Archive for October 2014

Lord, teach us how to pray [3]   Leave a comment

Prayer

Prayer

This, then, is how you should pray:Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name,your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.Give us today our daily bread.And forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.” Mat. 6:1-13

This model of prayer is in essence the main contents of our prayers. It is a privilege that we receive from God Himself this model of prayer. Of course, since we have our own way of expressing ourselves, we are not expected to pray strictly in this manner.

How to pray

1. Our Father in heaven

This short phrase brings forth this desire God has to have fellowship and relationship with humans as a father would with his son.  This reduces to naught the concept that we cannot have an intimacy with God. While working as trainee in the government, I was told that I should use the word “Honorable Minister” before mentioning the name of the politician (even in his absence). A kind of respect and fear was instilled in the mind of the employees to honor the ministers.

The Hebrews feared of pronouncing the name of God YHWH because it was God’s holy name. The high priest would pronounce the name Yahweh once a year when he entered the holy of holies.

Jesus has given the disciples a new name by which they could address themselves to God. This name is not one which would cause additional fear but a name that would indicate by itself an appeal for fellowship. “Our Father” Jesus said. Not only the Father of the Jews but the Father of all (Eph. 4:6). The term Father is of course in relational sense and not biological. This is the kind of relationship Jesus had with God the Father. He wanted His disciples to be partakers of the same kind of relationship He had with the Father. He actually prayed for it:

 “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20-25

God is not like our earthly fathers who have flaws but is the perfect model of a father. He is the holy Father in heaven. We respect our earthly fathers even if they are not flawless. Our Father in heaven is God almighty and He deserves also the honor of worship.

When you pray, come to God with confidence as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews said:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb 4:16

2. Hallowed be your name

Father may your name be kept holy. There’re several interpretations which suppose that Jesus taught that we are to sanctify God’s name. God’s name is already holy and Jesus instilled this reverence in His disciples.

May all creatures acknowledge the holiness of your name. Whenever your name is uttered may it be from a pure heart and undefiled lips. If it were possible, when insults are made unto your holy name by evil hearts may you be kept from hearing them.

Let us also acknowledge when we pray that we’re addressing ourselves to the greatest Being. God is not a puppet or genie to whom we can give orders. Yes He is a Father but this does not mean that we can permit ourselves to abuse on this relationship. Our righteous Father in heaven corrects and reprehends. His name is holy and He will not tolerate the sins of those who call Him Father. Let us therefore be careful when we pray that we do not try to fool God.

Jesus said: Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not practice what I tell you? Luke 6:46

In the book of Malachi we read:

A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.” Mal. 1:6

When we pray, let us examine our heart before we declare that God’s name is Holy.  For if we declare that God’s name is holy and we come with sin in our heart we are denying what we confessed.

3. Your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.

 The creation and believers await that the Son establishes His reign. It is like a sigh and groaning:

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering” Rom. 8:20-23

In Revelation 22:20, John expressed these words “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Paul used the word Maranatha in 1 Cor. 16:22 to express “Come Lord !

If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord

Right now, the world is under the dominion of the prince of this world. On earth, God’s will is being ignored but in heaven God’s reign is wholly established.

When is it O Lord that all creation will submit to your authority and cease to rebel? My soul longs to see you be exalted here on earth but because of your love for humanity you’re being patient. Because of your grace and mercy, you’re awaiting man to come to the knowledge of the truth and repent  (1 Tim 2:3)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

When we pray, let us bear in mind that God’s reign in heaven is established. This acknowledges God’s Sovereignty.

3. Give us today our daily bread

After we acknowledged God’s holiness, sovereignty and gave Him due respect, we are called to make our petitions.

Jesus put lot of emphasis on not worrying about tomorrow and here He taught Give us TODAY our DAILY bread. Let us not worry about tomorrow but let us ask for today’s bread. Bread is no luxury but its provision is a sufficient gift from above. When God gave manna to the Israelites, He provided it on a daily basis. Those who worried about tomorrow and kept some stock for tomorrow found all their food rotten (Exodus 16). God knows if we need to keep some stock or not. For example, He allowed the Israelites to keep some extra food on the 6th day for the 7th day(sabbath). The food did not get rotten then.

When we come to God in prayers, let us not worry about tomorrow. We should come with faith and not anxiety. Let us ask for our DAILY bread and not for TOMORROW’S bread.

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

We are still in the flesh and sin. It is therefore necessary to ask God for forgiveness when we pray. When we are asking God to forgive our trespasses, it is a prerequisite that we have beforehand forgiven those who offended us. Man has nothing to pay to cancel his debts. It is only God’s act of mercy and grace that can cancel these debts. Without forgiveness from God, these debts remain for eternity.

Jesus told a story about a man who owed a fortune to his master. He pleaded to receive forgiveness and his debts were cancelled. However, he also had a servant who also owed him less money and he threatened him. He did not cancel the debts as his master did.

Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Mat. 18:32-33

We cannot expect that God will grant forgiveness if we withhold it to others. So when we come to God in prayer for forgiveness, let us examine if we owe forgiveness to others.

5. And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one

It is a plea made to God that temptations do not reach us. When we are tempted, God is faithful to preserve us from yielding to it. He will not allow that these temptations lead us to sin. He will show us a way out but it is still our choice to decide if we’ll obey God or satisfy the desires of the flesh.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Cor. 10:13

As James mentioned, God does not tempt anyone. We are tempted by things our flesh desires and this is why we are tempted differently.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away” James 1:12

 Our petition to God is to deliver us from the evil one who tries to take advantage of our weaknesses to tempt us.

Posted October 19, 2014 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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Lord, teach us how to pray [2]   Leave a comment

Prayer

Prayer

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 others. .” Mat. 6:9-13

Before Jesus taught how to pray, He explained how not to pray.

How not to pray

Jesus said: “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Mat. 6:7

The prayer our Lord abhors is litany. Prayer is not repeating a formula of words. How can conversation occur between 2 persons if it is just about repeating a set of words? How would you feel if your child or spouse repeatedly told you the same thing everyday? For thousand of years our Lord was probably tired of hearing such prayers on His throne and I guess it was time to pass on this message: “Stop babbling!”

How then can there be a cordial communication with God if the “prayer” is not genuinely from our heart but is just tentative to impress God by some well formulated exalting words?

Another attitude our Lord reprehends is hypocrisy. This is what Matthew mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 6.

Don’t perform acts of righteousness such as fasting, prayers and alms giving to be seen. This means that God takes no pleasure in pilgrimage, prayers made in the public to be noticed or fasting to be seen religious.

When man prays or fasts, our Lord recommends that we do these in secret instead openly like the pharisees.

We do not have to talk with eloquence or try to impress God by our theological knowledge. God knows our intention and heart. Adam Clarke in his commentary mentioned that a prayer in the style “By the splendor of your throne” or “By the glory of your creation” would lead to suspect that the Almighty derived glory form the heavens. It is not these which make our God glorious. God does not need to be flattered. These are fake prayers our Lord rejects.

It is essential that we do not pray with a sense of superiority or by comparing ourselves with others. Jesus gave an illustration:

 “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Luke 18:11-13

In our context, many of us won’t say the same words like this Pharisee. However, we must be careful that we do not adopt the same attitude. For example, we must be careful of spiritual pride when praying. Our spiritual gifts or calling can be a barrier to our prayer if we do not come to God in humility. The blessings God gave us can make us think that it is because we are champions in prayers or have great faith that God has blessed us and not others. Who we are and what God has given us are all  of grace.

Where to pray?

Our Lord takes pleasure in prayers made honestly in secret.

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.” Mat. 6:4

While it is not a prerequisite to have a specific place in order to pray, it is good for man to have a place where he can retire himself to seek His creator alone. God is present in this secret place listening. Jesus retired Himself many times to pray on the mountain alone. My best moments in prayers were when I was alone talking to God undisturbed by my relatives and duties. It is good to pray while in fellowship with other brothers and sisters but it is still better to have a dedicated moment to spend with God alone. Why not trying to find an undisturbed environment to pray if you find it difficult?

Next post How to pray.

Posted October 14, 2014 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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Lord, teach us how to pray [1]   Leave a comment

Prayer

Prayer

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1-4

I’m glad this question was asked by a disciple of Jesus and the answer recorded in the scripture by the author. We are not champions in prayers and do not always know what God wants us to pray for. So the Spirit helps us to pray because we often lose track. Paul mentioned in his epistle to the Romans :

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” Romans 8:26

James told his readers that they prayed and did not receive because their motives were wrong.

And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” James 4:3

Several years ago, I did not find the desire to pray because I did not have clear answers to these basic questions about prayer: What is prayer? Why praying? How to pray? What to pray for? Where to pray? When to pray? How not to pray?

Our Good Lord has given a model prayer in Luke 11 and Matthew 6 to guide us when we pray. If we struggle to pray, it will be essential to question whether we’re following God’s guidelines regarding these 7 questions above.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is a means of communication with God. I have read several books on relationship and all the authors unanimously and independently said that the #1 element to a healthy communion is communication. If there’s a lack of communication, there will be many misunderstandings and conflicts which will remain unresolved. When we communicate, we create stronger bonds. Prayer is not necessarily about asking. When I communicate with my wife, we do not necessarily ask something from each other, we share ideas and feelings. Prayer allows us to share our feelings with God and know His thoughts.

Why praying?

As mentioned in Mat. 6:8,  Jesus said “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him

David said “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.” Ps. 139:4

So why should I pray if God already knows my heart, my needs and thoughts?

Praying is an act of humility, maintains communion and demonstrates faith. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, He described God as being a father. A father already knows that his kid needs to have his torn shoes replaced and he will provide for it. If the kid never spoke and just assumed dad will give the pair of shoes then how will there be a filial relationship? Refusing to ask for help is a prideful act. When we pray we are actually submitting ourselves and acknowledging God is the provider. Prayer is not only about asking but also about saying “Thank you”.  When Jesus healed the 10 lepers, only one returned to thank him.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17:16

When we are grateful, we need to say it. Many times we forget to say thank you to those around us because we assume that the service rendered to us is normal.

There’re many directives God wants to tell us regarding our callings. Prayer is much more than asking and thanksgiving. It is a means for us to listen to what God has to say.

Moses and God were like friends and talked “spiritual business”.

Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” Ex. 33:11

When we pray we become aware of many sins and thus offers us an opportunity to repent.

Many people do not know God’s will because they do not pray. If they do pray and still find it boring then they should probably examine how they are praying. Next post How not to pray.

Posted October 13, 2014 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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Pride, the root of every sin and evil [Part 4]   Leave a comment

Pride

Pride

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Phil. 2:3-5

Since I got married (2 months ago), my wife brought to my attention the sin of pride in particular areas of my life which for years I did not realize. If I had to give an advantage of getting married, I would say that it reveals quickly bad habits and sins in our life that we would not have realized so clearly. If we have a teachable heart and humble spirit, it would be first to our own advantage to correct some bad habits and get rid of some sins (instead of fighting with the spouse). This will naturally draw us closer to God and our spouse.

However, if we have a haughty spirit (Pro. 16:18), we will continue to sink in our sins. It is very easy to look down on others because in terms of social status or education they are actually considered “lower”. This is an attitude Paul has been asking the Philippians to avoid. The solution for it is not to consider others less than ourselves but better. How would you treat someone who is better than yourself? We have been conditioned by the society to judge people by their appearance, intelligence and wealth. Then in our heart we say “Aha, this one is better than me. He has the requirements to earn my respect“. When in our mind we know someone is better than ourselves, we act politely and say “Thank you”. This person receives compliments and good treatment from us. We might even render free service to someone whom we consider better than ourselves but how are we going to treat someone who we don’t consider better than ourselves? Are we going to treat that person with the same kind of respect? Or are we going to avoid having fellowship?

The more we know someone the more we’ll know his strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned earlier, the more my wife and I started to know each other, our weaknesses and strengths were brought to evidence. What do we do with it? If our strength is the weakness of our partner, are we going to flood our partner with criticism?  Are we going to belittle our partner and look him/her with disdain because he/she is not up to our expectations? Peter says, treat your wife with understanding. Even if the husband has been invested with authority by God to lead his family, the wife is still an equal partner in Christ.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

Destructive criticism is a form of thinking of others less than ourselves. I have observed than destructive criticism never brought anything good. People don’t willingly change with it but ignore them if they have character. If they do change with it, it has destroyed their inner self.

Pride is self-exaltation. It is putting ourselves on a footstool because we consider ourselves better than others. On this footstool many cruel things have been done and said. How then can we treat someone whom we don’t consider better than ourselves? It’s love. Love will bring our prideful heart to a state of humbleness. It does not occur in hours or days, it’s a life long fight against pride. The Spirit works in our heart to renew our thoughts from deliver us from prideful acts.

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Eph. 4:21

We can show our qualifications, years of experience and argue fervently to prove we are right and others wrong. Even if it has been conceded that we were right, there is much probability that the prideful heart is rejoicing and saying “See, I am always right. I am better than you“. This kind of attitude breaks relationships instead of creating bonds. It is difficult to befriend someone whose high standards are rooted in pride.

Pride tries to impress and takes what it needs to show it is better than others. It is pretension and arrogance. Many marketing strategies are based on advertising they are better than others. This should not be so with people. There’s is nothing to lose when living in humility except our ego. Humility favors the growth of relationships and pleases God.

Paul told the Philippians not to be selfish by looking only for their own interest. He has been asking them to take interest in others too. Many times we do not want to help others because of our pride. We look only at our own stuff and don’t care about others. Christ’s was much better than ourselves, He was God. But He did not want to exalt Himself.

When Jesus met the man with leprosy, He was interested with his sufferings. He did not despise this man as many people did. When Jesus healed that man, He did not do it with the condition that this man exalts Him in return or make publicity for Him. Out of compassion, Jesus did what He had to do. He healed that man and warned him not to tell anyone.

Moved with compassion,Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: Don’t tell anyone about this” Mark 1:40-44

Christ came as a servant and served in humility. He washed the feet of His disciples because He valued them. We should adopt the same attitude as Him. When others do things better that us, there’s nothing wrong to acknowledge it and show appreciation. It is pride which makes someone prefer criticizing instead of demonstrating appreciation.

 

Posted October 4, 2014 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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