The Necessity of Prayer: Who We Believe Is What We Live
These notes from Paul Tothill are based a version of his message preached at Gateway Church on 5/5/19.
I want to commence a short series this month that I trust will empower and spiritually activate each of you personally and as a Spirit people into the kind of church, a Kingdom revealing, God glorifying Spirit people that Jesus spoke of and prayed to the Father for.
Two prayers become important for us to study so we can be powerful in prayer: What we know as the Lord’s prayer- a model of prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, and His High Priestly prayer of John 17. When we read these together we have a very clear understanding of the priorities of Jesus for Himself and us as those who have been baptised into His name and declared our relational loyalty to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are to live out God’s calling for our life by living fully immersed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and the teaching of Jesus. That is the blue print Jesus gave us through His own life our His Commission to the church in Matthew 28:18.
The model of prayer that Jesus taught as the Lord’s prayer is really an intertwining and pulling together of numerous historical prayers of Israel and various rabbinical teachings. It is uniquely His. Jesus includes elements of the benediction prayer known as the Amidah and He includes elements of the Shema revealed in Deuteronomy, and the teaching of Leviticus of what it means to glorify or hallow God’s name. Importantly Jesus used an order of prayer that is important to understand. He starts not with the problems or the need. He starts using a temple prayer of Our Father. He puts first things first. His emphasis of forgiveness as glorifying the name of God cannot be understated. But we will jump into more of this shortly after I lay a foundation to build upon.
REVELATION NEEDS APPLICATION
Over the years you have been taught a lot of revelation. Of course, revelation is to be received in our heart and established in our life. But some of us get stuck in how to practically apply the revelation and teaching to our life. So, I want to help us move forward.
The first thing for transformation to take place is that we need to let the words of Jesus go deep into our heart. We need to receive them both intellectually and spiritually, with an open heart and with a desire to not just learn to know but learn to live the life God, has chosen us to live.
So, we don’t want to just listen to know, we want to apply and live what Jesus is teaching us that we may glorify and make the Father known just as Jesus did; that we too may show ourselves to the world as God’s royal family, and reveal the unseen Father to those around us, to function as His chosen-kings and priests, those who reveal the future Kingdom into the present world in every issue and sphere of life. These ideas ground out in everyday life.
A few weeks ago, I started teaching about prayer (notes and audio here). This morning I want to pick up some teaching around the issue of prayer and build upon the last couple of weeks teaching. I will show you that when we follow Jesus model of prayer, everything else He said about prayer to His disciples falls into order. Three things to remember this morning.
We always pray from God’s fullness and rest.
All that is already established in Christ.
We need to understand what the Shema means and pointed to.
We need to understand that the Kingdom manifesting on earth as it is in heaven includes the removal of all hostility between the nations and God that all become one- echad.
Three key words: Fullness (rest), shema and echad
THE UNSEEN AND THE SEEN
The Scriptures make it very clear we live in both a seen or natural world of time, space and matter and an unseen world of the spirit. Some use the term four dimensions or the spirit realm as the fourth dimension. This is a little misleading. To the early church the seen and the unseen, the natural and spiritual worlds interacted with each other more closely than we understand today. The first place this takes place in full measure is the temple. The first temple is the garden of Eden. The temple was the symbol of God’s presence and name on earth or a deity’s presence and name on earth. The temple is the place that heaven and earth meet. The unseen and the seen meet.
They believed that the gods and indeed the one true God was interested and involved in the daily affairs of every person and was the centre of their life. Hence worshipping God or the gods was a matter of loyalty and giving themselves to them for their life- that it may go well with them. Pagan god’s had to be satisfied or pleased. The way God demonstrated His hesed – his love in action and His ways were completely different to the other gods and how Satan works. Therefore, God’s ways are not our ways. But we are to come into His ways that He may be revealed in us and through us to the world around us.
The first step we need to take to engage in powerful prayer is to go back in time to understand this world view I have spoken about. This is what underpins all Scripture.
So, we need to change our thinking from experiencing and understanding just the material seen world, to understanding that the spiritual world and how God’s dominion overshadows and interacts in both the spiritual and material or natural world. That means that our words and actions affect both the natural and material world and also the spiritual worlds around us. Prayer, like God’s rule and reign is cosmic in its effect. It shifts things we barely understand and cannot see, but are nonetheless real in their effect in all dimensions.
HEAVEN TO EARTH REALITY
To understand this more, I taught last time that what we win on the mountain of the Lord in prayer, (the unseen realm of prayer) God gives us the victory in the valley, into our life situations. I used the example of Moses on the mountain in company with Aaron and Hur. So, this emphasises the spiritual precedes the natural and indeed shapes the natural.
A PRAYING PEOPLE
Again, as emphasis, I want you to note that Moses was not on the mountain alone. There are times for that. There are examples of that. God wants a people praying with one heart. A people coming together in His name and praying with His heart into the life situations that God wants to turn around and fulfil His Kingdom mandate, to set people free, to set cities free, to empower people, and to establish His purposes and His will for our lives.
Every believer was faithfully devoted to the apostles to following the teachings (skilled instruction and training) of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
Therefore, it seems most of the prayers that were prayed were in the context of community. That means they came together a lot to pray. It changed the atmosphere of their life and their meetings and the Kingdom broke in.
WHO WE ARE FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW MATTERS
Now I want to make a very clear statement about who we really are when we come to Christ through salvation. This opens up the first line of Jesus’ model of prayer.
We come into a royal family of Kings and priests on earth. We are chosen by God and restored to the capacity in Christ by faith to have a spiritual awareness about the eternal realities of Heaven. We have been born again with a new nature and we carry the resurrection power and the Spirit of truth as the indwelling Spirit in our hearts. God now dwells in us both personally and in our togetherness. We need to accept these things as true and let this truth renew our mind and change our priorities.
If God is our centre and our life now flows from and in relationship with Him, we need to make a priority of developing our relationship with God. Two ways we do that is by developing a culture of worship- beholding who He really is through the revealed word of God and the Spirit and what he has done, and prayer that leads to obedience. In short living the revised Shema and believing we are one with God In Christ. Echad. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us some important truths and realities:
YOU/WE HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD
Let me pick up first the point we have been chosen by God before the foundation of the earth to be conformed to the likeness of God. Why is that important to us today and the topic of prayer?
Because, you have been chosen to be God’s co-heir, His royal son or daughter to function as a priest and king into this world. Being chosen is not just to enter into a relationship with God or be a co-heir. It is also to enter into your God ordained and appointed vocation or role as an image bearer of God to the world as you bring forward God’s authority and power as one with Him to reveal the finished work of the Cross to all the other gods and to the people around you. We are to bring forward the government of His peace by carrying His name, His presence and His life flow. To establish echad – oneness, even as we are echad with Jesus.
THE CROSS ENDED HOSTILITY BETWEEN MAN AND GOD
Jesus fulfilled the Shema. The most profound image of God’s name- His reputation and nature was revealed in Jesus before He went to the Cross and at the Cross. God was willing to distance Himself from who He fully is to take on Sin to bring us to Him so that we may become who we really are in Him, as one with Him. The point that Shane Willard makes and is often forgotten is that God through forgiveness of sin and the finished work of Jesus destroyed the hostility between man and God so as to create one new man. A Spirit-people.
To replace hostility God establishes His government of peace. Remember that God’s love poured out at the Cross destroys hostility between man and God, and breaks down the wall between the nations and Israel. This is called reconciliation but more importantly peace- that all things are being brought back to God in Jesus Christ. The underlying idea here is echad.
This is what Paul reminds us:
First every spiritual blessing has already been lavished upon us as a love gift.
Second, the Father has chosen us to be his very own, joining us to himself even before the foundation of the universe!
Third, as sons and daughters we have been ordained (marked with His love) so that we would be holy in His eyes with an unstained innocence.
Fourth, through our union with Christ we have been adopted into God’s royal family.
Fifth those redeemed by the blood of Jesus are God’s inheritance.
Sixth, God’s superabundant grace works powerfully in us releasing within us all forms of wisdom and practical understanding.
Seventh, before we were even born God had given us our destiny (or Estate), that we would fulfil the plan of God who always accomplishes every purpose and plan in His heart.
Eighth we have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit to confirm all these things.
These truths are important to remember when it comes to prayer. Jesus never prayed once outside of his loving relationship and knowledge of the father, His identity, His position or His calling and assignment. His obedience to God’s word, fulfilling the shema meant it became part of Him, and through both the word and Spirit He was lead to a place of complete giving of himself to the Father. Jesus was simply obeying and practicing the Shema and as a result He experienced echad.
PRAYING IN HIS NAME
I have taught you previously that prayer is first and foremost relational. Jesus prayed to His Father as part of His relational intimacy with God the Father. This is very important because when the disciples of Jesus, the apostolic fathers of the church asked Jesus how to pray, He taught them a model prayer. In other words, He taught them the model of how He prayed. Its flow and contents tells us Jesus was not only following the Shema He was driven by seeing God’s purposes established on earth and for all things to be established as one in the Father. He was actually forming prayer around His life and His life purpose for us to follow.
Our heavenly Father, may the glory of your name be the centre on which our life turns. May your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us. Manifest your kingdom on earth, And give us our needed bread for the coming day. Forgive our sins as we ourselves release forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Passion version.
The Gospel of Matthew puts it a little bit differently to the Gospel of Luke but the emphasis is the same:
Our Father, dwelling in the heavenly realms, may the glory of your name be the centre on which our lives turn. Manifest your kingdom realm and cause your every purpose to be fulfilled on earth just as it is fulfilled in heaven. Passion version
What was Jesus really saying? He was saying I know you intimately, relationally as my true heavenly Father. But you are not just my Father, you are our Father. Jesus is employing temple language developed initially from Genesis 2. He is invoking the Name of God and therefore the Presence of God in an intimate relational way we can all do.
That relationship was as a loved son to loving Father who was not only faithful, and trustworthy but whose reputation and character had been established as the one true God- there is no other like Him. None. The Scriptures correctly discerned and understood, reveal the name of God- His holiness, His reputation, His character and His love, (hesed) His long suffering, and so on.
We start by praying where we are seated in heavenly places. We pray from God’s presence by invoking His presence and His name. We invoke our relational connection. We invoke the Shema to experience echad.
Now remember Jesus said He and the Father were one. He did not pray as an outsider. He did not pray as one grasping at something. He was completely loyal to God and He knew God was completely loyal to Him. Loyalty is another word for faithful.
Now notice from adoration we go to declaration- the reality of bringing forward the Kingdom rule and reign, including all the promises of God. For us they are now fulfilled in Jesus. Then petition: supply all our needs. God promises to supply our needs and He is loyal. He knows what we need for today before we even ask for it. Then notice contrition and forgiveness. Why? So, that we may be one not just with God but with one another. That he is praying without hostility towards anyone.
Forgiveness is the fundamental attribute of God’s love that destroys hostility between man and God and each other. Hostility is the opposite to echad. We don’t ask for those who have wronged us to be judged, we ask for them to be forgiven so that there is no hostility and we have peace and come into echad. When we do not pursue echad, we are no longer moving in God’s will for our lives. Indeed, we feel the effect of it personally.
We are even to love our enemies and pray for them. This is actually spiritual warfare. You are showing yourself to be a son of God. You are glorifying God. Kiddush hashem. You are actually praying in the name of Jesus.!
Now let me ask you. If you have been chosen, and you are in Christ, as one with Him, in the same way mysteriously a husband and a wife is echad- one, and every promise is already yes in HIm, and all spiritual blessings are in heaven, which is where you are spiritually and one with Jesus, are you not praying relationally as a son from the fullness of the Father? From God’s rest?
Let’s develop this a little further. Remember two key words: echad and shema. These two ideas lay at the foundation of what Jesus taught about prayer, not only as we have just discussed but also now as we proceed to see what else Jesus teaches.
Again, I give you an eternal truth: If two of you agree to ask God for something in a symphony of prayer, my heavenly Father will do it for you. For wherever two or three come together in my name I am right there with them!
Jesus replied, “Let the faith of God be in you! Listen to the truth I speak to you: If someone says to this mountain with great faith and having no doubt, “Mountain be lifted up and thrown into the midst of the sea” and believes that what he says will happen, it will be done. This is the reason I urge you to boldly believe for whatever you ask for in prayer- be convinced that you have received it and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, if you find that you carry something in your heart against another person, release him and forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also release you and forgive you of your faults.
For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask anything in my name and I will do it for you!”
How then did John the apostle explain this to the church?
1 JOHN 5:14
Since we have this confidence, we can also have great boldness before him, for if we ask anything agreeable to his will, he will hear us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we also know that we have obtained the requests we ask of him.
WHAT IS IN SIGHT HERE?
What underpins all the teaching is invoking God’s name, the Shema and a principle known as Echad. The Shema was recited when Jesus was asked what the most important law of the Torah was. He said, “the most important one is this: “Hear O’Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself”. There are no commandments greater than these.
Jesus’ answer to the Scribe came out of Deuteronomy and Leviticus- the Torah. The idea of the word Shema is not merely to listen but also includes to take heed, to respond with action to do what is heard, ie to obey as a child or a family as to their Father who is faithful to keep them provide for them, protect them and develop them into maturity. Hearing and doing are effectively inseparable in Hebrew thought and in terms of our relationship with God. James says faith without works is dead. To hear means to act or bring into action.
When David uses the phrase of “God hear my prayers”, he was invoking Shema, meaning God both hear and act. If God heard my prayer, there was no doubt at all that He would act on my prayer. Hence God saying He hears is the assurance He will also act. God is saying I am ready to act on your behalf and on the basis of our relationship, of my covenant loyalty and love for you that I will fulfil my words and I will hear. So, hear me even as I hear you. Again, hearing is not just listening, it is taking heed and in God’s hesed and loyalty to His covenant He acts on behalf of those who love Him and trust Him wholeheartedly. Hearing is believing and responding or obeying. Jesus must have known that God not only heard but He would act. To do otherwise was inconceivable. Because God is compassionate, any time He prayed with compassion He knew God would act. Indeed, compassion was the trigger for most of Jesus’ assignments and prayers.
Now let’s turn to echad because this explains another part of what Jesus was teaching that his disciples would have been aware of but we are not. The most common meaning of this Hebrew word is simply “one”. But it is quite a fluid word that has different meanings in different contexts. We need always to look to the context to get its meaning whether it is talking about one as in the singular or a compound of one. We know the “Lord our God is one” or “the Lord is one”. The meaning is of a compound unity, ie many parts making up the whole as one. In the New Testament Jesus makes this plain. It can also mean that when we have morning and evening day and night we have one day. When Adam and Eve married, they become one flesh. Echad.
It is also taken up with Jesus in John 17. We see both the shema and echad revealed in this prayer that reveals God’s will.
And the very words you gave to me to speak I have passed on to them. They received your words and carry them in their hearts. They are convinced that I have come from your presence, and they have fully believed that you sent me to represent you. So, with deep love I pray for my disciples.
For all who belong to you now belong to me as well, and my glory is revealed through their surrendered lives.
So, I ask that by the power of your name, protect each one that you have given me, and watch over them so that they will be united as one, even as we are one.
And I ask not only for these disciples, but also for all who will one day believe in me through their message. I pray for them all to be joined together as one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognise you sent me. For the glory you have given to me I have given to them so that they will be joined together as one and experience the same unity that we enjoy! You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they will experience perfect unity and the world will be convinced that you have sent me, for they will see that you love each one of them with the same passionate love that you have for me.
Jesus prayer is for echad – oneness, so that God’s name, His reputation, character, and faithfulness, His very nature may be known to the world. Through who? Through you and I living out the life that God has chosen us for and put in us and by letting our love for Him empower us towards obedience. This brings glory to God. We obey because we are loved, valued and esteemed in Christ, not to try an earn relational acceptance. We are fully accepted!
The Shema is a call not to a belief about God, but complete allegiance and loyalty to God at a heart to heart level. Baptism into Christ was seen as a public rite of allegience or loyalty on earth to the one true King amongst other things. When we were baptised we identified ourselves completely with Jesus both on earth and also in heaven to every other person and power.
This is a complete giving of our self to the one true God as revealed in the New Testament of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the foundational part of fulfilling our Commission. Obedience is not winning God’s approval or His love towards us. We already have that in Christ. To repeat: Because we are loved and because we love Christ we obey. The concept of living in Christ is this very idea of echad.
This overflows to praying in the name of Jesus who is one with God. A name in Hebrew thought is not like we choose a name. A name both described the character, reputation and function of a person. God is known in the same way Jesus or Yeshua is a name that is known and carries God’s reputation authority and power. When we pray by the name of Jesus we are completely identifying our self with Him as being echad with Him. We pray as He would pray, that means with the same character and reputation that He has. That is why forgiveness is placed in the prayer. Unforgiveness does not glorify the name of God and is inconsistent with the character of God whose image we bear and name we go by. We are to make His name known in the same way that Jesus made the Father known. In Jesus, we together, collectively are to make the unseen God known. Hence we are Christ’s body on earth. We are to operate as a compound one- echad.
"You are my righteous Father, but the unbelieving world has never known you in the perfect way that I know you! And all those who believe in me also know that you have sent me! I have revealed to them who you are…” I have made your name known.
Then if we are to pray in the name of Jesus, it means to pray as one with Him and in the same way with the same heart and character consistent with God’s reputation and His perfect pleasing and acceptable will.
Now it makes perfect sense that Jesus would add to this restatement of Shema and echad that God is one for us to ensure our hearts are joined with not only God’s heart but also His words. If we are to forgive even as God forgives we show ourselves as true sons of God, and as one with God.
Therefore, Jesus clearly implies that when you pray in “my name”, there is nothing in your heart but the desire for oneness, for being as one. No hostility. That is His perfect will. The cross has destroyed all hostility and we are now one new man joined as one with Christ.
So we come away from this morning having to renew our mind about:
1. Our relationship with God.
2. We pray in His name by praying with His character and His will and purposes to be established.
3. We pray from the fullness of Him. Every promise is yes to which we give the amen. Every blessing is in Him. We are one with Him as we give our self to him. To give ourselves to Him means to give ourselves to His words as truth and our life.
4. We pray in a way that brings our whole being into prayer with sincerity, not empty words, believing that God not only hears us, that He will act upon our prayers.
5. When we pray together as one, we are powerful in prayer. Prayer is our priestly kingly function we have been chosen for. A prayer meeting is not just another meeting. It is where we get things done because we are one in Christ even as Jesus prayed in John 17. Staying away is to undermine what we have been chosen to live before God so His purposes can be fulfilled before man.
Life’s better connected. We are better together.
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