Whyte

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are filled with mercies, and shall break

In blessings ’round thy head.

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Behold he is praying”

Lessons from the conversion of Paul Acts 9:1-25

Acts 9:11 “And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he is praying,” The Greek says “praying for himself,” he wasn’t depending on someone else to do his praying. “God has no stillborn children; as soon as any are quickened by his grace, they cry unto him; prayer is the breath of a regenerate man, and shows him to be alive. He who before was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Christ, now breathes after communion with Christ and them.” Our Lord said “Behold” a new Christian praying.

Prayer is the initial experience in salvation. v 5

Note that- the first thing Paul does is acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This initial experience was initiated by God Himself. In v 4 the Lord begins this dialogue.

Prayer is instinctive to the Christian. v 5

Without thinking, Paul responded in prayer and in submission. We should have the habit of praying without hesitation or question. We just do it. Pray and Obey.

Prayer is natural to the Christian experience. v 5

Paul needed no lessons, no practice, no prayer book. The main way we can help one another in prayer is to set the example of a praying life and to exhort one another to do the same.

Prayer is dialogue. v 5

Three times the Lord speaks to Paul and he answers twice. Three times the Lord speaks to Ananias and he answers twice. We need silence and mediation in our prayer time. We need a still heart to know God’s presence.

Prayer is accompanied with obedience. v 8 & 18

Prayer is obedience and requires obedience. The genuine Christian’s nature is to pray obey. Note, that Paul first went to Damascus (v 8) and second was baptized (v 18) both are acts of obedience. If we are not praying, we are not obedient and if we are not obedient, then our praying will be in vain.

Prayer’s answer involves waiting, isolation, and fasting. v 9

The most effective praying is done in secret, where we are cut off from the world. Paul was 3 days sightless–sometimes effective praying involves loosing sight of the world and its interest. Out of our secret prayer life we can expect the presence of God in our cooperate prayer life and the power of God to be manifest in our service.

Prayer is how we know God’s Will. v 10-15

Ananias was a man in communion with God and God initiated the dialogue and the action. As we pray we learn the will of God.

Prayer is no contradiction to election and sovereignty. v 15

Prayer is God’s decreed means to accomplish His purposes. Paul was chosen but Ananias still went. So must we go and preach the Gospel because God has a plan, and that includes our praying.

Prayer results in being filled with the Holy Spirit. v 17

Both obedience and prayer are necessary to “being filled with the Spirit” which is something God does to us. We do not fill ourselves. God fills us as we pray and abide in Him.

Prayer is a means to produce change. v 21

In our natural state we do not pray; therefore prayer is a change that produces change. Isn’t that why we pray? Cp verse 1 with verses 19-21. Paul changed from threats and murder to preaching “Jesus is the Christ.”

Prayer produces growth & effectiveness. v 22

Because it gives exposure to the source of life. Cp Jn 15:1-5 Prayer and the filling of the Holy Spirit produce results.

The answer was on the way while Paul was praying, v 11. As we pray God may have the answer on the way.

In the prayer meeting, as nowhere else, are Christian graces thus brought together with powerful reactionary and reflective forces. The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,

And Looks to God alone;

Laughs at impossibilities,

And cries, It shall be done!

C. Wesley

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Exceeding Abundant Encouragement to Prayer

Eph 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,19 and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

Do you ever get discouraged in praying? Do you ever have an inner desire to pray fervently and victorously but just can’t get over being discouraged? The Bible is abundant with texts and testimonies to encourage us in prayer. It is probably true that, if we are discouraged from praying it is because we are not reading our Bibles.

This portion of Scripture is a great remedy for discouragement.

 

Notice first what Paul is praying for:

that we may be strengthened in the inner man,

that Christ may dwell in our hearts,

that we be rooted and grounded in love,

that we may know the love of Christ,

that we may be filled unto the fulness of God.

All these things are aspects of Christian character. If our character and our relationship to God are what they ought to be all else will be as it should be.

Paul recaps what he is praying for by giving his praying and us over to God, “Now unto him.” He recognizes that God is all-powerful. God is necessarily all-powerful (or omnipotent). He would not be God if He did not possess all and unlimited power. Paul is reminding God that He is able to do what he is asking, and encouraging himself and us at the same time. God’s power reaches to all things: past, present, and future; good and bad; in His will or out of His will; directly from Him or through deligated powers. The only thing that God cannot do, are things contrary to his nature and inconsistent with his will. “He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Tim 2:13

Paul encourages us to expect answers to our praying by saying that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” If He can do above what we ask of think then certainly He can do what we ask or think. Sometimes He answers before we ask and other times it is after much asking. Sometimes it is what we can understand to be for our good and His glory and other times it is something we can’t imagine that can be for any good or any glory to Him. God is in total control.

This gives us great encouragement to go to God, and ask such things of Him as we want, and He has provided. Heb 4:16 says “Let us therefore draw near with boldness (free speaking) unto the throne of grace, “

All this He does as He develops Christian character in us “according to the power that works in us.” God has worked powerfully to deliver us from the wrath of His infinite justice and He is accordingly working in us now to make us what we ought to be and useful for His glory.

The conclusion of the apostle's prayer, in which the power of God is celebrated, is “unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.”

Thou art coming to a King; large petitions with thee bring.

The Lord Has Heard and Answered Prayer

The Lord has heard and answered prayer

and saved his people in distress;

this to the coming age declare,

that they his holy name may bless.

The Lord, exalted on his throne,

looked down from heav’n with pitying eye

to still the lowly captive’s moan

and save his people doomed to die.

All men in Zion shall declare

his gracious name with one accord,

when kings and nations gather there

to serve and worship God the Lord

The earth and heav’ns shall pass away,

like vesture worn and laid aside,

but changeless you shall live alway,

your years forever shall abide.

You, O Jehovah, shall endure,

your throne forever is the same;

and to all generations sure

shall be your great memorial name.

Psalm 102:17-27 The Psalter, 1912; alt. 1990 mod.

Tune 1973 from the Oxford Books of Carols by permission of Oxford University Pess

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Bold Praying

Let’s do a word study. The Greek word parresia means “outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech that conceals nothing” (Arndt & Gingrich, Lexicon of NT); “freedom in speaking without concealment, ambiguity, or circumlocution” (Thayer); “the speaking all one thinks, free-spokenness, as characteristic of a frank and fearless mind” (Critical Lexicon & Concordance) To sum up these definitions “boldness,” parresia, is, saying all that one thinks, in clear terms, not hiding anything or running in circles with our words, or more simply “unreserved & direct speaking.”

Bold or “unreserved & direct speaking” in our praying is necessary for effectual praying. Following are four occurrences of this word in the N.T. which encourage us in praying.

Bold Praying with Access and Confidence

Eph 3:12 “In whom we have boldness (parrhesia) and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Note the association with “access” and “confidence.” Access is the right or opportunity to get to someone. Confidence is trust in knowing that we can exercise our access and be accepted and not rejected. This access is with boldness, or “unreserved & direct speaking.” We can and should use the access that we have to God to say what ever we want to say. We should have a holy courage or confidence and trust that God will accept and hear us. We have no reason to have fear or a spirit of bondage.

Bold Praying for Mercy & Grace

Heb 4:14-16 “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly (parrhesia) unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” How can a defiled and sinful person approach God? He must first cleanse and qualify himself, but this he can not do to the satisfaction of an infinitely holy and vengeful God. The work of qualifying us must be done for us. There are two things that this text says we get by boldly coming: 1. Mercy, which is not getting what we deserve, that is eternal judgment and 2. Grace, which is getting what we no not deserve, that is, all “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Eph 2:7

Bold Praying by the Blood of Jesus

Heb 10:19 “Having therefore, brethren, boldness (parrhesia) to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” The blood of Jesus has cleansed us of all defilements so there is nothing to hinder us. If our coming to God depended on our own worthiness we would have great reason to fear. We have liberty granted to us by God on the basis of what our substitute has accomplished for us. To be timid in our approach to God would say that we don’t trust what has been done for us or that what has been done is maybe not sufficient. What a great compliment and glory it is to God for us to take Him at His word and come with “unreserved & direct speaking.”

Bold Praying’s condition

1 Jn 3:21,22 “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence (parrhesia) toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” also 5:14 “And this is the confidence (parrhesia) that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” Jesus laid the foundation for this in Jn 15:7 “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” This is always the secret to answered prayer, even in the case of Jesus Himself. This abiding relationship is the assumed condition of all answers to prayer. So, what should be our responsibility in relation to prayer being answered? Simply this, “to abide in Him.” We are to be in constant obedience and fellowship and we can claim the promise “ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Jn 14:14

All four of these passages are in the Present tense, which is saying that we are to be continually having this boldness or “unreserved & direct speaking.” This is something that should be natural and normal to us which God would have us to experience on a continual basis. . My dear fellow-prayer “Let us have boldness with our great God.”

The Spirit imparts a sense of sonship and acceptance that creates freedom and confidence in the presence of God.

Behold the Throne of Grace!

Behold the throne of grace!

The promise calls me near:

There Jesus shows a smiling face,

And waits to answer prayer.

That rich atoning blood,

Which sprinkled round I see,

Provides for those who come to God,

An all-prevailing plea.

My soul, ask what thou wilt;

Thou cants not be too bold:

Since his own blood for thee he spilt,

What else can he withhold?

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What wond’rous grace! who knows its full extent?

A creature, dust and ashes, speaks with God--

Tells all his woes, enumerates his wants,

Yea, pleads with Deity, and gains relief.

’Tis prayer, yes, ’tis ‘effectual, fervent prayer,’

Puts dignity on worms, proves life divine,

Makes demons tremble, breaks the darkest cloud,

And with a princely power prevails with God!

And shall this privilege become a task?

My God, forbid! Pour out thy Spirit's grace,

Draw me by love, and teach me how to pray.

Yea, let Thy holy unction from above

Beget, extend, maintain my intercourse

with Father, Son, and Spirit, Israel’s God,

Until petitions are exchanged for praise

Irons.

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Mary’s Example in Prayer

The mother of Jesus exemplifies true praying. In Jn 2:1-11 we have the story of Jesus turning the water into wine. It begins ”And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine----” Now let’s see how Mary reacts to this situation.

1. “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him” She goes to the right place with the need. Jn 6:68 “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”

2. “They have no wine” She was assuming someone else’s problem--she was being an intercessor. To pray for ourselves (i.e. our family and friends) only, is selfish and forsakes the responsibility we have in prayer.

3. “They have no wine” She states the problem. Prayer is simply telling it to Jesus and leaving it in His care and timing. 1 Pe 5:7 “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

4. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” Mary is rebuffed. Sometimes we are rebuffed when God doesn’t quickly answer our prayer. This is “trusting time.”

5. “His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” She had done enough. She did not try to influence or help Him or even express concern. Jesus knew the problem and that was enough.

6. “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” She did not concern herself with the means that Jesus might use. She is in submission to what ever Jesus does and in whatever way He does it. If we give God great liberty to work He will do great things in great ways.

7. “And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.” Jesus worked in the existing circumstances by using the six water pots. God can bless us right where we are and with what we have. Obedience where we are is our responsibility.

8. “Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water.” Jesus gave a simple and what seemed to be an unrelated command. Remember Naaman in 2 Ki 5:11 who said, “Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.” He was upset with God’s means but when he obeyed he was healed. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

9. “And they filled them up to the brim.” They obeyed as much as possible, “to the brim.” In 2 Ki 13:18,19 the prophet told the king to smite the ground, he smote only three time and the prophet rebuked him. We need to obey to the degree we want God to bless.

10. “And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.” Obedience is consistently required. Trust even when there’s risk of embarrassment and failure.

11. “When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was:” God normally works behind the scenes and with people that are not significant to the people of this world. Here it is the servants, the least esteemed, that God uses. Are we willing to be such to be used of God?

12. “But the servants which drew the water knew” “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Jon 15:15

13. “The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” We never get the best until Jesus comes and becomes our Savior and Supplier. If we are feeling rebuffed and still waiting on God’s blessing, cheer up, “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” 1 Co 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” The good wine will come last and it must come from Jesus because of what He did for us.

14. “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory.” Rom 11:36 “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

15. “and his disciples believed on him.” Seeing God work, glorify His name and meet needs always increases the faith of His people and glorifies God.

Let us pray that Jesus will come into our lives and work for His glory and our good.

You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. John Bunyan

Oh, closer every day;

Let me lean harder on Thee, Jesus,

Yes, harder all the way.

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Our Continual Responsibility to Pray

The Greek word proskartereo makes an interesting and helpful study on prayer. The dictionary gives great breadth in its meaning: “to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing, to persevere and not to faint, to show one's self courageous for, to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly.” We put this together as: “To be steadfastly attentive to with constant readiness and unremitting care that one might persevere and show oneself courageous.” Five of the ten occurrences of this word are used in exhortations to pray. Nothing else has this degree of emphases. Not: giving of money, attending church, showing of hospitality, exercise of gifts, doctrine, or preaching. All five occurrences are in a continuous action tense, emphasizing the continual responsibility we have to prayer.

1. Ac 1:14 “All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” The first occurrence of our word is pre-pentecost and in preparation of pentecost. This is referring to corporate prayer. They continued “to be steadfastly attentive to prayer with constant readiness and unremitting care, persevering and showing themselves courageous” and the promised blessing of pentecost came in power and glorifying of God in Christ Jesus. The historical context was the beginning of an entirely new program in God’s eternal plan. Nothing could be more appropriate than this kind of prayer at this point.

2. Ac 2:42 “They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” After pentecost the believers continued “to be steadfastly attentive to with constant readiness and unremitting care, persevering and showing themselves courageous” in corporate prayer and the blessings continued to come. Sometimes we long for our churches to have the zeal and power that the church in Acts had. It seems obvious that Acts 2:42 contains the secret to their usefulness for God. Why and for how long will we continue in our own powerless ways?

3. Ac 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” The leaders of the new born church took the necessary precaution “to be steadfastly attentive to pray with constant readiness and unremitting care, persevering and showing themselves courageous.” As they began to lead the church they understood the necessity of prayer. Prayer was so important to them that they delegated other necessary duties to others, so they could have sufficient time for prayer. What a change we would see in our churches if its leaders would protect their responsibility to pray. Most of our churches are run in the energy of the flesh and not in the power of the Spirit.

4. Rom 12:9-13 “Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another. Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality.” Paul is exhorting us to not be hypocritical, but sincere in expressing our love. When he says “ persist in prayer,” he is telling us to “to be steadfastly attentive to prayer with constant readiness and unremitting care, persevering and showing ourselves courageous in prayer.” The context suggests that this praying is “intercessory prayer” i an exercise of our love. Love is the identifying characteristic of the children of God, “Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” Jn 13:35 It is impossible for one to love God if he does not love his fellow Christian. 1 Jn 4:20 “If anyone says ‘I love God’ and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” We must love and pray for our brothers and sisters in our Lord.

5. Col 4:2-5 “Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us too, that God may open a door for the message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may make it known as I should.” He adds emphasis by saying that we should “keep alert in prayer with thanksgiving” He also gets personal with the saints at Colosse when he asks them to intercede for him that they might have opportunity to “proclaim the mystery of Christ.” Paul is making thanksgiving and intercession integral parts of the kind of prayer we are to be devoted to, that is, “to be steadfast, attentive to with constant readiness and unremitting care, persevering and showing ourselves courageous.” We certainly have much to be thankful for, this in itself is sufficient to make our praying full and lively. Then again, Paul is the missionary and the Colosse Christians are to support him in intercessory prayer. Most of us know someone who is either on the mission field or in the ministry of a church that we could pray for. There are three ways to fulfill the great commission “go and make disciples of all nations,” Ma 28:19: 1. In person as Paul did. 2. In financial support as the Philippians did Ph 4:15, 3. In prayer as the Colosse Christians are exhorted to do.

Four of the above five occurrences are dealing with corporate prayer and the fifth (Ac 6:4) is dealing with prayer in the leadership of the Church. The basic lesson is that prayer should get its proper emphasis in our churches. Without it there is no hope for the presence and power of God.

A church is never more like the New Testament church than when it is praying.

A congregation without a prayer meeting is essentially defective in its organization, and so must be limited in its efficiency. The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must pray patiently, believing, continue in prayer until we obtain an answer. George Mueller

Prayer is indeed a continuous violent action of the spirit as it is lifted up to God. This is comparable to that of a ship going against the stream. Luther

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Paul’s Prayer for the Colosse Christians

“For this reason we also, from the day we heard,

have not ceased praying for you and” Col 1:9-12

I. The Object of Paul’s prayer.

“asking God to fill you with the knowledge” Paul is praying for a completion and perfecting of that which God has begun in them. “To fill” is to carry into effect, bring to realization. Knowledge here is “a knowledge grounded on personal experience “ Paul want us to come into complete realization of our personal experience of God. “of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” Paul is praying that we might have personal experience in “spiritual understanding” of the mysteries of grace. God gives us understanding in “things angels long to catch a glimpse of.” 1 Pet 1:12

II. The Purpose of Paul’s prayer involves two things.

1. Our Character “so that you may live worthily of the Lord” “I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called,” Eph 4:1 “to walk by faith in him;” 2 Cor 5:7, “to walk after his Spirit,” Gal 5:16, and according to His word, to have a way of life as becomes his Gospel, Phil 1:27, and worthy of that calling wherewith the saints are called by grace to the obtaining of his kingdom and glory. 1 Thes 2:12

2. His pleasure “and please him in all respects” In ourselves we can do nothing to please God, but because of Christ redeeming work for us, we have faith and love toward God that makes our works acceptable.

III. The Answer of Paul’s prayer.

Note four phrases that describe the action of knowing God’s will.“bearing fruit in every good deed,” children of God are trees that bear righteousness, they are a planting of the Lord and under the influence of divine grace they bring forth the fruits of righteousness. “growing in the knowledge of God,” When a Christian becomes full of knowledge, his capacity grows so there is room for more knowledge of God’s person and will. The cycle continues and will continue into eternity. “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” Believers are weak in themselves, and insufficient to do or bear anything of themselves, but stand in need of strength from above, proportionate to the various kinds of services, temptations, and trials they are called unto. All power belongs to God, it is a perfection of his nature, and has been, and is gloriously displayed in many things; as in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the upholding of all things in their being. “for the display of all patience” To bear patiently all afflictions and tribulations and wait patiently for the things promised by God, “to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing” Tit 2:13 “and steadfastness,” to be slow to anger, and not easily provoked to wrath; to be ready to forgive injuries; and to bear long, and with patience, all reproaches and persecutions for the sake of Christ, and his Gospel; “with joy” with a cheerful spirit, or with joy in the Holy Ghost; to esteem reproach for Christ's sake above the riches and honors of this world; to rejoice when counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. “giving thanks to the Father” As Paul prays for us to be thankful for all things, so should we pray for ourselves and for one another, that we should be humble and full of gratitude toward God.

How does the contents of this prayer compare with the contents of our prayers. Our Spiritual needs are more important than our physical. We should be praying for ourselves and for one another that we might be full of experiential knowledge of God’s will in a spiritually wise and understanding way so that we may walk worthily of our Lord and please Him in all things as we bear the fruit of good deeds, ever growing in knowing Him, manifesting patience, steadfastness, and joy.

I asked the Lord that I might grow

In faith, and love, and every grace;

Might more of his salvation know,

And seek more earnestly his face.

I thought that in some favoured hour

At once he’d answer my request;

And, by his love’s constraining power,

Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel

The hidden evils of my heart,

And let the angry power of hell

Assault my soul in every part.

“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried.

“Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?”

“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,

“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”

“These inward trails I employ

From self and pride to set thee free,

And break thy schemes of earthly joy,

That thou may’st seek thy all in me!”

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Paul’s Requests for Prayer

Our Lord said in Mat12:34-37 “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” There is a definite correlation between what one thinks or the desires in His heart and what he talks about. This applies to one’s praying. We pray for, and ask others to pray for, what we hold dear in our hearts. If we are praying for health and wealth, then that reveals what is dear to us. The requests given out in our prayer meetings reveals what we are most concerned about. Some prayer meetings have been nicked named “an organ recital” because there are so many requests for hearts, kidneys, livers, gall bladders, etc. The first two requests the Lord taught us (Luke 11:1) to include in our prayers are “Father, hallowed be your name.” the honor and glory of God; and “Your kingdom come,” the success of God’s program in this world. After this we are told to pray “Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins...” It is helpful to review the prayer request that Paul had. Notice what he requested each of the following churches to pray.

1. The Romans--for His Service. Rom 15:30,32 “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.”

2. The Thessalonians--that God’s Word Might Prosper. 2 Thess 3:1-3 “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”

3. The Thessalonians--for Deliverance. 2 Thess 3:1-3 “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”

4. The Hebrews--for the Brethren. Heb 13:18,19 “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.”

5. The Corinthians--for their Gifts to Him. 2 Cor 1:11 “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

6. The Ephesians--for His Preaching. Eph 6:18-20 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

7. The Colossians--for an Open Door. Col 4:3,4 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”

Prayer 89 Bible Outline Studies, Basil Miller, p 54

The above prayer request could be an outline for our praying, personally of corporately. May we accept Paul’s request as if our own leaders and friends were making it.

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Paul’s Prayers for Others

Intercessory prayer is the responsibility of all Christians and especially of Christian leaders. If one is sincere about wanting to help people to have a better relationship with God, he will pray for them. Genuine Christian love will cause one to pray for the one loved. Godly leaders will follow the example of our Lord and pray for the sheep. God has given us good example in Paul of how to pray for others. Paul prayed for:

1. The Romans - to come them. Rom 1:8-19 "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you." We are to pray for others with thankfulness conditioned on the will God. We should pray for others that we have never met, thanking God for what he has done in and with their lives. We should be consistent in praying for others, this shows true concern for them. We should pray that we might be able to make a contribution to their lives as God wills and for His glory.

2. The Thessalonians - to see them. 1 Thes 3:10-12 "Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you." We are to pray much "Night and day." We are to pray for God to direct us so that we might have the opportunity to help others in areas that lack and that they may abound in love for others.

3. Israel - that they might be saved. Rom 10:1-5 "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." We are to pray for the salvation of others, even for those who have rejected the truth and the Savior. Even though they have persecuted us and fought against God, we are still to pray for them.

4. The Corinthians - that they might be pure. 2 Cor 13:7 "Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates." We are to pray for the "holiness" of others in relation to God and for their "honesty" in relation to others without regard for our reputation.

5. The Ephesians - that they might have wisdom. Eph 1:16-19 "Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power." We are not to stop praying for our friends in Christ that they will be intelligent and knowledgeable about who God is and what God wants them to do, and what they have in Christ and how powerful God is.

6. The Phillipians - that they might abound in love. Phil 1:9-11 "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." We are to pray for others that they may increase in knowing God and in the ability to apply truth to everyday life without being offensive, and have the righteousness of Christ.

7. The Colossians - to know God’’s will. Col 1:9-11 "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness." We are to continually pray for others to completely know God’’s will and live in a way that would honor our Lord in good works, ever increasing in knowledge of God strong in joyous patience and long suffering.

Prayer 89 Bible Outline Studies, Basil Miller p 55

Our praying for our spiritual brothers and sisters should be guided by the Holy Spirit, conditioned on the will of God, and for the Glory of Christ Jesus. It should be focused on the advancement of the Kingdom of God not on our pleasures and comforts.

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Intercession is the Noblest Work of God Entrusts to us Humans

T.W. Hunt

The power of the Church truly to bless rests on intercession--asking and receiving heavenly gifts to carry to men. of prayer, men mighty in prayer. Power Through Prayer, E. M. Bounds

In the fine and difficult art of prayer, intercession is undoubtedly the most difficult of accomplishment. As far as my understanding of these things goes, intercessory prayer is the finest and most exacting kind of work that it is possible for men to perform. Prayer, O. Hallesby, p 164

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Steadfast Devotion to Prayer

The Greek word for “steadfast devotion” is proskartereo, 6 of the 10 occurrences have to do with prayer, it means to be steadfastly devoted to, to give unremittingly to, to persevere and not to faint in, to be in constant readiness for.

Acts 1:14 “All these continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Jesus’ last instruction to the disciples was “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father...you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Ac 1:5 We can’t be sure of what they understood “ baptized with” to mean but obviously they were willing for it. Jesus further entices them with “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 1:8 I suspect that the last phrase “to the end of the earth” just blew their minds, but it didn’t seem to scare them. After Jesus was taken up from them into Heaven they quickly obeyed. They returned to Jerusalem and went to the upper room and our text describes what they did. They continued or they were steadfastly devoting themselves to prayer, they gave themselves unremittingly to prayer, they persevered and did not faint in their prayer, they were in constant readiness for prayer. Acts 2 recorded the unsurpassed events that resulted. The lesson is clear, if we give prayer its proper place, God will bless beyond our comprehension. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” Eph 3:20

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” Verse 41 ends with “and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” This mighty work of God compelled these early Christians to continue or to be steadfastly devoted to prayer, to give themselves unremittingly to prayer, to persevere and not to faint in prayer, to be in constant readiness for prayer, as they had before this in 1:14. The result of their faithfulness to persist in doing what was right is recorded in v 43 “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” It is both simple and mysterious. Nothing complicated about giving ourselves to prayer, but mysterious when we realize we don’t do it. It is obvious that they, plural, corporately gave themselves to the teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. All four items have the definite article making it a matter of specific identity. If the first three are corporate, then the fourth is also. They were praying in “the prayer meetings” with steadfast devotion.

Ac 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Now things have grown to the point that problems have appeared and some needs of the people are not being properly met. Priorities have to be identified and responsibilities have to be delegated. The apostles determined that their first priority would be to “give ourselves continually to prayer” that is, to steadfastly devote themselves to prayer, to give themselves unremittingly to prayer, to persevere and not to faint in prayer, to be in constant readiness for prayer, “and to the ministry of the word.” This they are doing together, corporately. We see proof of this in the plural “ourselves” and the fact that “ministry of the word” is a corporate ministry. They were not satisfied in each one having his secret time of prayer. They were serious and corporately laid hold of God in prevailing prayer.

Rom 12:12 “Rejoicing in hope; be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” The glory days of Pentecost are in the past, now it is tribulation times and the exhortation is to be steadfastly devoted to prayer, to give unremitting to prayer, to persevere and not to faint in prayer, to be in constant readiness for prayer, Note the flow of the context, v 1 “I appeal to you...brothers...” v 3 “I say to everyone among you...” v. 4 “as in one body we have many members,” v 5 “though many, are one body in Christ” v 10 “love one another with brotherly affection” v 12 “...be constant in prayer” v 13 “contribute” to the needs of the saints” v 16 “Live in harmony with one another” v 18 “...live peaceably with all men.” The entire context is speaking to the Roman Christians as a corporate body. The exhortation to be steadfastly devoted to prayer, to give unremittingly to prayer, to persevere and not to faint in prayer, to be in constant readiness for prayer is given to the corporate body of believers. We as a body of believers are to be rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, and continue in prayer.

Eph 6:18 “Praying always at all times and in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Paul is discussing the armor of God with which we should equip ourselves. After he names all the equipment, climaxing with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” he brings it altogether by saying “pray.” That is, we are to be praying always at all times, we are not to cease and there is no inappropriate time to pray. Prayer must be in the Spirit and watch with a steadfast devotion to prayer, giving ourselves unremittingly to prayer, that we might persevere and not to faint in prayer, being constant readiness for prayer. It seems that Paul can not say enough about prayer and how important it is. Even with all the armor of God in place we still must pray.

Col 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving;” We are to be steadfastly devoted to prayer, to give unremittingly to prayer, to persevere and not to faint in prayer, to be in constant readiness for prayer, and be careful to watch for all those things we should be thankful. We will never be without much for which to thank God.

If one understands the importance that the Bible attaches to pray, he is not surprised that six times such a strong exhortation is pressed upon us. If one does not understand the importance of prayer then he has these six exhortations to press him into the practice of prayer so he will understand. Both on the corporate and the individual levels we are to be steadfastly devoting ourselves to prayer, to giving unremittingly to prayer, to persevering and not to fainting in prayer, to be in constant readiness for prayer."

We have plenty of Biblical examples. There is a wrestling Jacob, a Daniel who prayed three times a day, and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. CHS

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The Ultimate Answer to Prayer

No doubt Genesis 15 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. It is the climax of God’s dealing with Abraham, known as the Father of the faithful. “After these things the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Gen 15:1 cp Deut 10:9

When Abraham rescued Lot from the kings (Ch 14), he refused to take any reward for doing so. Abraham’s concern was not the spoil of battle; he was a man of principle and was occupied with the transcendent truths of God. The “word of the Lord” that here comes to Abraham was probably the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. He says, “I am.... thy exceeding great reward.” He Himself would be Abraham’s reward. Christ is our reward; He was our representative before the judgment of God when he died in our stead. Our reward is the fruit of His labors, we have His imputed righteousness and He is our intercessor for us now at the Father’s right hand. All the blessings of grace and glory are ours because of Him and His work for us, now and for all eternity.

“The word of Lord,” the incarnate Christ Jesus speaks to us with a similar message. In Luke 11:11-13 our Lord is teaching us about prayer. After He tells the story of the three friends, which illustrates intercessory prayer, He makes the analogy of a Father giving a son good things. “And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? Or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give...” This is simple but profound and powerful logic. Of course a Father would not give a rock and a scorpion to his son who asks for an “egg sandwich.” Our Heavenly is not only as good as an earthly father; He is infinitely better. But notice how our Lord interjects a new and startling idea. Jesus identifies the object of the Father’s giving as “the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Just as Abraham had the person of God as His reward, which is infinitely better that all material and family blessings, so we can have the person of the Holy Spirit as our very own, which is infinitely better than all other things combined.

If the Holy Spirit is a gift of our Father then we can easily see the reasonableness of our asking for what He wants to give. The text says “...to them that ask.” Isn’t that the essence of what prayer really is, asking for what God wants to give. Why should we ask for the Holy Spirit? We must have the help of the Holy Spirit in wanting to pray. We must have His power in the exercise of prayer. Phil 2:13 “for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” We do not know what to pray for so we need Him to inform us and lead us in prayer. Rom 8:26 “in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought;” Prayer is an intimate partnership with the Holy Spirit, He give us boldness to wrestle and prevail, as Jacob in Gen. 32:24, to the overcoming of God’s reluctance to bless. Heb 4:16 “Let us therefore draw near with boldness.”

Ultimate prayer request is appropriate for the ultimate answer to prayer. We need to be begging God for a special relationship and presence of the Holy Spirit. Is not God, the Giver, more than all His gifts?

Only when we have the Holy Spirit as our Lord is teaching will our prayer life and our prayer meetings be what they need to be.

But it is the Holy Spirit of God Who is prayer’s great Helper. The Kneeling Christian

Prayer is an art, which only the Spirit can teach us. He is the giver of all prayer. C. H. Spurgeon

The biggest thing God ever did for me was to teach me to pray in the Spirit. Samuel Chadwick

Come, O Come, Thou Quickening Spirit

Come, O come, thou quick’ning Spirit,

God from all eternity!

May the power never fail us;

dwell within us constantly

Then shall truth and life and light

banish all the gloom of night.

Grant our hearts in fullest measure

wisdom, counsel, purity.

That we ever may be seeking

only that which pleaseth thee.

Let thy knowledge spread and grow,

working error’s overthrown.

Show us, Lord, the path of blessing:

when we trespass on our way,

cast, O Lord, our sins behind thee

and be with us day by day.

Should we stray, O Lord, recall;

work repentance when we fall.

Holy Spirit, strong and mighty,

thou who makest all things new,

make thy work within us perfect

and the evil foe subdue.

Grant us weapons for the strife

and with victory crown our life.

Heinrich Held, ca. 1664; Charles F. Gounod, 1872; Tr. by Charles W. Schaeffer,1866; alt; alt. 1961

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We have Prayer because there was a Resurrection

Christ’s resurrection proves He has the power to fulfill His promises. Jesus said, “ ask what so ever you will and it will be done.” “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” Mk 11:22-24 A dead Christ could not make good on any promise, especially one like this. Only a resurrected and powerful Jesus can give all things we ask in prayer.

Christ’s resurrection was necessary so He could continue His work. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14 He could not do it, what ever that might be, if He had not risen and gone to the Father. We could not do greater things than He did if He were not alive and working in us. There could not be answered prayer if He had not risen and ascended. But He has risen and there is answer to prayer. Praise God and the Lamb forever.

The first encounter with the resurrected Christ was to Mary as she lingered in the garden, after the others had left perplexed and discouraged, John 20:11-18 The Second was to the two on the road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-32 The Third was to the eleven after the two followers of Jesus talked to Him on the road to Emmaus, came to Jerusalem. Luke 24:33-49 Note the progression: Jesus showed Himself to one, then two, then to a small group and again eight days later, and then to 500 brethren. It seems that out of the 10 appearances of the risen Lord Jesus only three are to single individuals. What is the lesson in all this? Jesus revealed Himself more to the corporate gatherings. Have you ever noticed that many false religions are based on a supposed private revelation of Christ to their leader. Beware of such claims that do not allow for confirmation by others. Sometimes we are too blind to see and too dull to understand how Jesus is revealed to His gathered people through the preaching of the Word and prayer. It is when His people gather together in consideration of the resurrected Savior that He manifests Himself among them.

Christ’s resurrection and ascension was followed by prayer: Acts 1:8-14 “...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said,‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” We know the result of this is the first corporate prayer meeting: the birth of the Church and the conversion of thousands. The book of Acts is the story of a praying church. Would to God that we could be more like the churches in Acts and less like the churches in our day.

It took a resurrected Savior to send us the Holy Spirit “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you...But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” Jn 16:7,13,14 The Holy Spirit has come because Jesus has been resurrected, ascended and glorified therefore we can pray in the Spirit. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Rom 8:11 26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Rom 8:26

The physical resurrection is the basis of our spiritual resurrection. Paul said “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, ....But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:1,4-6 Spiritual death is just as dead as physical death. Christ’s exaltation is our exaltation and when we follow him into the presence of God, it is with the same glory and dignity that He has. He is seated performing His meditoral and intercessory work. We are “seated with Him in the heavenly places” and this certainly must imply “heavenly functions” as well. “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” Heb 8:1 “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25 The resurrection has placed us with Christ in His intercessory work and we follow His example when we pray and intercede for others.

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Prison Praying

“The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” Acts 16:22-26

Note the striking resemblance to another prayer meeting recorded in Acts 4:31 “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Since there were two in attendance this was a corporate prayer meeting. Our meetings don’t have to be large to be effective. We all want to pray with such reality and power that it brings an earthquake but are we willing to live the life that prepares one for such praying? These kinds of results come from a life of total commitment, without counting the cost that is, reckless abandonment to God’s will. Jer 29:13 says “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Less than full hearted searching for God will not find His blessings. If we hold back on seeking God, He will hold back on blessing us. Successful living and praying comes with fervency and total commitment.

Our lives and our praying are inseparably connected. The way we live effects the way we pray. The way we pray effects the way we live. Our lives must be a continuous prayer and our prayer life must be lived out into everyday life. Lives of holiness and commitment make good soil for our praying to produce results. In Act 16 Paul and Silas had taken a bold stand for truth and for Jesus, even to the point of persecution. They had rebuked Satan and challenged the livelihood of evil men. Satan does not loose ground without fighting back. In v 20 the merchants take Paul and Silas to the rulers for teaching contrary doctrine and multitudes rose up against them. No evidence here of them trying to build a “seeker friendly” church. They seemed to be operating on the principle “It is better to be divided by truth than united by error.” Our prayer life, individually or corporately, will be powerless if we are compromising truths like God’s holiness and sovereignty.

This church began in a prayer meeting, note verse 13; their first gathering was for prayer and verse 16 indicates that they were in the practice of meeting together for prayer. It is not surprising when we find Paul and Silas praying when they found themselves in prison. That was the atmosphere in which this church at Philippi functioned. The “earth quaking” results of their prayer was not from a single prayer but from a prayer life, especially the prayer life of the corporate body. We like to rejoice in Elijah’s prayer on Mt. Carmel when he prayed only 62 words (1 Ki 18:36,37) and the fire of God fell and consumed the wet offerings and the water in the trenches. A great prayer and a great victory for God and His people, but we forget that Elijah had been alone with God for over three years. It takes a lot of faithful “behind the scenes” praying to make visible victory like Elijah’s or Paul’s. A church that prays in the lonely nights will see the blessings on Sunday mornings. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Mat 6:6

I do not hear Paul asking Silas, “Brother Silas, please pray for my back it hurts so bad and I am afraid it going to get infected.” Neither do I hear Silas ask, “Brother Paul, these gashes on my head are giving me a migraine and I believe God wants to heal me. Please pray that I will have the faith to be healed.” God certainly can and does, in His sovereignty, heal our physical bodies. But these two were so busy praising and singing that they didn’t have any thought about their own physical condition. This is the kind of praying that we need. We need to be so absorbed with the things of the Kingdom that we have no care for our personal comforts.

Paul and Silas were experiencing the same thing that the other disciples had as recorded in Acts 5:41 “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Our text says they “were praying and singing hymns of praise to God.” What were they praising God for? Simply, “that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

If they can pray and praise in the stocks, then surely we can do no less in our air-conditioned churches. The earthquake gave liberty to the prisoners. This illustrates what happens to the church when God’s praying people gain the victory in prayer. They get the freedom and power to serve God. Note the three prominent conversions in this story: Lydia (and her household), the slave girl, and the jailor. When the corporate body of believers are praying, then we should not be surprised when sin is dealt with, sinners are saved, and the church grows.

Later Paul wrote back to the Philippians and assured them that “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” Phil 1:12

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The Church Was Born in a Prayer Meeting

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called the Mount of Olives (which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’’s journey away). When they had entered Jerusalem, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James were there. All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Acts 1:12-14

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4

The element something is born in is the element it is to live in. The seed is placed in the ground to grow and produce many more seeds. A fish is hatched in the water to swim and does not want it any other way. An animal born in the wild is designed to live in the wild. The monkey is in the tree to swing with ease and delight. An eagle is born for great heights and comfortably floats in the thin air.

Man was created in the image of God to commune with Him and if he doesn’’t, he is the loneliest of all creatures. A child of God is so by birth. He is born confessing his sin and calling on the Lord for salvation. The first words Paul uttered were a prayer of submission. ““Who are You, Lord?”” Act 9:5 We began our spiritual life in praying for it and we must continue it in the same way. Our birth from above gives us a ““spiritual”” and a Godly nature. ““For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”” 2 Pet 1:4 We must then continue to partake of the Divine nature as we live in this world. ““If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”” John 16:7

The Church (the local and visible body of believers) was born in a prayer meeting. Yes, they existed as individuals before Acts 2, but as a functioning body of believer they began to exist in Acts 2, in a prayer meeting that had the manifest presence and power of God. The church began in the real presence of God and should continue in the experience thereof. Anything else is not the will of God. The church is to administer God's Kingdom through prayer. It is to commission labors by means of prayer “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,‘‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Acts 13:2,3 The church is to requisition all the supplies necessary to keep the kingdom functioning and advancing. It is said that an army marches on it stomach but God’’s army marches on its knees. Our Lord teaches us in the model prayer to pray to the Father ““Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Mat 6:10 Implicit in this prayer is the request for everything that is needed in the administration of the Kingdom of God.

Peter teaches us that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9 “A royal priesthood” is body of priests that intercede for others with royal dignity. This is what we do when we pray for one another. The exercise of this priesthood is God’’s will and way for the church to operate.

The church must continue in the atmosphere and function it was birthed in if it is to be effective spiritually. Most evangelical churches have little or no emphasis of prayer. Some have huge buildings and a staff of professional administrators but they are powerless in the spiritual dimension because they are not a praying people, “a body of priests.” Most would acknowledge that we begin the Christian life in and by the aid of the Holy Spirit but “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Gal 3:3
“A dynamic praying church must be built from the inside out, employing all four levels of prayer: the secret closet, the family altar, small group praying and finally, the congregational setting.” Developing your Secret Closet of Prayer, Richard Burr, p 19. The corporate prayer meeting is the most important meeting of the church. Jesus said “My Father’’s house shall be a house of prayer----” He didn’t say it should be a house of preaching, or singing and a lot of other good and necessary things. It is to be primarily and fundamentally a place of prayer. This is not where our praying is done in proxy by “the priest,” we are all priests, we all must pray. The corporate prayer meeting is the most important meeting of the church because it gives all the other meetings their effectiveness and creates an atmosphere of God’s presence.

Examine the book of Acts and see how frequently and fervently the church is in prayer and how powerful it is. “These that have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6 Prayer and power are inseparable.

The element something is born in is the element it is to live in.

A congregation without a prayer meeting is essentially defective in its organization, and so must be limited in its efficiency. The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

History confirms the truth that wherever evangelical and vital religion flourish, there lives the earnest gatherings for social prayer. The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

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Persistent Praying

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” Luk 18:1-6

The “lose heart” or “not faint” is translation of ma ekkakeo = not to be utterly spiritless, not to be wearied out, exhausted. It occurs 6 times in the NT. Two of those occurrences compliment our text.

Gal 6:9 “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” It is encouraging to know that if we keep sowing our effort into the work of the Spirit we will reap the benefit in due time.

2 The 3:13 “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.” Prayer is the very best “good” that we can do, so for sure we should not let ourselves get weary of faint hearted in praying.

Matthew Henry reminds us “All God's people are praying people. Here, earnest steadiness in prayer for spiritual mercies is taught.” This rebukes those who pray not at all or seldom or just when it is convenient. If we pray only when it is convenient we will not pray significantly or sufficiently. Powerful praying comes only with great sacrifice and expenditure of time and effort.

We are to pray in the good times and in the bad times; Seasons of health and sickness; Times of victory and temptation; Whether people desert us or support us. Even when it appears that God has deserted us and not answered our prayers, we exhorted to not loose heart and become exhausted.

This is not to be understood, that a man should be always actually engaged in the act of praying, at every moment in private devotion to God, or attending public prayer with the saints. There is much else for us to do, religious, personal, and civil. The meaning is, that a man should persevere in prayer, and quit, or be dejected, because he doesn’t get an immediate answer.

Earlier in this gospel our Lord had taught persistence in prayer. “Then He said to them, Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him;’ and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” Luk 11:5-10

When did the interceding man stop asking—when he received what he needed. Not to lose heart means not to quit asking, not to quit seeking, not to quit knocking. Our Lord tells us, if we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking “it will be opened.”

God could answer our prayers speedy but many times He does not. Not because He doesn’t want to answer, but because we have not developed sufficiently to receive the blessing. God, Who is in sovereign control of all people and events, includes in His plan our asking for those things He wants to do. He moves us to begin our asking process at the right time so as to accomplish in us what He wants accomplished in perfect timing with when he wants to answer our prayer. “Men would pluck their mercies green, when the Lord would have them ripe.” God gives the answer in perfect timing with the asker.

“And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’” Luk 18:6-8

We are to put our complete trust in our Loving God. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Pet 5:6,7

Unanswered yet? The Prayer your lips have pleaded

In Agony of heart these many years?

Does faith begin to fail; is hope departing,

And think you all in vain those falling tears?

Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer;

You shall have your desire sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Though when you first presented

This petition at the Father’s throne,

It seemed you could not wait the time of asking,

So urgent was your heart to make it known.

Though years have passed since then, do not despair;

The Lord will answer you sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say unanswered,

Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done,

The work began when first your prayer was uttered,

And God will finish what He has begun.

Keep the incense burning at the shrine of prayer,

His glory you shall see sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered;

Here feet are firmly planted on the Rock;

Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted,

Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.

She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer,

And cries, “It shall be done sometime, somewhere.”

Ophelia Guyon Browning

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Sound and Sober Praying

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit

for the purpose of prayer.”

1 Peter 4:7

Let’s look closely at the basis for Peter’s exhortation to prayer. “The end of all things.” The New English Translation has “For the culmination of all things is near.”

The Greek for “end” is telos and means termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be (always of the end of some act or state, but not of the end of a period of time), the last in any succession or series, that by which a thing is finished, its close, the aim, purpose. So the word “end” means either the cessation of something or the purpose of something.

When Peter says “The end of all things” he is not referring to the end of time but to one of the following:

1. Of the universe when all things will be burnt up. 2. Of one’s eminent death 3. Of the OT economy. 4. Of the end of the age when Jesus returns.

Before we decide which he is referring to we need to examine “is near”or “has drawn near” which is in the perfect tense in Greek and describes an action which is viewed as having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated but has continuing results. The same word in the same tense is in Mat 3:2 “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” John was preaching that the kingdom of heaven had already come and was there. Jesus' last cry from the cross, tetelestai ("It is finished!"), is a good example of the perfect tense, namely "It (the atonement) has been accomplished, completely, once and for all time."

Our conclusion of what this verse is saying is “The purpose of all things, that is the previous OT economy and the plan of God, has come to realization and is now with us. That purpose is the “Person of Jesus Christ,” he fulfilled the law and brought it to completion.” Now on the basis of all things have found their culmination in Jesus we are exhorted to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer”

The first exhortation refers to our mental state “of sound judgment.” The word sophroneo means to be of sound mind, to put a moderate estimate upon one's self, think of one's self soberly. Paul said it in another way in Rom 12:2 “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” This is fundamentally important in our prayer life. We must have the same mind as our Savior and pray in harmony with Him. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Jon 15:7

The second exhortation “be of…sober spirit” refers to our relationship to the world around us, nepho means to abstain from wine, to be calm and collected in spirit, temperate, dispassionate, circumspect, to exercise self control. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Pet 5:8

Paul in Eph 6:18 gives us a sharp contrast “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Wine represents two things: joy and control. It is not going to excess with either that we need to strive for. We can be intoxicated with other things besides wine such as pleasure, business, pride, envy, anger, family, etc. The church today is intoxicated on crowds, music, drama, personalities, even preaching in contrast to what Jesus said, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” Mar 11:17 A church can not be a “house of prayer” like Jesus said it should be and at the same time give allegiance to the methods and principles of the world.

We need to be of sound mind and sober spirit and watch for all opportunities for praying, both in private and in public. We need to be observant as to what we should be praying about for ourselves and for others, for such things as are agreeable to the revealed will of God, and watch for the Spirit of God to enlarge our hearts in prayer, and to assist us both as to the matter and manner of praying. We should expect God to answer and return to Him thanks for the mercy given.

The conclusion is that we are to be rightly related to our Savior my abiding in Him and to the world by discipline ourselves to do only His will. He is the culmination, fulfillment and purpose of all things. “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Col. 1:16,17 In the understanding of Jesus as given these two verses which is the basis of our praying.

If the life is not one of self-denial--of fasting--that is, letting the world go; of prayer--that is, laying hold of God then prayer is neither spiritual or profitable.

Andrew Bonar defined fasting as abstaining from anything that hindered prayer.

Prayer is the one hand with which we grasp the Invisible; fasting the other, with which we let loose and cast away the visible. Andrew Murray

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The Kind of Spirit In Which to Pray

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is 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 lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matt 6:9-13

What is often called “The Lord’s Prayer” is really a pattern prayer for us to learn how to pray. It is inspired having come from our Lord and is infinite having come from our God. We can never exhaust its blessing for us, and we should endeavor to pray in the spirit of this prayer. By “spirit” we mean, the spiritual attitude in which we should pray.

1. A Unified Spirit.

“Our” Not “my” but “our.” Jesus never prayed “our Father” here He is instructing us to say “our Father.” Jesus’ sonship or relation to the Father is different that ours. He is the unique son of God Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,” “Only begotten means unique and unlike any other. But the children of God are all alike in the way we become the children of God and the way come to God. The prayer experience is on level ground. All of us have the same access and privilege. We should pray knowing that we not alone in our approach to God but that we come to God with others.

2. A Filial Spirit.

“Father who is in heaven” We can, and should at times, pray to the Son, Jesus Christ, and to the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. The primary direction of our prayers should be to the Father. We should look to Him as the one that gives us all things: life itself, substance for life, guidance in life, etc. We are to pray conscious of an intimate relationship with a loving Father.

3. A Reverent Spirit.

“Hallowed be Your name:” “Name” represents the person of the name and his reputation, his honor. It is of chief concern to the child of God that the honor of the Father be upheld. Some cultures put great significance on the family name and the dignity of the ancestors. We are to pray for God’s name to be honored in all the issues of life.

4. A Loyal Spirit.

“Your kingdom come.” It is God’s will and rule and authority that is the deciding factor. In all the issues of life, whether it is the kingdoms and nations of the world or the decisions of daily work and play we must strive to experience the rule or kingdom of God. Here we are taught to pray for the extension of God’s rule in the world.

5. A Submissive Spirit”

“Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” Paul’s exhortation “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:1,2 It is not the “sweet by and by” (as in “Your kingdom come”) but the “nasty now and now” that requires our sacrifice. We are supposed to pray that we and others will experience God’s will.

6. A Dependent Spirit.

“Give us this day our daily bread”

Mat 6:30,31 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?” We are to pray for today’s need and tomorrow we can pray for its needs.

7. A Penitent Spirit.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Effective prayer requires that we have a valid relationship vertically and horizontally. Vertically with God. We cannot approach God without our sin debt having been satisfied. The only satisfaction that God will accept is the substitionary death of Jesus Christ. Horizontally with others. To not forgive others that have wronged us is to prove that we do not know what this is. A person that has experienced the forgiveness of God will be generous to forgive others. We are to pray for forgiveness and show our appreciation by forgiving others.

8. A Trusting Spirit

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

Jam 4:14,15 “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow. We are to pray that God will guide us away from sin and Satan.

Some of the outline taken from Prayer Power Unlimited, J. Oswald Sanders p 110

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Agonizing Prayer

As Paul closed his letter to the Romans he asked for their prayers. “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” Rom 15:30-33

“Strive together with me” is the translation of the compound word sunagonizomai. It has the prefix sun which means with or together and agonizomai which means to enter a contest: contend in the gymnastic games, to contend with adversaries, to fight, to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers, to endeavor with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something. We get our English word “agonize” from this Greek word.

Paul is asking the Roman Christians to join with him in agonizing prayer as He goes to Jerusalem. Paul must have had some idea of the possible problems facing him.

agonizomai with out the prefix occurs seven times in the New Testament; lets look at how this word is used and how we might learn how to pray.

Luk 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus preached a different Gospel than what is commonly preached today. Today it is an easy gospel, “come down forward and make a decision.” The socially acceptable gospel is “God has a wonderful plan for your life that is free from pain and heartache.” But Jesus says for us to strive or agonize to enter a narrow door, and many will not be able to enter. There is a kind of praying that can only be realized by great struggle. We are to continue in our Christian life, especially in prayer, with the same fervor and zeal with which we came to know our Savior.

Joh 18:36 “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’” Our word here is translated “fighting.” Our praying is to agonize and contend, even fight, as we would strive for the safety of a friend of family. We should pray unselfishly and heroically for others.

1 Cor 9:25-27 “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” Our word is here translated “competes in the games.” An athlete in training is very focused and committed to his training and uses self-control in all things. Here we see that prayer is something worthy of this degree of dedication. We are to agonize in prayer as the athlete does in his competition.

Col 1:28,29 “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Paul’s experience of the power of God working in him resulted in a striving or agonizing to proclaim the glory of Jesus. There is a similar experience in agonizing prayer.

Col 4:12 “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly (agonizing) for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” This is agonizing intercessory prayer. Most Christians never get past the “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers, except when there is a crisis, like a sick child or terminal illness, facing us. We pray for our parents, children or friends, but to agonize in intercessory prayer for kingdom issues, well, that is another level of prayer that is seldom realized.

1 Tim 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” This could be translated “ agonize the good agony of faith.” We are to strive and agonize as the good soldier does in battle. We need to pray as if it were a matter of life and death, because it is. There are souls that need to be plucked from the burning. If we prayed like a soldier fighting, we would see much greater answer to prayer.

2 Tim 4:6,7 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” No doubt that part of Paul’s success was agonizing prayer. We will not be considered as successful and having kept the faith, if we do not agonize in prayer.

If what we have discussed here is real prayer, then most of have never really prayed. The best example of this kind of praying is our Lord the night before His death. In Luke 22:44 another form of our word occurs “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” Here it is agonia, which is the noun meaning a struggle for victory, wrestling, of severe mental struggles and emotions, agony, anguish. When our Lord saw the contents of the cup from which he had to drink He experienced great agony in soul. Sometimes we have to pray as He did, in great agony as we experience the will of God.

“… The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Jam 5:16

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Corporate Boldness

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Heb 10:19-25

In his reference to “the holy place” the writer is thinking of public and corporate worship, not personal and private times of communion with God. The emphasis is that we don’t need the animal sacrifices nor the Levitical priesthood in our worship. The temple was probably still standing when this was written, so the writer is saying that we don’t need that temple and Levitical system. By now the gospel of Jesus’ accomplished work of salvation had spread into Europe and there were “churches” scattered in many cites, none of which needed to be concerned with the temple / Levitical system, it had past away for the new and living way. It is by the “blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.”

We are given five exhortations in v 22-25:

1. v 22 “let us draw near”

2. v 23 ”Let us hold fast”

3. v 24 “and let us consider”

4. v 25 “not forsaking our own assembling together”

5. v 25 “encouraging one another

Who is the “us” here? In this context the writer is contrasting the old way with the new way. The old way is that of an individual (in the OT economy) bringing his sacrifice to the place of sacrifice, the tabernacle or temple. The contrasting parallel is the Christian (in the NT economy) bringing his spiritual sacrifice (1 Pet: 5 “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.) The parallel is of two economies or societies of faith. The one trusting for that which was to come and the other in that which has come. In both societies it is the individual coming to the place of corporate interaction and manifestation of one’s relation with God. In both there is a public place to come and assemble. In the OT it was the tabernacle or temple, in the NT it is the church. Now it is our responsibility to direct our spiritual experience toward the visible assembly, the church. “…this drawing near contains all the holy worship of the church, both public and private, all the ways of our access unto God by Christ.” John Owen

But what is the relationship of this passage to personal prayer and communion with God? Is it just to be applied to the believer’s personal life? No, we think it is more than applicable. Corporate exercise is not something separate from the personal and individual. It is the individuals’ actions brought together that make the corporate action. So for us to come boldly to the throne of grace corporately, we must be coming individually with the same interaction with God.

The teaching of this passage is that we should “draw near and hold fast” to this new way of coming to God. As we come together we should consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Even though some have forsaken the assembling together, we should encourage ourselves to be faithful.

As we come to pray and worship our God, let’s be reminded of the great things our God has done for us and be faithful and not grow weary in prayer and praise.

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“If we pray among a select society of Christians, we draw near to God with holy boldness, something like what we use in our duties of secret worship. We have reason to take more freedom among fellow saints and whose hearts have felt many of the same workings as our own.” A Guide to Prayer, Isaac Watts, p 58

Nothing is more calculated to begat a spirit of prayer than to unite in social prayer with one who has the Spirit himself. Mighty Prevailing Prayer, Wesley Duewel

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Related Topics: Prayer

Topical Prayer: The Persons of God

Praying and the Persons of God

The Trinitarian Aspect of Prayer

“For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.” Rom 11:36

As we apply this verse to the experience of praying we can clearly see prayer’s relation to the Trinity:

1. We pray because Jesus opened the way. “of (ek) him the Jesus”

Jesus is our example and our access. John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus’s death opened the way for all His people. For generations the veil in the temple symbolized the unapproachableness of a Holy God, but when Jesus died “the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent.” Mt 27:51

The life, death and life again of our Savor Jesus is sufficient to dispel every hindrance to our coming to the Father. “Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom 5:1,2 We are persuaded that we have access to God and experience His unmerited benefits with great joy in the Glory of God now and yet to come.

Jesus made the way and the Spirit strengthens us that we may

approach the Father in a personal and intimate relationship.

2. We pray by means of the Spirit’s power within.“through (dia) him Spirit”

Jesus promised us an Advocate, or Helper (Greek is paracletos) “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:16-17 The world can not see the invisible but we can be like Moses, Heb 11:27.

Paul specifies that He will help us when we pray, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:” Rom 8:26 and also in Eph 2:18 “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” and again in Eph 6:18 “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,” Jude says that we should be “building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.” Jude 1:20 Because we are sons of God, He has “sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Ga 4:6

Jesus made the way and the Spirit strengthens us that we may

approach the Father in a personal and intimate relationship.

3. We pray to our Spiritual Father. “unto (eis) him The Father”

When Jesus taught us to pray He said, “When ye pray, say, Our Father.” Lk 11:2 Paul taught us that the Spirit enables us to be crying out to our Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Rom 8:15 We are to approach Him as our Daddy, whom we love and Who loves us dearly, just as an earthly Father love his little child.

We are not just servants, we are children and friends “No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from my Father, I have made known unto you. Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” John 15:15-16

Jesus made the way and the Spirit strengthens us that we may

approach the Father in a personal and intimate relationship.

John chapters 14 -16 teach that we have an interacting relationship with

all three members of the Trinity. This is especially true in the exercise of prayer.

In the prayer meeting, as nowhere else, are Christian graces thus brought together with powerful reactionary and reflective forces.

The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are filled with mercies, and shall break

In blessings ’round thy head.

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The Attributes of God in Prayer

When we pray we need to keep in mind the nature of our God. He is infinite in all His attributes and for all eternity we will be exploring what He is really like. Following is a listing of some of the attributes of God. Perhaps we should thank and praise God for each of these and for being the God that He is. “We shall find every attribute of God Most High to be, as it were, a great battering-ram, with which we may open the gates of heaven.” C. H. Spurgeon

The Bounties of God Isa 64:4 “For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear, neither has

the eye seen a God besides Thee, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.”

The Faithfulness of God Deut 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;”

The Foreknowledge of God Rom 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; ”

The Grace of God Rom 5:21 “…even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”

The Goodness of God Ps 25:8 “Good and upright is the Lord…”

The Holiness of God Rev 15:4 “Who, will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For all the nations will come and worship before…”

The Immutability of God Mal 3:6 “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”

The Justice of God Ps 89:14 “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Thy throne...”

The Knowledge of God Ps 147:5 “His understanding is infinite”

The Love of God Rom 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The Loving-Kindness of God Ps 36:7 “How precious is Thy lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings.”

The Mercy of God Ps 119:156 “Great are Thy mercies, O Lord…”

T he Omnipresence of God Ps 139: “Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?”

The Power of God Ps 62:11 “…power belongs to God”

The Solitariness of God Ex 15:11 “Who is like Thee among the gods, O Lord? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?”

The Sovereignty of God Is 46:10 “For I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”

The Wisdom of God Rom 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ”

The Wrath of God Rom 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”

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To Whom Should We Pray?

Answer: The Lord God of the Holy Scriptures is the only God to whom we should pray. The Scriptures are the 66 books of the Christian Bible, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation. If you agree with this answer then another question arises. Since the God of the Bible is revealed as a Triune God, that is a God of three persons: “The Father” “The Son” and “The Spirit;” we now have to ask, “Which of the persons in God do we pray to.” We need to remember that prayer is more than asking. It is asking for things inclusively but not exclusively. Prayer includes praise, worship, and expression of thankfulness.

The last verse in second Corinthians is “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” 2 Cor 13:14 Paul is giving his benediction in the form of a Trinitarian blessing. Each member of the Trinity has a unique relation to the believer and we should pray to each member of the Trinity in respect of His uniqueness

I. Prayer to the Father that loves us, “the love of God.” 2 Cor 13:14

Our Lord give us instruction to pray to the Father in Mat 6:9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” We are to show honor and respect for our Father.

John identifies us as children in 1 Joh 3:1 “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” We really are children and should ask for the things that a child would ask of his Father.

“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Gal 4:6 We are to pray to our Father with lively feelings and an in an intimate relationship. We are to acknowledge His love for us and live our lives as an expression of our love for Him.

II. Prayer to the Son that gives us undeserved blessing, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor 13:14

It wasn’t the Father that laid down His life for us. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us.” 1 Joh 3:16 we must express our love and appreciation to Jesus for giving His life for us. We should never tire of saying to Jesus, that is, praying to Jesus “Thank you Jesus for dying for me.” If we can talk to the Father we can talk to Jesus.

We have been called into fellowship with Jesus. “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Co 1:9 Prayer is that fellowship. Fellowship is sharing what we have in common. When we talk with Jesus about what He has done for us and how much we appreciate it and love Him, we are in fellowship with Him.

Jesus is simultaneously our Prophet, our Priest, and our King. We have communion with him as our Prophet, He teaches us by his Spirit. We consider him as our High Priest who is our advocate and intercessor with the Father, and we put our petitions into His hands, to be offered up by Him, perfumed with the much incense of His mediation. We acknowledge Him as our King and submit to His government. We seek the coming of His kingdom in all its power and sovereignty.

Saints have such communion and fellowship with Christ in His offices, that we have in some sense a share in them; that is, we are made by Him prophets, priests, and kings; prophets to teach and instruct others, and kings and priests unto God and his Father. “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Rev 1:5,6 this gives us great need to pray to and fellowship with Jesus.

III. Prayer to the Spirit that has been sent to us, “and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” 2 Cor 13:14

True praying is in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Rom 8:26 it seems very reasonable to ask the Holy Spirit to do what He has come to do and what we must have Him to do for us.

When we need guidance we should claim the ministry of the Holy Spirit and ask for His guidance. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” Joh 16:13

The Holy Spirit was sent to be our helper, one who strengthens us. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” Joh 14:16 so we pray to Him for the strength we need to serve God.

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us” Rom 12:6 We should pray to the Holy Spirit to help us know and use our gift.

In Galatians we have named the fruit of the Spirit, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Gal 5:22,23 These things should be objects of prayer and since they are produced by the Spirit we should ask the Spirit to produce them and cultivate them in us.

Since “the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” Rom 8:26 it is entirely appropriate for us to ask the Spirit to help us in our prayer life.

Since He is the Spirit of adoption, we can pray to Him to make us to be good children. We “have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Rom 8:15

Let’s not forget that we are praying to a tri-person God. We have not begun to understand the infinite and Divine riches we have in having a God like our God.

It might be good if we were to segment our prayer time (personal or corporate), isolating specified times to pray to and communion with each person of the Trinity.

What wond’rous grace! who knows its full extent?

A creature, dust and ashes, speaks with God--

Tells all his woes, enumerates his wants,

Yea, pleads with Deity, and gains relief.

’Tis prayer, yes, ’tis ‘effectual, fervent prayer,’

Puts dignity on worms, proves life divine,

Makes demons tremble, breaks the darkest cloud,

And with a princely power prevails with God!

And shall this privilege become a task?

My God, forbid! Pour out thy Spirit's grace,

Draw me by love, and teach me how to pray.

Yea, let Thy holy unction from above

Beget, extend, maintain my intercourse

with Father, Son, and Spirit, Israel’s God,

Until petitions are exchanged for praise

Irons.

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Praying in the Name of Christ

Praying in Jesus’ name is not just saying the words “in Jesus’ name” or “in Christ’s name” in our prayers, nor closing our prayers with these words. Some think that their prayer would be ineffective without this phrase attached at the end. The words are not magical nor a secret pass code or an expression that especially gets God’s attention. Never do we find a command to say “in Jesus name” in our prayers. The only time this idea is used is in Eph 5:19-20 “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” Here Paul is giving directions as to how the Ephesian church should conduct itself.

“In John 14-16 ‘in my name’ is used in connection with prayer in three different ways. First, there are reverences to asking the Father in Jesus’ name:... ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.’ 16:23... Second, one text refers to asking Jesus himself in Jesus’ name ...’If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.’ 14:14. Third, there’s a statement that the Father gives answers to prayer ‘in Jesus’ name’: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. ‘In My name’...Taken together the three groups of verses show that in my name somehow conditions prayer offered to both the Father and the Lord Jesus.” The God Who Hears, Bingham Hunter, p 193 Three things are done in Jesus name: 1.We ask the Father, 2. We ask Jesus Himself, 3. The Father gives. Surely this is something more basic than a simple formula. The context is John 14-16 and is our Lord’s final discourse where He is giving them their last instruction in spiritual things.

To pray in the name we must be abiding in a living relationship. When Jesus was on earth His command was “Follow me...” now while He is temporarily in Heaven the command is “Abide in me...” Abiding in Christ is a spiritual relationship that we have with Jesus, also the Father and the Spirit. It is based in the fact that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit so as to be holy in His sight and alive with a love for God.

Just as the branch of a vine or tree cannot bear fruit by itself so we cannot be fruitful unless we abide; that is stay in communion with our vine Jesus. Not to abide has serious consequences (Jn 15:6), but to abide makes us fruitful and we have the promise, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you” Jn 15:7 We cannot ask in Jesus’ name if we are not abiding in Jesus. So the condition of asking in Jesus’ name, and getting whatsoever we ask, is abiding in Him.

To pray in the name we must be abiding in the Triune God. Jesus references each member of the Trinity: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him...But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things...”14:23-25. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Rom 8:26

In chapter 15:7 Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” In chapter 16:23,24 Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”

To pray in the name we must be abiding in obedience. The context of Jn 14-16 seems abundantly clear that asking “in Jesus’ name” is a command for the child of God who is in obedience and fellowship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is what abiding in Christ is, living in obedience and communing with our God. When we live like this, our hearts are close to God’s and we can’t bear the thought of doing anything displeasing to Him. Our wills are surrendered to Him and we cannot want anything but His will, and when we pray we can ask what ever we want and He will do it. When one thinks of the benefits of such an intimate life with God, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice at all. Before God ever answers a prayer we are so immensely blest that we accept what ever He does.

“The name represents the person; to ask in the Name is to ask in full union of interest and life and love with Himself, as one who lives in and for Him....when the Name of Jesus has become the power that rules my life, its power in prayer with God will be seen too...It is not to the lips but to the life God looks to see what the Name is to us....‘in my Name’ has its own safeguard. It is a spiritual power which no one can use further than he obtains the capacity for, by his living and acting in that Name...O come, and let us learn to pray in the Name of Jesus...O awake, and use the name of Jesus to open the treasures of heaven for this perishing world ” With Christ in the School of Prayer, Andrew Murrary, p 191-2.

“To pray in the Name of Christ is to pray as one who is at one with Christ, whose mind is the mind of Christ, whose desires are the desires of Christ, and whose purpose is one with that of Christ...prayers offered in the name of Christ are scrutinized and sanctified by His nature, His purpose, and His will. Prayer is endorsed by the Name, when it is in harmony with the character, mind, desire, and purpose of the Name.” Samuel Chadwick

Prayer is going into the secret place of the Most High and abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. Ps 91:1

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Jesus Teaching on Prayer

“He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceases, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’” Luke 11:1 Some have said that prayer cannot be taught, it must be learned by experience. Jesus said nothing like this. When asked to teach prayer, He immediately began to do so in Luke 11:1-13.

Jesus is the Greatest Teacher

Jesus identified Himself as a “Teacher”. Today we hype the “Preacher,” “Pastor,” and “Evangelist” but seldom do we recognize the “Teacher.” Human nature goes for show more than know. Jesus was the greatest teacher.He taught both by lip and life. His life was one that frequently sent Him into seclusion. He was seen on His knees and He allowed Himself to be heard; for example, the intercessory prayer in John 17. He was qualified most by His Holy character. He knew His subject and His students completely and accurately. In the great commission Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you...” Ma 28:19,20 He commanded “...that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” Luke 18:1 So we are expected to teach the subject of prayer. Parents teach children, pastors teach members, mature believers teach young believers.

Jesus taught the Greatest Lessons

We must be sincere, and not have vain motives. Mat 6:5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

We must be humble. Luke 18:9-14 “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We must abide in Him. Jn 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

We must obey Him. Jn 14:14,15 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

We must have faith. Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”

We must be right with our brother. Mat 5:23,24 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

We must have persistence. Luke 11:5-10 “ Then He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

We must have privacy. Mat 6.6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Prayer is the Greatest Experience

It has been said that “Theology is the Queen of the Sciences,” if that be so then “Prayer is the Queen of the Experiences.” What could be greater than a personal audience with the sovereign and holy creator of the universe.

What wond’rous grace! who knows its full extent?

A creature, dust and ashes, speaks with God--

Tells all his woes, enumerates his wants,

Yea, pleads with Deity, and gains relief.

’Tis prayer, yes, ’tis ‘effectual, fervent prayer,’

Puts dignity on worms, proves life divine,

Makes demons tremble, breaks the darkest cloud,

And with a princely power prevails with God!

And shall this privilege become a task?

My God, forbid! Pour out thy Spirit's grace,

Draw me by love, and teach me how to pray.

Yea, let Thy holy unction from above

Beget, extend, maintain my intercourse

with Father, Son, and Spirit, Israel’s God,

Until petitions are exchanged for praise

Irons.

If Jesus, the perfect God - Man, felt the need of prayer, how much greater is our need for a prayer life.

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Jesus Teaches on Corporate and Answered Prayer

In Mark 11:15-25 our Lord gives some teaching on prayer: “Then they came to Jerusalem. Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple courts. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 Then he began to teach them and said, ‘Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of robbers!’ 18 The chief priests and the experts in the law heard it and they considered how they could assassinate him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed by his teaching. 19 When evening came, they went out of the city. 20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered.’ 22 Jesus said to them, ‘Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, if someone says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 For this reason I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your sins.’”

1. Corporately -- A Rebuke v 17

Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for misusing God’s house. They had made God’s house an instrument for their own profit. He called them robbers and told them that God’s house was to be a house of prayer for all peoples. The one word that should characterize the people of God is “prayer.” The place where God’s people gather is not to be called a “house of preaching” or “a house of singing” or “a house of fellowship” or a house of anything else. The will of our Lord Jesus must be honored in the way we do Church. It is not to be used as one sees fit or for a select group but for all nations. The plan for God’s house, we know as the local church, is not limited to the Jews but has always been intended for all nations. We should not just have a prayer meeting but be a real prayer meeting that has God’s presence manifested and that any genuine Christian can feel a part of.

Our Lord gives us two requirements for answered prayer.

2. Vertically -- Faith toward God. v 22- 24

Faith is conviction or persuasion that something is true. The only way we can know God and truth is for Him to reveal Himself to us. We need to reason backwards, from effect to cause: 1. Faith is necessary to answered prayer. 2. Faith comes from God. 3. We must first go to God for faith. 4. Faith determines what we pray for. Our basic prayer should be, “God show us Yourself and what we should pray for.

“Have faith in God” in v 22 is a present tense verb meaning to be having, we should be holding on to as our possession, faith in God. Peter refers to his reader as “those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, have been granted a faith just as precious as ours.” 2 Pet 1:1

In v 24 we have four present tense verbs and one future tense verb “whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” This teaches us that a life of consistent and continuous believing prayer will result in having what we ask for. “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Mat 21:22

3. Horizontally -- Forgiveness toward man. v 25

Forgiveness of our brother or neighbor is necessary for God to answer our prayer. Jesus said “Whenever you stand praying.” Could this be a reference to corporate prayer when one stands to pray so the others can join in? If this is the case, then this exhortation is directed toward corporate prayer, the very thing He rebuked the people for not having. He continues in v 25 “If you have anything against anyone forgive him.” Before the one praying can ask for forgiveness of his own sin against God, he must forgive the one that has sinned against him. Neither our private nor our corporate prayer life can prosper when we have an unforgiving spirit towards those that have done us wrong.

Yes, they don’t deserve it but, then, neither do we deserve God’s forgiveness. God wants us to follow His example or in Peter’s words “partake of the Divine nature” 2 Peter 1:4 and forgive others that do not deserve to be forgiven as He has forgiven us. Not to do so has serious implications, even to the point of bringing the fact of our salvation into question. “So that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your sins.” Anyone who understands the great need we have for forgiveness from an infinitely holy and sovereign God will not risk losing it by not forgiving others. A person that will not forgive his neighbor evidences that he does not understand forgiveness and does not possess God’s forgiveness for himself. “Evidently God's willingness to forgive is limited by our willingness to forgive others. This is a solemn thought for all who pray. Recall the words of Jesus in Mat 6:12,14,15 “and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors…14 For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.” A.T. Robertson

Our relationship to others is important enough that we should make it a specific matter of prayer that we ask God to reveal to us any relationship or attitude that would hinder our praying, especially in relation to the corporate prayer meeting. We will not have the manifest presence of God in our meetings when we have unforgiving attitudes to our brothers.

NET

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How the Spirit Enables Us to Pray

by Thomas Boston (revised)

It is by the help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to pray: Gal 4:6, "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’" Rom 8:26, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

There Are Two Kinds of Prayers.

First, A prayer that is the result of one’s own knowledge and gift of utterance. This is bestowed on many reprobates, and that gift may be useful to others, and to the church. But as it is merely of that sort, it is not accepted, nor does Christ put it in before the Father for acceptance.

Secondly, There is a prayer brought about in men by the work of the Holy Spirit, Zech. 12:10, "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication," and that is the only acceptable prayer to God. James 5:16, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." The word "effective" is from the Greek word "inwrought." Right praying is praying in the Spirit. It is a gale blowing from heaven, the breathing of the Spirit in the saints, that carries them out in the prayer, and which comes the length to the throne of God Himself.

Spirit Helps Us to Pray Two Ways

1. As a teaching and instructing Spirit, furnishing proper matter of prayer, causing us to know what we pray for, Rom. 8:26, enlightening the mind to understand our needs, and those of others that we should pray for. The Spirit brings to our remembrance these things, suggesting them to us according to the Word, together with the promises of God, on which prayer is grounded, John 14:26, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." It is normal for the Spirit to lead the saints to pray for things they had known of but sometimes the saints are carried out in prayer for things which they had no view of before.

2. As a quickening, exciting Spirit, Rom. 8:26, “...the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.” or enables or qualifies the soul with praying graces and affections, working in the praying person a sense of needs, faith, fervency, humility, urgency etc. Psa 10:17, "Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear," God helps us bring to Him the prayer He can answer.

The man may go to his knees in a very unprepared attitude for prayer, yet the Spirit blows and he is helped. It is for this reason the Spirit is said to make intercession for us, namely, in so far as he teaches and quickens, puts us in a praying frame of mind, and draws out our petitions, as it were, putting them into the language which the Mediator presents.

Special Giftedness in Prayer?

This praying with the help of the Spirit is particular to the saints, yet they do not have that help at all times, nor always in the same measure; for sometimes the Spirit, being grieved, departs, and they are left in a withered condition. So there is great need for a breathing and filling of the Spirit, when we are to go to the duty of prayer. If there isn’t a gale blowing in the sails, we will tug at the oars but heartlessly and with little result.

Let no man think that a readiness and flowing of expression in prayer, is always the effect of the Spirit's assistance. For that may be the product of a gift, and of the common operations of the Spirit, removing the impediment of the exercise of it. On the other hand it is evident one may be scarce of words, and have groans instead of them, while the Spirit helps him to pray, Rom. 8:26. Neither is every flood of emotions in prayer, the effect of the Spirit of prayer. There are of those which puff up a man, but make him never a whit more holy, tender in his walk, etc. But the influences of the Spirit are humbling and sanctifying. Hence, says David, "But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You," 1 Chr 29:14; and, says the apostle, "We have no confidence in the flesh," Phil. 3:3.

All true prayer is exercised in the sphere of the Holy Spirit, motivated and empowered by Him. Eph 6:18

But it is the Holy Spirit of God Who is prayer’s great Helper. The Kneeling Christian

It is when we have failed and know not “what prayers to offer” or “in what way,” that the Holy Spirit is promised as our Helper. The Kneeling Christian

Come, Holy Spirit, come;Let Thy bright beams arise;Dispel the darkness from our minds,And open all our eyes.

Convince us of our sin;Then lead to Jesus' blood,And to our wondering view reveal The secret love of God.

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Praying in the Holy Ghost.”

“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith,

praying in the Holy Ghost,” Jude 20

Rom 8:26,27 “And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

Mark the grand characteristic of true prayer—'In the Holy Ghost.'

“The seed of acceptable devotion must come from heaven's storehouse. Only the prayer which comes from God can go to God. We must shoot the Lord's arrows back to Him. That desire which He writes upon our heart will move His heart and bring down a blessing, but the desires of the flesh have no power with Him. Praying in the Holy Ghost is praying in fervency. Cold prayers ask the Lord not to hear them. Those who do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarm prayer—it is essential that it be red hot. It is praying perseveringly. The true suppliant gathers force as he proceeds, and grows more fervent when God delays to answer. The longer the gate is closed, the more vehemently does he use the knocker, and the longer the angel lingers the more resolved is he that he will never let him go without the blessing. Beautiful in God's sight is tearful, agonizing, unconquerable importunity. It means praying humbly, for the Holy Spirit never puffs us up with pride. It is His office to convince of sin, and so to bow us down in contrition and brokenness of spirit. We shall never sing Gloria in excelsis except we pray to God De profundis: out of the depths must we cry, or we shall never behold glory in the highest. It is loving prayer. Prayer should be perfumed with love, saturated with love—love to our fellow saints, and love to Christ. Moreover, it must be a prayer full of faith. A man prevails only as he believes. The Holy Spirit is the author of faith, and strengthens it, so that we pray believing God's promise. O that this blessed combination of excellent graces, priceless and sweet as the spices of the merchant, might be fragrant within us because the Holy Ghost is in our hearts! Most blessed Comforter, exert Thy mighty power within us, helping our infirmities in prayer. (Morning & Evening, C.H. Spurgeon October 8 PM)

Lu 11:13 “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask (keep asking) him?”

Eph 1:13 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

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How does the Spirit Help us in Prayer

Jesus said “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, ...But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.” John 14:16 , 26

The word “comforter” means “a helper, succourer, aider, assistant” There isn’t any place where we need help more than in the place of prayer. This is true both in our closet prayer life and in our corporate or group prayer experience. When Jesus answered the disciples request “Lord, teach us to pray,” He climaxed His answer with “ how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” The Holy Spirit us a variety of way to help us in our prayer life.

1. He introduces us to the Presence of the Father.

Eph 2:14-18 “For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father.”

2. He overcomes our reluctance, working in us the desire to pray.

Zech 12:9-10 “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.”

3. He imparts a sense of sonship and acceptance that creates freedom and confidence in the presence of God. Gal 4:6 “And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Rom 8:14-16 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God:”

4. He helps us in the ignorance of our minds and infirmities of our bodies so that we can pray as we ought. Rom 8:26 “And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;”

5. He takes our imperfect prayers and puts them in a form acceptable to our Heavenly Father.

Rom 8:27 “and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

6. He lays special burdens of prayer on the believer who is walking in fellowship with Him.

Dan 9:1-3 “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years whereof the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.”

Principles and Practice of Prayer, Ivan French p 99.

Phil 2:13 “for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.”

O watch and fight, and pray.

The battle ne'er give o'er.

Renew it boldly every day,

And help divine implore.

Ne'er think the victory won,

Nor lay thine armor down;

The work of faith will not be done,

Till thou obtain thy crown.

Fight on, my soul.....

George Heath

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The Cry of the Spirit: Abba Father

Gal 4:4-7 “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

There are only two other occurrences of “Abba Father” in the N.T. The parallel passage in Rom 8:15 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” and in Mk 14:36 “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”

The word adoption (whuiothesia) as sons is a compound word of whuios son and thesis a placing and refers to a man's giving the status of sonship to someone who is not his natural child. In the Roman world adoption was an honored custom that gave special dignity and family membership to those who were not born into a family. Often a wealthy, childless man would adopt a young slave, who would trade his slavery for sonship, with all its privileges. God confirms believers as His adopted sons by giving the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of His Son. A human Father cannot give his own nature to an adopted child, but God can and does by sending His Holy Spirit to dwell within the hearts of believers.

The word translated “cry” is krazo occurs 59 times and means: 1) to croak, of the cry of a raven, hence, to cry out, cry aloud, vociferate 2) to cry out aloud, speak with a loud voice. All 59 occurrences refer to a verbal and sometimes an unpleasant outcry. This verse is not referring to an attitude or feeling of sonship, but vocal and energetic expression of our heart’s feeling to God. This has special significance to both our secret praying and corporate praying. In both we should be verbal and audible.

Like the term “In Jesus Name” which is not a formula that we say at the end of our prayer to make them more answerable, so the term “Abba, Father” is not a term that we begin our prayers with that sanctions what we are about to pray. “In Jesus Name” refers to the authority in which we pray and “Abba, Father” refers to the relationship in which we pray.

“Exhaustive research by biblical scholars-particularly I. Jeremias W. Marchel-has demonstrated that in all the huge literature of ancient Judaism there is not one instance of God being addressed in prayer with the word abba. He was called ‘The Lord Almighty,’ ‘The Holy One,’ ‘Sovereign of the World’ and many other exalted titles, but a word like abba was too personal, too familiar and intimate to be appropriate. The Lord was high and lifted up, the incomparable One. He was to be approached with reverence and awe. To call him ‘Daddy’ was unthinkable blasphemy. Yet Jesus prayed like this all the time.” The God Who Hears, W. Bingham Hunter, p 97

Prayer is the exercise of a relationship. When a child 3 years of age wants to talk to his parents, he simply talks in his own childlike way. The child does not reason within himself, since I can not talk like my parents or as good as my older brother or sister I will not talk until I am able to talk in a proper way. It is the relationship that motivates the child to talk and then it is experience that produces the ability. Do parents encourage the child to wait until he has sufficient ability to talk? Not a chance of that, the parent is greatly blest by the childlike efforts to communicate. This is one of the most memorable things of childhood. So it is in our relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit works in this crying, Abba Father, in two ways:

1. By inclining our wills and stirring our affections of love, faith, and delight. Phil 2:13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

2. By enabling us to exercise these affections in vocal prayer, that is speaking out of the abundance of the heart. We need both aspects of this ministry of the Holy Spirit. Rom 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;”

He is acting in us, and we our acting by him. The act of “crying”, is caused by the Holy Spirit though realized in the believers vocal praying. He excites, encourages, and assists us to call God our Father. This we experience in the secret internal crying of our soul and of an open outward invocation of Him as our Father with much confidence, freedom, and boldness.

“Abba represents the essentials of the new relationship with God which Jesus offered men and women who believe on his name.

From the Father’s side, abba implies many things:

(1) his mercy, compassion and love for the child;

(2) his personal interest and consistent concern for its good;

(3) his willingness to provide the needs of and give protection to the child; and

(4) the use of his mature knowledge, judgment and wisdom in guiding and caring for the child.

On the child’s lips, abba signifies:

(1) an implicit willingness to love, honor, and respect the Father;

(2) an awareness of dependency on the Father;

(3) a sense of confidence in the Father’s judgment and trust in his integrity and abilities; and

(4) ready obedience to the Father’s desires and will, with corresponding acceptance of the Father’s right and responsibility to discipline for the child’s good,

In short, abba signifies the essence of what it means to have a personal relationship with God.” The God Who Hears, W. Bingham Hunter, p 98

This helps us understand the reason that our Lord in Lk 11:13 said “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

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The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with Groanings”

Rom 8:22-27 “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. The ultimate prayer experience to have the Holy Spirit pray through us.”

To “groan” here is “ to express grief by inarticulate or semi-articulate sounds” Note the three groanings in this context. Look at them as three concentric circles. 1. v. 22 “the whole creation groans” All parts of creation and especially humans, saint and sinner, feel the effect of sin. 2. v 23 “even we ourselves groan within ourselves” The child of God feels with greater intensity the ravages of sin. 3. v 26 “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” Seeing the first two groans explains the phrase “in the same way” The creation groans, the believer groans, and thirdly the join with us and groans. The praying child of God has companionship and help in this groaning that characterizes life in this world. A groan comes not from the lips but from the heart. When we are praying in and with the Spirit it is from our heart with great passion. The psalmist said “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.” Ps 38:8

“The entire structure of the passage in the original shows that the ‘intercession’ of the Spirit is not aside from us, as that of our High Priest; but that it is within us, mingling his energies with our own, and thus bearing with us the burdens too heavy to be borne alone. His work is entirely subjective, bringing the intercession of our Lord above into the desires and petitions of the Christian below; whereby they become the intercessions of the Spirit, who thus blends his Advocacy with that of Christ himself.” Theology of Prayer, B.M. Palmer, p 320

It is not that God needs us but that he desires to use us and our praying. He is the first cause of all things and He also uses secondary causes and means to accomplish His plan. In His praying through us He quickens and uses our individual powers of will, intellect, and affection. These are God’s infinitely loving desires finding expression through finite and human channels.

In this process of groaning there will be leading out in prayer for objects and person that otherwise would have been neglected, such spirit of prayer will come upon us just as there is need, and may sometimes even seem to be at the most unlikely time and place. How limitless are the possibilities of prayer when we have such a mighty, loving Helper! How certain we may be of the answer when He breathes the prayer through us! What wonderful fellowship this kind of prayer gives! We can only realize His ideal for our prayer-life by abiding in Him, and trusting Him moment by moment to pray through us with His own mighty intercessions. C.H. Spurgeon

“Though the infirmities of Christians are many and great, so that they would be overpowered if left to themselves, yet the Holy Spirit supports them. The Spirit, as an enlightening Spirit, teaches us what to pray for; as a sanctifying Spirit, works and stirs up praying graces; as a comforting Spirit, silences our fears, and helps us over all discouragements. The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not.” Matthew Henry

Even as Solomon built the temple he did not himself cut the timbers and carve the stone. He caused others to do the work. So the Holy Spirit causes us to pray. It is Him and it is us at the same time. When Solomon built the temple the stones were cut out far away from the temple structure. “The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built.” 1 Kings 6:7 While our house or life of prayer is being built, by the Holy Spirit, we do not recognize the work as it is done quite and in secret. This is the way of the Spirit. He does great and powerful things in mysterious and subtle ways.

The Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for us, by causing us to intercede; He indites our prayers for us, not in a book, but in our hearts; He shows us our need, He stirs us up to prayer, He supplies us with arguments, puts words into our mouths, enlarges our hearts, makes faith strong in prayer, He enables us to come to God as our Father; and gives us liberty and boldness in His presence. This is done “with groanings too deep for words;” not that the Spirit of God groans, but He stirs up groans in the saints; which suppose a burden on us, and our sense of it: and these are said to be “unutterable;” saints, under his influence, praying silently, without a voice, as Hannah did in 1 Sam 1:13 “As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard.”

It is the working of the Holy Spirit that makes our praying successful. We can never be successful in our own energies. God must do the work and He will do it through us. The prayer that comes from Heaven will succeed in reaching back to Heaven.

Surely our Lord had this work of the Holy Spirit in mind when He climaxed His teaching on prayer with “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Lk 11:13

He is in us to inspire our desires and longings, to quicken our minds and hearts, and giving us prayers, to pray them through us. All effectual prayer is that which the Holy Sprit prays through us.

If the Spirit prays in us, shall we not share His “groanings” in prayer? The Kneeling Christian

In all states of dilemma or of difficulty, prayer is an available source. The ship of prayer may sail through all temptations, doubts and fears, straight up to the throne of God; and though she may be outward bound with only griefs, and groans, and sighs, she shall return freighted with a wealth of blessings! C. H. Spurgeon

You who never know what a groan is, or a falling tear, are destitute of vital godliness.

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Related Topics: Prayer

Topical Prayer: Revival

Revival

Never a Revival Without Mighty Praying

By R.A. Torrey

Prayer will do more to bring a deep and lasting and sweeping revival, a revival that is real and lasting and altogether of the right sort, than all the organizations that were ever devised by man.

The history of the Church of Jesus Christ on earth has been largely a history of revivals. When you read many of the Church histories that have been written, the impression that you naturally get is that the history of the Church of Jesus Christ here on earth has been very largely a history of misunderstandings, disputes, doctrinal differences and bitter conflicts. But if you will study the history of the living Church, you will find it has been very largely a history of revivals. Humanly speaking the Church of Jesus Christ owes its very existence today to revivals. many times the Church has seemed to be on the verge of utter shipwreck, but just then God has sent a great revival and saved it.

Every real revival in the Church has been the child of prayer. There have been revivals without much preaching; there have been revivals with absolutely no organization; but there has never been a mighty revival without mighty praying.

What we need more than anything else today in our own land and in all lands, is a real, mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God. The most fundamental trouble with most of our present-day so-called revivals is, that they are man-made and not God-sent. They are worked up by man's cunningly devised machinery-not prayed down.

Oh, for an old-time revival, a revival that is really and not spuriously of the Pentecostal pattern, for that revival was born of a fourteen days' prayer-meeting. But let us not merely sigh for it. Let us cry for it, cry to God, cry long and cry loud if need be, and then it will surely come!...

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Prayer and Revival

What is a “Real Prayer Meeting?” It is united prayer. “The prayer that God particularly delights to answer is united prayer. There is power in the prayer of a single individual, and the prayer of individuals has wrought great things, but there is far greater power in united prayer.” (R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer)

What wond’rous grace! who knows its full extent?

A creature, dust and ashes, speaks with God--

Tells all his woes, enumerates his wants,

Yea, pleads with Deity, and gains relief.

’Tis prayer, yes, ’tis ‘effectual, fervent prayer,’

Puts dignity on worms, proves life divine,

Makes demons tremble, breaks the darkest cloud,

And with a princely power prevails with God!

And shall this privilege become a task?

My God, forbid! Pour out thy Spirit's grace,

Draw me by love, and teach me how to pray.

Yea, let Thy holy unction from above

Beget, extend, maintain my intercourse

with Father, Son, and Spirit, Israel’s God,

Until petitions are exchanged for praise

Irons.

Never a Revival Without Mighty Praying By R.A. Torrey

Ps 854-6 “Turn us, O God of our salvation, And cause thine indignation toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not quicken us again, That thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Prayer will do more to bring a deep and lasting and sweeping revival, a revival that is real and lasting and altogether of the right sort, than all the organizations that were ever devised by man.

The history of the Church of Jesus Christ on earth has been largely a history of revivals. When you read many of the Church histories that have been written, the impression that you naturally get is that the history of the Church of Jesus Christ here on earth has been very largely a history of misunderstandings, disputes, doctrinal differences and bitter conflicts. But if you will study the history of the living Church, you will find it has been very largely a history of revivals. Humanly speaking the Church of Jesus Christ owes its very existence today to revivals. many times the Church has seemed to be on the verge of utter shipwreck, but just then God has sent a great revival and saved it.

Every real revival in the Church has been the child of prayer. There have been revivals without much preaching; there have been revivals with absolutely no organization; but there has never been a mighty revival without mighty praying.

What we need more than anything else today in our own land and in all lands, is a real, mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God. The most fundamental trouble with most of our present-day so-called revivals is, that they are man-made and not God-sent. They are worked up by man's cunningly devised machinery-not prayed down.

Oh, for an old-time revival, a revival that is really and not spuriously of the Pentecostal pattern, for that revival was born of a fourteen days' prayer-meeting. But let us not merely sigh for it. Let us cry for it, cry to God, cry long and cry loud if need be, and then it will surely come!...

No great spiritual awakening has begun anywhere in the world apart from united prayer---Christians persistently praying for revival.

J. Edwin Orr

The revival of religion and the revival of prayer are inseparable.

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Revival Prayer Meetings

Iain Murray in Revival and Revivalism, p 79 quotes Jesse Lee, He described the year 1787:

“There was a remarkable revival of religion in the town of Petersburgh, and many of the inhabitants were savingly converted; and the Christians greatly revived. That town never witnessed before or since such wonderful displays of the presence and love of God in salvation of immortal souls. Prayer meetings were frequently held both in the town and in the country, and souls were frequently converted at those meetings, even when there was no preacher present; for the prayers and exhortations of the members were greatly owned of the Lord.

“The most remarkable work of all was in Sussex and Brunswick circuits, where the meetings would frequently continue five or six hours together, and sometimes all night.

“At one quarterly meeting held at Mabry’s Chapel in Brunswick circuit, on the ;25th and 26th of July, the power of God was among the people in an extraordinary manner: some hundreds were awakened; and it was supposed that above one hundred souls were converted at that meeting, which continued for two days, i.e., on Thursday and Friday. Some thousands of people attended meeting at that place on that occasion.

“The next quarterly meeting was held at Jones’s Chapel, in Sussex county, on Saturday and Sunday, the 27th and 28th of July. This meeting was favored with more of the divine presence than any other that had been know before . . .

“The great revival of religion in 1776, which spread extensively through the south part of Virginia, exceeded any thing of the kind that had ever been known before in that part of the country. But the revival this year far exceeded it.

“It was thought that in the course of that summer there were so many as sixteen hundred souls converted in Sussex circuit; in Brunswick circuit about eighteen hundred; and in Amelia circuit about eight hundred. In these three circuits we had the greatest revival of religion; but in many other circuits there was a gracious work, and hundreds were brought to God in the course of that year.

“. . . the work was not confined to meetings for preaching; at prayer meetings the work prospered and many souls were born again . . . It was common to hear of souls being brought to God while at work in their houses or in their fields. It was often the case that the people in their corn-fields, white people, or black, and sometimes both together, would begin to sing, and being affected would begin to pray, and others would join with them, and they would continue their cries till some of them would find peace to their souls.”

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Related Topics: Prayer

Topical Prayer: Testimonial

Testimonial

A Call for National Repentance

The United States of America is in the midst of a moral crisis. The outrages against God are so many that I will not begin to list them here. Society has tried educating these problems away (sex education, drug education), throwing new technology and money at these problems (schools need more funding or more computers), and analysing ourselves to death (i.e. pop psychology). God is calling us to repent for our sins and pray for the healing of our nation.

A Case of Repentance

After the American Revolution, there was a moral and spiritual crisis in America. Drunkeness was epidemic. 6% of the population were confirmed drunkards. 15,000 deaths annually were a result of alcohol. Shocking profanity was become a fashionable movement. Assault against America women was increasing so that women fear leaving their homes. Churches were at an all time low in attendance. US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall wrote "The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed." Voltaire said that Christianity would be forgotten in 30 years time. Kentucky had all but become a criminal state.

In 1794, Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, made a plea for repentant prayer. The first Monday evening of each month a small number (about 30) ministers prayed for revival.

Within 5 years the following effects were seen: 1800, the Great Kentucky revival (with over 11,000 saved in one service); 600 colleges were founded by revivalist; the US missionary movement started; the impetus for the abolition of slavery; Yale, in a little over a year, went from an institution of infidelity to a student body represented by approximately 50% strongly professed Christians; the foundation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; and the foundation of the American Bible Society.

A Plan for Repentance

Starting April 7, 1997 and every first Monday evening from 7PM - 9PM EST I will be devoting myself to prayer for a revival in the United States. I will, of course, be recruiting people locally to pray with me.

I would like to hear from Christians who will commit to pray with me, where ever you are. I will be journaling testimonies and reporting anything exciting to all involved.

God Bless You! David Rettig dgrettig@j3com.net 5355 Great Oak Drive Apt H, Columbus, OH 43213

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Pray for Kings & Governments

1 Tim 2:1-8 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

Most of us, at least occasionally, pray for the leaders and authorities in various countries of the world. I fear that we do this without expecting any results.

Bill Bright gives the following story in Changing the World Through Prayer, leaders guide p 22. “An Old Testament illustration of how God uses His Word to encourage us to pray is found in Daniel 9:1-23... Daniel lived at a time when the nation of Israel was in captivity. But God had promised that he would deliver His people. Daniel was reading the Scriptures, specifically the words of the prophet Jeremiah. As Daniel read, he noticed that Jeremiah predicted that the Israelites would be in captivity for seventy years. That time was almost up. When he understood what Jeremiah was saying about the release of God’s people from their captivity, Daniel turned to pray. God answered that prayer by fulfilling His promise to release His people after seventy years.

“Do you see the link between prayer and God’s Word in this example? Daniel prayed based on what was written in God’s Word. God honored Daniel’s faithfulness to the Word. In a similar way, God will use His Word to speak to us, and that will open up avenues for our prayers.

“Let me give you a dramatic example. In 1986, the director of Campus Crusade for Christ in Russia was praying for that land, which was then dominated by a Communist government. The people were oppressed, especially believers. Christians were not allowed to worship God freely, and many lost their lives as a result of their faith. The director, who was reading this same passage in Daniel, was amazed when he read the story of Daniel’s prayer about the faithfulness of God in releasing the captive Israelites. The Israelites’ situation and that of the Russian people were parallel in one way. Communism began in Russia in 1917. Since it was now 1986, the Russians had endured almost seventy years of Communist captivity. The director was impressed by God to pray that the years of Russian Communist repression would end. Would God repeat history?

“The director shared his vision for the end of Communist rule with other believers and Russian pastors. They began praying together. Then in 1987, perestroika began and Russia’s Communist government crumbled. Believers were now able to worship and witness freely.

“Of course, we must be careful about what we assume God is saying to us. We should always look toward God’s Word to make sure what we pray is according to His will. But when we feel God impressing us to pray in a certain way, we can forge ahead with what He is telling us. At the same time, we must never forget that God is in control and that what we think may happen is not necessarily what God will do. God still speaks to men and women today through His Word--and often with miraculous and thrilling results.”

Dick Eastman in his book Love on its Knees, p 13 gives us a similiar story. “Several years ago, in May 1986, I was preparing to take School of Prayer training to Poland at the invitation of a dynamic young pastor from Pittsburgh, Mark Geppert. Six weeks prior to my departure for Eastern Europe, I met with Mark to finalize our schedule. There’s been a change in my itinerary,’ Mark said. ‘I’ll meet you in Warsaw as planned, but first I’ll be going to the Soviet Union for a month.’

“ ‘The Soviet Union?’ I asked, puzzled. ‘What will you be doing there?’ ‘I’m going to pray,’ Mark responded. ‘God spoke to me a few days ago and told me I was to go to Russia just to pray. He told me exactly where to go and what to pray about. I’m to pray that God will shake all of Russia. I’ll ask Hiim to use current events--whatever they are--to shake what can be shaken, so doors will open to the Gospel and believers will have a new freedom to worship.’

“Thrilled that someone would go anywhere ‘just to pray,’ I asked Mark to be sure to send me a copy of his itinerary so our ministry could be praying with him before I joined him in Warsaw. The itinerary arrived and I thought little of the specifics until a few days before my departure. Suddenly, Mark’s presence in the Soviet Union praying for God to shake that nation held unusual significance. Just before my departure at the end of April 1986, headlines shouted the story of a shocking incident that occurred there at a nuclear power plant in a small city named Chernobyl. Chernobyl, the papers said, was just a short distance from the sprawling Soviet city of Kiev. Wasn’t Kiev on Mark’s itinerary? In fact, if memory served me, wasn’t Kiev the final place God told him to visit?

“I immediately got out the letter Mark sent me listing the places God told him to visit. My recollection had been accurate. Mark’s mission was to end that very weekend in Kiev with a train trip to Poland that would take him right through the area of disaster. I had been on a train trip with Mark before, in China. To Mark a train is just a long prayer meeting on tracks, moving from one place of prayer to another.

“Checking the itinerary more carefully, I noted that Mark had planned to leave Keiv late on the evening of April 25, 1986, and would be passing close to Chernobyl early the next morning. That happened to be the exact time of the explosion of Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant.

“Only later would analysts see that Chernobyl played a major role in the events of glasnost, the Russian word for openness. Under normal circumstances the Soviets would have kept secret the news of such a disaster. But this was not possible with Chernobyl. In a matter of hours after the nuclear accident, scientists spotted a sudden elevation of radiation in Sweden. The source could be traced with absolute accuracy to the Soviet Ukraine.

“So in the case of Chernobyl, glasnost was forced onto the Soviets. Being secretive was not an option. Suddenly, whether they wanted to or not, they were forced to be open. I couldn’t wait to see Mark in Warsaw. Had he kept his itinerary? If so, how had God asked him to pray?

“We had hardly checked into our hotel in Warsaw before I was asking my questions. Mark indeed had kept his schedule, exactly as the Lord directed. It included four days of prayer in Kiev, ending on Friday, April 25. That day was to be the culmination of his mission of intercession. And now I was more anxious than ever to hear how directed Mark to pray.

“‘Well,’ said Mark, settling back in his chair in our hotel room, ‘I went to the square in the center of Kiev and sat down under a huge statue of Lenin. Every fifteen minutes I changed the focus of my intercession for believers in Russia. I could tell when a fifteen-minute period passed because there was a gigantic clock in the square that let out a bong each quarter hour.’

“I asked Mark if he felt anything unusual during this prayer. ‘Only at the end,’ Mark responded. ‘lt was on the last day, the day I made my final prayer visit to the city square. Just before noon I was suddenly convinced God had heard and that even then something was happening. Something that would shake the Soviet Union. Something God would use to bring more freedom.’

“With excitement Mark continued, ‘I began to lift my voice in praise, sitting there underneath the statue of the founder of Communism in Russia. But at the same time I needed a confirmation that God had heard me, so I cried out to Him: ‘O God, give me a sign, even a little sign.’ I waited, wondering what might happen next. And just then in the distance the hands of the huge clock moved into the twelve o’clock position.’

“Mark laughed as he continued, ‘And you know what, Brother Dick? It didn’t gong. Every hour, for each of the four days I had been praying, the clock had chimed on the hour. So I waited for twelve chimes, but they never came. It was as if God was saying an old pattern was over. The very next day I began hearing about Chernobyl.’

“Weeks later, after reading volumes on the significance of Chernobyl, I came across fascinating information detailing events surrounding the disaster. Scientists pinpointed the first major mistake as happening twelve hours before the actual meltdown. This would have been within minutes of Mark’s declaration of praise, when he knew in his spirit that events were occurring that the Lord would turn into a blessing.

“Later still I heard a television commentator discussing the long-term impact of the Chernobyl disaster. ‘Chernobyl,’ he said, ‘means Wormwood in the Russian language. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a decade from today we were to discover that the despotic Soviet system had disappeared from the scene, replaced by a more open society, and that this change came about as the result of a simple mistake at a nuclear facility in a small Ukrainian community called . . . Chernobyl?’

“It would seem that glasnost may be taking hold more rapidly than anyone was prepared for, opening doors where the Gospel had previously been hindered. Just two years after Chernobyl, new laws were beings readied that amounted to an extraordinary retreat from power on the of Soviet authorities. None other than Soviet Deputy Justice Minister Mikhail P. Vyshinsky said, ‘A revolution is taking place here. Not everyone realizes this, but that is what it is--a revolution.’

“And then came the big news. At the historic General Conference of all party leaders, first in 47 years, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made a series of statements concerning coming changes. Among them was a call for new tolerance toward the religious faiths in the Soviet Union--although, to be sure, Communism is still atheistic at its roots, and when dealing with the purported changes this should always be kept in mind .

“Intercessors like Mark are rarely surprised when answers come. In fact, I’m convinced that when we stand before God with the record of spiritual successes and failures, we will learn that intercessory prayer had more to do with bringing about positive changes in our world than any other single spiritual activity.

“Intercessors, in short, hold the key to releasing God’s best for the world.”

No doubt that we will be using the first few hundred years in Heaven sharing just such stories as these two.

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are filled with mercies, and shall break

In blessings ’round thy head.

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Edward Payson

E. M. Bounds in his classic little book "Power Through Prayer", wrote, "What the Church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use - men of prayer, men mighty in prayer."

Edward Payson was just such a man; a man mighty in prayer. "He prayed without ceasing and felt safe nowhere but at the throne of grace. He may be said to have studied theology on his knees. Much of his time he spent literally prostrated with his Bible open before him pleading the promise; "I will send the comforter and when He, The Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth." Payson's advice to his fellow ministers was, "prayer is the first thing, the second thing and the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray then my dear brother, pray, pray." It has been well said that the secret of Edward Payson's ministry was that he prayed much in secret. The scars on his bedroom floor testify to this fact. Next to Payson's bed where deep grooves in the hardwood floor were his knees had pressed repeatedly in times of travail.

To read "Praying Payson's" diary is to be touched by his heart longings and tender love for Jesus and the lost. On January 4, 1807, he wrote, "I was favored with a spirit of prayer beyond all my former experience. I was in great agony and wrestled both for myself and others with great power. God seemed to bow the heavens and come down and open all His treasures, bidding me, take what I would."

January 29th, "I never felt such longings after God or such a desire to depart to be with Christ. My soul thirsted for more full communion with my God and Savior. I do not now feel satisfied as I used to with the manifestations of the divine presence, but still feel hungry and craving." February 18, "I was enabled to lie at Jesus' feet and to wash them with the tears of contrition. No pleasure I have ever found in the Christian life is superior to this." February 28, "I was favored with great enlargement in prayer. I seemed to be carried out of myself into the presence of God."

Like all true men of prayer, Payson understood the need for true humility. "It was the burden of his secret prayers that he might be delivered from pride, from self-seeking, from preaching himself instead of Christ Jesus the Lord." Through humility and fervent prayer he was always in hopes of seeing a fresh wave of revival. "The revivals which took place under his labors where numerous and where characterized by a depth and power seldom seen." Often Payson congregation was overwhelmed with a sense of Christ's presence and power and irresistibly brought to tears. Mr. Payson's diary testifies of the power and necessity of prayer for revival. September 27th, "In the evening I was favored with great faith and fervency in prayer. It seemed as if God would deny me nothing, and I wrestled for multitudes of souls, and could not help hoping there would be revival here." September 28, "I was favored with the greatest degree of freedom and fervency in interceeding for others. I seemed to travail in birth with poor sinners and could not help hoping the God is about to do somethings for His glory and the good of souls." Within days, "Praying Payson" saw his prayers answered through a fresh work of revival power.

On April 23, 1808, Edward Payson wrote, "My heart seemed ready to break with its longings after holiness." Such longings for heart purity, revival power and the person of Jesus are the marks of a healthy and normal Christian life. The lack of these precious things in the modern Church reveal a nominal* Christian life. Too much of what is called the Church today is not fit to live or die. The nominal* Christian is unfit to deal with our demon possessed age or the coming judgment seat of Christ. Truly the Church's greatest need is for men and women, mighty in prayer. We need men and women who will pray and crave for revival. The choice is ours, either to pray or to perish.

From the Heart of Edward Payson "It is natural to man, from his earliest infancy, to cry for relief when in danger or distress, if he supposes that any one able to relieve him is within hearing of his cries. Every man then who feels his own dependence upon God, and his need of blessings which God only can bestow, will pray to Him. He will feel that prayer is not only his duty, but his highest privilege. The man then who refuses or neglects to pray, who regards prayer not as a privilege, but as a wearisome and needless task practically says in the most unequivocal manner, I am not dependent on God; I want nothing that He can give; and therefore I will not come to Him, nor ask anything from His hand. I will not ask Him to crown my work with success, for I am able, and determined, to be the architect of my own future. I will not ask Him to instruct or guide me, for I am competent to be my own instructor and guide. I will not ask Him to strengthen and support me, for I am strong in the vigor and resources of my own mind. I will not request His protection, for I am able to protect myself. I will not implore His pardoning mercy nor His sanctifying grace for I have need of neither the one nor the other. I will not ask His presence and aid in the hour of death. For I can meet and grapple, unsupported, with the king of terrors, and enter, undaunted and alone, any unknown world into which He may usher me. Such is the language of all who neglect prayer. "

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The Moravian Prayer Experience

The Homeless Piled In; Missionary Pioneers Poured Out.

Imagine that you have a big house and ample land. Imagine further that a refugee shows up at your door asking if he might camp out in your backyard for awhile. You are moved to compassion and say OK. A little later he asks if some of his relatives, who are also homeless, might also come and live on your property. You are a Christian. These people are also believers. How can you turn them away? So again you say yes. But then many more hear and they too come. And more. And more! Soon there are hundreds. What have you gotten yourself into, you begin to wonder?

Something like that is what happened to a 22-year-old German nobleman in 1722. His name was Niklaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. His estate was in East Germany. He was heir to one of Europe's leading royal families. As you might expect, the neighbors were not too pleased with his offering the "riff-raff" asylum near them. But there was no stopping the influx. The first group of ten arrived in December, 1722. By May of 1725 there were ninety. And by late 1726 over 300. The place was known as "Herrnhut" meaning "The Lord's Watch." It soon developed into a small city of grateful and motivated Christian craftsmen and laypeople.

As Zinzendorf looked at what he had gotten himself into, he began to realize that instead of being burdened, he was being blessed with one of the historic opportunities of all time. His refugee crowded estate within a little more than a decade would be transformed into one of the most dynamic and strategic missionary launching pads since the early church.

Zinzendorf Was a Rich Young Ruler Who Said Yes

Zinzendorf was born on May 26, 1700, in Dresden, Germany and brought up under strong Christian influence. Even as a child he showed a deep spiritual awareness. Invading Swedish soldiers broke into the castle where he lived when he was six years old and were astounded to observe the child's prayers. Zinzendorf later trained at Halle under the Pietist movement leader August Francke. At age twenty the young nobleman was overcome while observing a painting of Christ crowned with thorns. An inscription below the painting said: "I have done this for you; what have you done for me?" Zinzendorf responded that day: "I have loved him for a long time, but I have never actually done anything for him. From now on I will do whatever he leads me to do." No doubt at that moment he had no idea that within two years he would have his estate swarming with homeless people from Moravia. Nor could he have imagined the role that would be his in bringing the message of Christ to the whole world. There followed a rapid succession of events. Some of the highlights:

<> The community rapidly organized into an efficient and productive little society.

<> But then jealousy, divisions and discord set in and threatened to undermine them.

<> Zinzendorf organized everyone into "bands." These were small groups who met together regularly to discuss their spiritual growth, study Scripture, pray together, reprove and encourage each other.

<> The Moravian community was moved to repentance for its divisions, and on August 13, 1727 they experienced a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

<>They began to pray fervently and seek the purposes for which God had brought them together under Zinzendorf. What did he want them to do?

<> A twenty-four-hour-a-day prayer chain was organized. At least two people were at prayer every hour of the day. This prayer meeting would last over 100 years.

<> They became known by the nickname "God's Happy People."

<> Anthony, a former slave, came to speak at Herrnhut of the deplorable conditions of the slaves in the West Indies. The night he spoke, two of their young Moravians could not sleep as they struggled with a sense that God was moving their hearts to offer themselves to go and minister to those slaves. When they were told that perhaps the only way they could do this was to become slaves themselves, they said they were willing if that is what it would take.

<> Their first two missionaries, Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann, left Herrnhut on August 25, 1732 to sail for St. Thomas.

<> Thereafter, other lands were studied and more missionaries were sent. They went to the toughest places under the most severe conditions. Many of them quickly died. For example, of 18 who went to St. Thomas as reinforcements for the work begun by Dober and Nitschmann, half died within the first nine months. But, the more that died, the more that volunteered to go to replace them. Within 25 years more than 200 had gone out as missionaries from this small community to every continent of the world.

<> Their influence spread far beyond their own efforts. Consider two notable examples. Moravians played the key role in the profound religious experience of John Wesley. Wesley went on to lead the Methodist movement. William Carey is popularly hailed as the "Father of Modern Protestant Missions." But William Carey sailed 60 years after the first Moravian missionaries went to the West Indies. Carey would probably insist that the real father of modern missions was Zinzendorf and the Moravians. In Carey's classic "Enquiry Regarding the Obligation of Christians" he used the Moravian experience as a model. In his letters and journal he often referred to them and drew inspiration from their example, and in his "Serampore Compact" -- a covenant for Christian missionary community living -- he again appealed to Moravian precedents.

<> Their influence extended to North America. The Moravians founded two communities in Eastern Pennsylvania -- Bethlehem and Nazareth. Zinzendorf personally came to the colonies. Not far from the offices of Christian History Institute, and long before the word "Ecumenism" was in vogue, Zinzendorf pled unsuccessfully with the various religious communities in Eastern Pennsylvania to transcend their European denominational backgrounds and witness and work together as one Body of Christ.

<> While in America, Zinzendorf legally renounced his titles because he found them an impediment among the colonists. Benjamin Franklin was present at the ceremony, which was conducted in Latin in front of the Governor of Pennsylvania. Zinzendorf was said to be the only European nobleman who went among the Indians, visiting their leaders as equals.

<> Though Zinzendorf did not promote the abolition of slavery, inside the Moravian Church slaves were truly equal. In Bethlehem, PA, at the Single Sisters' House you could find a German noblewoman, a Delaware Indian, and an African slave sleeping side by side in the same dormitory room. Where else in the world at that time might that occur?

<> Zinzendorf endured much criticism for allowing women to preach and to hold roles of leadership in the church.

A New Phenomenon

Think of what it would mean if everyone in your church thought of themselves as missionaries. They did at Herrnhut, and this represented a significant development in the history of Christian missions. Eminent Yale University historian, Dr. Kenneth Scott Latourette, in his classic History of the Expansion of Christianity commented, "Here was a new phenomenon in the expansion of Christianity, an entire community, of families as well as of the unmarried, devoted to the propagation of the faith. In its singleness of aim it resembled some of the monastic orders of the earlier centuries, but these were made up of celibates. Here was a fellowship of Christians, of laity and clergy, of men and women, marrying and rearing families, with much of the quietism of the monastery and of Pietism but with the spread of the Christian message as a major objective, not of a minority of the membership, but of the group as a whole."

Christian History Institute's Debt to Count Zinzendorf

Twenty years ago our sister company Gateway Films/Vision Video was approached to make a dramatic film on the 250th anniversary of the launch of the Moravian missionary movement under Count Zinzendorf to be celebrated in 1982. We had already put out a film on the life of the 15th century pre-Reformation martyr John Hus, and we had also been requested by Wycliffe Bible Translators to make a film on John Wycliffe for the 600th anniversary of his death. Although these three films treated subjects that occurred over close to four hundred years, we were struck by the amazing connection among them. Wycliffe's movement and his memory were condemned in England, but his plea for reform was carried to Bohemia and advanced there by John Hus. The followers of Hus formed the Unitas Fratrum, The Unity of the Brethren. They somehow managed to survive three centuries of persecution and became the major core of the Moravian refugees who settled on the estate of Count Zinzendorf beginning in 1722. Christian History Institute was founded to provide educational print support materials for such films. Our first project was Christian History magazine with the first issue devoted to Zinzendorf. Incidentally, the magazine soon demonstrated that it deserved a life of its own and we are pleased to have it now published by Christianity Today Inc. The film we made on Zinzendorf was a drama titled First Fruits. That was the catalyst that led us to recognize that our primary calling in both film and publishing was the telling of the stories from our Christian history for lay audiences.

On May 12, 1727, Zinzendorf addressed the community for three hours on the blessedness of Christian unity. The people sorrowfully confessed their past quarreling and promised to live in love and simplicity. Herrnhut became a living congregation of Christ. The entire summer of 1727 was a golden one at Herrnhut as the community worked together in peace and love. There was eager anticipation that more was to come.

A turning point On August 5, Zinzendorf and fourteen of the Brethren spent the entire night in conversation and prayer. On August 10th, Pastor Rothe was so overcome by God's nearness during an afternoon service at Herrnhut, that he threw himself on the ground during prayer and called to God with words of repentance as he had never done before. The congregation was moved to tears and continued until midnight, praising God and singing.

The next morning, Pastor Rothe invited the Herrnhut community to a joint communion with his nearby congregation at Bethelsdorf on Wednesday evening, August 13. Count Zinzendorf visited every house in Herrnhut in preparation for this Lord's Supper. The exiles, gathered at Herrnhut, had come to a conviction of their own sinfulness, need, and helplessness. During the service, they made many painful prayers for themselves, for fellow Christians still under persecution, and for their continued unity. Count Zinzendorf made a penitential confession in the name of the congregation. The community united in fellowship. Count Zinzendorf looked upon that August 13th as "a day of the outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon the congregation; it was its Pentecost."

Yes, for 100 years! Like the first Pentecost, men and women would move forth with the gospel from Herrnhut to the uttermost parts of the earth. Two weeks after the revival, twenty-four men and twenty-four women of the community covenanted together to spend one hour each day, day and night, in prayer to God for His blessing on the congregation and its witness.

For over 100 years, members of the Moravian church continued nonstop in this "Hourly Intercession." All Moravian adventures were begun, surrounded, and consummated in prayer. They became known as "God's Happy People." They launched a missionary society in a time when Protestant missions were unknown. The first missionaries, two young men, declared their willingness to become slaves if necessary to reach the slaves in the West Indies with the Gospel. Within fifteen years of the revival, the Moravians at Herrnhut had established missions in the Virgin Islands, Greenland, Turkey, the Gold Coast of Africa, South Africa, and North America. They endured unspeakable hardships. Many died in difficult circumstances. But as fast as they died, others came forth to take their places.

An unquenchable flame The eighteenth-century revivals in America and England were influenced by the Moravian mission and prayer movements. Peter Boehler, a Moravian missionary in England, counseled John Wesley, later leader of the Revival in England, leading to his conversion. Wesley wrote of Boehler, "Oh what a work hath God begun since his coming to England! Such a one as shall never come to an end, till heaven and earth pass away!" --but that's the subject of our next issue.

A new phenomenon The noted historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette, said of the Moravians: Here was a new phenomenon in the expansion of Christianity, an entire community, of families as well as of the unmarried, devoted to the propagation of the faith. In its singleness of aim it resembled some of the monastic orders of earlier centuries, but these were made up of celibates. Here was a fellowship of Christians, of laity and clergy, of men and women, marrying and rearing families, with much of the quietism of the monastery and of Pietism but the spread of the Christian message as a major objective, not of a minority of the membership, but of the group as a whole.

GLIMPSES is published by Christian History Institute

Box 540

Worcester, PA 19490

Tel. 610-584-1893, Fax 610-584-4610

E-Mail chglimpses@aol.com

Prepared by Ken Curtis PH.D., Beth Jacobson, Diana Severance Ph.D., Ann T. Snyder and Dan Graves. by Christian History Institute.

http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps037.shtml

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The Testimony of C.H. Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon has been acclaimed to be the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul. He would not agree with that, he would say George Whitefield or someone else. The fact remains that what God did with him at and through the Metropolitan Tabernacle in, London, England is recognized by many in all different evangelical groups as to be greatest work ever in a local church. He began preaching at that church in 1854 and died in 1892 and his ministry has continued until this moment, and obviously will continue until the Lord comes. The New Park Street Pulpit and The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit—the collected sermons of Spurgeon during his ministry with that congregation—fill 63 volumes. The sermons' 20-25 million words are equivalent to the 27 volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The series stands as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.

When Spurgeon arrived at The New Park Street Church, in 1854, the congregation had 232 members. By the end of his pastorate, 38 years later, that number had increased to 5,311. Altogether, 14,460 people were added to the church during Spurgeon's tenure.) The church was the largest independent congregation in the world. Spurgeon began a pastors' college that trained nearly 900 students during his lifetime-and it continues today. In 1865, Spurgeon's sermons sold 25,000 copies every week. They were translated into more than 20 languages. At least 3 of Spurgeon's works (including the multi-volume Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series) have sold more than 1,000,000 copies.

Occasionally Spurgeon asked members of his congregation not to attend the next Sunday's service, so that newcomers might find a seat. During one 1879 service, the regular congregation left so that newcomers waiting outside might get in; the building immediately filled again.

Mr. Spurgeon once wrote in “The Sword and the Trowel”:--“A Wesleyan minister lately said that he was never more surprised in his life than when he dropped into the Tabernacle, and found the ground-floor and part of the gallery filled at a Prayer-meeting. He believed that such a thing was almost without a parallel in London, and that it accounted for the success of the ministry. We concur in his impartial judgment. Will not all the churches try the power of prayer?” (Only a Prayer Meeting, C. H. Spurgeon, introduction, page v.)

“How are the prayer-meetings almost universally neglected?” says Spurgeon. “ Our own church stands out like an almost solitary green islet in the midst of a dark, dark, sea; one bright pearl in the depths of an ocean of discord and confusion. Look at the neighboring churches. Step into the vestry, and see a smaller band of people than you would like to think of, assembled around the pastor, whose heart is dull and heavy. Hear one brother after another pour out the dull, monotonous prayer that he has said by heart these fifty years; and then go away and say: ‘Where is the spirit of prayer, where the life of devotion?’ Is it not almost extinct? Are not our churches ‘fallen, fallen, fallen from their high estate?’ God wake them up, and send them more earnest and praying men!” (The Prayer-Meeting, Lewis O. Thompson, 1874, page 190)

Note that Spurgeon agrees with the Wesleyan brother that the “Prayer-meeting” was that which “accounted for the success of the ministry.” Maybe Spurgeon could give us some advice about conducting the prayer-meeting.

“Our brethren will excuse our offering them advice, and must take it only for what it is worth; but having to superintend a large church and to conduct a prayer-meeting which scarcely numbers less than from a thousand to twelve hundred attendants, we will simply give our own notions as to the most efficient method of promoting and sustaining these holy gatherings.

1. Let the minister himself set a very high value upon this means of grace. A warm-hearted address of ten minutes, with a few lively words interposed between the prayers, will do much, with God’s blessing, to foster a love for the prayer-meeting....

2. Let the brethren labour after brevity. If each person will offer the petition most laid upon his heart by the Holy Spirit, and then make room for another, the evening will be far more profitable, and the prayers incomparably more fervent than if each brother ran round the whole circle of petition without dwelling upon any one point. As a general rule, meetings in which no prayer exceeds ten minutes, and the most are under five, will exhibit the most fervour and life.... When we have had ten prayers in the hour, varied with the singing of single verses, we have far oftener been in the Spirit, than when only four persons have engaged in supplication....

3. Persuade all the brethren to pray aloud. If the younger and less-instructed members shrink from the privilege, tell them they are not to speak to man, but to God. If a child may not talk at all till it can speak fluent English, will it ever learn to speak well?...

4. Encourage the attendants to send in special request for prayer as often as they feel constrained to do so. These little scraps of paper, in themselves most truly prayers, may be used as kindling to the fire in the whole assemble....

5. Suffer neither hymn, nor chapter, nor address, to supplant prayer. Remember that we meet for prayer, and let it be prayer; and, oh, that it may be that genuine, familiar converse with God which shall drive out the formality and pomposity which so much mar our public supplications!...

6. It is not at all amiss to let two or even three competent brethren succeed each other without a pause, but this must be done judiciously; and if one of the three should become prolix (gabby or long-winded), let the pause come in as soon as he has finished. Sing only one verse, or at the most two, between the prayers, and let those be such as shall not distract the mind from the subject....

Of course, we ought to have said all manner of good things about the necessity of the Holy Spirit; but upon that matter we are all agreed, knowing right well that all must be in vain without His presence. Our object has rather been to gather out the stones from the way than to speak of the Divine life which alone can enable us to run therein.” (Only a Prayer Meeting, p 26-30)

“How could we look for a Pentecost if we never met with one accord, in one place, to wait upon the Lord? Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general til the prayer-meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.” (Only a Prayer-Meeting, p 11)

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Related Topics: Prayer

Topical Prayer: Misc

2. Miscellaneous

The A.C.T.S. of Prayer

“Pray??” “I don’t know what to say.” “Talk to God?” “I don’t know what to talk about.” If we haven’t said this we surely have felt it. The following is a topical outline for the content of our prayers, whether public or private. Knowing what to talk about can not only help us get started in praying but also can us have the right content and balance in our praying. The order is very important. Don’t miss the message in the order of the points of the outline. “Supplication” or requesting from God is the last thing not the first thing and surely not the only thing in our prayers. God is not a cosmic bell hop to supply our desires. We are to first “adore” Him for Who He is and then “confess” that we are unworthy and then “thank” Him for what He has done, is doing, and has promised to do. Then if we have something that we desire, as we abide in Christ, we ask or “supplicate” our loving and generous God for those things in the will of God. This acrostic is easily remember, even when we are praying with our eyes shut.

Adoration

“Adoration may be defined the homage rendered to God in the immediate view of his majesty, blessedness and glory, filling ;the soul with corresponding emotions of veneration and awe.” Palmer

Ex 15:11-- “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

Ps 104:1,2-- “Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. 2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:”

“Oh, the selfishness of the thought which restricts prayer to mere petition! Shall nothing drive us to God but the pressure of want? Shall we think of him only when we are hungry, and forget him when we are full?..Is there nothing attractive in the character of Jehovah Himself to draw us with the power of a magnet?” Palmer

Confession

Confession means “speaking together”-- relating to sin, it means that we agree with God about our sin. To confess our sins is to acknowledge the Sovereignly of God. A true Christian will be grieved when he sees sin in his life and will agree with God that it is sin ;and he will turn from it.

Ps 51:4--“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”

Lk 18:13--“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Ja 5:16--“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Ac 19:18--“And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.”

Thanksgiving

To give thanks is to acknowledge benefit received and express gratitude.

Co. 4:2-- “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;”

1 Th 5:18-- “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

1 Co 1:4-- “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ..”

2 Co 9:15-- “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”

Ro 1:21-- “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Supplication

Supplication is prayer as the expression of need. Sometimes our need is an indication of what God wants to do us.

Ps 55:1--“Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.”

Ph 4:6-- “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

John 15:7 “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

(Each of the above could be the subject making four sessions of prayer)

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Adoring God

Sometimes we use the acrostic “A.C.T.S.” as an outline to help us in prayer. A = adore, C = confession, T = thanksgiving, S = supplication. Let’s consider the first, Adoring God. A dictionary defines “adore” 1. To worship as divine, 2. To love or revere deeply. “Adoration may be defined as the homage rendered to God in the immediate view of his majesty, blessedness and glory, filling the soul with corresponding emotions of veneration and awe.” Palmer

When Jesus was asked “‘which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” Mat 22:36.37 John follows this with “The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 Jn 4:8 The true child of God has a love for Him but if it does not express itself in verbal communication is not a very passionate love.

Adoring God should be the easy but sometimes it is hard to express our love to Him. The problem is not because God is lacking in adorable qualities, but that our depraved nature can not appreciate the character of God. Even though we are saved from the awful and eternal judgment of God, and even saved from the sorrow and consequences of sin here in the nasty now and now, still, our nature is dull and slow to receive an understanding and appreciation of the character of God. Sometime it is hard to express our love for God when great and unexplained tragedy has occurred in our lives. Job said “If he slays me, I will hope in him.” 13:15. It is wiser to bow in submission and adoration of God than to try to judge him.

To adore God involves both our understanding and our emotions. As we come to understand that God is “omnipresent (is in all places at all times), omnisciencent (knows everything whether past, present, future, or potential), omnipotent (is all powerful wether directly of through means), immutable (can not change, is always the same), infinitely holy and completely just, glorious in all His manifestation, self-existent and eternal, sovereign, faithful, wise, loving, graceful, merciful, long-suffering, gentle, kind, and the list goes on and on. Who is a more loveable person than God? There is none other. “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” Ex 15:11 Who most deserves to be loved and adored? It is the God of our salvation.

God is to be approached in both awe and adoration. When we pray we should tell God that we love Him because of who He is and what He has done for us. “Oh, the selfishness of the thought which restricts prayer to mere petition! Shall nothing drive us to God but the pressure of want? Shall we think of him only when we are hungry, and forget him when we are full?..Is there nothing attractive in the character of Jehovah Himself to draw us with the power of a magnet?” Palmer

If we abide in adoration for our God sin not will capture our affections. “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Jn 14:15 Obedience is a response of devotion and adoration of the Redeemer who set us free.

God has not saved us without respect to our emotions, they are a vital part of our relation and communication with Him. Our counselors tell us that is important for husband and wife to express their love for one another in both actions and words. It is important that we tell our spouse “I Love You” but is more important that we tell God “I Love You” and Jesus “I Love You.” We need to tell God that we love him. It does not fulfill a need in Him, but it does please Him and glorify him. We have a genuine need to express our love and adoration to God personally (secretly and corporately). This process gets our emotions out where we can recognize and confirm them and have a stronger and more intimate relationship with our God.

Our Lord ranks love for Him as of more importance than love for our family, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Mat 10:37 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Lk 14:26 Our Lord is using the term “hate” in a figurative sense, which is operating on a relative scale. God is to be loved more than family or self.. Our love for God should make our love for a spouse, a parent or a child seem like hate, relatively. Our service for God is hindered if of our love for Him is not of the right quality.

Since “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Rom 5:5 shouldn’t we pour out our love to God. Privately for sure and publicly for His glory. As we pray we should express our love to Jesus. Surely we are not ashamed of Him, especially after He has done so much for us.

“Lips cry ‘God be merciful’ That ne’er cry ‘God be praised.’ O come let us adore Him!” The Kneeling Christian

“The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust.” CHS

More Love to Thee, O Christ

.

More love to thee, O Christ,

More love to thee!

Hear thou the prayer I make

On bended knee;

This is my earnest plea,

More love, O Christ, to thee,

More love to Thee

More love Thee

Once earthly joy I craved,

Sought peace and rest;

Now Thee alone I seek’

Give what is best;

This all my prayer shall be,

More love, O Christ to thee,

More love to Thee,

More love to Thee

Let sorrow do its work,

Send grief and pain;

Sweet are the messengers,

Sweet their refrain,

When they can sing with me,

More love, O Christ, to Thee,

More love to Thee,

More love to Thee

Then shall my latest breath

Whisper thy praise;

This be the parting cry,

My heart shall raise,

This still its prayer shall be,

More love, O Christ to Thee,

More love to Thee,

More love to Thee.

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Confession in Prayer

Sometimes we use the acrostic “A.C.T.S.” to help us in prayer. A = adore, C = confession, T = thanksgiving, S = supplication. Let us look at confession in prayer. Confession means “speaking together”-- relating to sin, it means that we agree with God about our sin. “...God and ourselves, unite in a concurrent declaration in regard to sin. God...declares it the abominable thing which his soul hateth. The sinner...feels the terribleness of it in his own experience; and running upon this line, unites with God in declaring it that abominable thing which every soul ought to hate.” (Theology of Prayer, B.M. Palmer) A true Christian will be grieved when he sees sin in his life and will agree with God that it is sin and he will turn from it. Confessing our sin clears God of our wrong doing and protects His name. Confession is necessary in order to pray: 1. Because God is offended. 2. Because We are guilty, therefore, disqualified to pray. 3. Because the essence of prayer is honestly communicating with God.

We need to confess that our basic nature is to sin.

That we are far from God and not naturally in submission to God’s law and will. The theologians call this original sin. “Look, I was prone to do wrong from birth; I was a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.” Ps 51:5 We are not sinners because of bad examples around us. We were willing and eager student to learn sin. “ If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is abominable and corrupt, who drinks in evil like water! ” Job 15:15,16

We need to confess actual sins that we have committed.

Privately committed sins need to be confessed privately. Publicly committed sins need to be confessed publicly. We can sin in act, word, and thought. Our sin may not get out of our thoughts but it is still actual sin. We need to recognize that we are guilty and that it separates us from God and His blessings. We need to confess our personal sins “The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!’” Lk 18:13

We need to confess our corporate sins.

Ezra confessed the corporate sin of Israel. “I prayed, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed, my God, to lift my face to you. For our iniquities have climbed higher than our head, and our guilt extends to the heavens.’” Ezra 9:6

We need to confess that our sin is basically against God.

Even though sin hurts other, it is basically sin against God and must always be dwelt with in our relationship with God. “Against you, especially you, I have sinned; I have done what is sinful in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me.” Ps 51:4

We need to confess to one another.

“So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.” Jam 5:16 This keeps us humble, makes us accountable and helps us discipline ourselves to prevent it happening again.

We need to confess our sins so God will hear us.

“ If I had harbored sin in my heart, the sovereign Master would not have listened. However, God heard; he listened to my prayer. God deserves praise, for he did not reject my prayer or abandon his love for me!” Ps 66:18-20

It is not a matter of “If we have sinned, we should confess.” The Bible tells us plainly that we have sinned and we are to confess it. “If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 Jn 1:8-10 The basic definition for sin in the NT is “to miss the mark,” this definition alone give us abundant opportunity for confession because we have all missed very badly the standard that God’s holiness requires.

How do we discover the sin in our life to confess? To compare ourselves to others will not reveal our sin to us. On the contrary, it will increase our sin by hiding the sin we have and feeding our pride. We must put ourselves before God and give Him time to show us ourselves. This can be done personally and corporately. The Psalmist said “Examine me, and probe my thoughts! Test me, and know my concerns! See if there is any idolatrous tendency in me, and lead me in the reliable ancient path!” Ps 139:23-24 The most mature saints have not matured past the need for confession but have learned how to detect sin in their lives and deal with it quickly. “The one who covers his transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses and abandons them will find mercy.” Prov 28:13

"Prayer has often been compared to breathing; we have only to carry out the comparison fully to see how wonderful the place is which the holy spirit occupies. With every breath we expel the impure air which would soon cause our death, and inhale again the fresh air to which we owe our life. So we give out from us, in confession the sins, in prayer the needs and the desires of our heart. And in drawing in our breath again, we inhale the fresh air of the promises, and the love, and the life of God in Christ. We do this through the holy spirit, who is the breath of our life..." A. Murray

What better can we do, than to the place

Repairing, where He judged us, prostrate fall

Before Him reverent; and there confess

Humbly our faults, and pardon beg; with tears

Watering the ground, and with our sighs the air

Frequenting?

(John Milton has Adam saying to Eve)

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Corporate Prayer: What Is It

The word “corporate” is an adjective meaning 1. Of or being a corporation. 2. Combined into one body: joint or corporate action. The term “corporate prayer” would mean two or more children of God praying the same prayer at the same time. When one person is verbalizing the prayer we call it “leading in prayer.” If more than one person is verbalizing the prayer, we call it “praying in unison.” If all are praying the same prayer in mind and spirit then we are experiencing true “Corporate prayer.” “Corporate prayer” is not just several people in the same room taking turns praying, but each one experiencing union of soul with the one leading and all becoming one in communion with God. This union of mind and spirit is the result of the work of the Spirit.

Paul make two concluding statements about tongues in the church service: 1 Cor 14:15-17 “What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.” and in verse 26 “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” The thrust of Paul’s teaching is that when someone speaks, sings, or prays it must be with understanding so others can participate and agree and say “Amen” which means “so be it.”

It is normal that not every one gets to pray audibly in the prayer meeting. Some think that they have wasted their time in coming to the meeting since they did not get to participate and they may have done so if that is all they came to do. But that should not and need not be the case. We that are silent need to join our spirits with the one speaking to God. “Even though we may not take part audibly in the action, yet if we are there in a right spirit - there really to wait upon God, we marvelously help the tone of a meeting.” C.H. Mackintosh

It is not always necessary that we take prayer requests, we can lead one another to the throne to pray with the “corporate support” of the entire group. If one Jacob can prevail over the angel, then what could several Jacobs accomplish? “While it is true that one man who knows how to pray and make intercession in the Spirit has far more power with God than a host of half-hearted ones, it is nevertheless a glorious fact that the prayers of a sanctified host, when of one heart and soul, become irresistible.” –Thomas Payne

Our Lord Jesus teaches us about agreeing together, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Mat 18:19-20 This lesson of our Lord involves more than just agreeing in prayer, but it is fundamental to His teaching and to effectual corporate prayer.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Compare a machine in working order with a box of the same parts. “What we cannot obtain by solitary prayer we may by social...because where our individual strength fails, there union and concord are effectual.” Chrysostom 400 AD

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”

Lev 26:6-9 “I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. ‘But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you.” A ratio of effectiveness of 1/20 increases to 1/100 by an increase in corporate size. “There is a power in conferring and covenanting, on the part of kindred spirits, to come before God, and plead together some special promise.” The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

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“The prayer that God particularly delights to answer is united prayer. There is power in the prayer of a single individual, and the prayer of individuals has wrought great things, but there is far greater power in united prayer.” The Power of Prayer, R.A. Torrey

"It is a tremendous responsibility to lead God's people to God's throne and into God's presence in public prayer. God can so strongly anoint the one who leads in prayer that all present are brought into consciousness of God's presence until the one praying is forgotten and the people as one in heart and soul unite and agree in the prayer." Mighty Prevailing Prayer, Wesley Duewel, p 129

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Corporate Prayer: The Open Secret

By “open secret” we mean something that is common knowledge but everyone’s actions make it look like it is a secret. Concerning the apostolical history of meetings for prayer Spurgeon said, “these meetings must have been very common indeed. They were, doubtless, every-day things...” Let’s look at the N.T. passages that refer to the “corporate prayer meeting.”

Matt 6:5,6 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” The Jews practice was that everywhere there were ten men they should build a house for prayer, this they called the Synagogue.

Mark 11:17 “And He began to teach and say to them, Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” (Lk 19:46)

Lk 1:8-10 “Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.”

Lk 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”

Act 1:13,14 “When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” One of the first uses of the prayer-meeting, then, is to encourage a discouraged people.

Ac 2:41-43 “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” If we are to understand the functions of “teaching” “fellowship , “breaking of bread” as corporate functions why would we think of this reference to “prayer” as anything else? Just look at the results.

Ac 3:1-7 “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, Look at us! And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk! And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.” Today the Church in America has the silver and gold but not the power to change peoples lives.

Ac 4:31 “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” The prayer-meeting is the comfort and resource of a persecuted church.

Ac 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” If “ministry of the word” is corporate why not “prayer”?

Ac 12:5 “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”

This prayer meeting may have been in a home but still it was the church praying in a prayer meeting(s) that prevailed.

Ac 13:2,3 “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” The early Christians had an atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit could speak and here He give instruction for missionary operations.

Ac 14:22,23 “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” In the midst of persecution we must commend each other to the Lord by prayer.

Ac 16:12,13 “and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.”

A prayer-meeting became the first foothold of the gospel in Europe just as it is for any work of God.

1 Cor 11:4,5 “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.” 14:15 “What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.” Paul was so concerned about “corporate prayer” in the Corinthian church that he gave detailed instruction for it.

1 Thess 5:17 “pray without ceasing;” This is given in a context of exhortation to the corporate church body.

1 Tim 2:1,8 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men....Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” When Paul gave instruction to Timothy he included corporate prayer.

“How could we expect a blessing if we were too idle to ask for it? How could we look for a Pentecost if we never met with one accord, in one place, to wait upon the Lord? Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.” Only a Prayer Meeting, p 13. We like to glory in Spurgeon’s success but we fail to strive for a Monday night service which he said “scarcely ever numbers less than from a thousand to twelve hundred attendants...” p 27

“The prayer-meeting is an institution which ought to be very precious to us, and to be cherished very much by us as a Church, for to it we owe everything. When our comparatively little chapel was all but empty, was it not a well-known fact that the prayer-meeting was always full? And when the Church increased, and the place was scarce large enough, it was the prayer meeting that did it all. When we went to Exeter Hall, we were a praying people, indeed; and when we entered on the larger speculation, as it seemed, of the Surrey Music-hall, what cries and tears went up to heaven for our success! And so it has been ever since. It is in the spirit of prayer that our strength lies; and if we lose this, the locks will be shorn from Samson, and the Church of God will become weak as water and though we, as Samson did, go and try to shake ourselves as at other times, we shall hear the cry, The Philistines be upon thee, and our eyes will be put out, and our glory will depart, unless we continue mighty and earnest in prayer.”

What Should Be the Great Object of the Prayer-meeting,

1. First, it must be the glory of God, or else the petition is not sufficiently put up.

2. And then, in subservience to that, let us pray for a blessing on the Church.

3. Then we should also pray for the conversion of the ungodly.

“History confirms the truth that wherever evangelical and vital religion flourish, there lives the earnest gatherings for social prayer.” The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

A church is never more like the New Testament church than when it is praying.

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Corporate Prayer: How to Have the Manifest Presence of God

The basic assumption of James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” is that there is a something more than the omnipresence of God. God can draw nearer than the presence that He has at all times in all places. Before the fall God came in special visitation to Adam and Eve. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Gen 3:8 That presence must have been something more than His omnipresence. When they fell they hid from that presence. In our salvation God has restored our relationship with Him but we are still struggling with His special presence. What is the manifest presence of God? It is not the presence of God as He is all present or omnipresence. It is not His providence that is ever waiting on us. It is when He becomes undeniably real, irresistibly and powerfully changing saint and sinner, when He gloriously glorifies Himself among His people. The presence of God is unquestionably Sovereign and irresistible, nothing stands in His way. When He reveled Himself to us in our initial salvation experience it was His sovereign prerogative to do so and likewise with His manifest presence.

In Jn 14:21 our Lord teaches us about His and His Father’s relation to us, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world? Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” The word “disclose” is emphanizo meaning to manifest, exhibit to view, to show one's self, come to view, appear, be manifest, to indicate, disclose, declare, make known. Too often we read into the Scriptures what is norm in our experience. There is much more for us in our relation to God than we know.

Paul said to the Corinthians “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Cor 2:3-5 Demonstration here is a making manifest, showing forth, a demonstration, proof. May God help us to experience the “ demonstration of the Spirit and of power” personally and corporately.

The question then is “How can we have this special and manifest presence of God?”

The answer may be simple in principle but difficult to acquire. In Matt 6:5,6 Jesus give us instruction in praying, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” We are not told not to pray in the synagogue or assembly, but that we are not to do it “ like the hypocrites.” Public praying is good but it requires a counterpart “private praying.” “The term translated room refers to the inner room of a house, normally without any windows opening outside, the most private location possible.”

The important thing is that we have a time and a place each day that we go to for private communion with God. It is best if it is where we won’t be distracted and where others cannot hear us. The best method is to be on our knees and pray out loud to God. The word “reward” means to pay off, discharge what is due, to give back, restore. Our Lord is saying that God will give us what is due if we pray in secret. Note that the context here is public or corporate praying. If we base our public life, praying and otherwise, in our private life then God will bless our public life. How are we to have the special and manifest presence of God in our corporate experience? Answer--Have the manifest presence in our private prayer experience. We cannot expect to have the “manifest presence of God” publicly if we do not have it privately. If we do not have it privately or publicly who's fault will it be. The secret of praying is praying in secret.

It is also true that the degree of spiritual maturity that each of us brings to this corporate prayer meeting will increase the corporate experience of the presence of God. There is a sense in which we can “bring the presence of God with us” to the prayer meeting. No, we cannot control God but we can abide in His presence and carry that with us where ever we go.

For us to advocate that we have the manifest presence of God in our church services and not first and fundamentally have it in our secret prayer lives is classic hypocrisy.

“If we pray among a select society of Christians, we draw near to God with holy boldness, something like what we use in our duties of secret worship. We have reason to take more freedom among fellow saints and whose hearts have felt many of the same workings as our own.” A Guide to Prayer, Isaac Watts, p 58

If we be faithful to secret prayer God will be faithful to our corporate prayer.

A dynamic praying church must be built from the inside out, employing all four levels of prayer: the secret closet, the family altar, small group praying and finally, the congregational setting. Developing your Secret Closet of Prayer, Richard Burr, p 19.

Lord, I have Shut the Door

Lord, I have shut the door, Here do I bow;

Speak, for my soul attend Turns to Thee now.

Rebuke Thou what is vain, Counsel my Soul,

Thy holy will reveal, My will control.

In this blest quietness clamorings cease;

Here in Thy presence dwells Infinite peace;

Yonder, the strife and cry, Yonder the sin;

Lord, I have shut the door, Thou art within!

Lord, I have shut the door, Strengthen my heart;

Yonder awaits the task - I share a part.

Only through grace bestowed May I be true;

Here, while alone with Thee, My strength renew.

By William M. Runyan, Copyright 1923. Renewal 1951 extended.

Hope Publishing Co., owner. All rights reserved.

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Paul’s Exhortation to Corporate Prayer

“First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people.” 1 Timothy 2:1

Paul begins this letter by exhorting Timothy concerning doctrine (1:3-7) and continues talking about the law (1:8-11), and how all this related to him (1:12-17), and again exhorts Timothy to fight the good fight (1:18-20). The two main parts of public worship are the ministry of the word and prayer and Paul is dealing with these as two areas of concern. Now, Paul moves from the doctrinal to the practical, especially as it relates to their corporate conduct.

The word for “first” means “first in time or place or first in rank,” here the latter definition applies. “The exhortation here is not addressed particularly to Timothy, but relates to all who were called to lead public prayer.” (Barnes’ Notes on the NT, p 1133) Paul is referring to “Timothy and the congregations; Timothy is to direct them, and the congregations are to follow his directions. Few commentators will entertain the thought that Paul’s directions are intended only for individuals and not for congregations. Timothy should not be regarded as being the pastor of the church in Ephesus, the elders were the pastors. Timothy was Paul’s representative who directed pastors and churches in the entire province; hence, Paul also puts these directions into writing in case somebody raised objection.” (Interpretation of First Timothy, R.C.H. Lenski, p 538) That Paul is referring to corporate conduct is further evidenced when he begins chapter 3 by dealing with “the office of overseer” which is a church body issues.

Paul is compassionate in his dealing with Timothy. When he says, “I urge” he is using the word that means to call to one’s side, to admonish, exhort. The noun form of this word, parakletos, is used to refer to the Holy Spirit, the comforter or the one that comes along side to help and strengthen. This word also occurs in 1:3, there it is in the aorist tense where it has a sense of finality to it to as he deals with doctrine and here it is present tense indicating that the exhortation to prayer is ongoing and continual. These two occurrences indicate that these two sections are to be considered in comparison to each other, the one doctrinal and the other practical.

Paul proceeds to give us four things that ought to be included in corporate prayer.

1. “Requests” as seeking, asking, entreating, entreaty to God. “The picture behind the word is that of a beggar sitting at the side of the road, begging for the help of the king as he passes by. It expresses destitution and inadequacy, inability to meet one’s own needs, and total dependence on another. It is need expressed in a cry... a definite need keenly felt.” (Prayer Power Unlimited, J. Oswald Sanders, p 29)

2. “Prayers” as addressed to God or a place set apart or suited for the offering of prayer. “As used here the word for prayers means prayer-wishes that are expressed in the presence and by the side of another…it is the word that refers to needs that are always present, in contrast to petitions (requests) which have specific situations in view.” (Prayer Power Unlimited, J. Oswald Sanders, p 29)

3. “Intercessions” means a falling in with, meeting with, an interview, that for which an interview is held, a conference or conversation, a petition, supplication. “In intercession, we are concerned about the needs and interests of others. Intercession is the unselfish and altruistic aspect of prayer…in intercessions the believer is acting as an intermediary between God and other people. We forget ourselves and our own needs in our identification with the needs of the one for whom we pray.” (Prayer Power Unlimited, J. Oswald Sanders, p 30)

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Thanksgiving in Prayer

“Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving” Col 4:2

“First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people.”

1 Tim 2:1

Sometimes we use the acrostic “A.C.T.S.” as an outline to help us in prayer. A = adore, C = confession, T = thanksgiving, S = supplication. Let us consider thanksgiving in prayer. Thanksgiving is defined as, “To give thanks is to acknowledge the bounty of that hand from which we receive our blessings, and to ascribe honour and praise to the power, the wisdom and the goodness of God upon that account.” A Guide to Prayer, Isaac Watts p 29 “Thanksgiving is the act of expressing specific gratitude to God for blessings He has bestowed upon us.” The Hour that Changes the World, Dick Eastman p 95

There are two types of things we are to give God thanks for:

1. Those things He has given us.

Those things He has given us without our asking. God has included us in His great plan of redemption. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” 2 Cor 9:15 We are to thank God for being a just God. We are to thank God for revealing Himself to us sinful creatures. For His protecting us from harm and suffering that others endure.

Those things He has given us in answer to our prayer. “The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness. ” James 5:16 For our forgiveness of sins and our hope of eternal life. For delivering us from dangers and evils that we face. The ten lepers could pray for mercy and healing but only one returned to express thankfulness. How soon we forget where our blessings come from.

For all the mercies of life; for things spiritual, for Christ Himself, and for all spiritual blessings in him; for electing, redeeming, sanctifying, adopting, pardoning, and justifying grace; for the work of sanctification in our lives, and for eternal life itself; for the Gospel that we have heard and that we hear preached, promises of God, truths that the Holy Spirit has helped us to see, the privilege of public worship without persecution.

2. Those things that He will do for us, both that which we will not ask for and that which we will ask for. When our Lord was about to raise Lazarus from the dead He said “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me.” Jn 11:41 Obviously Jesus had already prayed about this situation and received the answer and was now thanking His Father for what He was about to do. In Mt 15:36 Jesus thanked His Father for the seven loaves knowing what His Father was about to do. It honors God for us to thank Him for what He has not yet done but what we expect Him to do in the future.

The giving of thanks is not something reserved for private prayer. I Chron 16:8 says “Give thanks to the Lord! Call on his name! Make known his accomplishments among the nations!” In Eph 5:19,20 we are told “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ” The “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody” are things done in the meeting of the saints, the corporate meeting. So should we “Give thanks” in the corporate prayer meeting. The prayer meeting is a place of His special presence and we ought to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give him thanks! Praise his name!” Ps 100:4 “Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Th 5:16-18 The context of this passage is the body life of the local church, this is probably a reference to the prayer meeting.

We give God extra glory when we thank Him in circumstance that are not convent, in times of adversity, desertion, temptation, affliction, and persecution, as well as in prosperity. “Let them present thank offerings, and loudly proclaim what he has done!” Ps 107:22 A sacrifice offering of thanksgiving is to express thankfulness when we are hurting, being reproached, suffering for His name, depressed, discouraged, in doubt, defeated. It is associated with pain and giving up something of value to us.

The world is searching for peace, internationally and personally but peace can only come from a right relationship with God that includes thankfulness. “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Ph 4:6,7 “If anyone would tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and all perfection, he must tell you to make a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing.” William Law

We are to be full and overflowing with thankfulness. “Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Col 2:6,7

Just as we are saved through the work of Jesus Christ so we are to give our thanks back to God through Him. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father through him.” Col 3:17

“Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

“Praise and thanksgiving not only open the gates of heaven for me to approach God, but also ‘prepare a way’ for God to bless me.” The Kneeling Christian

Thanks to God

Thanks, O God, for boundless mercy from Thy gracious throne above;

Thanks for ev’ry need provided from the fulness of thy Love!

Thanks for daily toil and labor and for rest when shadows fall;

Thanks for love of friend and neighbor and Thy goodness unto all!

Thanks for thorns as well as roses; thanks for weakness and for health;

Thanks for clouds as well as sunshine; thanks for poverty and wealth!

Thanks for pain as well as pleasure – all thou sendest day by day;

And Thy Word, our dearest treasure, shedding light upon our way.

Thanks, O God, for home and fireside, here we share our daily bread;

Thanks for hours of sweet communion, when by Thee our souls are fed!

Thanks for grace in time of sorrow and for joy and peace in Thee;

Thanks for hope today, tomorrow, and for all eternity!

Thanks to God by August Ludvig Storm, 1862-1914,

translated by Carel E. Backstrom, 1901-

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Supplication in Prayer

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication

with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Ph 4:6

Sometimes we use the acrostic “A.C.T.S.” to help us in prayer. A = adore, c = confession, t = thanksgiving, s = supplication. Let’s consider the fourth, “Supplication in Prayer.” Supplication is prayer as the expression of need, its asking for something desired. Sometimes our need is an indication of what God wants to do for us. He wants us to enter into what He is doing in our lives by learning what our need is, asking for it and trusting Him for it.

In Luke11:1-4 We have two prayers. The second is the answer to the first. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” That was the first prayer, they asked for “prayer” to be taught to them. This may be the most fundamental prayer of all. Praying is not a natural skill, it is an acquired and developed ability. We must be taught by the Spirit to pray. The first answer to the question of what should we supplicate and ask for in pray is, “We should pray for ourselves to have the ability to pray.” Once this skill is achieved it’s exercise will supply all the other needs we have.

“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Father, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation.” Lk 11:2-4 Jesus now becomes a teacher of prayer. He did not think like some people that say that prayer can not be taught. “Everything that is legitimate to pray about can be found in the Lord’s Prayer.” (And When you Pray, Ray Pritchard p 23). If you can’t find it in this model prayer you shouldn’t pray for it. Sometimes we struggle with exactly what to pray for but Jesus specified five catagorize of petition or supplication:

1. Glorification of God. “Hallowed be thy name.” There is no problem here to know what to pray for. We are to pray that everything glorify our God. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.” Rom 11:36 We have authority to pray only for those things that Glorify God. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31 What ever the circumstance, need or crisis we are to pray that it will bring glory to our God.

2. Kingdom business. “Thy kingdom come.” Let’s not miss the fact that “the kingdom of God” is something we are to pray about. We don’t think that this is limited to the Second Coming of our Lord as described in 2 Thess 1:4 “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” Rom 14:17 tells us what our kingdom business is “For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The next category deals with food and drink but first we are to pray about spiritual and practical things that will glorify God. It is not just to pray for the kingdom but pray for the kingdom first. A big responsibility in this area is intercession for others. Paul was very desirous for the Christians to pray for him. “Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us too, that God may open a door for the message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may make it known as I should.” Col 4:2-4 “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:18,19

3. Daily need. “Give us day by day our daily bread.” God could and many times does supply our need, without our asking. So why ask at all? Answer: Jesus said to, that is why. Our needs are great and varied. We need a lot more than food; we need the health to eat and use its energy for God. We should include in this category the needs of others. Our needs are spiritual as well as physical. We need for God to work in our hearts to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. Let’s not miss the fact that the needs here referenced are “daily” not “monthly” or “yearly.” A large bank account balance is not a “daily need.” Sometimes God in His super abundant grace allows us to have savings and retirement accounts but it is daily needs that we have authority to pray for.

4. Forgiveness of sin. “And forgive us our sins; ” If we are truly Christian we are saved, justified and forgiven for all our sins, past, present and future then; why ask for forgiveness? There is a difference between our legal position and our life performance. Part of our sanctification is coming to understand what sin is, to identify our sins and deal with them. Asking for forgiveness acknowledges the fact of our sin, and agrees with God that it is wrong and is an effort to move away from that sin. In this category we have the authority to deal directly with God; no middle person is needed. “If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” 1 Jn 1:8,9

5. Predeliverence from sin. “And bring us not into temptation.” A genuine Christian does not want to sin; he knows that he is weak in himself and cannot keep himself from sin. He doesn’t trust himself and does not want to be tested. To ask that God deliver us from the opportunity to sin is a safe and healthy attitude to have. “The meaning is, that God would not suffer us to be overcome by temptation; that we may not be given up to the power of temptation, and be drawn into sin.” (The Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Watson, p 187) This is the opposite of Peter’s attitude when He said “Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you.” And all the disciples said the same thing.” Matt 26:35 The wise Christian knows he is liable to fall and wants to avoid it.

I CANNOT PRAY

I cannot say OUR if my religion has no room for others and their needs.

I cannot say FATHER if I do not demonstrate this relationship in my daily living.

I cannot say WHO ART IN HEAVEN if all my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.

I cannot say HALLOWED BY MY NAME if I, who am called to bear His Name, am not holy.

I cannot say THY KINGDOM COME if I am unwilling to give up my own sovereignty and accept the righteous reign of God.

I cannot say ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN unless I am truly ready to give myself to His service here and now.

I cannot say GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD without expending honest effort for it, or by ignoring the genuine needs of others.

I cannot say FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone.

I cannot say LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.

I cannot say DELIVER US FROM EVIL if I am not prepared to fight in the spiritual realm with the weapon of prayer.

I cannot say THINE IS THE KINGDOM if I do not give the King the disciplined obedience of a loyal subject.

I cannot say THINE IS THE POWER if I fear what my neighbors and friends may say or do.

I cannot say THINE IS THE GLORY if I am seeking my own glory first.

I cannot say FOREVER if I am too anxious about each day’s events.

I cannot say AMEN unless I honestly say “Cost what it may, This is my prayer.”

Source unknown

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The Act of Prayer has its own Benefit

“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” —Lamentations 3:41

The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust.

Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer. Prayer plumes the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God's warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun ariseth from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race.

Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; (Ex 17:12 “But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; And his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”)

It is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians (2 Ki 13:18 “16 And he said to the king of Israel, Put thy hand upon the bow; and he put his hand upon it. And Elisha laid his hands upon the king's hands. 17 And he said, Open the window eastward; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot; and he shot. And he said, Jehovah's arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Syria; for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. 18 And he said, Take the arrows; and he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground; and he smote thrice, and stayed. 19 And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times: then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it, whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.”).

Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do! We thank thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvelous loving kindness. Help us to use it aright throughout this day!

Morning & Evening, C.H. Spurgeon October 11 AM

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American Christians

I. The problem.

The American Christians are: Insulated from the way most Christians live and the problems they face.

In the age of information and extremes we are extremely ignorant to what the Christians in China, Korea, Sudan, Russia, etc, are experiencing as to persecutions and to revival blessings. The average Christian in America can not believe that there are 168,000 Christian martyrs per year. We have been dumbed down by the TV and newspaper news media.

The American Christians are: Intoxicated with material things.

The affluencey of the American Christian reveals his carnality. We buy and consume in the same styles and to the same degrees as the unsaved pagans in our neighborhoods. The Christian family in American has the same number of TVs and the same designer cloths as anyone else.

The American Christians are: Inoculated to the presence and power of God.

When one is inoculated to a disease he is given a small sample of the disease so his immune system will build a defense against it. American Christians have had small sample of real Biblical Christianity and have developed an immunity to getting the real thing. We go to church a little bit, we read our Bibles sometimes, we pray at our meals and when we have a crisis and we call that normal Christianity. It is normal “American Christianity” but not normal Net Testament Christianity.

Because of this the American Christian is not a praying Christian. He doesn’t feel the need or sense the urgency to pray. Oh, where are the “men of God” that should be proclaiming needs of the day.

II. The Solution

Answer to Insulation: Education, get the facts of what’s going on in the world. Involvement, adopt a mission field to learn about and pray for. Joh 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from my Father, I have made known unto you.”

Answer to Intoxication: Fasting. We need to pray that God would wean us from the world and make us hungry for Him.

Mt 10:38 “And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me.”

Mt 16:24 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Answer to Inoculation: Personal experience of the God. We ask as Elisha did, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah” We say there is a God but we practice “practical atheism”. We need to experience privately and corporately.

Lu 14:27 “Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Lu 9:23 “And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Mr 10:21 “And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.”

Php 3:10 “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death;”

Gal 2: 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”

Every converted sinner is a soul revived to prayer. Every saint restored from backsliding, is a soul returned to the life and power of prayer. Every congregation enjoying an outpouring of the Spirit, is a congregation revived and alive to the prayer meeting. The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

No time to pray!

No time to pray!

O, who so fraught with earthly care

As not to give a humble prayer

Some part of day!

No time to pray!

What heart so clean, so pure within,

That needeth not some check from sin.

Needs not to pray?

No time to pray?

‘Mid each day's dangers, what retreat

More needful than the mercy seat?

Who need not pray?

No time to pray!

Must care or business' urgent call

So press us as to take it all,

Each passing day?

What thought more drear

Than that our God His face should hide,

And say, through all life's swelling tide,

No time to hear!

Anonymous

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Boring and Blasting, Ours and His

From: Prayer, by Ole. Hallesby, p 75

"pray without ceasing;" 1 Thess 5:17

"And let us not be weary in welldoing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Gal 6:9

We notice, too, that God now and then sends us an awakening. Nevertheless there is something in this connection which we should think about, especially with reference to our prayers. In the first place, I would point out the fact that awakenings occur very seldom. As a rule decades elapse between revivals in our cities and rural communities. In the next place, I would make mention of the fact that the revivals which do take place are usually not very great, being limited to a single locality. Finally, I would say that they are often representative of but very little spiritual power. By this I do not mean that there are no powers at work. There are often tremendous, almost brutal powers at work. But it becomes apparent, often during a revival, and especially afterwards, that there was much human power and but little divine power in the work that was done.

The reason for all this is that we fail to labor in prayer. We long for revivals; we speak of revivals; we work for revivals; and we even pray a little for them. But we do not enter upon that labor in prayer which is the essential preparation for every revival.

Many of us misunderstand the work of the Spirit in the unconverted. We think that this work is limited essentially to the time when the awakenings are taking place. We seem to think that the unconverted are not subject to divine influence between times. This is a complete misunderstanding. The Spirit works without interruption, during awakenings and between awakenings, even though He works differently, and the effect therefore also is different in the hearts of men.

The work of the Spirit can be compared to mining. The Spirit's work is to blast to pieces the sinner's hardness of heart and his frivolous opposition to God. The period of the awakening can be likened to the time when the blasts are fired. The time between the awakenings corresponds, on the other hand, to the time when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock.

To bore these holes is hard and difficult and a task which tries one's patience. To light the fuse and fire the shot is not only easy but also very interesting work. One sees "results" from such work. It creates interest, too; shots resound, and pieces fly in every direction!

It takes trained workmen to do the boring. Anybody can light a fuse. This fact sheds a great deal of light upon the history of revivals, a history which is often strange and incomprehensible.

There are many people who would like to light the fuse. Many would like to be evangelistic preachers. And some preachers are even so zealous that they light a fuse before the hole has been bored and explosive matter put in place. The resulting revival becomes, therefore, nothing but a little display of fireworks!

During a revival our zeal for souls is so great that we are all active. Some are so active that they are almost dangerous during an after-meeting. When, on the other hand, the awakening has subsided, and everyday conditions, perhaps even dry seasons, return, then most of us lose our zeal and cease our activity.

But that is just when the Spirit calls us to do the quiet, difficult, trying work of boring holy explosive material into the souls of the unconverted by daily and unceasing prayer. This is the real preparatory work for the next awakening. The reason why such a long period of time elapses between awakenings is simply that the Spirit cannot find believers who are willing to do the heavy part of the mining work.

Everybody desires awakenings; but we prefer to let others do the boring into the hard rock. There are, God be praised, in every community some who take up this work which tries one's patience so sorely. The Lord reward you, brother and sister, and, above all, give you grace to persevere in the holy work you have taken up!

Let us be faithful to prepare the way with persistent praying.

Let us be faithful to wait on the Spirit to give wondrous workings of His power.

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Fervent Praying

James 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

The words “effectual” and “fervent” are the translation of one Greek word energeo meaning to be operative, be at work, put forth power, to effect, show one's self operative. It has the prefix en which means “In” “inside” or “within” so the emphasis is what is going on within our own soul.

Also, energeo is present tense and middle voice. This kind of praying is ongoing or continuous and is done personally and with much involvement. It is doing something in and to the one praying. After all God is not the one that needs to be changed, it is us that needs to be conformed to Him. From the Divine perspective, this may be the main benefit of praying, i.e. the change it brings in us. This kind of praying is not cold or even lukewarm, not formal but personal, not indifferent but importunate. This quality of praying “avails much.” Here the word means to be strong, to have power as shown by extraordinary deeds.

“Some translate the word ‘inspired,’ the Spirit of God breathes into men the breath of spiritual life, and they live, and being quickened by him, they breathe; and prayer is the breath of the spiritual man, and is no other than the reverberation of the Spirit of God in him; and such prayer cannot fail of success: it may be rendered ‘inwrought.’ True prayer is not what is written in a book, but what is wrought in the heart, by the Spirit of God; who is the enditer of prayer, who impresses the minds of his people with a sense of their wants, and fills their mouths with arguments, and puts strength into them to plead with God, and makes intercession for them according to the will of God; such prayer is always heard, and regarded by him: this has great power with God; whatever is asked, believing, is received; God can deny nothing prayed for in this manner.” John Gill

This quality of praying was manifested when:

1. Elijah prayed earnestly Ja 5:17 “Elijah was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth for three years and six months.”

2. Moses prayed pleadingly Ex 32: 11-13 “And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.”

3. Daniel prayed intensely Dan 9:17-19 “Now therefore, O our God, hearken unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies' sake. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God, because thy city and thy people are called by thy name.“

4. Paul prayed agonizingly Rom 15:30 “Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;“

5. Jesus prayed persistently Mat 26:39-44 “And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And he left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same words.”

Outline from Principles and Practice of Prayer, p 119, by Ivan French.

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How to Pray

“How to do anything is the secret and soul of its accomplishment.” F.E. Marsh

1. Pray Secretly in the closet of communion. Ma 6:6 “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Lk 9:18

2. Pray Watchfully in the alertness of wakefulness. Ma 24:42 “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” Mat 26:41 “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

3. Pray Believingly in the simplicity of faith. Ma 21:22 “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

4. Pray Unceasingly in the continuance of well-doing. 1 Thes 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”

5. Pray Abidingly in the will of God and in Christ. Jn 15:7,8 “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”

6. Pray Directly in the pointedness of definite petition. Jam 5:17,18 “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

7. Pray Effectually in the power of the Spirit. Jude 20 “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,” Rom 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

We often speak of the “Secret of Success.” Prayer is the secret to spiritual life, growth and service.

If prayer is the secret to Christian service then the secret to praying is “praying in secret.”

It is a necessity for our prayer meetings, that each person attending the corporate prayer meeting be praying in secret so when they come to the prayer meeting they will bring with them the presence of God the Spirit.

To know the secret and not to use it is worse than not knowing it at all. Jam 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

One of the main objects of prayer is our “prayer life.” We should be constantly be praying that we will grow in our communion with our Savor and our God.

Nothing is more calculated to begat a spirit of prayer than to unite in social prayer with one who has the Spirit himself. Mighty Prevailing Prayer, Wesley Duewel

Be not afraid to pray; to pray is right;

Pray if thou canst with hope, but ever pray,

Though hope be weak or sick with long delay;

Pray in the darkness if there be no light;

And if for any wish thou dare not pray

Then pray to God to cast that wish away.

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In Praying We Should

Claim His attributes - Plead His justice, His mercy, His faithfulness, His wisdom, His longsuffering, His tenderness. Abraham pleaded for God’s justice when he prayed for the city of Sodom. He asked for the city to be saved and at the closing of his prayer he said, “Shall not the judge of all earth do right?”

Ge 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of ll the earth do right?

I. Claim His promises.

When Jacob was waiting on the other side of the brook, when his brother Esau was coming with armed men, he pleaded with God not to destroy the mother and children, but the main reason he used for pleading in this prayer was: “And thou said, surely I will do thee good.”

Ge 32:12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

III. Claim the Great Name of God. Moses did this in his prayer on one occasion when he was praying for Israel. “What will thou do for thy great name? The Egyptians will say, Because the Lord could not bring them into the land, therefore he slew them in the wilderness.”

IV. Claim mercy for our unworthiness - David prayed, “Lord, have mercy upon mine iniquity, for it is very great.” Ps 25:16 Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.

V. Claim the sufferings, death, merit and intercession of Christ Jesus.

Jesus himself said, “If you need anything of God, all that the Father has belongs to me; go and use my name.”

Col 1:12-14 “giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins:”

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Intercessory Prayer: Some Biblical Examples

“I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men;”

1 Tim 2:1

If we are really interested in others we will pray for them. But, the fact of the matter is that, most of our praying is for ourselves. Even when we pray for our family and friends it is, in part, a form of praying for ourselves. Intercession means “to go to or meet a person, especially for the purpose of conversation, consultation, or supplication, to pray, entreat.” To “interceed” is to go to God for someone and ask for their benefit. The highest form of prayer is intercession for others, and the most effective ministry is that which we exercise for other’s benefit. The following are a few cases of noble intercessors who prayed for blessing upon others.

1. Moses, the self-abnegator, who was willing to be blotted out from the Lord’s book so long as Israel was spared. Exod 32:30-32 “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto Jehovah; peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto Jehovah, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-- and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”

2. Samuel, the faithful prophet, pleaded for Israel. 1 Sam 7:8,9 “And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto Jehovah our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a whole burnt-offering unto Jehovah: and Samuel cried unto Jehovah for Israel; and Jehovah answered him.”

3. Daniel, the humble statesman, pleaded for the nation of Judah when in captivity by identifying himself with the sin of the nation. Dan 9:4-6 “And I prayed unto Jehovah my God, and made confession, and said, Oh, Lord, the great and dreadful God, who keepeth covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned, and have dealt perversely, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even turning aside from thy precepts and from thine ordinances; neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, that spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.”

4. Epaphras, the loving pleader, interceded for the saints at Closse that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Col 4:12,13 “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you, always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness, that he hath much labor for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis.”

5. Paul, the intense intercessor, pleaded for the Church at Ephesus, that they might have God’s unparalleled riches. Eph 1:17-19 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,” 3:16-20 “that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”

6. John, the loving disciple, who prayed for his friend Gaius, that he might have soul prosperity. 3 John 2 “Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

7. Christ, the gracious Lord, who prayed for Peter that his faith not fail. Lk 22:31,32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren.”

The wonderful intercessory prayer as recorded in Jn 17 is a sample of how the Lord is interceding for His people now. “Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25

(Outline from 1000 New Bible Readings, F. E. Marsh, p 216)

There is no better way to serve others than to pray for them.

Prevailing prayer is almost always for the sake of others. --Mighty Prevailing Prayer, Wesley Duewel

Lord, help me live from day to day

In such a self-forgetful way,

That even when I kneel to pray,

My prayer shall be for others.

–Charles Delucena Meigs

“Intercession is the noblest work God entrusts to us humans.” T.W. Hunt

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Intercessory Prayer: Who and What

“This kind of prayer is perhaps the noblest of all. It draws the believer out of himself into the lives of others, it enlarges his own soul, expands his interest and increases his sympathies. It brings him very near to Christ, for He was constantly giving of Himself to others, serving others and praying for others.” (Principles and Practice of Prayer, French, p 73)

The Three Intercessors are:

The Lord Jesus Jn 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever.” Jn 16:26 “In that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you;”Jn 17:9,15,20 “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me; for they are thine... I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one...Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word;”

Ro 8:34 “It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Jesus prayed for Peter Lk 22:31 “Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25

The Holy Spirit Rom 8:26,27 “And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

The believer 1 Tim 2:1,2 “I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.” Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, is interceding for Lot and a wicked city in Gen 18:23 “And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou consume the righteous with the wicked?”

Intercessory Prayer is praying for the kingdom of God: Jesus taught us to pray for the kingdom. Lk 11:2 “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Father, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.” Lk 10:2 “And he said unto them, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest.” Ps 122:6 “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee.”

Intercessory Prayer is desired by a true seeker for salvation: Ac 8:24 “And Simon answered and said, Pray ye for me to the Lord, that none of the things which ye have spoken come upon me.”

Intercessory Prayer is for other’s holiness: 2 Co 13:7 “Now we pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we may appear approved, but that ye may do that which is honorable, though we be as reprobate.” 2 Co 13:9 “For we rejoice, when we are weak, and ye are strong: this we also pray for, even your perfecting.”

Intercessory Prayer is for others spiritual maturity: Php 1:9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;” Col 1:9 “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,”

Intercessory Prayer is praying for those who treat us wrongfully: Mt 5:44 “pray for them that persecute you.” Lu 6:28 “bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Job 41:8 “my servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept, that I deal not with you after your folly; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.“

Intercessory Prayer is getting for others what God wants to give: 3 Jn 1:2 “Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

Intercessory Prayer is what we ask of one another: 1 Th 5:25 “Brethren, pray for us.” Jas 5:16 “Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another.”

Intercessory Prayer is the preaching of the Word of God: 2 Th 3:1 “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you.”

In introducing his book The Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray says, “The present volume owes its existence to the desire to enforce two truths, of which formerly I had no such impression as now. The one is--that Christ actually meant prayer to be the great power by which His Church should do its work, and that the neglect of prayer is the great reason the Church has not greater power over the masses in Christian and in heathen countries...The second truth...we have far too little conception of the place that intercession, as distinguished from prayer for ourselves, ought to have in the Church and the Christian life.” The Ministry of Intercession, p 4.

“The power of the Church truly to bless rests on intercession--asking and receiving heavenly gifts to carry to men.” The Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray, p 5.

“In intercession our King upon the throne finds His highest glory; in it we shall find our highest glory too.” The Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray, p 5.

What an awesome privilege and responsibility it is to be an intercessor.

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Intercessory Prayer: The Test of our Praying

“If Petition is prayer relative to our personal need, Intercession is prayer relative to the need of others, for we can never intercede on our own behalf. In all intercession at least three persons must always be concerned: the one who speaks, the one spoken to, and the one spoken for or against. And at least three things must always be presumed: need on the part of the one spoken of; power, on the part of the one spoken to and contact with both these persons, on the part of the one who speaks. In worship, confession, and petition there need only be two persons involved, but, let me repeat, in intercession there can never be less than three.” .Method in Prayer, W. Graham Scroggie p 73

Intercessory Prayer:

Obeys the command of our Lord.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34,35 To love means “to choose the object to love and sacrificially dedicate oneself to its well being.” Our Lord “commands” this, it is not optional for us to love each other. “This I command you, that you love one another.” Jn15:17 It is a sin not to obey His command. Praying for each other may be the easiest way to exercise the love we are to have for one another. If this is the case, then, not to pray for one another is the greatest way to sin against our brothers and to disobey our Lord. “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” 1 Sam 12:23

Follows the example of our Lord.

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;” Heb 3:1 A priest is one that goes between two parties, or intercedes. “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25 No one could pray more genuinely than our Lord as He prays in Jn 17. In v 1-8 He prays for Himself, in 9-19 He prays for His own, in 20-26 He prays for the world. “In intercession our King upon the throne finds His highest glory: in it we shall find our highest glory too.” (Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray p 5) “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Heb 2:17 If Jesus has condescended to be made like us, how much more should we be made like Him. We need to join with Him in His intercessory work.

Evidences the validity of our profession.

To say we love the brethren and not to pray for them puts a question on our profession. But the Scripture goes further, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet 2:5 Believers are a priesthood, and priest are to be intercessors. If we are not doing the work of a priest, then our priesthood is in question. The principle of Mat 12.34 “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” applies to prayer. Most of our praying is for ourselves. Even when we pray for our friends and family, it is a form of praying for ourselves. The content of our prayers reveals where the care of our heart is. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Jn 14:15 To not love our brothers and pray for them is to evidence that we do not love our Lord.

Exercises our relationship to the world.

“ I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” 1 Tim 2:1-5 Here the Scripture commands us to intercede for the unsaved and even wicked rulers of the world. Sometimes God wants to change the way governments are being run and He want us to have a part in that by seeing and feeling the need and asking Him for that change.

Advances the Kingdom of God.

“And He was saying to them, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2 We are to pray for labors. Advancing the Kingdom of God is hard labor and it has eternal results. Our Lord said “labors” not hired professionals. God will give the wisdom and provisions, that is not to concern us. It is laborers with warm hearts and flexible wills that get the job done. Paul ask “Brethren, pray for us.” 1 The 5:25 Paul was always asking for the Christians to be praying for his missionary efforts. “The power of the Church truly to bless rests on intercession--asking and receiving heavenly gifts to carry to men.” (Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray p 5)

“Let us all unite in praying to God that He would visit our souls and fit us for that work of intercession, which is at this moment the greatest need of the Church and the world. It is only by intercession that power can be brought down from Heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world. Let us stir up the slumbering gift that is lying unused, and seek to gather and train and band together as many as we can, to be God's remembrancers, and to give Him no rest till He makes His Church a joy in the earth. Nothing but intense believing prayer can meet the intense spirit of worldliness, of which complaint is everywhere made.” Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray p 19

“Intercession is the noblest work God entrusts to us humans.” T.W. Hunt

The heartbeat of intercession is servanthood. (Love On Its Knees, Dick Eastman p 6)

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Joy in Prayer

Prayer can be and should be the most joyous experience this side of Heaven. When we think of Heaven, we have to think of a place of infinite joy. If, as Peter says of our Lord Jesus “whom not having seen ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” 1 Pet 1:8

When we are in prayer, we are in a special presence of the most joyous person there is or can be. Nothing can diminish His joy. God is perfect and infinite in His joy. Just as we cannot expose ourselves to the bright rays of the sun and be unaffected by it, so we can not expose our souls to the glory of the “Son” of God and not be affected and changed by it. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” 2 Co 3:18 So as we encounter the infinitely joyous one, we take on an unspeakable joy. Jesus connected “prayer” and “joy” when He said in John 16:24 “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be made full.”

But why is it that our prayer meetings are so dull and depressing, instead of exciting and joyous. It is expected that a prayer meeting is the least exciting meeting that a church has. Many pastors and churches have given up the prayer meeting and wonder why their churches are dead and powerless. It appears to us that our churches have become self-centered and complacent and that has made them spiritual cadavers.

We experience “Joy” in praying when we properly order our relationships. All persons can be grouped into one of three groups: 1. God, 2. Others, 3. Ourselves. The order in which we prioritize these three groups determines our joy in prayer.

J Jesus

O Others

Y Yourself

J Jesus Communion

We are made social beings. We are to socialize horizontally with other humans and we are to socialize vertically with God. Prayer should be first and foremost an active relationship and fellowship in a social sense. Not a rehearsing of a list of wants. Our priority should be our socially experiencing our God. It is common with the most spiritual saints of God that they give priority to their relationship with God, even to the point of engaging in that vertical relationship before (that is early in the morning) they relate to others horizontally. “Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; In thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Ps 16:11 A local church should give priority to the prayer meeting as a personal encounter with God.

O Others Intercession

Most answered prayer is prayer for others. Intercession is a test as to the genuineness of our motive in prayer. Are we most interested in getting blessings for ourselves or for others? Do we pray for those outside of our natural family and church family? Paul’s testimony was “always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy,“ Phip 1:4 “Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved.” Phip 4:1 If we seek our own joy we will miss it, but if we seek the joy and good of others, then we will have ours. “Not that we have lordship over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for in faith ye stand fast.” 2 Cor 1:24

Y Yourself Supplication

“There is nothing wrong with asking for ourselves, if we ask last.” Remember the principle, “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Mt 20:16 The Bible commands us “draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.” Heb 4:16 Jesus commands us to “ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be made full.” John 16:24 How can we refuse to do what will give us full joy. It seems that our needs are a gift from God for our prayer life. We are to come “with boldness,” which means with free speaking. As we abide in Him we can approach God with openness and without reservation about what we pray about. “Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying on your behalf: I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our affliction.” 2 Co 7:4

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Ro 14:17 Our prayer meetings can be the most joyous and exciting of all of our church services as well as the power source for its ministry.

Prayer is not given us as a burden to be borne, or an irksome duty to fulfil, but to be a joy and power to which there is no limit. The Kneeling Christian

The reason we do not pray as we ought is because we do not enjoy prayer as we ought.

Lord, what a change within us one short hour

Spent in Thy presence will prevail to make!

What heavy burdens from our bosoms take,

What parched grounds refresh, as with a shower!

We kneel, and all around us seems to lower;

We rise, and all the distant and the near

Stands forth in sunny outline, brave and clear.

We kneel, how weak! we rise, how full of power!

Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong,

Or others, that we are not always strong,

That we are ever overborne with care,

That we should ever weak or heartless be,

Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,

And joy, and strength, and courage are with Thee?

R. C. Trench

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Kneeology 101

The apostle Paul said “..I bow my knees unto the Father.” Eph 3:14 When praying we need to kneel in:

1. Reverence Phi 2:10 “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;”

2. Dedication 2 Chr 6:12,13 “And he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands: For Solomon had made a brazen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven,”

3. Worship Ps 95:6 “ O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.”

4. Continuance Dan 6:10 “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

5. Confession Ezr 9:5,6 “And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God. And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.”

6. Submission Isa 45:22,23 “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”

7. Forgiveness Ac 7:59,60 “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

8. Privacy Ac 9:40 “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

9. Public Ac 21:5 “And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.”

10. Fellowship Ac 20:36,37 “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,”

11. Intercession Ma 17:14,15 “And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son...”

12. Sincerity Mk 10:17 “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?... and he went away sorrowful…”

While bodily posture is secondary to the attitude of the soul, it is instructive to note that at times Jesus prayed while standing, just where He happened to be at the moment. At another time, He knelt while on yet another occasion it is recorded that He fell on His face. If the Son of God got down upon His knees, yes upon His face before God, what attitude should we ordinary mortals assume as we go into His presence? While posture is not everything, it is something. Principles and Practice of Prayer, Ivan French

Advantages of kneeling:

<>It follows Biblical examples and principles cited above.

<>It promotes humility. Sometimes a proud person kneels but it is not his kneeling that made him proud.

<>Some say that body language is 80% of our communication. If this is true, what does our kneeling or refusing to kneel say to God. Making excuses for not kneeling is dangerous.

E. M. Bounds said of Edward Payson "He prayed without ceasing and felt safe nowhere but at the throne of grace. He may be said to have studied theology on his knees. Much of his time he spent literally prostrated with his Bible open before him pleading the promise...The scars on his bedroom floor testify to this fact. Next to Payson's bed where deep grooves in the hardwood floor where his knees had pressed repeatedly in times of travail.”

Remember: “God’s Army Marches on It’s Knees”

How dare we work for Christ without being much on our knees? The Kneeling Christian

Lord, what a change within us one short hour

Spent in Thy presence will prevail to make!

What heavy burdens from our bosoms take,

What parched grounds refresh, as with a shower!

We kneel, and all around us seems to lower;

We rise, and all the distant and the near

Stands forth in sunny outline, brave and clear.

We kneel, how weak! we rise, how full of power!

Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong,

Or others, that we are not always strong,

That we are ever overborne with care,

That we should ever weak or heartless be,

Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,

And joy, and strength, and courage are with Thee?

R. C. Trench

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"Let us lift up our heart”

"Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens." Lam 3:41 The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very healthy lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favors without constraining us to pray for them, we should never know how poor we are; but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence, the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust. Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life, we acquire energy by the hallowed labor of prayer. Prayer prepares the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God's warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader comes out of his closet, even as the sun arises from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians. Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do! We thank thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvellous lovingkindness. Help us to use it aright throughout this day!

C.H. Spurgeon Morning & Evening, October 11 AM (Revised)

What the Church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use --men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. Power Through Prayer, E. M. Bounds

Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare.

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:

Jesus loves to answer prayer;

He himself has bide thee pray,

Therefore will not say thee nay;

Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,

large petitions with thee bring;

for his grace and power are such,

none can ever ask too much;

none can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin:

“Lord, remove this load of sin;

let thy blood, for sinners spilt,

set my conscience free of guilt;

set my conscience free of guilt.

Lord, I come to thee for rest,

take possession of my breast;

there thy blood-bought right maintain,

and without a rival reign;

and without a rival reign.

While I am a pilgrim here,

let thy love my spirit cheer;

as my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,

lead me to my journey’s end;

lead me to my journey’s end.

Show me what I have to do,

ev’ry hour my strength renew:

let me live a life of faith,

let me die thy people’s death;

let me die thy people’s death.

John Newton, 1779; HENDON 7.7.7.7.rep; Henri A Cesar Marlan, 1827

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Missionary Praying

When you ask a missionary what is their greatest need, they most often say “Pray for Us.” We usually take that request too lightly. The Scriptures teach us to pray for missionaries. Paul consistently asked for prayer for his missionary work; he was an Apostle by office and a Missionary by function.

There is much debate over whether the great commission was given to individuals or to the church. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Mat 28:19 Jesus was speaking to individual believers that were in a body of believers. We think it is was both. The church can not do anything except through its individual members, the fulfilling of the great commission can only be done as a team effort.

There are three ways to fulfill the Great Commission:

1. In Person 2. In Provision 3. In Prayer

It may take years for a person to get to the field and with much provision. Prayer is instantaneous in its reaching our Father in Heaven and can be instantaneous in His answering back to earth. The global positions of the prayor and the prayee have no significance in the prayer process.

In lands where the Gospel has been preached, demonical activity is minimized. In lands where the Gospel has not been preached demonical activity is maximized. The essence of being a missionary is the going to an unevangelized people and driving out the demons of darkness with the light of the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why should we pray for missionaries?

1. Because of the nature of missionary activity.

Eph 6:12f “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” In Dan 10 names of various princes are named which were the powers of those localities.

2. Because prayer based on God’s Word is the only weapon man can use to touch the invisible foe.

Paul continues in Eph 6 “With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Pray for me, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak—that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.” We can of ourselves do nothing. Jn 5:30

3. Because God has designed that the missionary on the field not do his work alone.

Ex 17:8-13 “Amalek came and attacked Israel in Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Joshua fought against Amalek just as Moses had instructed him; and Moses and Aaron and Her went up to the top of the hill. And whenever Moses would raise his hands, then Israel prevailed; but whenever he would rest his hands, then Malek prevailed. When the hands of Moses became heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and Aaron and Her held up his hands, one on one side and one on the other, and so his hands were steady until the sun went down. So Joshua destroyed Malek and his army with the edge of the sword.” When the intercessor’s hands fall, Malek prevails on the mission field.

“Experience has repeatedly shown that the believing prayer of one humble intercessor at home can bring about a revival on the foreign field and save thousands. The experience of one missionary was that, as far as man can see results, he was able to do more for the heathen toiling as an intercessor in America than while he was among the heathen without intercessors pleading for him.” (Principles and Practice of Prayer, Ivan H. French)

What should we pray in praying for the missionaries?

It is hard for some of us to believe but many church fellowships do not have any missionaries that they know and are personally are involved with. Some things that churches should pray are:

1. For some of its members to be called to the mission field.

2. For God to bring some of His laborers to them for their provisional and prayer support.

3. For God to bring to their fellowship a foreign national for Him to use them to convert and prepare to send to his home people.

4. For individual missionaries. Specific individuals in the church could have responsibility for specific missionaries.

5. For specific nationals, by name, that God would save them.

6. For God to raise up nationals to evangelize their own people.

7. For the language ability and cultural interaction of the missionary.

8. For fresh fillings of the Holy Spirit of those on the field.

9. For the health of the missionaries in adverse environments, being under severe strain and burden for the work.

10. For the loneliness that comes to all missionaries. They can’t go to a friend’s house for fellowship and encouragement. Missionaries normally separate themselves from their natural families but no amount of distance can separate them from their Spiritual family, their brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Lord Jesus prayed all night for the first 12 missionaries. Isn’t that example a mandate for us. “It is a significant fact that there is no distinct command for man to send forth missionaries. That work was done by Christ Himself and then by His Spirit when He chose Paul and Barnabas.” (Principles and Practice of Prayer, Ivan H. French) Our responsibility is to pray. Mat 9:37,38 “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

Hudson Taylor wrote back to England from China to request ten prayer warriors for ten struggling mission stations. Later he wrote and informed them that seven of those ten mission stations had miraculously revived. Someone in England, who had read both letters, sent the letter back and told Taylor that they had been able to find only seven prayer warriors to pray.

The missionary leaves by taking ship or plane; the intercessor leaves by shutting the door of his closet. Principles and Practice of Prayer, Ivan French

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Perseverance in Prayer

1 Thess. 5:17 - "Pray without ceasing"

(From Works of Ezekiel Hopkins, 1874, Vol. 3, pp 579-581)

1. That may be said to be done without ceasing, which is done constantly, and at set times and seasons. So we have the word used, Gen. 8:22: “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease:” that is, they shall not cease, in their courses and appointed times. So, here, “Pray without ceasing” that is, observe a constant course of prayer, at fixed and appointed times; still keeping yourselves from any superstitious observations. And, thus, Exod. 29:42: the daily sacrifice is called “a continual burnt-offering;” and yet it was offered up only every morning and every evening, and yet God accounts it a continual offering. So here “Pray” continually, or “without ceasing:” that is, keep up frequent and appointed times for prayer, without intermission.

2. To pray without ceasing, is to pray with all importunity and vehemence. So, in Acts 12:5, “the Church” is said to pray for Peter “without ceasing;” that is, they were very earnest and importunate, and would give God no rest until he heard them. So, also, in the parable of the unjust steward, which our Saviour spake on purpose to show how prevalent with God importunity is, Luke 18:1, it is said, that the Lord would teach them that they “ought always to pray:'' that is, that they ought to pray earnestly and importunity is not giving over till they were heard. So, also, I Sam. 7:7,8 the children of Israel entreated Samuel not to cease crying to the Lord for them: that is, that he would improve all his interest at the throne of grace to the utmost in their behalf. So we are bid to “pray without ceasing:” that is, to be earnest and vehement, resolving to take no denial at the hands of God. But yet we must do other duties also, though we are vehement in this. We may learn how to demean ourselves in this case towards God, by beggars who betimes come to your doors and bring their work along with them: they beg importunately, and yet they work betwixt whiles: so also should we do: we should beg as importunately of God, as if we depended merely upon his charity; and yet, betwixt whiles, we should work as industriously as if we were ourselves to get our livings with our own hands.

3. To “pray without ceasing,” is to improve all occasions, at every turn, to be darting up our souls unto God in holy meditations and ejaculations. And this we may and ought to do, when we hear or read the word, or in whatever duty of religion we are engaged: yea, this we may and ought to do, in our worldly employments. If your hearts and affections be heavenly, your thoughts will force out a passage, through the crowd and tumult of worldly businesses, to Heaven. Ejaculations which are swift messengers, which require not much time to perform their errands in. For there is a holy mystery in pointing our earthly employments with these heavenly ejaculations, as men point their writings sometimes with stops [periods]; even now and them shooting up a short mental prayer unto heaven: such pauses as these are, you will find to be no impediments to your worldly affairs. This is the way for a Christian to be retired and private, in the midst of a multitude; to turn his shop or his field into a closet; to trade for earth, and yet to get heaven also into the bargain. So we read of Nehemiah 2:4, that, while the king was discoursing to him on the state of Judea, Nehemiah prayed unto God: that is, he sent up secret prayers to God, which, though they escaped the king's notice and observation, yet were so prevalent as to bow and incline his heart.

4. There is yet something more in this praying ''without ceasing.” And that is this: we may then be said to “pray without ceasing” when we keep our hearts in such a frame, as that we are fit at all times to pour out our souls before God in prayer. When we keep alive and cherish a praying spirit; and can, upon all opportunities, draw near to God, with full souls and with lively and vigorous affections: this is to “pray without ceasing.” And this I take to be the most genuine, natural sense of the words, and the true scope of the Apostle here; to have the habit of prayer, inclining them always freely and sweetly to breathe out their requests unto God, and to take all occasions to prostrate themselves before his throne of grace.

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Pray Big for God’s Glory

Mrs. Charles E. Cowman in Springs in the Valley reminds of us a story about “Alexander the Great who had a famous, but indigent, philosopher in his court who was once particularly straightened in his circumstances. To whom should he apply but to his patron, the conqueror of the world? His request was no sooner made than granted. Alexander gave him a commission to receive of his treasury whatever he wanted. He immediately demanded in his sovereign’s name ten thousand pounds. The treasurer, surprised at so large a demand, refused to comply, but waited upon the king and represented the affair, adding withal how unreasonable he thought the petition and how exorbitant the sum. Alexander listened with patience, but as soon as he heard the remonstrance replied, ‘Let the money be instantly paid. I am delighted with this philosopher’s way of thinking; he has done me a singular honor: by the largeness of his request he shows the high idea he has conceived both of my superior wealth and my royal munificience.’”

We can dishonor God by asking too little. Yes, He can give us a parking place but He can also open great and unlimited fields of Christian service. “Saints have never yet reached the limit to the possibilities of prayer. Whatever has been attained or achieved has touched but the fringe of the garment of a prayer-hearing God. We honor the riches both of His power and love only by large demands.” A. T. Pierson

We remember the story in 2 Kings 13 of Joash the king of Israel who went to see Elisha when the prophet was dying. Elisha’s instructions are recorded in verses 15-19, “And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows; and he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thy hand upon the bow; and he put his hand upon it. And Elisha laid his hands upon the king's hands. And he said, Open the window eastward; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot; and he shot. And he said, Jehovah's arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Syria; for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. And he said, Take the arrows; and he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground; and he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times: then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it, whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.” God’s wants to give us more victory than we ask for. “We have not because we ask not.” Ja 4:2

Asking too little not only limits the blessings we get from God, but also limits the glory He gets out of our lives. We forget that He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Eph 3:20

When asking someone for help, we are embarrassed and careful not to ask for too much. We know others are limited and we don’t want to strain or be burdensome to them. When we come to pray, we act as if God is limited or stingy with His blessings. We ask as if we were afraid to ask “BIG”. We seem to be content with creature comforts, our daily bread and the physical health of ourselves and our friends, when we should be praying for God to do great and mighty things in the advancement of His kingdom. Why pray for a good attendance at church Sunday when we can pray for a great ingathering of souls across our nation. Why just pray for lost family members when we could be praying for the lost around the world. God’s kingdom is bigger than our church or denomination.

God can not give too much, or run out of supplies, or be found unable to accomplish His will. All we have to do is to abide in Him and “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Mt 21:22

Did God make this world and all things in it and does He not continue to sustain and govern it? It is without question that such an Omnipotent God could not be strained with our request.

The problem with our praying is not that we ask for too much, but that we don’t ask for enough. God is more glorified when He does greater and more unusual things, especially those that the world can see.

Thou art coming to a King,

Large petitions with thee bring;

For his grace and power are such

None can ever ask too much.

–John Newton

“Nothing is beyond the reach of prayer except that which was out of the will of God.” Prayer Power Unlimited, J. Oswald Sanders

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Prayer--What it Does

Pleads the Name of Jesus

Jn 14:13,14 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Regards the Work of Jesus

Heb 10:19-22 “ Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Abides in the Person of Jesus

Jn 15:4-11 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

Yields to the Will of Jesus

1 Jn 5:14,15 “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

Expects Fulfillment of Promise

2 Cor 1:18-20 “But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.”

Remembers the Conditions

2 Cor 7:1 “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

No time to pray!

No time to pray!

O, who so fraught with earthly care

As not to give a humble prayer

Some part of day!

No time to pray!

What heart so clean, so pure within,

That needeth not some check from sin.

Needs not to pray?

No time to pray?

‘Mid each day’s dangers, what retreat

More needful than the mercy seat?

Who need not pray?

No time to pray!

Must care or business’ urgent call

So press us as to take it all,

Each passing day?

What thought more drear

Than that our God His face should hide,

And say, through all life’s swelling tide,

No time to hear!

Anonymous

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Praying for Preaching

We speak to God in prayer and God speaks to us in and through the Word of God.

I. God’s Method

Our Lord commanded us to preach, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’” Mk 16:15 Paul understood this “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God...For since in the wisdom of God, the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching...but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor 1:18-25

Sometimes it is difficult to know God’s will and how to pray, but when it comes to preaching there is no doubt about what God wants. His revealed will is for us to carry out His method of advancing His kingdom, preaching the Word. Jesus said “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” Jn 15:16 Here our Lord connects prayer and preaching with “whatsoever you ask.” If one man says to another man “whatsoever” that is generous enough, but when God says “whatsoever” it is truly unlimited.

Paul told the Romans “Thus I am eager also to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Rom 1:15-16 Do we really want to see the unsaved converted? God says that the Gospel preached is His power to salvation. Then what should we do? Answer: Pray for preaching and those who preach. We thank God that we still have the freedom to preach the Word of God. We should pray for specific preaching opportunities, for God to call men to preach, for people to come to preaching. For the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the preaching of the Word.

II. God’s Messenger

Paul repeatedly asked for others to pray for his preaching. “That the true apostolic preacher must have the prayers of other good people to give to his ministry its full quota of success. Paul is a preeminent example. He asks, he covets, he pleads in an impassioned way for the help of all God’s saints. He knew that in the spiritual realm, as elsewhere, in union there is strength; that the concentration and aggregation of faith, desire, and prayer increased the volume of spiritual force until it became overwhelming and irresistible in its power. Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance. So Paul, with his clear and full apprehension of spiritual dynamics, determined to make his ministry as impressive, as eternal, as irresistible as the ocean, by gathering all the scattered units of prayer and precipitating them on his ministry. May not the solution of Paul's preeminence in labors and results, and impress on the Church and the world, be found in this fact that he was able to center on himself and his ministry more of prayer than others? To his brethren at Rome he wrote: ‘Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in prayers to God for me.’ To the Ephesians he says: ‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.’ To the Colossians he emphasizes: ‘Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak.’ To the Thessalonians he says sharply, strongly: ‘Brethren, pray for us.’ Paul calls on the Corinthian Church to help him: ‘Ye also helping together by prayer for us.’ This was to be part of their work. They were to lay to the helping hand of prayer. He in an additional and closing charge to the Thessalonian Church about the importance and necessity of their prayers says: ‘Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.’ He impresses the Philippians that all his trials and opposition can be made subservient to the spread of the gospel by the efficiency of their prayers for him. Philemon was to prepare a lodging for him, for through Philemon’s prayer Paul was to be his guest..Paul’s attitude on this question illustrates his humility and his deep insight into the spiritual forces which project the gospel. More than this, it teaches a lesson for all times, that if Paul was so dependent on the prayers of God's saints to give his ministry success, how much greater the necessity that the prayers of God's saints be centered on the ministry of today!” E. M. Bounds

“If some Christians that have been complaining of their ministers had said and acted less before men and had applied themselves with all their might to cry to God for their ministers -- had, as it were, risen and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent and incessant prayers for them -- they would have been much more in the way of success.” Jonathan Edwards

Spurgeon said much about others praying. “The preacher, no matter how brilliant, godly, or eloquent, has no power without the Spirit's help: The bell in the steeple may be well hung, fairly fashioned, and of soundest metal, but it is dumb until the ringer makes it speak. And ...the preacher has no voice of quickening for the dead in sin, or of comfort for living saints unless the divine spirit gives him a gracious pull, and begs him speak with power. Hence the need of prayer for both preacher and hearers.”

“As prayer meetings fail in a congregation, so will the ministrations of the pastor become unfruitful, the preaching of the word fail to convert sinners and promote holiness in the professors of religion.” The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

God has not changed His methods. The modern techniques of today’s churches are not in accordance with God’s method and He has no obligation to honor them, but He will honor the preaching of His Word. We must pray for preaching, and our brothers that preach and those who hear.

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The Pray-er’s Attitude

What is the attitude of the heart of one that is truly praying? Following are some attitudes that we should strive for.

Prayer is a duty.

Duty is not the highest of motives, but it is a legitimate one and a good one. Jesus said that men ought always to pray. Luke 18:1 We call Jesus “Lord.” How can we call Him Lord and fail to do what He says (Luke 6:46)? That which is done from a sense of duty (obedience) soon becomes delight.

Prayer is a privilege.

It is none other than Almighty God who invites us to pray Jer. 33:3, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Triune God, who has made it possible for us to pray John 14:6; Heb. 10:19, 20 Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, who has come to assist us in our praying (Rom. 8:26, 27). Does not the opportunity extended to us, unworthy sinners, fill us with a sense of privilege as we approach the throne of grace?

Prayer must be in humility.

No one has the inherent right to enter into the presence of God and petition Him. That right was forfeited by sin and reclaimed for us at the great price of the death of Jesus Christ. Correct views of our own depravity, the graces extended to us and the sinfulness of our hearts (Jer. 17:9) will remove all arrogance and enable us to approach God boldly (Heb. 4:16), yet humbly (Luke 18:13).

Prayer must be in submission.

Prayer that pleases the Father is that which is offered to Him in the spirit of His own Son, "Yet not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42, NASB). But God, for great and wise reasons, denied requests of Moses, Elijah, and Paul. In every case, His denial issued in greater blessing. The logic of submission is simply God's wisdom. He knows me, the way ahead and the thing that is best. Therefore, I rest in Him (Phil. 4:6, 7).

Prayer must be in fervency.

Too much of our praying is perfunctory, even lackadaisical. It lacks real seriousness, genuine desire and fervent longing: Elijah prayed earnestly James 5:16, 17, Moses prayed pleadingly Ex. 32:11-13, 31,32; 33:12-16, Daniel prayed intensely Dan. 9:17-19, Paul prayed agonizingly Rom. 15:30; Gal. 4:19, Jesus prayed persistently Matt. 26:39-44.

We should give all diligence to develop these attitudes in our prayer

Revised from Principles and Practice of Prayer, Ivan French chapter 12 Attitudes and Approaches in Prayer

“A great part of my time is spent in getting my heart in tune for prayer.”

Robert Murray McCheyne

Teach Me to Pray, Lord

Teach me to pray Lord, teach me to pray,

This is my heart cry day unto day;

I long to know Thy will and Thy way;

Teach me to pray Lord, teach me to pray.

Power in prayer, Lord, power in prayer,

Here ‘mid earth’s sin and sorrow and care;

Men lost and dying, souls in despair;

O give me power, power in prayer.

My weakened will, Lord, teach me to pray;

My sinful nature Thou canst subdue;

Fill me just now with power anew,

Power to pray and power to do!

Teach me to pray Lord, teach me to pray;

Thou art my Pattern, day unto day;

Thou art my surety, now and for aye;

Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray.

Refrain:

Living in Thee, Lord and Thou in me;

Constant abiding, this is my plea;

Grant me Thy power, boundless and free:

Power with men and with power with Thee.

Words and music by Albert S. Reitzd; copyright 1925, renewal Broadman Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission

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Pray the Lord of the Harvest

Matt 9:35-38 “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is he plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We are to pray for laborers. “The power of the Church truly to bless rests on intercession–asking and receiving heavenly gifts to carry to men.” (Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray, p 5) Advancing the Kingdom of God is hard labor and it has eternal consequences. Our Lord said “laborers” not hired professionals. God will give the wisdom and provisions, that is not to concern us. It is laborers with warm hearts and flexible wills that get the job done.

Laborers are simply to do what they are told when they are told. Sometimes without explanations or understanding. They are not managers or executives. The employer or Lord of the harvest is responsible to know what they should do and what to do with the results of the laborer. Laborers many times are not professionals. They have basic skills that they develop with experience and use to their Master’s benefit. Paul was always asking for the Christians to be praying for his missionary efforts. “Brethren, pray for us.” 1 Thess 5:25 Paul considered himself to be sent out into the harvest.

The word here for “send out” is the same word to casting out demons. It means to cast or send out. Sometimes it is used to refer to being deprived of the power and influence one exercises in the world or to expel a person from a society: to banish from a family, to draw out with force, tear out with implication of force overcoming opposite force; to cause a thing to move straight on its intended goal; to reject with contempt, to cast off or away, to lead one forth or away somewhere with a force which he cannot resist. This language is many times an accurate description of how God puts His people to work in His kingdom and some of the circumstances and reactions encountered in that process.

The church, its members and leaders, is to pray for laborers in two areas:

1. For itself. The local church needs a variety of gifts and graces to be manifested in its weekly and daily life. There needs to be continual prayer that the Lord of the harvest would raise up and send forth individuals in the body to “do the work of the ministry.” The pastor is not to do some of everything or all of anything. A healthy and spiritual body life involves everyone, each according to his giftedness laboring where the Master wants them. When God gives the laborers, it is the responsibility of the rest of the church to recognize and support them in their God ordained tasks.

2. For the fulfillment of the great commission. Fulfilling the great commission “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have you.” (Mat 28:19,20) is our great responsibility. “All nations” include our own not just those across the ocean. This charge includes all the organizational and support functions necessary to fulfill it. Laborers are needed for every part of this endeavor and we are charged to pray for them to be sent and sustained in the work. We can not muster the work force, only God can do that, but He has commanded us to pray and in this way be part of the cause of making it happen.

We are hypocrites if we pray for others to go and are not willing to go ourselves. If we rejoice when the children others are going out and are glad when our children are staying close to us, then we are double-minded and grieve the Holy Spirit. A laborer is a laborer regardless of where he is laboring. The Master of the harvest wants us to be faithful to the task He assigns us. Note the last words of our text, “ into his harvest.” It is His work and it cannot fail. It is our privilege to have a part. Our function is two-fold. 1. Execute the task assigned us to His glory. 2. Requisition a multitude of additional laborers to carry the work on for His unlimited glory.

Hudson Taylor wrote back to England from China requesting ten prayer warriors for ten struggling mission stations. Later he wrote and informed them that seven of those ten mission stations had miraculously revived. Someone in England, who had read both letters, sent the letter back and told Taylor that they had been able to find only seven prayer warriors to pray.

In 1860 while in England, recovering from sickness, Taylor wrote “I had a growing conviction that God would have me seek from Him the needed workers and go forth with them ... In the study of the divine Word, I learned that to obtain successful workers, not elaborate appeals for help, but first earnest prayer to God to thrust forth laborers, and second the deepening of the spiritual life of the Church, so that men should be unable to stay at home, were what was needed...I had no doubt but that if I prayed for fellow-workers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, they would be given. I had no doubt but that, in answer to such prayer, the means for our going forth would be provided, and that doors would be opened before us in unreached parts of the Empire.” Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, p 110

Send Thou, O Lord, to every place

Swift messengers before Thy face,

The heralds of Thy wondrous grace,

Where Thou, Thyself, wilt come.

Send men whose eyes have seen the King,

Men in whose ears His sweet words ring,

Send such Thy lost ones home to bring:

Send them where Thou wilt come—

To bring good news to souls in sin,

The bruised and broken hearts to win,

In every place to bring them in,

Where Thou, Thyself, wilt come.

Gird each one with the Spirit’s sword,

The sword of Thine own deathless Word,

And make them conquerors, conquering Lord,

Where Thou, Thyself, wilt come.

Raise up, O Lord the Holy Ghost,

From this broad land a mighty host,

Their war cry–We will seek the lost,

Where Thou, O Christ, wilt come!

A Member of the China Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, p 251

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Prayer, What It Is

The Empty Hand Of Need

Mat 8:2,3 “And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ 3 He stretched out his hand and touched him saying, ‘I am willing. Be clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

The Cry Of Despair

Ps 107:1-28 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his loyal love endures! 2 Let those delivered by the Lord speak out, those whom he delivered from the power of the enemy, 3 and gathered from foreign lands, from east and west, from north and south. 4 They wandered through the wilderness on a desert road; they found no city in which to live. 5 They were hungry and thirsty; they fainted from exhaustion. 6 They cried out to the Lord in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles. 7 He led them on a level road, that they might find a city in which to live. 8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his loyal love, and for the amazing things he has done for people! 9 For he has satisfied those who thirst, and those who hunger he has filled with food. 10 They sat in utter darkness, bound in painful iron chains, 11 because they had rebelled against God’s commands, and rejected the instructions of the sovereign king. 12 So he used suffering to humble them; they stumbled and no one helped them up. 13 They cried out to the Lord in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles. 14 He brought them out of the utter darkness, and tore off their shackles. 15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his loyal love, and for the amazing things he has done for people! 16 For he shattered the bronze gates,and hacked through the iron bars. 17 They acted like fools in their rebellious ways, and suffered because of their sins. 18 They lost their appetite for all food, and they drew near the gates of death. 19 They cried out to the Lord in their distress;

he delivered them from their troubles. 20 He sent them an assuring word and healed them; he rescued them from the pits where they were trapped. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his loyal love, and for the amazing things he has done for people! 22 Let them present thank offerings, and loudly proclaim what he has done! 23 Some traveled on the sea in ships, and carried cargo over the vast waters. 24 They witnessed the acts of the Lord, his amazing feats on the deep water. 25 He gave the order for a windstorm, and it stirred up the waves of the sea. 26 They reached up to the sky, then dropped into the depths. The sailors’ strength left them because the danger was so great. 27 They swayed and staggered like a drunk, and all their skill proved ineffective. 28 They cried out to the Lord in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles.”

The Key To Heaven Supplies

Ac 4:31 “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.

The Hedge Of Protection

Neh 6:9 “They all were wanting to scare us, supposing, “Their hands will grow slack from the work, and it won’t get done.” So now, strengthen my hands!”

The Sap Of Fruitfulness

Jn 15:7,8 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.”

The Companion Of Praise

Ac 16:25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the rest of the prisoners were listening to them.”

NET

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Prevenient Praying

The word “prevenient” means to go before, to prepare the way. Sometimes an army will make a “pre-emptive strike” to get the advantage over the enemy. Some times they will send “special forces” in ahead of the regular solders to prepare the way. Another term to describe this kind of action is “pro-active.” “Prevenient praying” then, is to go before and prepare the way by praying. We don’t wait until something happens but we seek God’s will and pray and work to bring it about. In the hussels and hassels of life we sometimes let ourselves live under the “tyranny of the urgent.” Always reacting to one emergency and then another.

Sometimes our prayer life becomes one of praying for one trouble then another, after they have become troublesome. Certainly we should pray concerning our troubles, this is one of the reasons we have trouble, to make us pray. But if we are always on the defensive, we won’t be gaining much ground. Someone has said the life is over 90% reaction to our circumstances and less than 10% action that we initiate ourselves. There is something here for us to consider in relation to praying. We certainly have the responsibility to pray for the unsaved, the sick and afflicted, believers in sin, etc. But, the well rounded prayer life (individually and corporately) will go beyond the pressing problems of the moment and carry us into the future with an eye for God’s glory. Some Biblical examples of prevenient or proactive praying are:

1.

Our Lord taught us to pray saying, to our Father “your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Mat 6:9-13 Much of what He mentions here is not a reaction to a problem but deals with things that are not but ought to be, “kingdom come,” “daily bread” seems to be a reference to the coming day, but especially, “do not lead us into temptation.” Jesus is teaching us to pray “Preveniently,” before the fact, that we should not be taken into tempting, trying, and testing times that might hinder our service for God. What is the greatest danger to need protection from? It can be none other than sin. Each of us has the cancer of sin within us. Jesus is teaching us to pray for protection from temptation. We should be praying that God, in His providence, will not allow us to be drawn away by our own sinful nature from Him into sin. Every Christian needs to pray this prayer.

2.

When we pray for the Lord of the harvest to send labours we are praying pro-actively and preveniently. Ma 9:37, 38 “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” We know there is much to be done so we pray for God to call and prepare believers to get the job done.

3.

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Mat 16:18 Jesus said that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church; this implies that we are attacking the gates of Hell, that is being on the offensive. This involves praying before the fact. Isn’t this what we are doing when we send missionaries into heathen lands?

4.

When Jesus was praying the night before His crucifixion, He prayed; “I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. ” Jn 17:15,16 Jesus knew that Satan would try to destroy us so He prayed before the fact that we would be safe. We should take great comfort in our Lord’s praying for us and pray for one another in this way.

5.

When Paul was telling the Roman Christians what he was praying about, he said “and I always ask in my prayers, if perhaps now at last I may succeed in visiting you in the will of God.” Rom 1:10 He was praying for safe travel and the opportunity to see them and be a spiritual help to them.

6.

Paul told the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6 Being thankful will preempt discouragement. “This pre-answer gratitude is a preemptive strike against bitterness and disappointment over how and when our heavenly Father chooses us answer. Also, it is an expression of enormous faith to thank Him in advance of His response. Our understanding that He will always do right by our petitions prompts us to be grateful to Him before they are answered.” Developing your Secret Closet of Prayer, Richard Burr, p 114.

7.

“Finally, pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s message may spread quickly and be honored as in fact it was among you,” 2 Thes 3:1 We don’t want the preaching of God’s Word to be ineffective so we pray He would empower His Word to work in the hearts of men.

8.

“Praying ahead of our exploits for God allows us to command an offensive position against our adversary. Prevenient praying precludes presumption by ‘covering all the bases.’ ...Prevenient prayer in the corporate setting assumes a special significance. The Scriptures often speak of the church as the army of God. God’s plan is for His army to establish His Kingdom on earth. Lone warriors, however gifted, will never accomplish His purposes. In corporate prayer every member of the body assembles on the front lines of the outreach effort.” The Praying Church, Sue Curran 95.

The more preveniently and proactively we pray, the more efficiently we will be in our prayer life and the more we will advance the Kingdom of God into new territority, claiming it for God.

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Three Biblical Principles for Corporate Prayer


1. The Family Principle 

The church is the family of God.  In any family it is right and proper for all the children to make requests of their parent. It can be expected that the request will have a considerable impact upon the will and emotions of the parent.  Using this as an analogy in the spiritual realm, we are reminded that it is appropriate for the children to petition their heavenly Father.

In a family there is “bi-directional love” which is vertical and horizontal.  There is a vertical love between the parent(s) and the children.  We see in 1 Joh 3:1  “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” 

There is a horizontal love between the children.   Jesus says in John 14:34,35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  The standard is given by our Lord in John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

As we pray to our loving Father we will not want anything that He does not want for us.  As we pray we will be concerned for our brothers and sisters around the world and pray for them.  When they hurt, we hurt; when they rejoice, we rejoice.

2. The Body Principle 


The body life is realized when each individual part or member of the body is living in contact with the head and function as the head directs.

In 1 Cor 12 we are taught that the local church is the Body of Christ. “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” 1 Cor 12: 12 When a body is in a state of good health, all of its parts function harmoniously and according to their intended purpose.  So when the members of the spiritual Body, the church, are functioning harmoniously with their Head and with each other, it may be expected that the Body will accomplish it’s intended purpose for the Kingdom of God in this world. 

Act 12:1-25 tells of how Peter was put in prison,  “4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. 5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”  The church prayed and the angel was sent to deliver Peter.   The application of this principle to a praying church is both individual and corporate.  Individually each believer is to pray to God personally and privately.  He is to maintain his own prayer life.   At the same time he is to maintain corporate or partner praying with his fellow believers.  Just as each organ in a physical body performs its function, so each believer fulfills his responsibility and joins in prayer as they commune with God.  This could be in pairs, in small groups, or in the entire corporate body prayer meeting. 

3. The Unity Principle


When we pray in unity, we need to: 1. Recognize that our life comes only from our Father and thank Him for giving us that life. Joh 1:13  “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ” 2. Recognize our dependence upon him.  We must be in agreement that we can do nothing without Him

In Mat 18:19 we have an outstanding promise: “if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.”  Even though the context of this verse has specific reference to procedural matters in the church, the principle carries over into other areas of our life.  When we come to God united and agreeing in what we ask, we gain a special presence of and power with God.

The great day of Pentecost was realized in an atmosphere of unity in prayer.  “When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.   Acts 1:13,14 

Unity is established by the Spirit,  “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”  1 Cor 12:13   If we are being led by the Spirit, we will be led to unity whenever that is possible.

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling. ”  Eph 4:1-4

Richard Lovelace speaks of visiting a famous harpist’s storeroom, where he kept harps of various sizes. When he plucked the largest harp, every harp in the storeroom resounded with the same note.  When the Spirit plucks the heart of one believer in the church, then every other believer should harmonize with what the Spirit is doing.

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The School of Prayer Part 1

“Lord teach us to pray.” Lk 11:1

As the disciples made the above request so should we. Some have said that prayer can not be taught, it must be “caught” or learned by experience. But this was not Jesus’ answer. He immediately began to teach them. The following is from Ole Hallesby’s book on Prayer, 161f.

“So few of us become sanctified and skilled petitioners because we do not continue in the school of prayer...There is something about this school which tries our patience sorely. Jesus Himself alludes to it on several occasions, especially in Luke 18:1-8, where He says ‘that they ought always to pray and not faint…’

“It is the Spirit of prayer who superintends the instruction in the school of prayer. He does not offer a variety of subjects, but concentrates purposely on a few central things. It is not necessary to master a large variety of subjects in order to become skilled in prayer...

In the first place, the Spirit must be given an opportunity to reveal Christ to us every day. This is absolutely essential. Christ is such that we need only ‘see’ Him, and prayer will rise from our hearts. Voluntary prayer, confident prayer. We know that Christ can answer prayer. We know also that it gives Him joy to do so. Prayer and intercession have become a delightful and fascinating means of co-operation between Christ and the praying soul. The instruction which the Spirit imparts has as its aim the removal of everything which hinders Him from revealing Christ in our hearts...

In the second place, the instruction which the Spirit imparts, aims at making us earnestly solicitous. Intercessory prayer is like an ellipse, which rotates about two definite points: Christ and our need. The work of the Spirit in connection with prayer is to show us both, not merely theoretically, but practically, making them vital to us from day to day. Comfort yourself with the thought that it is the Spirit who is working these things in your heart every day. It is not necessary for you to strive in your own strength to keep your eyes open to Christ and the needs of the world. No, all you need to do is to listen to the Spirit as He speaks to you every day in the Word and through prayer about Christ and your need, and you will soon notice yourself making progress both in prayer and in intercession.

In the third place, the Spirit teaches us the necessity of self-denial in connection with prayer.There is something about prayer and intercession which calls for more self-denial than any other work to which the Spirit calls us. The greater part of the work of intercession is, of course, done in secret; and work of this kind requires the expenditure of greater effort than work which can be seen of men. It is astonishing to see how much it means to us to have others see what we do. It is not only that we all have a great weakness for the praise of others, but the fact that our work is appreciated and valued is a remarkable stimulant to us.

Furthermore, we all love to see results from our labors. But the work of prayer is of such a nature that it is impossible for us always to know definitely whether what happens is a fruit of our own intercession or that of others.

“Both of these facts call for a great deal of self-denial in connection with prayer...

“In the fine and difficult art of prayer, intercession is undoubtedly the most difficult of accomplishment. As far as my understanding of these things goes, intercessory prayer is the finest and most exacting kind of work that it is possible for men to perform.”

The request “Lord teach us to pray” is itself a prayer. Our Lord began immediately to answer that prayer in the following verses. We need to ask our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, to teach us to pray and be ready for Him to do so. Our Lord’s lesson on “Praying” included three things: 1. an outline for the contents of prayer in verses 2-4, 2. the need for persistence, in verses 5-10, and 3. encouragement that the Father will give us the one thing needed in verses 11-13.

“Jesus taught his disciples that the highest exercise of prayer was in obtaining God’s divinest bestowment, the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Lk 11:13 William Patton

“Prayer is an art which only the Spirit can teach us. He is the giver of all prayer.” C. H. Spurgeon

“The biggest thing God ever did for me was to teach me to pray in the Spirit.” Samuel Chadwick

O Lord, by Whom ye come to God,

The Life, the Truth, the Way,

The path of prayer Thyself hast trod;

Lord, teach us now to pray.

Teach Me to Pray, Lord

Teach me to pray Lord, teach me to pray,

This is my heart cry day unto day;

I long to know Thy will and Thy way;

Teach me to pray Lord, teach me to pray.

Power in prayer, Lord, power in prayer,

Here ‘mid earth’s sin and sorrow and care;

Men lost and dying, souls in despair;

O give me power, power in prayer.

My weakened will, Lord, teach me to pray;

My sinful nature Thou canst subdue;

Fill me just now with power anew,

Power to pray and power to do!

Teach me to pray Lord, teach me to pray;

Thou art my Pattern, day unto day;

Thou art my surety, now and for aye;

Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray.

REFRAIN

Living in Thee, Lord and Thou in me;

Constant abiding, this is my plea;

Grant me Thy power, boundless and free:

Power with men and with power with Thee.

Words and music by Albert S. Reitzd; copyright 1925, renewal Broadman Press.

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The School of Prayer Part 2:The Content of Prayer

The request “Lord teach us to pray,” in Lk 11:1 is itself a prayer. Our Lord immediately answered that prayer in the following verses. He gives three lessons on “Praying”: 1. An outline for the contents of prayer in verses 2-4, 2. The need for persistence, in verses 5-10, and 3. Encouragement that the Father will give us the one thing needed in verses 11-13.

Let us look at the first lesson in our Lord’s teaching on praying. “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Father, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation.” These words are repeated in corporate worship thousands of times each Lord’s day. We feel that the greatest value in this prayer is not the saying of the words but in what it suggests for content in our prayers; either public, corporate, or private. The first part centers around the person of God. The Second part concerns our need.

The Person of God: “Father, Hallowed be thy name.” The most basic thing about prayer is that, is a conversation between two persons, a child and a Father. Our prayer must be addressed to God alone Who is our Father in creation, election, and sanctifying grace. The first thing we should talk about in prayer is God Himself. We should “hallow” or sanctify His name, meaning “to separate from profane things and dedicate to God.” Sanctifying His name is not making Him holy but is acknowledging, and declaring Him to be holy, and glorifying Him, and all His perfections. Isa 12:4 “And in that day shall ye say, Give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name, declare his doings among the peoples, make mention that his name is exalted.” Eph 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ:”

The Plan of God: “Thy kingdom come.” The kingdom is essentially the “rule of God”. We are to pray for God’s will to be realized. Where? In our society, church, family, and personal life. There is an underlining issue of authority here. God has the “right” to rule in all areas of everyone’s life. To pray this we must be in submission to God, lest we be hypocrites. Ps 47:7,8 “For God is the King of all the earth: Sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the nations: God sitteth upon his holy throne.” The kingdom of God does not come with observation and is within us, Lk 17:20,21, but it is also something to be seen, Jn 3:3.

The Provision of God: “Give us day by day our daily bread.” This subject of our praying too often becomes the main thrust of our prayer and even the only concern in our prayer. But in its proper place it is a necessary part of prayer. The reference is to “daily bread” not “daily caviar.” Php 4:19 “God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Jam 4:2 “...ye have not, because ye ask not.“

The Pardon of God : “And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” Pardon or forgiveness is necessary to prayer in three ways: 1. The fact of our being pardoned, or forgiven for our sin, 2. The realization of that fact in our consciences and 3. Practicing forgiveness in our relationships with others. Jesus is linking our forgiveness from God with our forgiveness to others. Mat 18:21-35

The Protection of God: “And bring us not into temptation.” What is the greatest danger to need protection from? It can be none other than sin. Each of us has the cancer of sin within us. Jesus is teaching us to pray for protection from temptation. This might be called “preemptive praying.” “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed.” Jam 1:13,14 We should be praying that God, in His providence, will not allow us to be drawn away by our own sinful nature from Him into sin. Every Christian needs to pray this prayer. The psalmist said, “...I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.” Ps 23:4

The words of verses 2-4 is a “pattern prayer;” it is not the real prayer. The real prayer is that which we pray following this example. The difference is like the difference between a “cookie cutter” and a “cookie.” Just as a “cookie cutter” is not acceptable food, neither is the mere repetition of these words acceptable to God as real prayer. The cutter gives design and development to the cookie as this model prayer does to our prayers. What may be most important in this model prayer is the order of these ideas. That is, making God’s glory and will come before our needs. When we are praying (privately or corporately), it would be good to follow these topics in the order that Jesus has given them.

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The School of Prayer Part 3: Importunity

The request “Lord teach us to pray,” in Luk 11:1 is itself a prayer. Our Lord immediately answered that prayer in the following verses. He gives three lessons on “Praying”: 1. An outline for the contents of prayer in verses 2-4, 2. A lesson by comparison showing the need for persistence in verses 5-10, and 3. A lesson by contrast showing that the Father will give us the one thing needed in verses 11-13.

Let us look at the second lesson in our Lord’s teaching on praying, The need for persistence. “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him; and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will arise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

There are three friends in this story: the needing friend, the interceding friend, and the supplying friend. The lesson is about the intercessory prayer, but it is about something more: it is about persistence in intercessory prayer. To many this sounds inappropriate and even irreverent, but it can not be that because the Lord Jesus is doing the teaching.

Christ Jesus encourages us to be fervent and persistent in our prayer for others. We must come for the needs of those that God has brought into our lives, as a man does to his neighbor or friend. We must come for bread; for that which is needful and we all have many people in our lives that have much need. If God does not answer our prayers speedily, He will in due time, if we continue to pray. Heb 4:16 “Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.” The word for “boldly” here means “free speakingly;” that is for any and all needs. God gives us needs for us to pray about and He promises that He will meet that need or give us mercy and grace to bear it, either way the need is removed.

The implication, here, and in Lk 8:1-8, is that God is reluctant to answer prayer. But-- “The lesson is that lukewarmness in prayer, as in everything else, is nauseating to God and comes away empty-handed. On the other hand, shameless persistence, the importunity that will not be denied, returns with the answer in its hands...There may be other reasons why the divine response tarries and importunity is needed...

1. We may be asking without caring greatly about the issue. If we are not in earnest, why should God bestir Himself? We shall find Him when we seek with all our hearts.

2. We may be asking for selfish reasons, and the discipline of delay is necessary to purge us of this. Selfish motivation is self-defeating in prayer.

3. We may unconsciously be unwilling to pay the price involved in the answering of our prayers, and our Father desires us to face up to this fact.

4. We may be misinterpreting what God is doing in our lives in answer to our prayers....

5. ...apparent delay or denial of an answer...secures our humble dependence on God. If He bestowed our desires as gifts of nature and did not want our solicitations, we would tend to become independent of Him.”

Prayer Power Unlimited, J. Oswald Sanders, p 84,86

Every unanswered prayer is a clarion call to search the heart to see what is wrong there; for the promise is unmistakably clear: "If ye shall ask anything in My name, that will I do" John 14:14 Adoniram Judson said, “God loves importunate prayer so much that He will not give us much blessing without it. And the reason He loves such prayer is that He loves us, and knows that it is a necessary preparation for our receiving the richest blessing He is waiting and longing to bestow.”

Our Lord concludes this lesson with triple emphasis: “Ask--Seek--Knock” and He re-emphasizes it again by saying, “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” This teaching is from Jesus the Son of God; it has to be true.

Which “friend” are you “the needing friend,” or “the interceding friend?” It is God’s will that we grow spiritually and become the intercessor that can be good stewards in the business of the kingdom.

“God delays in answering our prayers because men would pluck their mercies green; God would have them ripe.”

Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say unanswered,

Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done,

The work began when first your prayer was uttered,

And God will finish what He has begun.

Keep incense burning at the shrine of prayer,

And glory shall descend sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered;

Here feet are firmly planted on the Rock;

Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted,

Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.

She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer,

And cries, “It shall be done sometime, somewhere.”

Ophelia Guyon Browning

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The School of Prayer Part 4: A Package Deal

The request “Lord teach us to pray,” in Lk 11:1 is itself a prayer. Our Lord immediately answered that prayer in the following verses. He gives three lessons on “Praying”: 1. An outline for the contents of prayer in verses 2-4, 2. The need for persistence, in verses 5-10, and 3. Encouragement that the Father will give us the one thing needed in verses 11-13.

Let us look at the third lesson in our Lord’s teaching on praying, The praying for the Holy Spirit. “And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

Sometimes a father is asked for basic and necessary things that he does not have to give. A human father is limited and many times unable to do what he wants. Never is it such with God. God gives more than we ask. More than we can imagine. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Eph 3:20

God’s children are to ask for the Holy Spirit; they are to receive Him and God is sure to give Him when we ask persistently. Nothing could be more obvious from our text.

Our relationship with the other members of the Trinity is not as personal as it is with the “Holy Spirit.” In comparing our text with Ma 7:11 we must conclude that the Holy Spirit is equivalent to all “good things.” The sum total of all of our needs is the presence of God liberated in our lives. The best prayer is the most important prayer and the one of which Jesus says “how much more shall your Heavenly Father give you.” Only here Jesus adds the Holy Spirit (pneuma hagion) as the great gift (the summum bonum) that the Father is ready to bestow.

Jesus tells us in Jn 14:16,17, 26 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you... But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.” The word “comforter” is a translation of paracletos also translated Advocate or Helper. It means properly “one who is summoned to the side of another” to help him in a court of justice by defending him, Anyone who is summoned to plead a cause. ”Advocate” is the proper rendering of the word in every case where it occurs. It is worthy of notice that although Paul nowhere uses the word paracletos, but he presents the idea when he speaks of the “intercession” both of Christ and the Spirit Ro 8:27,34.

If any of us are living a meager Christian life of coolness, prayerlessness and uselessness, it is because we do not have the Spirit. We do not have the Spirit because we do not seek him importunately and with a deep sense of our need of him.

Having the Holy Spirit is the real answer to the question “How to Pray?” The ultimate object for and answer to prayer is the Holy Spirit who is the author and sustainer of prayer. The Holy Spirit is the initial cause of faith and salvation and He is the continuous cause of prayerfulness and fruitfulness.

We might think of the Holy Spirit here as a “Package.” When we buy a car, we don’t buy just a motor and gears and wheels. We buy a package which includes all the things that make up a car, even some things like a radio, air conditioner, even a service warranty to make sure the car continues to function as intended. When we buy a computer we usually get many more things along with it to support it and make it practical, like tech support, web access, and a printer. When we get the Holy Spirit, He comes with all that is necessary for our lives to be fully functional and glorifying to Jesus Christ. One of the primary parts of this “Holy Spirit” package are “gifts.” The Holy Spirit gives gifts to believers to indicate how they are to function in the Body of Christ.

So when we pray for and receive the Holy Spirit, we have done all that is necessary to realize the will of God, advance the Kingdom of God, and Glorify the Son of God. To ask for the Spirit is to pray “in Jesus Name.” He told us to do it and when we pray for the Holy Spirit we are acting on His authority.

Jesus taught his disciples that the highest exercise of prayer was in obtaining God’s divinest bestowment, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Lk 11:13 William Patton

But it is the Holy Spirit of God Who is the prayer’s great Helper. The Kneeling Christian

All true prayer is exercised in the sphere of the Holy Spirit, motivated and empowered by Him. Eph 6:18

Breath on Me

Breathe on me, breathe on me, Holy Spirit, breathe on me

Take Thou my heart, cleanse every part, Holy Spirit, breathe on me.

Holy Spirit, breathe on me, Until, my heart is clean;

Let Sunshine fill its in most part, With not a cloud between.

Holy Spirit, breathe on me, My stubborn will subdue;

Teach me in words of living flame, What Christ would have me do.

Holy Spirit, breath on me, Fill me with power divine;

Kindle a flame of love and zeal, Within this heart of mine.

Holy Spirit breath on me, Till I am all Thine own,

Until my will is lost in Thine, To live for Thee alone.

Edwin Hatch 1835-1889

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Unpossessed Possessions

Can any of us say that the blessings that we have from the Lord are all that God has for us, or that God can not or will not to do greater things for us? Paul said in 1 Cor 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Also in 3:21 “All things are yours, for you are Christ’s.” These inspired statements are clear, but confusing when we realize how spiritually impoverished we are. They are ours, but so many of us do not possess our possessions.

Unrealized Wealth is illustrated in The Kneeling Christian Ch 8 “The owners of Mount Morgan, in Queensland, toiled arduously for years on its barren slopes, eking out a miserable existence, never knowing that under their feet was one of the richest sources of gold the world has ever known. There was wealth, vast, undreamt of, yet unimagined and unrealized. It was ‘theirs,’ yet ‘not theirs.’ The Word of God is telling the Christian of the riches we have in Christ Jesus, but we do not seem to know how to possess them.” Jesus said Jn 14:12-14 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” This text reveals both the potential and the problem. The potential is that we can do greater works that our Lord Jesus did. Hard to believe it, but He said it and it is true. With the statement comes the question, “Why am I not doing these works?” The solution to the problem is in the text, v 14 “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” Here is the solution, “asking in Jesus name.” If we don’t know how to “ask in Jesus Name” then we have our first prayer objective. We must begin to beg God to show us what it is to “ask in Jesus Name.”

God told Jeremiah “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (33:3) God has blessings for us that we don’t know about, that our eye has not seen, our ear not heard, nor our heart desired. The way to know, see, hear, and desire is to ask. Ask for desire, vision, courage, and the ability to ask.

There are two men in the O.T. that set us a good example. Joshua 14:6-14 gives us the story of Caleb. Caleb was forty years old when he and the other spies went out to spy out the land for Israel to possess. Because the other spies did not believe that God was able to do what He said, the nation of Israel had to wander in the wilderness. Forty five years later, after the wilderness wandering and the initial battles for the land had been fought, Caleb asks “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.” This is a man that “wholly followed the Lord,” with patient persistence in asking for what God had for Him. His possession did not go unpossessed.

The other man is Jabez. We only hear of him once in Scripture 1 Chr 4:10 “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” Jabez wanted more land, more responsibility, more opportunity but not just of the temporal type but spiritual blessings, covenant blessings, the sure mercies of David, which are the real as opposed to the unreal physical things. He was willing to deal with any problems, like the Canaanites, that might be there. He was looking at the increase of his boarders as a spiritual enlargement. A deliverance from spiritual enemies, with the grace and spiritual ability to use the blessings for God’s glory. He asked God for more and “God granted him that which he requested.”

Ps 119:32 “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.”

1 John 5:14,15 “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”

God can not grant us our request if we don’t “request.”

God help us to possess all our possessions.

Lord, Listen to Your Children

Lord, listen to your children praying,

Lord, send your Spirit in this place;

Lord, listen to your children praying,

Send us love, send us pow’r, send us grace.

Some-thing’s gonna happen like the world has never known,

When the people of the Lord get down to pray;

A door's gon-na swing open, and the walls come a tumbling down,

When the people of the Lord get down to pray.

He’s gon-na take over, He’s gon-na take control,

When the people of the Lord get down to pray;

He’s gon-na move the mountain He’s gon-na make the waters roll,

When the people of the Lord get down to pray.

You’re gon-na know it when the Lord stretches out His hand,

When the people of the Lord get down to pray;

There’s gon’na be a brand new song of vic-try in this land,

When the people of the Lord get down to pray.

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Violent Praying

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it.” Mat 11:12

Prayer is a duty which keeps the business of religion flowing. When we either join in prayer with others or pray alone, we must use holy violence; not eloquence but violence in prayer makes it effective. Theodorus, speaking of Luther, once said, “I overheard him in prayer, but, good God, with what life and spirit did he pray! It was with so much reverence as if he were speaking to God, yet with so much confidence, as if he had been speaking to his friend.”

There must be a stirring up of the heart, first, to prayer, and secondly, in prayer. First, a stirring up of the heart to prayer: “As for you, if you prove faithful, and if you stretch out your hands toward him,” Job 11:13. This preparing of our heart is accomplished by holy thoughts and ejaculations. The musician first tunes his instrument before he plays. Secondly, there must be a stirring up of the heart in prayer. Prayer is a lifting up of the mind and soul to God, which cannot be done rightly without offering violence to one’s self. The names given to prayer imply violence. It is called wrestling in Gen 32:24, and a pouring out of the soul in 1 Sam 1:15, both of which imply vehemency. Affection is required as well as invention. The apostle speaks of an effectual, fervent prayer, which is a parallel phrase to offering violence. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Ja 5:16

Far from offering violent prayer are they who give God a dead, heartless prayer. God would not have the blind offered Mat 1:8; to offer the blind is as offering the dead. Some are half asleep when they pray and will a sleepy prayer ever awaken God? The prayers that God likes best come seething hot from the heart.

Far are they from offering violent prayer who give God distracted prayer. While praying, they are thinking of their jobs and business. How can one shoot straight who doesn’t keep his eye on the target? Will a king tolerate his subject delivering a petition and speaking to him while he is playing with a toy? When we send our hearts on an errand to Heaven, how often do they loiter and play by the way?

Prayer without fervency and violence is no prayer; it is speaking, not praying. Lifeless prayer is no more prayer than the picture of a man is a man. To say a prayer is not to pray; Aschanius taught his parrot the Lord's Prayer. Ambrose said it well, “It is the life and affection in a duty that baptizeth it, and gives it a name.” It is the violence and wrestling of the affections that make it a prayer, else it is no prayer.

The zeal and violence of the affections in prayer best suits God's nature. He is a Spirit, Jn 4:24, and surely that prayer which is full of life and spirit is the savory meat He loves, “you yourselves as living stones are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1 Pet 2:5. It is not the stretching of the lungs, but the vehemency of the desire, that makes music in God's ears. 1 Tim 4:8

It is only violence and intenseness of spirit in prayer that has the promise of mercy affixed to it, “Knock, and it shall be opened” Mat 7:7. Knocking is a violent motion. It is violence in prayer that makes heaven's gates fly open and fetches in whatever mercies we stand in need of.

When we pray with a sense of our wants, we become the more violent in prayer. A beggar pinched with want will be earnest in craving alms. Christian, review your wants; you want a humble, spiritual frame of heart; you want the light of God's countenance; the sense of want will quicken prayer. A man can never pray fervently who does not pray feelingly. How earnest was Samson for water when he was ready to die! “I die of thirst” Judg 15:18.

If we would be violent in prayer, let us beg for a violent wind. The Spirit of God is resembled to “a violent wind” in Acts 2:1,2; “Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting.” We are violent when this blessed wind fills our sails, when we are “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit” Jude 20. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.” Rom 8:26

(Condensed and revised from Heaven Taken by Storm, by Thomas Watson, Chapter 5 Offering Violence by Prayer)

Prayer does not consist in gifted expressions and a volubility of speech; but in a brokenness of heart.

Prayer does not consist in the elegance of the phrase, but in the strength of the affection.

John Mason (1646-1694)

I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?

And do the wishes of my heart, go with the words I say?

I might as well kneel down, and worship gods of stone,

As offer to the living God, a prayer of words alone.

O watch and fight, and pray.

The battle ne’er give o’er.

Renew it boldly every day,

And help divine implore.

Ne’er think the victory won,

Nor lay thine armor down;

The work of faith will not be done,

Till thou obtain thy crown.

Fight on, my soul...

George Heath

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What Prayer Is Part 1

John Bunyan

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

In this description are these seven things. First, It is a sincere; Second, A sensible; Third, An affectionate, pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ; Fourth, By the strength or assistance of the Spirit; Fifth, For such things as God hath promised, or, according to his word; Sixth, For the good of the church; Seventh, With submission in faith to the will of God.

For the first of these, it is a Sincere pouring out of the soul to God. Sincerity is such a grace as runs through all the graces of God in us, and through all the actings of a Christian, and hath the sway in them too, or else their actings are not any thing regarded of God, and so of and in prayer, of which particularly David speaks, when he mentions prayer. "I cried unto him," the Lord "with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" my prayer (Psa 66:17,18). Part of the exercise of prayer is sincerity, without which God looks not upon it as prayer in a good sense (Psa 16:1-4). Then "ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jer 29:12-13). The want of this made the Lord reject their prayers in Hosea 7:14, where he saith, "They have not cried unto me with their heart," that is, in sincerity, "when they howled upon their beds." But for a pretence, for a show in hypocrisy, to be seen of men, and applauded for the same, they prayed. Sincerity was that which Christ commended in Nathaniel, when he was under the fig tree. "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." Probably this good man was pouring out of his soul to God in prayer under the fig tree, and that in a sincere and unfeigned spirit before the Lord. The prayer that hath this in it as one of the principal ingredients, is the prayer that God looks at. Thus, "The prayer of the upright is his delight" (Prov 15:8).

And why must sincerity be one of the essentials of prayer which is accepted of God, but because sincerity carries the soul in all simplicity to open its heart to God, and to tell him the case plainly, without equivocation; to condemn itself plainly, without dissembling; to cry to God heartily, without complimenting. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou has chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke" (Jer 31:18). Sincerity is the same in a corner alone, as it is before the face of the world. It knows not how to wear two vizards, one for an appearance before men, and another for a short snatch in a corner; but it must have God, and be with him in the duty of prayer. It is not lip-labour that it doth regard, for it is the heart that God looks at, and that which sincerity looks at, and that which prayer comes from, if it be that prayer which is accompanied with sincerity.

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What Prayer Is Part 2

John Bunyan

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

It is a sincere and Sensible pouring out of the heart or soul. It is not, as many take it to be, even a few babbling, prating, complimentary expressions, but a sensible feeling there is in the heart. Prayer hath in it a sensibleness of diverse things; sometimes sense of sin, sometimes of mercy received, sometimes of the readiness of God to give mercy, &c.

1. A sense of the want of mercy, by reason of the danger of sin. The soul, I say, feels, and from feeling sighs, groans, and breaks at the heart. For right prayer bubbleth out of the heart when it is overpressed with grief and bitterness, as blood is forced out of the flesh by reason of some heavy burden that lieth upon it (I Sam 1:10; Psa 69:3). David roars, cries, weeps, faints at heart, fails at the eyes, loseth his moisture, &c., (Psa 38:8-10). Hezekiah mourns like a dove (Isa 38:14). Ephraim bemoans himself (Jer 31:18). Peter weeps bitterly (Matt 26:75). Christ hath strong cryings and tears (Heb 5:7). And all this from a sense of the justice of God, the guilt of sin, the pains of hell and destruction. "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow." Then cried I unto the Lord (Psa 116:3,4). And in another place, "My sore ran in the night" (Psa 77:2). Again, "I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long" (Psa 38:6). In all these instances, and in hundreds more that might be named, you may see that prayer carrieth in it a sensible feeling disposition, and that first from a sense of sin.

2. Sometimes there is a sweet sense of mercy received; encouraging, comforting, strengthening, enlivening, enlightening mercy, &c. Thus David pours out his soul, to bless, and praise, and admire the great God for his loving-kindness to such poor vile wretches. "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.6 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's" (Psa 103:1-5). And thus is the prayer of saints sometimes turned into praise and thanksgiving, and yet are prayers still. This is a mystery; God's people pray with their praises, as it is written, "Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer, and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God" (Phil 4:6). A sensible thanksgiving, for mercies received, is a mighty prayer in the sight of God; it prevails with him unspeakably.

3. In prayer there is sometimes in the soul a sense of mercy to be received. This again sets the soul all on a flame. "Thou, O lord of hosts," saith David, "hast revealed to thy servant, saying I will build thee an house; therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray - unto thee" (II Sam 7:27). This provoked Jacob, David, Daniel, with others even a sense of mercies to be received which caused them, not by fits and starts, nor yet in a foolish frothy way, to babble over a few words written in a paper; but mightily, fervently, and continually, to groan out their conditions before the Lord, as being sensible, sensible, I say, of their wants, their misery, and the willingness of God to show mercy (Gen 32:10,11; Dan 9:3,4).

A good sense of sin, and the wrath of God, with some encouragement from God to come unto him, is a better Common-prayer-book than that which is taken out of the Papistical mass-book, being the scraps and fragments of the devices of some popes, some friars, and I wot not what.

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What Prayer Is Part 3

John Bunyan

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, and an Affectionate pouring out of the soul to God. O! the heat, strength, life, vigour, and affection, that is in right prayer! "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God" (Psa 42:1). "I have longed after thy precepts" (Psa 119:40). "I have longed for thy salvation" (ver 174). "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God" (Psa 84:2). "My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times" (Psa 119:20). Mark ye here, "My soul longeth," it longeth, it longeth, &c. O what affection is here discovered in prayer! The like you have in Daniel. "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God" (Dan 9:19). Every syllable carrieth a mighty vehemency in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James. And so again, "And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly" (Luke 22:44). Or had his affections more and more drawn out after God for his helping hand. O! How wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, PRAYER in God's account! Alas! The greatest part of men make no conscience at all of the duty; and as for them that do, it is to be feared that many of them are very great strangers to a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out their hearts or souls to God; but even content themselves with a little lip-labour and bodily exercise, mumbling over a few imaginary prayers. When the affections are indeed engaged in prayer, then, then the whole man is engaged, and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without that good desired, even communion and solace with Christ. And hence it is that the saints have spent their strengths, and lost their lives, rather than go without the blessing (Psa 69:3; 38:9,10; Gen 32:24,26).

All this is too, too evident by the ignorance, profaneness, and spirit of envy, that reign in the hearts of those men that are so hot for the forms, and not the power of praying. Scarce one of forty among them know what it is to be born again, to have communion with the Father through the Son; to feel the power of grace sanctifying their hearts: but for all their prayers, they still live cursed, drunken, whorish, and abominable lives, full of malice, envy, deceit, persecuting of the dear children of God. O what a dreadful after-clap is coming upon them! which all their hypocritical assembling themselves together, with all their prayers, shall never be able to help them against, or shelter them from.

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul. There is in prayer an unbosoming of a man's self, an opening of the heart to God, an affectionate pouring out of the soul in requests, sighs, and groans. "All my desire is before thee," saith David, "and my groaning is not hid from thee" (Psa 38:9). And again, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me" (Psa 42:2,4). Mark, "I pour out my soul." It is an expression signifying, that in prayer there goeth the very life and whole strength to God. As in another place, "Trust in him at all times; ye people, - pour out your heart before him" (Psa 62:8). This is the prayer to which the promise is made, for the delivering of a poor creature out of captivity and thralldom. "If from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul" (Deut 4:29).

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul TO GOD. This showeth also the excellency of the spirit of prayer. It is the great God to which it retires. "When shall I come and appear before God?" And it argueth, that the soul that thus prayeth indeed, sees an emptiness in all things under heaven; that in God alone there is rest and satisfaction for the soul. "Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God" (I Tim 5:5). So saith David, "In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline thine ear to me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: - for thou art my rock and my fortress; deliver me, O my God, - out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For thou art my hope, O Lord God, thou art my trust from my youth" (Psa 71:1-5). Many in a wording way speak of God; but right prayer makes God his hope, stay, and all. Right prayer sees nothing substantial, and worth the looking after, but God. And that, as I said before, it doth in a sincere, sensible, and affectionate way.

Again, It is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, THROUGH CHRIST. This through Christ must needs be added, or else it is to be questioned, whether it be prayer, though in appearance it be never so eminent or eloquent.

Christ is the way through whom the soul hath admittance to God, and without whom it is impossible that so much as one desire should come into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (John 14:6). "If ye shall ask anything in my name"; "whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13,14). This was Daniel's way in praying for the people of God; he did it in the name of Christ. "Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake" (Dan 9:17). And so David, "For thy name's sake," that is, for thy Christ's sake, "pardon mine iniquity, for it is great" (Psa 25:11). But now, it is not every one that maketh mention of Christ's name in prayer, that doth indeed, and in truth, effectually pray to God in the name of Christ, or through him. This coming to God through Christ is the hardest part that is found in prayer. A man may more easily be sensible of his works, ay, and sincerely too desire mercy, and yet not be able to come to God by Christ. That man that comes to God by Christ, he must first have the knowledge of him; "for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is" (Heb 11:6). And so he that comes to God through Christ, must be enabled to know Christ. Lord, saith Moses, "show me now thy way, that I may know thee" (Ex 33:13).

This Christ, none but the Father can reveal (Matt 11:27). And to come through Christ, is for the soul to be enabled of God to shroud itself under the shadow of the Lord Jesus, as a man shroudeth himself under a thing for safeguard (Matt 16:16). Hence it is that David so often terms Christ his shield, buckler, tower, fortress, rock of defence, &c., (Psa 18:2; 27:1; 28:1). Not only because by him he overcame his enemies, but because through him he found favour with God the Father. And so he saith to Abraham, "Fear not, I am thy shield," &c., (Gen 15:1). The man then that comes to God through Christ, must have faith, by which he puts on Christ, and in him appears before God. Now he that hath faith is born of God, born again, and so becomes one of the sons of God; by virtue of which he is joined to Christ, and made a member of him (John 3:5,7; 1:12). And therefore, secondly he, as a member of Christ, comes to God; I say, as a member of him, so that God looks on that man as a part of Christ, part of his body, flesh, and bones, united to him by election, conversion, illumination, the Spirit being conveyed into the heart of that poor man by God (Eph 5:30). So that now he comes to God in Christ's merits, in his blood, righteousness, victory, intercession, and so stands before him, being "accepted in his Beloved" (Eph 1:6). And because this poor creature is thus a member of the Lord Jesus, and under this consideration hath admittance to come to God; therefore, by virtue of this union also, is the Holy Spirit conveyed into him, whereby he is able to pour out himself, to wit, his soul, before God, with his audience. And this leads me to the next, or fourth particular.

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What Prayer Is Part 4

John Bunyan

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate, pouring out OT the heart or soul to God through Christ, by the strength or Assistance of the Spirit. For these things do so depend one upon another, that it is impossible that it should be prayer, without there be a joint concurrence of them; for though it be never so famous, yet without these things, it is only such prayer as is rejected of God. For without a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart to God, it is but lip-labour; and if it be not through Christ, it falleth far short of ever sounding well in the ears of God. So also, if it be not in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, it is but like the sons of Aaron, offering with strange fire (Lev 10:1,2). But I shall speak more to this under the second head; and therefore in the meantime, that which is not petitioned through the teaching and assistance of the Spirit, it is not possible that it should be "according to the will of God (Rom 8:26,27).

Rom 8: 26 And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; 27 and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Joh 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

1 Corth 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

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What Prayer Is Part 5

John Bunyan

What prayer is. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart, or soul, to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, for Such Things as God Hath Promised, &c., (Matt 6:6-8). Prayer it is, when it is within the compass of God's Word; and it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is beside the book. David therefore still in his prayer kept his eye on the Word of God. "My soul," saith he, "cleaveth to the dust; quicken me according to thy word." And again, "My soul melteth for heaviness, strengthen thou me according unto thy word" (Psa 119:25-28; see also 41, 42, 58, 65, 74, 81, 82, 107, 147, 154, 169, 170). And, "remember thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope" (ver 49). And indeed the Holy Ghost doth not immediately quicken and stir up the heart of the Christian without, but by, with, and through the Word, by bringing that to the heart, and by opening of that, whereby the man is provoked to go to the Lord, and to tell him how it is with him, and also to argue, and supplicate, according to the Word; thus it was with Daniel, that mighty prophet of the Lord. He understanding by books that the captivity of the children of Israel was hard at an end; then, according unto that word, he maketh his prayer to God. "I Daniel," saith he, "understood by books," viz., the writings of Jeremiah, "the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, - that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes" (Dan 9:2,3). So that I say, as the Spirit is the helper and the governor of the soul, when it prayeth according to the will of God; so it guideth by and according to, the Word of God and his promise. Hence it is that our Lord Jesus Christ himself did make a stop, although his life lay at stake for it. I could now pray to my Father, and he should give me more than twelve legions of angels; but how then must the scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be? (Matt 26:53,54). As who should say, Were there but a word for it in the scripture, I should soon be out of the hands of mine enemies, I should be helped by angels; but the scripture will not warrant this kind of praying, for that saith otherwise. It is a praying then according to the Word and promise. The Spirit by the Word must direct, as well in the manner, as in the matter of prayer. "I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also" (I Cor 14:15). But there is no understanding without the Word. For if they reject the word of the Lord, "what wisdom is in them?" (Jer 8:9).

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What Prayer Is Part 6

John Bunyan

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

For the Good of the Church. This clause reacheth in whatsoever tendeth either to the honour of God, Christ's advancement, or his people's benefit. For God, and Christ, and his people are so linked together that if the good of the one be prayed for, to wit, the church, the glory of God, and advancement of Christ, must needs be included. For as Christ is in the Father, so the saints are in Christ; and he that toucheth the saints, toucheth the apple of God's eye; and therefore pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and you pray for all that is required of you. For Jerusalem will never be in perfect peace until she be in heaven; and there is nothing that Christ doth more desire than to have her there. That also is the place that God through Christ hath given to her. He then that prayeth for the peace and good of Zion, or the church, doth ask that in prayer which Christ hath purchased with his blood; and also that which the Father hath given to him as the price thereof. Now he that prayeth for this, must pray for abundance of grace for the church, for help against all its temptations; that God would let nothing be too hard for it; and that all things might work together for its good, that God would keep them blameless and harmless, the sons of God, to his glory, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. And this is the substance of Christ's own prayer in John 17. And all Paul's prayers did run that way, as one of his prayers doth eminently show. "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere, and without offence, till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil 1:9-11). But a short prayer, you see, and yet full of good desires for the church, from the beginning to the end; that it may stand and go on, and that in the most excellent frame of spirit, even without blame, sincere, and without offence, until the day of Christ, let its temptations or persecutions be what they will (Eph 1:16-21; 3:14-19; Col 1:9-13).

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What Prayer Is Part 7

John Bunyan

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

And because, as I said, prayer doth Submit to the Will of God, and say, Thy will be done, as Christ hath taught us (Matt 6:10); therefore the people of the Lord in humility are to lay themselves and their prayers, and all that they have, at the foot of their God, to be disposed of by him as he in his heavenly wisdom seeth best. Yet not doubting but God will answer the desire of his people that way that shall be most for their advantage and his glory. When the saints therefore do pray with submission to the will of God, it doth not argue that they are to doubt or question God's love and kindness to them. But because they at all times are not so wise, but that sometimes Satan may get that advantage of them, as to tempt them to pray for that which, if they had it, would neither prove to God's glory nor his people's good. "Yet this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him," that is, we asking in the Spirit of grace and supplication (I John 5:14,15). For, as I said before, that petition that is not put up in and through the Spirit, it is not to be answered, because it is beside the will of God. For the Spirit only knoweth that, and so consequently knoweth how to pray according to that will of God. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God" (I Cor 2:11). But more of this hereafter. Thus you see, first, what prayer is.

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Why Importunity Is Needed

Luke 11:5-9 “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him; and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee? I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will arise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Our Lord says the man got what he wanted “Because of his importunity” To importune means “To press with repeated requests.” Importunity is making repeated request, i.e. asking, seeking, knocking. Why does God want us to be ‘Importunate’ ? If it is His will why doesn’t He give the answer straight away. Importunity is necessary because of:

1. Insufficient Desire

We may be asking without really caring about what we are asking. Jesus taught us to “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Mt 22:37 To be any less is not fitting for the God of Omnipotent power and Infinite Glory. We shall find Him when we seek with all our hearts “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jer 29:13 “It is reasonable that God should withhold a blessing, until we feel our need of it sufficiently.”

2. Inappropriate Motives

We may be asking for selfish reasons, and the discipline of delay is necessary to purge us. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures.” Jas 4:3 Our motive in all things should be solely to “do all to the glory of God.” 1 Co 10:31 If we knew the truth about ourselves it might shock us to know that we are really worshiping ourselves in much of our praying.

3. Ignorance of what God is doing

We may be misinterpreting what God is doing in our lives in answer to our prayers. This was true of John Newton, the converted slave trader. He give his testimony in verse:

I asked the Lord, that I might grow

In faith, and love, and every grace,

Might more of His salvation know,

And seek more earnestly His face.

It was He who taught me thus to pray,

And He, I trust has answered prayer;

But it has been in such a way,

As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,

At once He'd answer my request:

And by His love's constraining power,

Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel

The hidden evils of my heart;

And let the angry powers of hell

Assault my soul in every part.

Yes more, with His own hand He seemed

Intent to aggravate my woe;

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,

Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,

Will You pursue Your worm to death?

"This in this way," the Lord replied,

"I answer prayer for grace and faith."

"These inward trials I employ,

From self and pride to set you free;

And break your schemes of earthly joy,

That you may seek your all in Me."

5. Incomplete Dependence on God

As we react to God’s delays with importunate praying we realize how completely we are dependent on Him. “It secures our humble dependence on God.” D.M. McIntyre “Except Jehovah build the house, They labor in vain that build it: Except Jehovah keep the city, The watchman waketh but in vain.” Ps 127:1 “Not until we are shut up to a difficulty which we can in no way touch, may we rely on prayer alone.”

6. Immaturity in our Relationship with God

Intimacy with God, in long and serious interaction with Him will make us spiritually mature. We must learn to abide in Him whether we have quick answers or long delays. “The promises to hear prayer are not made to the mere form, but to the appropriate spirit.” “Importunate perseverance is a pre-requisite to success in prayer, because it has an intimate connection with the preparation of a right spiritual condition in us.” The round-the-clock prayer meeting begun in Count Zinzendorf’s community in 1727 continued for 100 years! The community was called Herrnhut, ‘the Lord’s Watch” (Isa 62:6-7).” (Teach us To Pray, Carson) Imagine that, a prayer meeting that lasts 876,000 hours. That kind of persistence and importunity did and still can have world wide impact.

Pray, though the gifts you ask for

May never comfort your fears,

May never repay your pleading:

Yet pray, and with hopeful tears,

An answer --not that you sought for,

But diviner--will come one day:

Yet strive and wait and pray.

Adelaide A. Procter

(Quotes from: Prayer and its Remarkable Answers, William Patton p 72)

It can easily be shown that all want of success, and all failure in the spiritual life and in Christian work, is due to defective or insufficient prayer. The Kneeling Christian

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The Principle Business Of The Church Is Prayer

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, ‘it is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a robbers’ den’” Mat 21:12,13

The following was written in 1936 and is still true for us today.

A careful study of the Church in the Acts will reveal how very much time the early church spent in prayer. It seems that when any problem, difficulty, or persecution arose, the Church resorted to prayer-not argument, controversy or reasoning, not even preaching, important as was and is, but to prayer.

Perhaps it is not amiss to say that, comparatively, too much emphasis is placed on preaching and too little on prayer in the modern church. Oft times we find the preacher’s general prayer from the pulpit to be of the nature of a short sermon. Jesus called the temple “a house of prayer” we have made it a house of preaching. Jesus never taught his disciples to preach--so far as the record goes--but He did teach them to pray.

It has been said that the Sunday morning service of a church advertises the popularity of that church-you are able to tell the standing of the church by the class of people attending the morning service, and the make of automobiles parked outside the church. The evening is said to advertise the popularity of the preacher-that is where he gets his chance to speak on striking, popular, sensational themes or to review the latest popular novel thus affording him an opportunity to display his native powers and ability. The midweek meeting is said to advertise the popularity of the Lord, and, alas what a small number of people attend that meeting as compared with the Sunday morning and evening meetings! The mid-week meeting is, or rather should be, a meeting for prayer, but, actually, prayer has a very subordinate place in it. It would seem as if, God’s people can be gathered together for anything--but prayer.

Let us not forget, then, that prayer is the business of the Church, a business which cannot be neglected without serious spiritual loss. Suppose the business of any large city should suspend operations for one week, no telephone communication, no railroads running, no street cars operating, no ledger or desk opened, no bank handing out money, no office open to transact business, can you imagine what would happen? You say that such a thing is absolutely out of the question nowadays; that it is unthinkable and you begin to enumerate the awful consequences following such a supposed suspension of business. You say that “babies would perish for want of milk; adults die for want of food; people freeze for want adults die for want of food; people freeze for want of fuel; well,” you say, “it is just impossible, that’s all.” But have you ever thought on what the result would be if the church suspends her business of praying? “If a man see his brother sin . . . he shall pray, and God shall give life for those that sin...” Yes, but suppose we do not pray! Then that soul is not forgiven, shall we say Oh, the fearful spiritual disaster following in the wake of the neglect of prayer by the Church! Churchly organizations and activities without prayer are as useless as a telephone or radio without electricity.

The more time we spend in prayer the more we show our dependence upon God; the less time we devote to pleading with God the more conscious we are of our own ability. Less of prayer, more of self; more of prayer, more of God.

A praying church is an invincible church. The gates of Hades shall ne’er prevail against it, and the powers of evil shall tremble in its presence.

Any man or church that is to busy to pray is busier than God ever expected any church or human being to be. Why Pray? by William Evans, 1937 p 31,32

“Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s palace, and successfully completed all that he had planned on doing in the house of the Lord and in his palace. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chr 7: 11-14

History confirms the truth that wherever evangelical and vital religion flourish, there lives the earnest gatherings for social prayer. The Prayer Meeting and Its History, J. B. Johnston

“If we pray among a select society of Christians, we draw near to God with holy boldness, something like what we use in our duties of secret worship. We have reason to take more freedom among fellow saints and whose hearts have felt many of the same workings as our own.” A Guide to Prayer, Isaac Watts, p 58

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True Grounds for Prayer

“The pagan idea was that there is something in a prayer--a mysterious power or a hidden value--which if brought to bear upon God may attract Him, propitiate Him, or in some way cause Him to change His mind, and come to the help of the supplicant.…the popular notion to-day is that the thing which attracts God is not the prayer itself, but the faith that is behind it and that runs through it…. the ground upon which it rests is always something outside of God.  The pagan prays because he has faith it’s the power or virtue of his prayers and the paganized Christian (or, more accurately, the Christianized pagan) prays because he has faith in the power of faith.”   What Did Jesus Really Teach About Prayer? Edward Pell, p 83  Pell wrote those words in 1921 but we still see the errors today.

The two errors are: 
1. Trusting in the mechanics of prayer.
  Jesus rebuked this, “when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”  Mat 6: 7

When the Lord answered the disciples’ request to teach them to pray, Luk 11:1-13, He did not mean for them to mechanically repeat the words that He gave, but to have dialogue, interaction with their Father.  There is nothing magical about the words of the Lord’s Prayer.  Neither is there anything magical about closing a prayer with the phrase, “In Jesus name.”  It is not the saying of the words but the living of the meaning of them that gives prayer reality and connection with God. 

Prayer does not have its ground in the saying of words, in form or contents.  It matters not how much a man prays for forgiveness he will not receive it if he is unforgiving to his brother.   “Forgive us as we forgive others…” Jesus taught.

2. Trusting in our faith in our prayers.
  It is said that if we just have sufficient faith our prayers will be answered.  That is, if we really believe.  And then when our prayers are not answered in the way we want we are told that it is because we don’t have sufficient faith.  Jesus said that with a small amount of faith, “the size of a grain of mustard seed” you could command a mountain to move. “And He said to them, Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”   Mat 17:20 

Both of these errors focus on man and his assumed ability.  The Scripture clearly says.  “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should” Rom 8:26

We would counter these two errors with two grounds for praying are:

1.  The fact that God is our Father.


When Jesus taught the disciples to pray,  “He said to them, when you pray, say:  Father...” Luk 11:2  He was teaching us to come to God as a father, that is on the grounds of a father child relationship.  Jesus goes on in the lesson to reinforce the reasonableness of treating God as our Father.  We can safely expect that God will be a better, more loving, kind, and gentle Heavenly Father than any earthly father.  Our Heavenly Father is not limited in the good that He can do for us.

Jesus did not put His faith in His prayers or in the faith of his prayers.  His strength came from the relationship that he had with His Father.  

We can claim the Fatherhood of God but our praying will be fruitless if we don’t ground our praying in a second foundation.

2.  The exercise of abiding in Him, i.e. an obedient relationship.


Joh 15:4,7    “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me… If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  What is it that is not included in “whatever?”  Anything and everything can be and is ours when we truly abide in Him.

As we pray, privately or corporately, let’s not concern ourselves with the method, manner, and even the matter of our prayers.  Not the loudness or the length of them.  Let’s just be children of our Heavenly Father and fellowship with Him and seek His will.


Sweet Hour of Prayer


Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne,
Make all my wants and wishes known!
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
The joys I feel, the bliss I share
of those whose anxious spirits burn
with strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God, my Saviour, shows his face,
and gladly take my station there,
and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him, whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless:
And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my every care, and wait for thee,
Sweet hour of prayer.

By William W. Walford 1842

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Related Topics: Prayer

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