KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God... "
TO BE THE LORD'S PRAYER
TEACH US TO PRAY
"And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples. And He said unto them, when ye pray, say..."(Lk. 11:1).
This was not Jesus' First lesson on prayer. He taught His disciples their first lesson in prayer by His own practice of prayer. That which First awakened their hearts and stirred within them the holy desire to pray was not what He said about prayer, but what He did about it. The setting of our text was late in His ministry. His prayer life throughout the whole time of their walk with Him had so profoundly impressed them that they sensed deeply that He knew prayer in a dimension they had not touched, and as they had never witnessed prayer in the life of any man. There was nothing formal, ordinary or "religious" in the prayer of Jesus. To hear Jesus pray would carry one into the Holy of Holies. How the disciples marveled and grew hungry-hearted as they heard Jesus pray! The disciples were good men and well-versed in Jewish praying, yet when they came into contact with the Son of God, instead of realizing they could pray well, they came to the conclusion that they could not pray at all. And when these disciples came to Him with this request, "Lord, teach us to pray," Jesus did not turn them away. He did not rebuke them. He taught them to pray. And WE are taught the high art of sonship praying by none less than the firstborn Son of God!
The disciples remembered that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. Now, a new ministry and a further demonstration of the presence, glory and purpose of God had been brought to them by Jesus. They sensed something new, something more powerful and sublime in the prayer life of the Son of God. A new day had dawned, the new order of the Kingdom of God was being established. With this new revelation came the realization that it demanded a new prayer life. So, then, they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray in this new realm of the Kingdom. We are not told that Jesus ever taught His disciples how to preach. They did not ask Him to teach them how to heal the sick, cast out devils, or raise the dead. He certainly never taught them how to perform a wedding or conduct a funeral! But He taught them how to pray.
We, like the disciples, have such a distorted conception of prayer. We have said prayers, we have listened to prayers being offered in church, we have cried out to God in pressing situations, we have even sought the Lord Himself and a deeper walk in the Spirit, and have sometimes offered thanksgiving to God. But when we live with Jesus we soon begin to realize that we know very little about prayer and we join the disciples in imploring, "Lord, teach us to pray!"
Occasionally I meet dear folk in this walk of sonship and the Kingdom of God who profess that there is no longer any need to pray, they have now attained to a higher realm of union with the Father where in Him all things are theirs, and prayer is no longer necessary. The Lord Himself is dwelling within them, they have found the God within, and they don't need to pray. In the minds of these, prayer is a left-over relic from a by-gone age. It belongs to a lower plane of spiritual life than this high realm of sonship or Godhood to which we have come. But I do not believe it. I don't know where they get this idea. It certainly isn't scriptural, nor do they get it from the example of the Lord Himself. No man lias been as close to God the Father as Jesus, and no one has yet in this world been filled with the fullness of God as He was. The Father was in Him in a measure far greater than any of us is consciously aware of at this time. "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?" "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me." "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works" (Jn. 14:10-11). The Father dwelled in the Son in an absolute fullness; He possessed the Son completely. It wasn't Jesus who spoke the words He uttered, it was God in Him, not hit-and-miss, but all the time. It was the indwelling Father who did all the miracles and mighty works wrought through Jesus. So if having God living fully and absolutely within us negates the need for praying, then Jesus certainly had no need to pray. But what was His attitude toward prayer?
The man from Galilee, the firstborn among many brethren, the Pattern Son, the Captain of our salvation. the proto-type of what the realm of sonship is all about, left us an example of the ways of God's Kingdom when His feet trod the pathways of earth. Not only did He dwell in and manifest out of that high realm of the Kingdom - He brought the Kingdom! He signed, sealed and delivered it with all authority. Not only did He come and establish the Kingdom, He demonstrated it. He showed us exactly how the Kingdom functions. And He prayed! HOW HE PRAYED! I doubt if any man ever lived who spent as much time in prayer as Jesus did. Every argument against sons praying breaks to pieces upon this rock - that Jesus, the Firstborn Son, the Pattern Son. was a man of prayer. He knew more about God and more about life and reality than anyone else in history, and He prayed. His example and His experience set aside every objection, learned or ignorant, to the prayer life of the sons of God.
In Luke 3:21-22, we find the first occasion in the Gospels where Jesus prayed. "Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice from heaven, which said. Thou art my beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased." It was while Jesus prayed that heaven was opened and He was anointed with the Holy Spirit. While He prayed, He was endued with all the power needed to be transformed from being a small town carpenter into the manifestation of sonship, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had come.
The second time we see Jesus in prayer is in Luke 5:15-16. "But so much the more went there a fame abroad of Him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed!." At this time, in terms of Jesus' ministry, things were going extremely well. His fame had spread over the country. People were flocking to Him - the sick, the oppressed, the hopeless, the sinners. They saw the power of God in Him. He was the man of the hour. It was the hour of acclamation. He healed and delivered them all. Then, at once, He withdrew into a desert place - to pray!
The third recorded prayer of Jesus came during an hour of decision, when He must select His closest disciples. These are the men into whose hands He will place the destiny of the whole world. In that important and momentous hour, Jesus went into a mountain in the evening to pray. The hours passed by, and Finally the dawn arrived - Jesus had prayed all night. Time and time again, the emphasis is upon the fact that Jesus prayed alone, in the desert or on the mountain. At times He arose early in the morning, before the awakening sun had kissed the clouds in the eastern sky, and went apart to pray alone. He went often to the garden spots, to the wilderness of Judea, to the upper rooms of homes of friends, there to commune with the Father. He lived by prayer. He breathed prayer. We are told that people brought Him little children that "He should put His hands on them, and pray" (Mat. 19:13). In the garden of Gethsemane He said, "Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder" (Mat. 26:36). "He went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mk. 1:35). "He went up into a mountain apart to pray" (Mat. 14:23). And most of us forget that when Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration, and was glorified before the disciples, He had gone there to pray, and "as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered" (Lk. 9:28-29). Most of us have forgotten that it was Jesus' praying that led to the great confession by Peter that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Lk. 9:1 S-21). It is said of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, that "being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Lk. 22:44).
One Son has God had upon earth, who lived without sin - but God never had a Son who lived without prayer. The only sinless and fully manifested Son that ever graced the earth was its most prayerful life. Yea. and even now He ever liveth to make intercession for us! Yes. the risen, ascended, glorified Jesus is now the great High Priest of the Melkizedekian order, and there after the power of an endless life He faithfully PRAYS FOR HIS BRETHREN! it makes me wonder why some have left prayer. Could it be that they believe that they are greater than their Master. Perhaps they are no longer Following the Master, who even now prays in the highest heaven at the right hand of God!
THE LAWS OF THE KINGDOM
I would speak to you now, in connection with prayer, of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Greek word for "heaven", in the New Testament, is most often in the plural. When you read Jesus' great parables of the Kingdom of Heaven it is really the Kingdom of the Heavens. Also, in the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus teaches sons to pray. He says, according to the King James Bible, "Our Father, which art in heaven." But in Greek it is plural - "Our Father, which art in the heavens' So, contrary to popular thought, there is more than one heaven. Paul spoke of being caught up into the third heaven, and God, our God, is the God of all the heavens. God dwells in every heaven. He fills every heaven. He rules in every heaven. And He is above every heaven, beyond every heaven, higher than all heavens, and greater than every heaven. The great King Solomon cried out, "Behold, I build an house to the name of the Lord my God, and the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods. But who is able to build Him an house, seeing the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? who am I then, that I should build Him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before Him?" (II Chron. 2:4-6)..
In other words, that heaven that is so vast, so expansive, so extensive, so all-inclusive that it embodies within itself all the other heavens - even that heaven cannot contain our God! And yet I hear some say that God is not omnipresent! God is the God, not of heaven, but of THE HEAVENS. And in our journey into God we pass through all these heavens. Jesus passed through all the heavens on His way into the glory of the Father. "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might Fill all things" (Eph. 4:10). In His ascension to the right hand of power He passed through - experienced - all the heavens. But not only did He pass through them. He has also FILLED THEM ALL so that God in Christ is the essence in every heaven. You will Find Him on a different plane, in a different dimension, in each heaven. Heaven is not a place, not a geographical or astral location -it is a sphere or realm of reality. It is a dimension of life. It is a level of God-consciousness. It is the invisible realm of spirit that transcends this gross material realm. It is the dimension of being where God dwells. Heaven is also the realm in which God is revealed by the Spirit. Heaven is the realm in which God is known by the Spirit. Heaven is the realm in which God can be touched in the Spirit. Heaven is the realm in which God can be experienced in the Spirit. God is the God of the heavens, and if ever you will see Him, if ever you will know Him, if ever you will touch Him, if ever you will experience Him - it will be in the heavens where He dwells. Heaven means "height, eminence, elevation." God is in heaven. God is Spirit. Heaven is the high and holy realm oF lhe Spirit where God exists. To be in heaven is to be in the Spirit. To experience God spiritually is to experience heaven. Thus, heaven is the realm of spiritual experience. The heavens are the various realms or levels of spiritual experience where we meet and know God. When God is revealed to you by the Spirit, heaven is opened and you behold heavenly things.
In the lower heavens you know God in a more elementary way. It is wonderful to know God in His heavens. Each heaven bespeaks of a plane of relationship with God by the Spirit. When the Lord unveils Himself to you on a higher plane, in deeper measures, in richer and Fuller dimensions of His life, wisdom and glory, and you experience Him in it, you ascend in Him to a higher heaven. In the lower heavens you see and touch and experience God spiritually in limitation. As you pass through the heavens you come to know God in greater and grander measures. You experience Him in a deeper way. You come to know God more fully. In our progression through the heavens we encounter the laws, or order, or ways of God in each heaven. In the natural world there are laws - universal laws. One law that we all are acquainted with is the law of gravity. A "law" is something in nature that always, under the same circumstances, and with the same conditions, happens the same way. If there is no deviation, no exception to the occurrence or phenomenon -it is a law. When scientists observe that under the same conditions something always happens the same way, it is recognized as a law. The reason gravity is called the law of gravity is because we know that if you throw a rock off a cliff it is absolutely certain what will happen. There is no question about it. No one reading these lines would be willing to bet that the rock will shoot up into the atmosphere like a rocket!
In the natural realm man becomes familiar with its laws from earliest childhood. He orders his waking and sleeping by the rising and setting of the sun. He does not jump out of tall trees or off tall buildings because the law of gravity dictates that bones will be broken. Flesh will splatter, and serious injury or death will ensue. He doesn't put his hand on glowing metal because it will burn. He sees that two objects cannot occupy the same space. He observes the movements of the heavens and learns that the heavenly bodies travel in fixed and predictable paths. He watches the soaring of the eagle high above the earth and knows that he cannot fly like a bird. He learns that seed will germinate in the earth and with proper care will grow and produce a harvest. He learns that good food and exercise promote health, strength, and well-being. Above all he quickly perceives that he must accommodate his being to these laws if he is to survive on this planet and make his living here enjoyable and profitable. He conforms to these laws; they do not conform to him and he cannot break them with impunity or bend them to his will; but if he will cooperate with the laws great good and blessing can be his.
What is true in the physical realm is likewise true in the spiritual realm. The world of the spirit is governed by spiritual laws just as powerful and precise as the laws of the physical world. They cannot be discovered by the natural mind, nor by man's search or investigation through natural or scientific channels. They can neither be discerned or touched by the natural senses. They belong to the order of divine revelation and are revealed to man only by the Word of God and the Spirit of God. One cannot supplant these spiritual laws, nor nullify, nor break them with impunity any more than with the natural laws. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of law. That means that in the Kingdom of God there are precise principles that govern all its activities, administrations and manifestations. If you move in conformity with those principles you will meet with success - no question about it. The Kingdom of God operates by divine law. There is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that makes us free from the law of sin and death. The law of life in no way negates the law of sin and death - it supersedes it -just as the law of aerodynamics supersedes the law of gravity, enabling an airplane to soar into the sky instead of crashing into the earth. No law can be broken - but any law may be superseded by a higher law.
The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus is the law of the Kingdom - and it supersedes the law of sin and death. Many of us in our spiritual walk have been trying to "die" in order to live. We've had the idea that if we could overcome and conquer the death in us we would be able to live the life of Christ. But that is a contradiction of the law of life. You don't die in order to live -you live in order to die. In fact, if you don't live before you die, you had better not die! If you don't have life before you die, there will be nothing left - not even a hope of resurrection. Do you know why Jesus was willing to die? He was willing to die because He could say, "No man taketh my life from me - I lay it down; I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again." The one who lays down his life must have power to take it up again. If you have not the power to lay your life down, and take it back up, then may God help you not to die! You must live in order to die, so that when you die you can still live. Christ's life was secure in death because He had life before He died, and by that life He arose. Someone says, "But, I'm not going to die!" Well, do you know what the proof of me having life would be? The proof would be for me to say, "Go ahead, kill me...pull the trigger, man, because I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again." A lesser degree of life is required to live and not die, than to die and still live, and bring yourself back again. When I have a quality of life that IS, then I can lay it down and take it up. So the law of the spirit of life makes me free from the law of sin and death. It is Christ in me that enables Adam to be brought to death, yet I live. I live and then die, and still I live. I'm not going to conquer something so I can have the victory - I must get the victory so I can conquer something. It is not victory that gives you power, it is power that gives you victory. Get life, precious friend of mine, and all the death in you will lake care of itself. Increase in life and you will increase in death. These are divine laws, the laws of the Kingdom of God.
God has dealt with me deeply over many years in the area of His laws. We are not an accident going somewhere to happen. And we will not just "saunter" into the Kingdom of God or "slide" into sonship. We will not stumble or fumble our way into the fullness of God. We will not accidentally enter into life. God has no "Honorary" titles or positions in His Kingdom. You will not just wake up one fine morning to discover that you are a manifested son of God. It's not going to happen! There are laws - the whole economy of God operates by divine principles. There are prescribed paths and precise processes by which one apprehends the things of God. The tabernacle in the wilderness is the figure of this great truth. The feasts of Israel instruct us in God's ways. All the types and shadows of the Old Testament instruct us in this wisdom and knowledge of spiritual law. Yes, there are laws. And if the laws can be revealed to us, if we can understand the laws that govern the Kingdom realm of God, if we will say "Yes" to the laws, if we can come into harmony with the laws, and let God apply the laws to our lives - the laws will work every time! The needed change will be wrought in us, the work will be accomplished, God's will shall be done, there will be a mighty transformation into the image of God, and life will swallow up death - all will happen as we walk in conformity with the law.
THE FIRST HEAVEN - ASKING AND RECEIVING
There are divine laws in prayer. Imagine a man taking hold of a shovel, who has never seen one before, and beginning to use it as best he knows how, but upside down. After working awhile I can imagine hearing him say, "It is hard work to use a shovel, and I cannot accomplish a great deal with it either!" We would be most happy to be able to take the shovel into our own hands and show him how to use it. After trying again for a while, he will exclaim, "How easy it is to use a shovel, and how much one can do with it!" All life and all of God's creation are governed by laws. Where these laws are understood and obeyed, everything works well and is productive. The spiritual life, too, has its laws. If we do not apply these laws, our spiritual lives will be burdensome and fruitless. But if we can discover and follow the laws which govern our development in the Kingdom of God, we will grow up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ - changed into His likeness, imbued with His mind, quickened by His life in spirit, soul and body.
When I speak of God's laws I speak not of the law of Moses. I'm not talking about any Old Testament law. And I'm not talking about church laws, traditions, or regulations. I'm talking about Kingdom law - the spiritual principles of the Kingdom of God. I want to share with you in this writing three law's of the Kingdom. They are not new. You have heard of them on some level many times. But I want to set forth these laws today that we might understand precisely the method God is using to bring us from where we are, and from where we were, unto the place to which He has appointed us in Himself. All three laws are found in Matthew 7:7 in connection with Christ's great teaching on prayer. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." According to these laws, what happens when you ask? You receive! What happens when you seek?.You find! And, what is the result of knocking?. Why, it is opened unto you! Those are precise and immutable laws. They are not promises. There is a world of difference between a promise and a law. Promises may be broken. But a law is never broken. I'm not talking about a law like the speed law - you can break the speed law, although there is a penalty. I'm talking about cosmic laws, universal laws, natural law's like physics - and divine laws. These laws are inviolable. They are constant.
Jesus says, "Ask, and it shall be given you: for every one that asketh receiveth" - there's the law! Not a promise - a law. How awesome, expansive, and all-inclusive! How glorious, positive, and absolute! EVERYONE THAT ASKETH, RECEIVETH. Someone has written: "Would it surprise you to learn that one of the basic law's of economics is also a basic law of prayer? It's the law of need (which creates what economists call 'demand') and supply. This law is operative in all business transactions. When a person applies to the bank for a loan to buy a new car, he is putting this law into operation. The buyer has a need; the bank has the resources to meet that need. Such transactions require two parties. Before a loan is contracted, there must be a borrower and a lender; before a gift is possible, there must be a receiver and a giver; before a legal will can exist, there must be an heir and a testator; before an organ is transplanted, there must be a recipient and a donor. Just as all these human transactions require a giver and a receiver, so does prayer. It's a sense of need that causes us to pray, but coupled with it must be a recognition of the abundant resources of God that are available to meet those needs."
When we think of asking, we may recall some dramatic experience we have had, similar to the experience of Captain Eddie Rickenbacher, who was lost at sea with seven other men. In answer to their prayers for food, God sent a sea gull who landed on the top of Rickenbacher's head; in answer to their requests for water, God sent rain. And after twenty-one days, God answered their prayers for rescue. All the basic and most needful things in life are given. They are not purchased or merited or earned or won or discovered - they are given. It is failure to realize this great truth that deprives many precious people of the blessings and benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven. They cannot believe that salvation is free - they think they must beg for it, work for it, or labor and sacrifice for it. They cannot believe that God freely gives us all things and that He delights to give good gifts to His children. The way to get a thing that is purchasable is to pay for it. The way to get a thing that is to be earned is to work for it. The way to get a thing that is to be given is to ask for it. "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Mat. 7:7). "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him" (Mat. 7:11). "For every one that asketh receiveth" (Mat. 7:S). "Again I say unto you. That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven" (Mat. 18:19). "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Mat. 21:22). "Therefore I say unto you. What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mk. I 1:24). "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (Jn. 14:14). "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn. 16:24).
There are two primary words in the Greek New Testament translated ask. One is the word EPEROTAO, which means "to ask, to inquire, as asking questions." But the word used about prayer is AITEO, which means "to ask, to crave, to desire, to call for," always meaning asking for something. I have just counted about thirty times that this word is used about prayer in the New Testament. And it is properly translated ask. We are invited to ask. Nay, we are even commanded to ask! What condescension! We are to ask of whom? We are to ask of our Father who is God and King and Lord of the universe. We are to ask of that One who is the omnipotent Ruler, not only of the nations of this world, and the planets of this system, but of all the starry heavens; that One who controls the galaxies in their orbits and also the atoms in the tiniest drop of water. We are to ask Him. Did you ever think about that? I might invite you to ask the President of the United States about anything or for anything. I would suggest that you lay this paper down and call him. What do you think would happen? You would not even get within four echelons of speaking to him. Try the vice-president. Same problem. How about the Governor? Give it a try. How about the President of General Motors? Or Ford? Or Chrysler? Try to get him on the phone. I challenge you! Yet, we are invited to ask the King of kings and the Lord of lords!
Said the robin to the sparrow, I should really like to know Why these anxious human beings Rush about and worry so! Said the sparrow to the robin, Friend, I think that it must be That they have no Heavenly Father Such as cares for you and me!
Now listen. I want to share with you an elementary truth of supreme significance. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give GOOD THINGS to them that ask Him" (Mat. 7:11). Good things! T-H-I-N-G-S! Those who ask are given things. I draw your reverent attention to the two significant words: ask and things. If you ask, what do you get? THINGS! What kind of things? Good things! But they are, nonetheless, things. This realm of asking for and receiving things is the First heaven. If you are going to touch God, experience God, and know God in the realm of the Spirit, the very first dimension in which you will come to know Him is in the realm of "things". This is the external realm. It is the realm where we learn to know God as the great heavenly Santa Claus, as the great Godfather, the Blesser and Benefactor of His children.
This truth cannot be made plainer than in the words of the Lord Jesus wherein He says, "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mk. 11:24). Is that a law? Absolutely! What do you gel when you pray? Things! I want you to get this. You ask and you receive things. You pray and you get things. God says this is a divine law; it works and there is no qualifying. Getting things is contingent only upon our asking. There are no other conditions, no stipulations, no disclaimers, no hidden clauses or fine print. He doesn't say that if you last for ten days you will receive things. He doesn't say that if you never get angry, curse, lust, or act like the devil. He will give you things. He doesn't say if you never fail or miss the mark you can get things. Nor does He say if you pay tithes, attend Church, and read the Bible you will get things. There are no other prerequisites. The law is the law of asking in faith - plus nothing!
You will understand a great truth when you understand that a gift is not given because of the goodness of the recipient, but because of the goodness of the Giver. That's why salvation is a gift. Salvation is the gift of God to poor, undone, unworthy sinners. Faith, saving faith, is a gift, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph. 3:8). The Holy Spirit is a gift. Healing is a gift. Divine provision is a gift. The gift realm involves areas where there is no qualifying. That is why we have seen men with great sign-gift ministries, who could preach like Paul, prophesy until the hair stood up on your neck, and perform mighty signs, wonders and miracles, yet their lives were sadly lacking in character. The blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame walked, prophecy flowed like a river, they could tell you your street address, your phone number, reveal the secrets of your heart - and the next afternoon be caught at a motel in bed with another man's wife. Why is that? Because they are moving in a gift realm. Gifts of the Spirit. And when God gives gifts He requires no qualifying. No one in the New. Testament had more gifts than the saints at Corinth. Yet they were perhaps the most carnal, licentious, and corrupt Church in the early Church. But, you see, gifts are given because of the goodness of the Giver - not because of the goodness of the recipient. That is the law of the gift realm.
But it is a realm in which you can know God. In fact, I do not doubt for one moment that the vast majority of those who read this message first became acquainted with God in that realm - the realm of God's goodness, the realm of His loving kindness and lender mercies, the realm of answers to prayer, blessings, miracles, and supernatural supply. It is the spiritual world all the starry-eyed, effervescent Charismatics live in! It is the realm of need consciousness, and our heavenly Father's faithfulness to provide. Multitudes of believers never follow on to know God beyond that realm. They are heaven dwellers - the FIRST HEAVEN. It is a great fact, if you could eliminate people's prayers for "things" and "needs" you would immediately reduce their prayer life by at least 90%. "Oh, God, do this. Oh, God, do that. Oh, God, help me here, bless me there, give me a better job, increase my Finances, supply a new car, heal my body, help my children, do something for Grandma..." Oh, how "need" conscious are God's children! Some years ago I was in a meeting and a brother expressed the mentality of the vast majority of Christians today. He asked the congregation, "How many have a need tonight?" Every hand in the building shot up. The brother continued, "If you don't have a need, then you ought to!" How many of us have our center in our "needs"? The truth is, if you removed the saints "needs" from the average Church meeting or prayer group, they wouldn't know how to conduct the meeting! Most meetings are conducted with a basic consciousness that we need God. Very few meetings are conducted with the consciousness that WE ARE FILLED WITH GOD!
In the first heaven of spiritual experience we are conscious of "needs" and the "things" that meet the need and we touch God on that level. And God is faithful there! "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly...for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him" (Mat. 6:6-8). Here we have it again - things and asking. And this is the heaven that the great majority of Christians have ascended to. That is the realm in which they know and experience God. All the faith and prosperity message today - two BMW's in every garage, the best jobs, the finest homes, the largest bank accounts, the most luxurious cars, the finest clothes, and all the amenities of life - God wants to bless and prosper you! God will make you successful and wealthy! And I'm not opposed to that. I can surely use all He sends! But what I'm saying is that this is the lowest heaven - the lowest spiritual level one can know and experience God on. It is the knowledge of God on the external, physical, material world of things. And this realm is real! It is one of God's heavens! Thank God for that realm!
I've known preachers that have never met God in the first heaven reality. There were a couple of lady ministers that came to the Church where I was minister in Sarasota, Florida back in the 1960's. I had known this one sister for several years and had a great respect for her ministry - she had a beautiful prophetic flow and a real word of the Kingdom. But I had not seen her for a few years. She contacted me about a meeting. I opened the door for her to come our way - but a little red flag went up in my spirit while we were conversing on the phone. I shoved it aside because of my confidence in the ministry I had known in her. She began telling me about her co-worker who traveled with her. She said that God had given her co-worker a special ministry in Finance. They would pass out miracle envelopes and the people would give as they were led by the Lord - but they would not let the people give for nothing. They were to expect a miracle, and to every one who passed in their "miracle offering" they would give a "Word". Well, the Lord was teaching me some fundamental lessons in those days. When they arrived the co-worker had a white robe that she said God told her to wear. The First night they passed out the miracle envelopes and instructed the people to pray and ask God how much they should put in it; then return the envelope on any night during the meetings, at which time they would pray over them for a miracle and prophesy the Word of the Lord.
The Lord quickened a scripture in my spirit: "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:20). Brother, you had better believe, the next day I presented myself at these sisters' motel room. I said, "Sister, that's not going to work in this Church. Our people don't think that way, they don't operate that way, they don't know God that way, and you're not going to get anything out of this people by those methods." I said to her, because she professed to be a Kingdom preacher, "Sister, don't you know the principles of the Kingdom of God? Jesus said that if you have a need you should enter into your closet, shut the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly." And I'm here to testify today that it works! All through the years of our walk in the Kingdom realm God has not permitted us to ask for money, or send out letters to solicit funds. And we have no gimmicks, no miracle envelopes, no book offer for an offering often dollars or more! We neither have to ask or beg for money, because our heavenly Father has revealed to us a higher law. You see, GOD IS OUR SOURCE! Yes, God uses people, but we do not look to the people, we look to God our source. When I was in business, God was my source. Many years ago in my business, if things weren't going well, I prayed - and God answered! He showed me what to do. He put me in contact with the people who needed my service, and were glad to pay for the quality of work we did. God blessed the business because of this principle: "Your Father knows what things ye have need of before ye ask; and if you ask, you will receive." I have proven that principle thousands of times. We have never gone hungry. We have never been stranded anywhere, though in years past we traveled extensively, often with our whole family, at home and abroad. We went to the mission fields for several years with no committed support. We have never defaulted on a payment. We have not, except for one six-month period, received a salary in the ministry. And in twenty-five years of publishing KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES, having mailed out well in excess of a million papers and books, we have never solicited funds in any meeting or by mail - but we have spent some quality time in the closet! We have tried the law, we have tested the law, we proved the law, and the law works! Some people entertain the notion that only preachers "live by faith." Not so! We all live by faith. The same law worked for me in business that works for me in ministry. God is our source - whether we work at the corner convenience store, own a business, or are in full time ministry. If you are struggling to raise five kids, pay the rent, and put food on the table - our Father still knows what things you have need of before you ask. He still opens doors of provision. He still makes a way where there is no way. He still performs miracles for ALL who call upon Him. There is no difference. God is God and the law of His Kingdom is His law for all who live in His domain.
Oh, that God's precious people would learn that this is just the FIRST HEAVEN! We get so involved with, and centered in, our needs, until we miss the fact that God has a need. Can we comprehend the idea that God has a need? You see, the scripture reveals that God created all things "for His pleasure" (Rev. 4:11). Sometimes we have sinned, we have missed the mark, and come short of God's glory and failed to bring pleasure to the heart of God. God has a need for the fellowship of sons, of like ones unto Himself. That was His plan, His purpose from the beginning. "Let us make man in our image and after our likeness." God's heart was the same as the hearts of parents today, to reproduce Himself, to have a great family, to populate the universe with an Elohim company, the extension and projection of Himself- gods in the likeness of God. "The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods? If He called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of Him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of' God?" (Jn. 10:33-36). Yes, God has a need - involvement with His sons in His great creative purposes. In the path of sonship there comes a time when our need becomes dwarfed in the higher light of God's need, and we discover that when our overwhelming objective becomes not to get, but to live unto the Father, satisfy His heart and fulfill His purposes - then our need IS MET IN THE OVERFLOW!
THE SECOND HEAVEN - SEEKING AND FINDING
In this glorious transition from realm to realm we hear a voice saying, "Come up hither," and are translated from the first heaven to the second. This brings us into relation to the second spiritual law, and law number two is the reality of heaven number two. How well we know the law of the First heaven: "Ask, and you get things." That's the BMW realm! Now, let me present to you the law of the second heaven: "Seek, and ye shall find" (Mat. 7:7). I would draw your attention to the difference between receiving and finding. These two terms are not the same at all. There is also a world of difference between asking and seeking. These words are not synonyms, nor is seeking simply an intensification of asking. These two principles do not work the same way. I could ask a friend for $100.00 and he might give it to me. But that is not the same as seeking it. Let us suppose I hear about a treasure hidden in the Franklin mountains by El Paso. I decide to seek for the treasure. If I should seek for it, and find it. it would not be a gift, no one gave it to me - I found it! It is a discovery!
The difference between asking and seeking, and between receiving and finding, is that in the first heaven you ask for things and receive things, but in the second heaven you seek for God and His Kingdom and you Find the Lord Himself. The line is drawn between these two realms in the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-33. "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for the body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye need all these things. But seek ye the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
May the blessed spirit of Truth give understanding to all who read these lines! The Gentiles seek. You mean they don't ask? No, the Gentiles don't ask for things. The heathen don't ask for things. The unbeliever doesn't ask for things. Why? Because it is in their nature to seek things. "After all these things do the Gentiles seek.'' Sons of God, on the other hand, do not seek things. When they have need of things they ask - and receive. God graciously and generously gives things in response to asking. What divine simplicity! But the heathen do not know this wonderful privilege of receiving simply by asking the heavenly Father - so they seek, search, pursue, and actively strive to acquire "things". They devote themselves to it. They work at it. They expend all their time and energies for the acquisition of things. How busy they are! They burn the midnight oil and work themselves into the grave in the pursuit of things that perish with the using.
Children of the heavenly Father, who know God in the First heaven, learn to ask their Father and their Father delights to give them everything. I don't mean they don't work - but they rest in their work for they have found God as their source. But the unbeliever knows not the heavenly Father. The man outside of God does not come boldly and confidently to ask the Father for things, therefore he moves in another principle and seek things Any of you that are in the business world know what I'm talking about. That's what this whole "greed" economy is all about. All the push and shove and dog-eat-dog mentality - I will trample everybody in my path, I will use everyone I can, I will cheat, lie, abuse, grasp and scratch to get to the top. The salesman who convinces you that you need something you can't afford and don't even want - do you know what principle he is working on? You've got a dollar and he's seeking it! The whole spirit of the economic system of the world is based on the "greed factor," and it's the principle of seek things at any cost. So Jesus says that the Gentiles seek things because they never learned about asking. They have never been translated out of the lowlands of the earthy into the first heaven of spiritual experience. If you're in business with God, you've got it made, my friend. You don't have to push, shove, sweat, misrepresent, lie, cheat, use hard-sell tactics, take advantage and all the rest. But those outside this Kingdom are busy burning the rubber on the road trying to make it by seeking things. Hear now the word of the Lord! "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or. What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and ALL THESE THINGS SHALL BE A-D-D-E-D UNTO YOU." Here is the law of the second heaven: "SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD...and all these t-h-i-n-g-s shall be added unto you!" Oh - I like that law! I love this second heaven!
Let me tell you something about the word seek. In the Old Testament Hebrew, where it appears most frequently, it is the word DARASH which is derived From a root meaning "to tread, frequent, chase, pursue relentlessly and unceasingly." In the New Testament Greek seek comes From a word that means not simply to "desire" something, but to "require" it. In other words, it indicates that you will not take "No" For an answer. That is something more than asking! Asking means requesting. Seeking is demanding. The Lord said, "Ask, and it shall be given; seek (the Kingdom), and ye shall Find." And it is a great fact that in all the pages of the Bible God never instructed a Gentile, or an unconverted man, to seek God. Did you know that? Every scripture within the pages of God's Book - and they are numerous - that says, "Seek ye the Lord," is addressed to the people of God.
"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near...and our God...will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:6-7). We used to preach that evangelisticly. We hung those poor sinners over the Fires of hell until they could hear the flames crackling, they could feel the heat blasts from the pit, they could hear the fiendish cackle of the devil's laugh - and we exhorted the sinner to seek the Lord while He may be found, to call upon Him while it is still the day of salvation, because life is uncertain, death is sure, and he might die before the sun rises and go out into eternity to meet God. That makes good evangelistic preaching - but it's not scriptural. Furthermore, it's a lie. God never said to the sinner, "Seek the Lord." I've got news for you - there is no sinner that can seek the Lord!
I do not believe that the Bible anywhere teaches that man is a "free moral agent" and can "choose" or "reject" the Lord of his own volition. That teaching is a figment of the imagination of the harlot church system. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite. It tells us, "It is NOT of him that WILLETH or of him that runneth but of GOD that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:16). The biggest lie that ever was told in human language is that all men are born free moral agents. They are not born free. Be honest! Is that child free who is born in the slums, the child of a harlot and a whoremonger; a child without name, who grows up with the brand of shame upon his brow from the beginning; who grows up amidst vice, and never knows virtue until it is steeped in vice? Is such a child a free moral agent, free to act intelligently, as he chooses, upon all moral and spiritual questions? Is that child free who grows up amidst falsehood, and never knows what truth is until it is steeped in lies; that never knows what honesty is until it is steeped in crime? Is that child born free? Is that child free who is born in a communist land and in a godless home: who is told by its government and taught by its teachers that there is no God in heaven, and never knows even a verse of scripture until it is steeped in unbelief and infidelity? Is that child born free? Is he a free moral agent? It is a sham, a delusion, and a snare to say it. It is not true. All are not born into this world with freedom of choice in all things. The truth is much stronger than that, for the fact is, that NONE is a free moral agent!
It is a wicked and cruel lie to say that the unregenerated man is a "free moral agent" and can voluntarily or by persuasion "seek the Lord." He is no such thing! He is a slave. "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am a creature of the flesh (carnal), having been SOLD INTO SLAVERY UNDER THE CONTROL OF SIN" (Rom. 7:14, Amplified). The unregenerate man is a slave to sin and the devil. He is a slave to his own carnal mind and deceitfully wicked heart. He is a slave of his own, vile passions. How can a man who is a slave and a captive of the devil be a free moral agent and deliberately seek the Lord? Impossible! Adam sold us out. Adam gave us no choice in bringing his progeny under the workings of iniquity. When Adam went into sin, he did not consult with any one of us as to our desire concerning anything he did. None of us had any power or any choice in the condition in which we entered this world. "WE WERE NOT SINNERS BY CHOICE, as we have erroneously been told. We are "born in sin, and shapened in iniquity," with the carnal nature in us from the moment we leave the womb. Being "dead in trespasses and sins," dead to God, dead to truth, dead to purity, dead to reality, the Adamic race was no longer capable of making a choice or decision for God or salvation. How truly the apostle wrote in Ephesians 2:2-3, "And you...were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and WERE BY NATURE THE CHILDREN OF WRATH, even as others."
The message is clear - we were not sinners by choice. We were sinners by NATURE! We were born into this condition, simply because the first man, Adam, put us all into slavery to sin. We had nothing to say about it. We did not in any way will it, consent to it, or choose it, for we were born into it. There is no fact more self-evident than the fact of the total depravity of man, or his total inability to deliver himself from bondage to sin, and this is rooted in the fact that he is spiritually dead (unresponsive to the spirit) from birth. Total depravity means that man in his natural state is incapable of doing anything or desiring anything pleasing to God. Until our spirit is quickened by His Spirit we are slaves of the flesh and the devil and are enemies to God. When man contends that he is a free moral agent and can seek after or spurn the Lord out of his own will, the Word of God contradicts him, declaring, "There is none righteous, no not one! There is none that understandeth, there is N-O-N-E THAT SEEKETH after God" (Rom. 3:10-11).
Total depravity means that man, of his own free will, will never make a decision for Christ. Our blessed Lord bluntly says, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (Jn. 5:40). Why does our Lord say this? Because the will of the carnal man is bound by the bands of sin and death to the world of the spiritually dead. The natural man is completely incapable of discerning Truth. In fact, the carnal mind thinks of the things of God as being ridiculous! "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). Man cannot see or know the things that pertain to the Kingdom of God, without first being quickened by the Holy Spirit. Hence the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3). Unborn children do not see the light. Dead men do not see the light.
Natural men cannot comprehend even that they should come to the Light. They are the unborn dead who know only darkness UNTIL GOD SEES FIT TO GIVE THEM LIFE and understanding. Faith follows the giving of Life. The giving of Life is by the will of God. Notice the order: "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath made us alive together with Christ (by grace are ye saved)" (Eph. 2:4-5). Man is not saved by some mythical act of his ow free will. He is saved by grace, the divine enablement of God who first gives him Life and then imparts faith into his heart as a free gift. Paul continues, "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the Gift of God. It is not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
Wise men standing by the grave of Lazarus might pronounce it an evidence of insanity when the Lord addressed a dead man with the words, "Lazarus, Come forth." Ah, but He who thus spake was and is Himself the Resurrection, and the Life, and at HIS word even the dead live! Just as Lazarus would never have heard the voice of Jesus, nor would he have ever "come to Jesus," without first being given Life by our Lord, so all men "dead in trespasses and sins," must first be given Life by God before they can "come to Christ" or "seek the Lord." Since dead men cannot will to receive Life, but can be raised from the dead only by the power of God, so the natural man cannot of His own volition will to have Life and seek after the Lord. If Jesus had had no more than an "invitation" for Lazarus to receive Life, He could have knocked at that tombstone door for a long, long time. But Christ spoke the Life-giving Word and that Word brought Lazarus to life and caused his heart to begin to beat and his lungs to work, and Lazarus heard the voice of his Master and received the faith to arise and walk out of the darkness of that tomb of death.
To be continued... J. PRESTON EBY
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