Truth Matters Newsletters – February 2007 – Vol. 12 Issue 2 – The Discipline of Prayer – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
The Discipline of Prayer
By Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Like so many other genuine expressions of Christianity, something as seemingly simply as prayer has been turned into a set of rules, principles, keys, and methods by various aspects of charismatic extremists. Allow me to cite a few examples from the books in the growing DMI archive:
The Prayer of Jabez, Bruce Wilkinson
Releasing the Ability of God through Prayer, Charles Capps
Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting, Derek Prince
Praying to Get Results, Kenneth E. Hagin
The Interceding Christian, Kenneth E. Hagin
Prevailing Prayer to Peace, Kenneth E. Hagin
The Art of Intercession, Kenneth E. Hagin
I Prayed, He Answered, William L. Vaswig
Prayer Fasting, “Apostle” Kingsley A. Fletcher
Practicing the Prayer of Presence, Adrian van Kaam & Susan Muto
Prayer Your Foundation for Success, Kenneth Copeland
Praying Beyond God’s Ability The Enigma of Unanswered Prayer, Roy Hicks
Prayer Hindrances, Fear Worry Doubt, Charles Capps (3 tape series)
Atomic Power With God Through Prayer & Fasting, Franklin Hall
Moving the Hand of God Putting Memorial Prayer to Work for You, John Avanzini
These books, and many others I did not cite involve techniques which can be condensed into the simple belief that through using these techniques you can get God to do whatever you want Him to as long as you can find a snippet of a Bible text to quote back to Him. The majority of charismatic books on prayer are little more than tracts about confessing the answer you want from God, which makes prayer more or less a practice of positive confession.
Naturally, there are a whole host of books written about the benefits and necessity of “praying” in other tongues. Almost every charismatic Christian believes that it is the will of God for each of His children to have their own prayer language. The emphasis on this is so strong that for fifteen years 90% of my time spent in prayer, was done by me in my private prayer language. I once took some time in seminary to figure out how many hours I had spent praying in other tongues and I came up with over 5,000 hours (keep in mind at one point I was single and used to pray 3-4 hours a day in tongues). The sad reality was brought home to me while studying First Corinthians taught by Dr. H. Wayne House at Michigan Theological Seminary. I learned that exegetically I had no leg to stand on regarding a private prayer language, there simply is no such thing taught by the Apostle Paul. Yet all the prater meetings I attended and led were basically groups of individuals praying loudly or softly in other tongues…because after all we ere speaking mysteries in the spirit realm and thus Satan could not know what we were saying to God, ergo, he could not inhibit God’s work on our behalf. What was troubling to me is that when the scales of ignorance dropped off of my eyes I realized three important facts: First, I did not know either what I was praying about, since it was just as much a mystery to me as it was to the devil and his demons. Secondly, since I really had no idea what I was saying, or who I might have been praying for I had no way of knowing if my prayers were even answered by God. Lastly, even though I’d leave those times of praying in tongues feeling GREAT, the truth was that I was not developing any real communication with my Lord. When I stopped praying in tongues I realized that I was nearly speechless before the Lord as far as genuinely pouring my heart out to Him in prayer. In short, I honestly did not know how to pray much at all. Oh I thought I was pulling down principalities, powers and dominions over neighborhoods and cities. I could go on for hours “in the spirit,” yet when it came to being transparent with myself before my God I was at a loss.
I believe this is the same sort of experience the disciples had being around The Master during His earthly ministry. Jesus was (still is) a man of prayer this is plainly shown throughout all four Gospels.
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, Matthew 14:23
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35
After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. Mark 6:46-47
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:35-36
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Luke 9:28,29
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. Luke 11:1
“Lord Teach Us to Pray”
This is where we begin our consideration of the spiritual discipline of prayer. It seems obvious that the disciples took note of the manner in which our Lord relied upon prayer as His “connection” between Himself and His heavenly Father. They saw their Master often either leaving them to be alone to pray, or rising early in the morning to spend time alone with His Father in prayer. In short, what they noticed was that the prayer life of Jesus was not (1) formal, (2) ritualistic, (3) repetitive, (4) dull and (5) nonproductive. Until the breaking forth of Jesus’ ministry none of the rabbis, scribes, or Pharisees ever referred to Almighty God as “Father” in their prayers or teachings. This was a radical concept which brought our Lord into conflict with the ruling religious minds of His day.
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, o that your giving may be in secret. Then, your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:3-8
Jesus, in Matthew and other places in the Gospel, hammer’s home a point formerly unstressed to the Israelites, that of God being their “father.” Unlike today, back then most people knew they were sinners and that God was holy, thus their relationship to Him was not seen generally of a father relating to his children. God was wholly “other” to the average Israelite and to dare call Him “Father” was blasphemy and an attempt to rise oneself up to His level. The religious leaders understood perfectly that Jesus was declaring Himself to be God’s Son because of the familial terms He used of Himself and the god the Jews were supposed to be worshipping.
I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you tone me?” We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:30-33
It is vital to understand the times in which Jesus lived in order to realize just how radical the prayer He was about to teach His disciples was and still is today when it is really delved into. What we call “the Lord’s Prayer,” is really better named “the Disciples Prayer,” because they asked our Master to teach them to pray. It is really a very simple prayer which is broken down into seven petitions. Because of its seeming simplicity, the tremendous depth and majesty of what Jesus taught His disciples often goes unappreciated by many in the Church today. Sadly, from my own personal experience I know that the majority of charismatic congregations do not pray the Lord’s Prayer as a part of their worship service and virtually all of the so-called “evangelical” congregations do not do so either. In my studies I have found the commentary of Dr. Martin Luther in his Large Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer to be the best available and I will be citing it almost exclusively.
The First Petition
“Hallowed be Thy name”
Jesus begins by teaching His disciples to pray in the following manner —”Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9). The first two words had to have blown the disciples minds; they had never dared address the Lord God of Israel in such an intimate manner, yet this is exactly how Jesus taught them to pray.
“hallowed” is just an Old English term for “holy.” First and foremost Jesus stresses that His disciples remember the Second Commandment in which we are told to be sure we do not take the Lord’s name in vain or profane His name in any way. God’s name is always holy in its nature, but often in our use it is not holy. So we are directed by God the Son to pray that His name become holy among us. How so?
Answer, as plainly as it can be said: ‘When both our doctrine and life are godly and Christian.’ Since we call God our Father in this prayer, it is our duty to always to act and behave ourselves as godly children, that He may not receive shame, but honor and praise from us…In the first place, then, God’s name is profaned when people preach, teach, and say in God’s name what is false and misleading. They use His name like an ornament and attract a market for falsehood. That is, indeed, the greatest way to profane and dishonor the divine name. Luther’s comments teach us that not much has changed regarding the battles raging around and within the true Church:
To hallow means the same as to praise, magnify, and honor both in word and deed. Here, now, learn what great need there is for such prayer. Because we see how full the world is of sects and false teachers, who all wear the holy name as a cover and a sham for their doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1), we should by all means pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and cry out and call upon God against all people who preach and believe falsely.
Jesus begins by teaching us that God is our Father and as His children we want to do all we can to make sure that our Father’s name is honored and praised by all we do and say. Those who abuse God’s holy name for gain are to be exposed, openly rebuked and if unrepentant then shunned as blasphemers. ♦
To Be CONTINUED NEXT MONTH
Copyright © 2007 Robert S. Liichow