The greatest need of the church today is not better organiztion, or newer methods for evangelism, or using the wonders of technology for religious purposes. The greatest need is for men mighty in prayer whom the Father can use by the power of Holy Spirit for the unchanging purposes of God. Holy Spirit does not work through methods, but through men. He is not manifested by plans or organizations, but through men of prayer. It is the example seen in the life of Jesus. Not considering equality with God something to hold onto, the second Person of the Godhead known as The Word (see John 1) made Himself of no reputation to come in likeness of man, fully dependent on His Father for directions and on the power of the Spirit so heaven-sent directions might be accomplished. We often find it taught that Jesus was responsible for miracles and acts of healing during His ministry on earth. However it is told in Acts that the One who did healing was God the Father working through the man Jesus by the power of the Spirit. Had it not been the Father doing the work, we’d not understand why Jesus tells us that those with faith would do even “greater things” (John 14:12).
“You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know.” Acts 2:22
God the Father did miracles by Jesus, a man approved of God as we are meant to be. And when apostles prayed for the boldness to preach in face of adversity by religious leaders of that day, they asked the heavenly Father to stretch forth His hand to heal “that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Your holy child Jesus” (Acts 4:30). Failing to realize that it is the Father who heals by the name of Jesus has many asking Jesus to heal. Yet Jesus told disciples that after He’d returned to glory, “You shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you” (John 16:23).
Dependence of Jesus on the Father is seen in a devoted prayer life which impacted the disciples. Appreciation of need for prayer by earlier pray-ers like Moses, David, Elijah and others used to carry out mighty works for God had faded from their memory. But now they were seeing supernatural manifestations of God in answer to prayer. So it was they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. In response they were given what is not intended as a prayer in itself, but instead a scaffold upon which to build their prayers. In childhood I was taught the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ to use as a prayer, but was never taught to understand the fuller meaning as to what Jesus was teaching disciples.
Jesus began by stressing the importance of the Father as the head of the Godhead, a point He made clear by telling disciples “My Father is greater than I” (John 14: 28). As our role model, Jesus of Nazareth (his worldly address) was emphasizing what is meant to be our relationship to the Father as His children. Jesus did nothing apart from His Father. “The words that I speak to you, I speak not of Myself, but the Father that dwells in Me, He does the works” (John 14:10). Paul tells us that believers receive “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). As His children, we are privileged to use the intimate term “Abba” in prayer, a word readily translated as “Daddy.”
As a man, Jesus included Himself by saying to pray to “our” Father. He was not excluding Himself despite His deity, and repeatedly we find Jesus calling on His Father in petition and intercession as an example for us. For apart from relationship, prayer cannot expect answer. Apart from relationship, our prayer to the Father is no different than our approaching a stranger on the street with requests, expecting them to be met. I was misled for years by belief that relationship with God was established through infant baptism. But having relationship with the Father depends upon communication and communion. It is not sufficient to say, “I have needs for You to address, Father, as soon as possible! Thanks, and I’ll be back in touch when it’s convenient for me!” Yet is that not what we often do?
WHICH ART IN HEAVEN
There are three heavens described in the scriptures, at least by implication. The first is what surrounds earth in a physical sense. We’re reminded about such by the sun, moon and stars which testify to the Creator. The Father of heavenly lights blesses us with such gorgeous sunrises and sunsets we take for granted as natural occurrences instead of being expressions of God’s favor (Romans 1:20). And we find specific mention of a third heaven in writings of Paul who says the following about himself:
“I knew a man in Christ….such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows), how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
Because of the revelations, Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh” to buffet him so he should not be exalted above measure (12:7). Knowing there is a third heaven that is the habitat of God, and a first heaven which is the habitat of man, it is logical for us to conclude a second heaven exists. Unlike the first heaven which is physical, the second heaven is a spiritual dimension like the third heaven, beyond detection by natural senses. It is a dimension where competing forces of good and evil battle for souls. These forces are intelligent spirit beings under the rule of either God or of Satan, having ability to influence us for their own purposes. We find reference to such a heaven in the story of Daniel as he prays to be given understanding of a vision regarding the future of his people. After weeks of mourning and fasting by Daniel, a messenger angel sent by God arrived and explained that he’d been dispatched at once to bring a reply but found himself detained by a demonic power under the rule of Satan whom Jesus refers to as “prince of this world” (John 14:30). The Greek word translated “prince” means a chief ruler, and Satan is the chief ruler of a kingdom of evil spirit beings in the second heaven.
“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but lo Michael, one of the chief princes [of God] came to help me.” Daniel 10:13
A powerful demonic spirit in the second heaven with responsibility for guiding the affairs of Persia interfered with the messenger angel of God to answer Daniel’s questions. Until Michael the archangel of God arrived to help, a delay of twenty-one days took place. The second heaven is a spiritual atmosphere surrounding man which, although not named in scripture, is implied as having its existence between the first and third heavens.
It is often poorly understood as to whom one is to pray. But our prayers are always to be directed to the Father. There is no scriptural basis for directing our prayers elsewhere, even to Jesus. And it’s utter heresy for petitions and supplications to be directed to angels, saints, or the mother of Jesus. The Word of God is specific that there is but ONE mediator between God the Father and men, and that mediator is the MAN Christ Jesus.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all…” 2 Timothy 2:5,6
It is the man Christ Jesus who is head of the church and “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18) who intercedes for us in heaven, and no one else. The Father at the throne of grace is the One we are enjoined to call upon for help in our times of need. Let us have a biblical understanding in this matter and practice directing prayers as Jesus commands….to our Father which is in heaven, and to Him alone.
HALLOWED BY THY NAME
The word “hallowed” is translated from Greek hagiazo which comes from a root hagos which literally means an awful thing in the sense of being ever so sacred, holy and pure. It implies the Name of God the Father is to be revered and used only in a sober way. It’s a serious thing to misuse the Name of God as warned about in commandments given Moses at Mount Sinai. Exodus 20:7 says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.” There are serious consequences for misusing God’s Name. We find an example in Hebrew history after deliverance from Egypt and entering of Canaan. Told they “must not profane the name of the LORD,” they failed to obey. Speaking by the prophet, God said, “I had pity for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathens where they went” (Ezekiel 36:20). And history records the consequences suffered by God’s chosen people. We need to realize that when those who profess Jesus Christ do not think, speak or act so as to reflect His character, God’s Name is being profaned.
Scripture says we are saved to the praise of God’s glory. Our Father has “chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame…to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6). Our Father has chosen us to live blamelessly and to hallow His Name by separating from sin and ways of the world. To be blameless is to not do anything in a deliberate way against God’s will so as to profane His Name. If not bringing praise, we generally do just the opposite. The Hebrew translated as praise is yadah which has a literal meaning of holding out a hand. The root for yadah is yad which means an open hand opposed to closed, indicating power as well as the means of accomplishing things. Praise by extending an open hand symbolizes worship of Him who has all power, gives us directions, and holds the means to accomplish what is otherwise impossible.
THY KINGDOM COME
Many are not aware of what they are asking by praying, “Thy kingdom come.” But the scriptures are clear what Jesus meant by those words. God anointed men and women for extraordinary deeds in the OT and there are many illustrations of God working supernaturally in response to prayer. Abraham, our father in faith, set up altars for sacrifice and prayer where he had experienced God’s presence in the most extraordinary ways. Moses was a man of prayer, spending as long as forty days and nights in fasting and prayer. Elijah not only restored the dead to life, but through prayer called down fire from heaven to torch a sacrifice drenched with water, eliminating hundreds of false prophets. Although God exercised His might through men like prophets and judges, what is referred to as the kingdom of heaven was not fully manifested in the OT. It was not until The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) that such took place. Yet it isn’t always taught what John tells us about the purpose for Jesus incarnation. Most know that Jesus appeared to pay the price for our sin debt. But there is a far more comprehensive purpose for His manifestation (appearing) in human likeness.
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8
Need for forgiveness is because of a carnal or sinful nature inherited from Adam whereby Satan and his workers successfully lead us into sin. But that makes up only one part of the devil’s work. Man is affected in other ways by a kingdom ruled by Satan. There is affliction with physical and mental diseases, receiving thoughts contrary to the ways of God, and encouragement to lean on our own understanding instead of trusting God. There is oppression, fear, feelings of not being loved, envy, rejection, depression, deception and accusations of many types. Jesus addressed the spiritual battle when He rebuked religious leaders who accused Him of driving out devils by Beelzebub (Satan), the ruler of devils.
“But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come to you.” Matthew 13:28
Jesus brought a kingdom of God’s sovereignty, authority and power to be manifested on earth against the rule of Satan who is the god or prince of this world. Authority was seen as being manifested against the demonic from the very onset of Jesus’ ministry, including by disciples whom He sent out to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, heal the sick, and cast our devils. It was a new authority that didn’t exist during OT days, and did not fail to gain the attention of the people.
“What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commands He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.” Mark 1:17
Prayer for the kingdom of heaven to come is prayer for God’s will to be in evidence against works of the devil. It is heresy to teach, as do some, that the authority of God through the power of Holy Spirit is no longer operating by setting captives free from bondage to sin, healing the sick, setting free those bound by depression or various types of addiction, and raising the dead when it serves the purposes of God. Such heresy is a plague infecting a large part of the Church today. Most bible schools and seminaries promote a gospel which is perverted by what Paul prophesied would be “seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Another reason for the authority of God not being seen in our churches is the failure to appreciate the meaning of the word “kingdom.” It is translated from the Greek word basileia which literally means the place where a king rules. The authority and power of God is not manifested where Jesus is not reigning as King in the life of those who profess His name. When spiritual gifts like miracles and healing are not in evidence, it indicates people are not “filled with the Spirit” to a degree where power of the Spirit is manifested. And such is commonly if not usually the case.
Apostles prayed for God to confirm His Word by signs and wonders, and where the uncompromised Word isn’t preached, there is an absence of miraculous signs. It is difficult to find the pure Word of God taught today in pulpits of any denomination or fellowship because of their distorted catechisms as well as traditions of men. As prophesied by the prophet Amos would take place, there is a great famine of hearing the Word of God taught without compromise in these latter days.
“The days come, says the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” Amos 8:11
THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
As we pray for the Father’s will to be done in earth as in heaven, we can recognize in part at least what it is we are praying for. What is done in heaven as the dwelling place of God is revealed in many respects. Primary is that heaven is a holy place, not defiled by anything. Satan and his fallen angels have been expelled, Jesus tells that He saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening (Luke 10:18) and He also tells us that only those obedient to the will of God will be allowed to enter as the eternal dwelling place for saints (Matthew 7:21).
“Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. For without are dogs (unsaved), and sorcerers, and whoremongers (sexually immoral), and murderers, and idolaters (greed for what doesn’t represent God such as material possessions), and whosoever loves and makes a lie.” Revelation 22:14,15
Only those who obey the commandments of the Father will enter where the tree of life is located, contrary to the soft messages of false teachers. Those allowed entry will have washed their robes in the sense of “overcoming” the flesh (carnal or sinful nature) and will have been obedient to God’s will and commands by the grace and power given them. The grace of God is defined as divine influence on the heart that is reflected in one’s life (Strong’s Concordance #5485). Grace produces conviction of sin by the influence of Holy Spirit and creates godly sorrow bringing repentance which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). With godly sorrow and repentance, one can enter a position to receive the gift of faith from God which is necessary to believe in His Son unto salvation. Faith to believe unto salvation only comes to the contrite of heart in whom there is true repentance and godly sorrow.
“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
Not only does God’s divine influence on the heart (grace) result in conviction of sin and awareness of need for a Savior with godly sorrow that brings repentance. Grace teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts so that we’ll move away from unrighteousness into righteousness and godly living.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Titus 2:11,12
Grace makes it possible to live as overcomers. Scripture says that everything needed for life and godliness is given by grace so that we can escape corruption in the world through lust. The question is whether we choose to serve righteousness or to offer ourselves as servants to unrighteousness. Hear what Peter has to say about being given grace to live holy lives.
“According as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue, whereby are given to us exceeding great and previous promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:3,4
Those in Christ are given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” needed to escape corruption in the world. Not some things, but all things. Let us also realize that all of the promises described in Jesus’ letters to seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation are for those who “overcome,” lest we be deceived that failure to overcome deeds of the carnal nature will be overlooked. In heaven there is no more sickness, sadness, shame or guilt as God promises to wipe away all tears. There shall be no pain, sorrow or crying, for those former things which made life so trying at times will have passed away.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I will make all things new.” Revelation 22:4,5
When we pray for God’s will to be done in earth as in heaven, we pray His authority will be manifested so people are not only saved from wrath, but will be healed of disease, fear, sorrow, and stress about cares of the world that so distract us all. Unforgiveness will have been dealt with so we ourselves can be forgiven (Matthew 6:13,15). To the extent we will cooperate with Holy Spirit in putting to death the misdeeds of flesh (Romans 8:13), the kingdom of God will exist in earth as it is in heaven. But we must learn to recognize what is not of God, take responsibility for participating in such, and not only repent but resist submitting again to what is contrary to the ways of God. It is false teaching that once being saved and living a victorious life is a maintenance-free experience. Being watchful in prayer so as to not fall into temptation is a key to living an overcoming life.
Lastly, nothing is more important in praying for the kingdom of heaven to come and the will of God to be done in earth as in heaven than is unconditional love. It is those who love others who are born of God and know God. Those who do not love others do not know God because God is love. Love for one another is the absolute distinguishing mark of all who are twice born in Christ. Jesus tells us that such is what testifies to other people that we are His disciples.
“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:7,8
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
A carnal (sinful) nature would have us focus on physical needs if not self-indulgent wants. It is not that having our physical needs met is without importance. However we must stay aware of the tension between natural man and spiritual man. It’s often said that some are so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good. The contrary is true as well, i.e., being so earthly minded as to be of no heavenly good. In fact that latter is a devastating plague in the American church. Prosperity teaching has all but become the norm, having replaced teaching about self denial and taking up a cross daily to live sacrificially, and losing one’s life for the sake of Christ.
“He that finds his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:39
Jesus reminds us that man does not live on bread alone, referring to Deuteronomy 8:3 which says, “Man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.” Lives might be transformed in grand fashion if we’d spend as much time reading and meditating on the Word of God as we spend preparing and eating natural food. The psalmist reminds us that a person is blessed who meditates day and night on God’s Word (Psalm 1). Yet hunger and thirst for the Word of God is anything but the rule. Instead unbridled gluttony has become reflected in widespread obesity and the many associated medical problems within the Church just as much as among those unchurched.
A critical part of daily bread is time spent in the closet communing with the Father. As mentioned, OT prophecy warns a day of famine for the Word of God is coming. A simple example of such famine is hearing spiritual leaders pray to Jesus when Jesus says to pray to the Father and ask nothing of Himself, but instead ask in His name (John 16:23). Such may not appear important, but it illustrates a lack of biblical knowledge. God has said, “People are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Yet we pay little attention to His warning. Many are so disappointed when prayers aren”t answered. But God’s Word gives examples as to the type of prayer that avails much, and it often isn’t followed.
Our prayers are not only to be fervent (passion and intensity) but also persevering, each seeming denial leading to greater pressing forward as in the case of a woman who pressed her case against an unjust judge. When Jesus says to ask, seek, and knock, He is exhorting us to persevere if God does not appear to respond at first. We have not at times because we fail to ask, and if we do ask, our motives can be amiss (James 4:2,3). It means we’re not simply asking for necessities, but for what is not the will of God like self-indulgent desires. How greatly we are prone to incline in that direction today!
AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
I fear we take a shallow view of what to consider when we ask to be forgiven. It is so natural to be deeply conscious only of gross sins. God wants us to recognize and appreciate that everything that is unrighteous is sin, whether it be thoughts, words or actions which fail to represent the God to whom we pray. Such is not how we generally carry out self-examinations. I can certainly say that of myself. I need to keep in mind that every form of unrighteousness is sinful so that it is necessary to practice discerning good versis evil at all times (Hebrews 5:13,14).
“All unrighteousness is sin.” 1 John 5:17
One of the most fruitful scriptures on which to meditate are the Beatitudes as we find recorded in Matthew 5. Jesus is teaching His disciples the principles by which they were to live (see The Kingdom of God). We are to examine ourselves in this light when asking forgiveness for our sins.
1) The poor in spirit. Do we realize how hopeless and weak we are, needful of casting ourselves upon God for everything, including our next breath and heartbeat? Such is far from natural thinking, all of us tending to do as seems right in our own eyes.
2) They that mourn. Do we grieve for sin, not only in our own lives and families, but in the world? Are we deeply saddened by a pathetic witness of the Church in midst of worldliness and materialism. Are we ourselves coveting the world and its many material things?
3) The meek. The prophet Micah exhorts us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. But often we tend to be prideful instead of humble, and then excuse our attitudes and behavior with self-serving justifications.
4) They which do hunger and thirst after righteousness. Do we hunger for righteousness as much as for success, popularity and prosperity? Let us recall the warning of Jesus about trying to serve two masters at the same time. It’s impossible, lest we be deceived.
5) The merciful. All who recognize the mercy which they themselves have received should manifest the mercy of Christ toward others. It’s with the measure of mercy shown to others that we ourselves will someday be judged. It’s a matter to carefully consider!
6) The pure in heart. God is aware of thoughts in the heart. Let us learn to cast down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
7) The peacemakers. Now enjoying not only peace with God but the peace of God in times of trial and tribulation, let us strive to bring others to a place of peace with God, for we are charged with being ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).
8) They which are persecuted for righteousness sake? Do we defend Jesus’ name in all circumstances, no matter what kind of price must be paid for doing so? Will our one Defender at the judgment bless us for faithfulness? Or will He say, “You failed to acknowledge Me!”
Asking for debts to be forgiven is often generic and lacks asking the Spirit to search the heart for the little foxes that destroy the vine. Few sins need addressing as much as self-righteousness, so natural if truth were to be recognized. There is urgent need to ask if unforgiveness exists, or if we are failing to trust God in our trials. Do we listen to accusing spirits saying we are unworthy and should be filled with guilt and shame? Let us beware of conversations in our head that frequently involve demonic spirits giving us thoughts which are not really our own….and find ourselves taking part is such conversations.
AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS
Forgiveness of sins was made possible by the atoning work of Jesus at Calvary. His shedding of blood is seen by the Father as payment for all sins we already have or might commit. But conditions exist so forgiveness can be appropriated for our lives. First is the demand that to receive forgiveness from God, we must forgive others. It’s tragic so many live with unforgiveness, holding bitterness and resentment (even at times desire to retaliate) over actual or perceived offenses. Teaching is so watered down that people seem to not realize that unforgiveness keeps their own sins from being forgiven, and without repenting of unforgiveness will cause one to spend eternity with Satan and his angels in a lake of fire.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you forgive not men their tresspasses, neither will our Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15
Peter thought he was playing his “A” game when asking Jesus if his forgiveness should be extended seven times (Matthew 18:21). Jesus answered in a way that indicated there is to be no limit to forgiveness. He then told a parable of a man forgiven a great debt who refused to forgive a small debt of another person. Jesus concludes with warning the heavenly Father will turn us over to the “tormentors” if we fail to forgive others “from your heart” (18:34,35). God forbid that we fail to take this warning with utmost seriousness.
I have seen terrible consequences resulting from an unwillingness to forgive. In one case, a patient with cancer I prayed for was healed without medical intervention and remained cancer-free for years until bitterness developed toward another brother in the Church. At once the cancer returned and he died in short order. Bitterness is one of Satan’s most effective tools, not only damning souls but causing diseases of many types. The Church often fails to emphasize the serious nature of a person holding unforgiveness. Spiritual leaders and teachers will have blood on their hands for failing to warn about the dire consequences of failing to deal with bitterness and resentments.
A second condition for being forgiven is related to repentance. We have a problem today of catastrophic proportions with preaching of cheap grace. It is a heresy to teach that “grace” provides covering for sin in absence of repentance. For further discussion on this subject, see the lesson on God’s Grace. Cheap grace includes the idea one can be forgiven without true repentance. Salvation is offered free of any demand for repentance, yet Jesus taught that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name” (Luke 24:47). Jesus began ministry with the words, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Receiving faith to believe is conditional on having repented as seen by the order given in what are called the principles of the doctrine of Christ (see Hebrews 6:1,2. Requirement for repentance is found repeatedly in the scriptures, as in preaching by Peter after Pentecost.
“Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins my be blotted out, when times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And He shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached to you.” Acts 3:19,20
There must be repentance for sins to be blotted out. It is common for sinners to be led through a ‘sinner’s prayer’ without demand for true repentance today. In such churches which so compromise the teaching of Christ, one rarely if ever will see miraculous signs and wonders although there may be posturing including anointing with oil and laying on of hands. The blind remain sightless, diabetics remain diabetic and those with cancer die of cancer. The apostle Paul addressed this very point by asking the following:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Romans 6:1,2
If you were manipulated into repeating a ‘sinner’s prayer,’ yet now realize there was no godly sorrow bringing you to repent of sins, your eternal soul is at risk. I myself was in that situation, deceived in believing I was in relationship with a righteous God by the act of infant baptism….and was later offered salvation without demand for true repentance by insistence that I turn from sin (conversion). Jesus tells that the Holy Spirit is sent to convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment, and His words apply to every single person without exception lest they perish.
“And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.” John 16:8
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
It needs to be realized that God never leads us to temptation. We’re specifically told the opposite: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man” (James 1:13). We are always to pray for discernment to distinguish evil and good and to be given the grace (divine influence on the heart) to not fall into Satan’s snare. Our responsibility is to do as Jesus said to the disciples: “Pray that you enter not into temptation” (Luke 22:40). A carnal (sinful) nature is inherited by all since the Fall, making the heart prone to wander off a narrow path which leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14).
One of the keys to avoid falling to temptation is to avoid wrong company. Scripture warns that bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). Not that it might, but that it does! Yet it is a difficult for many to learn. I include “lukewarm” believers as being far less than ideal company as well. In words of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 3:16), they are even more dangerous because they try to live in Egypt and the promised land at the same time and cannot avoid becoming a stumbling block to others by their double-mindedness.
Still another key is to avoid situations where temptation is likely to be present. This differs from one person to another. But we must recognize that Satan’s kingdom is made up of intelligent spirit beings, fully aware of our weaknesses and knowing just which buttons to push by having observed our past struggles. The enemy is on keen watch for those foolish enough to believe they can test God by placing themselves in situations known to have temptation and not risk falling.
Still another key is to obey Paul’s command as described in Ephesians 6 by being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. This involves putting on the whole armor of God so as to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil “in the evil day” (6:13). It is my experience that less than one in fifty professing Christians at best can describe what makes up the armor of God from a functional standpoint. Yet Paul stresses strongly that we are at battle with forces of wickedness in the heavenlies which are under the rule and direction of Satan (see lesson on Spiritual Warfare).
We must always pray for protection from demonic influence that brings thoughts to our minds which are not our own. We are bombarded with thoughts and feelings contrary to God’s will, and these must be taken captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). To the extent we are cooperating with Holy Spirit in pulling down spiritual strongholds (thoughts with a strong hold on thinking and behavior which do not reflect God’s ways) that exist, we will find ourselves going from glory to glory as God has ordained for our lives.
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4,5
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
There are times when a stronghold may develop…a mindset or disposition which has resulted in circumstances that leave no alternative other than crying out for deliverance. The idea a person of faith can’t be influenced or terribly afflicted by Satan is a serious error in the Church. It’s as though multiple warnings in scripture to recognize the devil’s wiles, to resist the devil, to put on the whole armor of God to stand against the devil, etc., are written to heathens and not believers. I personally have encountered leaders in so-called “Bible teaching” churches who are indignant at the idea that a person of faith can be crippled by a “spirit of infirmity.” What a hoax Satan has played on a great number who call themselves ‘evangelical.’
We find Jesus encountering a woman He refers to as a daughter of Abraham (thus indicating one of faith) in a synagogue who “had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself” (Luke 13:11). Scripture does not just tell she was infirm, but says she had a “spirit of infirmity” to indicate a demonic cause. Jesus saw her plight and said, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” and she was made straight. Yet the ruler of the synogogue was indignant because she was healed on a Sabbath (13:14). Sounds like some today who are upset if not offended at the idea of a deliverance ministry in their churches.
The story of Jesus walking on the sea in midst of a storm and coming toward those who were in a boat serves to illustrate what can take place in our lives. Peter wanted to be close to Jesus in midst of the storm and was told “Come.” He left the boat and actually began to walk on water. But looking at the fierce storm and taking his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). Can we not identify with this? These are perilous times and we have an enemy who comes “to steal, to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10) and who masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He will always try to have us satisfied with less than the best God has for us.
Peter issues warning, “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5: 8). James also warns, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:6-8).
Before resisting the devil, we must humble ourselves and submit our lives to God. Satan is living and active, and Jesus tells us his helpers come in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) to indicate they have proper credentials for ministry. He goes on to say, “You shall know them by their fruits” (7:16). In other words, their sheep live the same as those who never darken a church door. Be mindful that these warnings are not given to heathens who never darken the door of a church. They are directed to those who are born again but can find themselves misled by false teaching.
Much could be added to this brief overview of what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. It is meant to be a framework for time spent in a prayer closet, not used as a prayer in and of itself. The business of serious prayer is neglected in the institutional church. Such prayer is never child’s play, neither is it meant to be secondary to other affairs. This means killing sacred cows such as liturgy and traditions of men at times. Being on knees if not on one’s face is desperately needed. For it has been said that all worlds are influenced by prayer as it has to do not only with God and men, but with angels and devils.
God would that we set apart time for prayer such that our faces would shine like that of Moses after meeting with God. For prayer is a means of receiving revelation of God’s will for our lives individually and for the Church corporately. We need those who’ll seek God, giving Him no rest by day or night until He answers a cry for revival so needed in lukewarm and dying churches. Our role model for prayer is the Lord Jesus Himself and He expects nothing less than obedience. The importance of uninterrupted time in a place without distractions known as a “prayer closet” is a command given by Jesus. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
“But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father which is in secret, and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.” Matthew 6:6