KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God... "
TO BE THE LORD'S PRAYER
TEACH US TO PRAY
We are beginning today a study of that matchless gem of the life of sonship called "The Lord's Prayer". I trust that the precious mind that was in Christ Jesus will lay hold upon our hearts as we take our place at the feet of Jesus in the study of this prayer. No other form of words has a hold upon mankind like the few brief sentences of the Lord's Prayer. Not a day has passed without their use since that far thee when the firstborn Son of God taught them to His disciples. Some portions of the Word of God are so rich and inexhaustible that we come back to them again and again, as the Spirit quickens new vistas and depths of truth in words long since familiar. Such a scripture is the Lord's Prayer. As we try to plumb the depths of these great and wonderful words, let us do so with the continual prayer, "Lord, teach us to pray!
I doubt that there is a teaching in the whole Bible that unfolds more deeply the wonder, meaning, and power of prayer than does the Lord's Prayer. It is, it seems to me, the key which opens the door in the blessed kingdom of prayer. The profound, eternal truths compressed into its few, concise phrases shine with celestial brilliance. These truths radiated from the very heart of our Lord as He moved among men. They embrace the deepest secrets and the highest purposes of God, stated in human language of disarming simplicity.
Some contend that this is not "The Lord's Prayer" because He never prayed it. It was given to His disciples, they say, therefore it should be called "The Disciples' Prayer". But the prayer is called "The Lord's Prayer", not because it was expressive of Christ's own relationship with His Father, or of His own needs, for He, who was pure and sinless, certainly never prayed, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against US." It is called "The Lord's Prayer" simply because it was taught by Him. The possessive form is used in the same sense as when we speak of "Lincoln's Gettysburg Address," thereby indicating that the address was authored and given by Lincoln. Just so, "The Lord's Prayer" means that the prayer was formulated and given by the Lord Jesus to His younger brethren.
It seems strange that Jesus' disciples would say, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk. 11:1). These men had grown up in religious homes. They had attended Synagogue and had learned all the prayers of the rabbis. They had been taught the eighteen petitions of the Shema. These were eighteen prayers a Jew was to pray every day. Pious Jews paused three times each day to pray the Shema. The workman would quit his task and the teacher his lesson, to stand before God and "say" his prayers. A year earlier if you had asked these disciples, "Do you know how to pray?" they would have indignantly replied, "Of course, we know how to pray. We have prayed regularly every day since we were children." However, when they saw Jesus pray, they realized they knew nothing about prayer as they ought to know. To them prayer was a form-but to Christ it was a life and a power. As those disciples witnessed Jesus communing with His heavenly Father as a Son, as they saw Him go into prayer in one way and come out in another, as they saw the power of the Kingdom of God charged within Him in prayer, they realized that sonship prayer is something quite different from religious prayer. They realized they didn't know how to pray on this high level, after they had seen Jesus pray, and so they said, "Lord, teach us to pray."
Let me give you an illustration. Look at this number:16175663451
It tells a whole story. Can you retell it? It is hiding a number of secrets. Do you know them? It holds a universe of meanings. Do you understand them? What does this number say to you? What does it mean? And if it is not obvious, how do you go about unlocking its meaning? Try commas. You can divide it into hundreds, thousands, and millions, but that will get you nowhere. You can take out your calculator and look for mysterious factors or perfect squares or multiples of pi, but to the best of my knowledge that will lead you nowhere. Likewise, you can try to find meaning in the number of times the sacred numbers 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7 are used, or speculate on why the ? is missing, but this too is a dead-end. So is any attempt to find historical significance to the dates 1617, 1756, and so on. If you add all the numbers together, you'll come up with 45. It is a nice number, but it is not a story, a secret, a meaning, or a revelation.
The real secret is hyphens. If you put them in the right places, everything is revealed: 1-617-566-3451. Even though the information was there before, now that you see the pattern, you understand almost everything. Think about it! The "1" is the first clue. It says, "This is a long-distance call." The "1" works like a switch. When the computer hears the tone for the one, it shunts the call out of the local circuits and into the long-distance track. There are, however, other clues to the same lesson. The "617" is an area code. You can tell that both loom the position and from the 1 in the middle. All area codes (and no prefixes) have either 1 or 0 in the middle. That's another way the call is tracked as long-distance. In this case, 617 is in the eastern part of Massachusetts. The computer hears the three numbers of the "area" code and directs the call to somewhere near Boston. The 566 is the "prefix". It is the first of seven digits that make up the home phone number. When the computer hears 566, it switches the call in to the "Brookline" circuits" and into the 566 bank of numbers. Finally, the 3451 is the personal identification number of the home telephone. Now that the secrets have been unlocked, let's look for the story.
The Lord's Prayer is exactly like the numbers 16175663451. Apart from the spirit of wisdom and revelation from God, it is just as unintelligible as those numbers. Ah, we can understand the words with the natural mind just as we can identify each of the individual numbers above. But we are still without understanding. Only the Holy Spirit can give US understanding of these things. If you memorized this prayer as a child, it is still spiritually a meaningless jumble like 16175663451. In these Studies, with the Lord's help, we are going to put in the hyphens and unlock the pattern. We will examine each of the connections in this wonderful prayer and trace its paths into the Kingdom of God and the life of sonship. We will unlock the deep spiritual significance of this prayer which contains the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. We will move all the way prom the access code-"Our Father"-to the boundless glory and power of God's eternal Kingdom of Life and Light and Love!
One of the outstanding characteristics of the prayer is its exceeding brevity. All-inclusive as the Model Prayer is -- all it represents is compressed into seven brief petitions. And everywhere ill scripture, seven is the perfect number, the symbol of completeness. There is a beautiful interconnection of these petitions. Each petition grows out of the preceding one as naturally as the different parts of a plant grow out of an original seed. The primary seed in the Model Prayer is the Fatherhood of God. "Our Father" is like the "1" at the beginning of a long-distance phone call-it is the access code that makes the first connection that moves us along the path of omnipotence. It shunts us out of the circuits of "this world" and guides us along the track to a heavenly destination. The fruitage of that connection is the hallowing of God's name, the revelation of His Kingdom, the accomplishment of His will, the provision of divine sustenance, the effectual dealing with sin, deliverance from evil, and the full manifestation in and through us of God's Kingdom, power and glory. As the colors of the prismatic spectrum spring from white light, so the Fatherhood of God is the white light of the full beam, the source and the end of the seven petitions. Far from being a prayer to be recited or a formula for talking to God, the Lord's Prayer enables us to explore the depths of God and His great purpose of the ages. It reveals God as He really is and our relationship to Him in sonship. Almost a billion people regularly repeat the words of this prayer. If they really prayed it, they would bring the Kingdom of God to the whole earth!
Truly did Paul Mueller write: "Jesus taught us to pray, 'For shine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.' These are not idle, empty, meaningless words, but are words of life and truth. This prayer is not merely a declaration of faith, or a set of words intended to give Him the glory. It is that, and much more than that, for it is an expression of trust and confidence in God, giving us the assurance that He will do what He said He would do. The kingdom and the power and the glory belong unto the Lord. By His mighty power He shall bring His kingdom to earth. By His mighty, sovereign and omnipotent power, He shall cause His perfect will to be done in all the earth as it is in heaven. By His mighty, creative power, He shall give us our daily bread, both the natural and the spiritual bread that we need every day. By His mighty, kingdom power, He shall forgive us our debts, a truth we shall yet experience in a greater measure. By His power He keeps us from temptation, and delivers us from evil. And by His mighty, kingdom power, He shall subdue the nations and bring them all into the peaceful and righteous dominion of His reign. For His is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever. Amen."
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The Kingdom of God is the divine dominion of Christ's sovereignty. Accordingly, the Kingdom of God has its commandments. But these commandments are not imposed laws nor enactment's of ordinances; these commandments are the enunciation of principles. Jesus Christ is not the lawgiver of His Kingdom by way of establishing rules; but Jesus Christ is the lawgiver of His Kingdom in the sense of law-announcer, proclaiming the principles by which His Kingdom functions. Moses was the giver of laws; but Moses and his laws have gone. Jesus is the announcer of principles; and His principles abide. Moses said, "Thou shalt not..." Jesus said, "Blessed are they that..." Moses' word was a law. Jesus' word set forth a principle. The principles of the Kingdom of God are scattered throughout the New Testament. But there is one discourse of them so profound, comprehensive, explicit and divinely imperial, that it may be called the Manifesto of the Kingdom. It is the Sermon on the Mount. In the days when our blessed Lord, the King of the Kingdom, clothed ha humanity, walked as a man among us, He established a school of learning in order that His many brethren might be instructed in the way of the Kingdom of God and fulfill their roles as ambassadors of that Kingdom and rulers he the Kingdom. We shall now give heed to the curriculum that He set, and which He carried through during His own ministry; and which He caused to be recorded for all future generations.
When Jesus taught this teaching His fame had been spread abroad. He had come announcing the Kingdom of God and demonstrating its righteousness and power before the eyes of the whole nation of Israel. The time had now come for Him to set forth more distinctly the nature of His Kingdom, the conditions of citizenship in it, and the mode of propagating it. In the Gospel of Matthew the Lord's Prayer is set in the heart of the Sermon in which Jesus sets forth the principles of His Kingdom. In that Kingdom God is not only God, but Father; He not only gives all, but is Himself all. In the knowledge, fellowship and participation of Him alone is its blessedness. Hence it came as a matter of course that the revelation of prayer and the prayer-life was a part of His teaching concerning the Kingdom He came to set up. The Lord's Prayer contains the essence of Jesus' entire teachings. It is a capsule summary of the message He preached for three-and-a-half years. It contains the message of the whole Bible. Even if we were to lose access to all of the Bible except the Lord's Prayer, we would still have the essence and meaning of the Kingdom of God. Prayer is, therefore, a fundamental function in the administration of the Kingdom of God. Prayer is the very law of the Kingdom, and the sons of the Kingdom are called to its ministry. The Sermon on the Mount is the Constitution of the Kingdom of God, and prayer is a vital plank in that Constitution. The gateway into the Kingdom is by way of the principles set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom. The power of the Kingdom is spiritual power. I do not hesitate to tell you, precious friend of mine, that it is Impossible to have power in the Kingdom of God apart from the spiritual power gained by, and used in, PRAYER.
THE PATTERN PRAYER
The disciples came to Jesus and said, "Teach us to pray." They did not say, "Teach us a prayer." When you always go through the same form of words in prayer you are simply in a rut, and not truly communing with your heavenly Father. Your prayer is a form-you are "saying your prayers"-not praying. One of the most obvious examples of this is saying "grace" at the table. Most prayers said before a meal are merely prayers that are "said," not prayers that are prayed. A brother shared this observation: "When I was in high school in Montana we had a neighbor who was a self-confessed atheist, a godless fellow, but with a very engaging personality. We boys often went out to his place because he was a very generous man and let us do many interesting things on his ranch. but he had no use for the gospel or for Christian things. At meal thee he engaged in a form of ribald mockery in this matter of giving thanks, and I think he did it to shock us. He would sit down to the table and before anyone could start to eat, he would say, 'Now we are going to say grace-Pass the bread and pass the meat. Pitch in, you gol-darn fools, and eat.' Of course he intended it as a mockery, but I wonder if our own graces, cranked out mechanically, are not equally as blasphemous?"
Saying "prayers" is a lone of professional praying. The preachers in the pulpits of the church system are masters of professional praying. They "say prayers" every Sunday as a part of their program, and on special occasions. Long, written, discursive, dry, and inane are the prayers of those who have never learned at the feet of Jesus how to pray! Without unction or heart, without inspiration or revelation, they fall like a killing frost on the dull ears of congregations that are just as dead as the prayers of their preachers. Every vestige of life has perished under their breath. The deader the prayers, the longer they grow until death becomes hell in the name of God. "After this manner therefore pray ye," said Jesus. It was not a prayer to be repeated-it was to be the "seed plot" of all sonship praying. The teaching is to "pray like this," not to "pray this." It speaks of a way to pray, not a form of prayer. If you direct the attention of a one-year-old child to some object by pointing with your hand, he will look only at the pointing finger. He cannot realize that you are referring to something beyond. In like manner, the baby Christians of all generations have missed completely the great truths and principles to which our Lord pointed when He gave this prayer to His disciples. A mockery and a vanity are these words when said as a memorized form, when nicely repeated before a crowd, or privately. It is like a baby staring at the pointing finger. The great and eternal truth is missed entirely in such empty and meaningless activity.
There is doubtless not a single man, woman, or child reading these lines that cannot quote the Lord's Prayer from memory. You can say it while thinking of something else. You can say it while looking back upon yesterday or forward to tomorrow. You have prayed it with the tender lips of childhood. You have prayed it in the intimacy of the family circle. You have prayed it in the small prayer group and in the great congregation. And, yet, it is possible that with all your praying of it you have never really prayed it at all! For saying a prayer is not praying. Elijah is a splendid example. James says that "he prayed earnestly" (James 5:17). The Greek phrase might better be translated: "he prayed in prayer." Many believers "say" their prayers. Elijah "prayed" his prayers. What a difference! It is not enough to admire, or study or say the Lord's Prayer¾ there must be a deep and spiritual revelation not only of what Jesus taught us to pray, but of what He taught us about praying. As we understand the great principles of this prayer, we shall find that though we learned it at our mother's knee, it takes a lifetime to fill it with its meaning, it requires ages to give it all its fullness. One of the first things that needs to be indelibly impressed upon our hearts is that the Lord's Prayer is not "a" prayer at all! Yet, when the prayer- is rightly understood by the wisdom that comes from above it will make everything you are and everything you do real prayer. Never can we exhaust the depth and significance of this one prayer. As we enter into its depths and give ourselves up to its mighty power, there come to us insights and understanding far beyond our expectation and possibilities and potentials transcending our wildest imaginations.
ENTER THE CLOSET
"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" (Mat. 6:6). How many varieties of inner chambers there are! For example, Abraham's "closet" was the oak of Morey; Isaac's closet was the field of Hebron; Hezekiah's closet was his sick bed; Peter's closet was the house-top; Jesus' closet was often the mountain-top.
I have known saints who were embarrassed because of the frustrating failure of being able to pray in public. Now, while there is an occasional place for public prayer, the God-ordained place of prayer is in the enclosed privacy where there is no other motivational influence than the fellowship of a son with his Father. I do not hesitate to tell you that I do not enjoy public prayer. I would rather- never pray in public. It is unnatural to me. Why do others need to hear the words that are addressed to my Father alone? I cannot pour out my deepest heart or express my most intimate thoughts, desires, concerns, and confessions in the ears of the listening multitude, or even in the hearing of my most intimate friend. Not one word of my prayer is meant for any but my Father, not one word of my prayer is directed toward any but my God. It is this being with God and God alone, that is the essence of prayer. And that brings to mind the solitary nights of clear starlight which Jesus spent on the hills of Galilee, when the holiest events that ever occurred in a human soul took place in His, when marvelous discourse with the Father unfolded within His consciousness the reality of His sonship to God, when it must have seemed as if a quite unique tone released itself from our earth and made its way to the farthest expanses of the heavenlies above. And now-in the secret place of the Most High His younger brethren, the sons of God, are bidden to live this over again! A reflection of it is still to be found on this earth as long as there is one child of God coming to the secret place to know the Father as his very own Father.
We live in a day of distractions. We are beset. Radios blare. Televisions run from early morning till late at night. Traffic roars. Neon lights flash and dazzle. Headlines explode. Advertising is a vast conspiracy to make us look and listen. Our lives are incredibly busy, with more responsibilities crowded into each day than can be done. Nerves are frayed, emotions tense we are stressed out. We are assaulted by a constant battery of sights and sounds and smells. The solution is not to be found in the doctor's office, the psychiatrist's couch, or in a bottle of pills. Jesus teaches us we must free ourselves. Man has been given dominion over all things. The environment is not to rule us, we must rule our environment. The first step to such liberty and power is found in the words of wisdom which distilled like dew from the gracious lips of the One who truly lived life as it was meant to be lived, "but thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door…." We can close the mind against the distractions, soul and body against the pressures, and deliberately expose ourselves to the quickening, transforming power of the presence of God. Prayers should be made in a quiet and private place. The counsel is specific: the place should be free from distractions, the door shut against the spirit of the world, and the prayer free from influence or posturing, because it is in "secret". Jesus Himself set the example. He often went away apart into the desert or into a 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.
Close the door when you enter into your "closet". Get into the inner chamber and close the door. Sometimes it is a good thing to close the door of the eye so that things that are suggested by sight will not come into your mind. I have seen sometimes that it is a very good thing to close the door of the ears, and not so much as listen to what anyone else has to say about the issue. Go right inside and close even the door of human touch. Do not put out your hand to lean upon your dearest one. There are times when we need the counsel or support or help of another, but sometimes you need to close the door of all the five senses and all that speaks to them, and commune in spirit, as spirit with spirit, with the Father of Spirits- our Father! Get inside and talk to God in Spirit, apart from all outward sensation. You do not need to close the door of your inner chamber by going to an inner chamber in your house. That is a good thing to do if you have one; but you can close the door of the inner chamber- of your own being by shutting the five great gates of sensation at any time and place and communing with God there.
The life of sonship is a hidden, inner life, having to do with the spiritual and invisible One who sees in secret. It is a secluded life, hid with Christ in God. The life in Christ neither strives nor shouts, nor does one hear its voice in the streets. It shrinks from all outward displays, whether showy public almsgiving, conspicuous religious exercises, oratorical prayers, ceremonious fastings, broadened phylacteries, processional parades, clerical costume, titles, or degrees, or holy tones. Like a planet around the sun, it rolls in its orbit of obedience to the Father without fanfare or advertisement; like the sun itself, it shines without noise. We live in a day of much feverish running to and fro, and Martha-like preoccupation about much serving; a day of organizations, conventions, television shows, and public meetings and programs of all sorts. It has almost come to be understood, even in "sonship" and ''kingdom'' circles that we can do nothing for God unless we organize, promote, and hold a public meeting. The secret life of aloneness with God has largely given way to the public life of gatherings, meetings, and activities. The closet has given way to the Synagogue. There is indeed a time for the corporate expression, but first and foremost let your watchword be: Alone with God. We need to hide ourselves with God before we show ourselves for God. Elijah did. God said to Elijah, "Hide thyself," before He said, "Show thyself." "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan" (I Kings 17:3). "And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth" (I Kings 18:1). It is my deep conviction that we are living in the hour of the hiding of the sons of God. The sons shall come to intimately and fully know the Father in the secret place, and be prepared and equipped by Him there, before they are shown to the world in the long-awaited manifestation of the sons of God.
There is an aloneness that transcends physical location. We have all had the experience of being in a crowd, but so occupied with our own thoughts, that we were oblivious to all around us. We were alone in a crowd! The true closet is within- in the secret place of the Most High in the depths of our Spirit. We can, at any time and in any place, shut the door and be alone with God, shut in with God in the secret place.
What do these four words suggest: "Enter into thy closet"? The word "closet" is unusual. The original Greek word, TAMEION, is found but four times in the New Testament, in one place being rendered "secret chambers" and in another "storehouse." To the Hebrew mind there was one place that was pre-eminently a secret chamber: it was that inmost court of the tabernacle and temple, where God especially dwelt, and which was known as the Most Holy Place. That was transcendentally a secret chamber, a closed place. It had neither door nor window, unlike many an Eastern Court which is open to the sky. When the Most Holy Place was entered, the veil, raised as the High Priest went in, automatically fell back to its place as soon as it was released, and so kept the secrecy's of God's habitation from uncircumcised eyes. Here was one place, peculiarly marked by silence, secrecy, solitude and separation. Only one person ever entered here, and that only once each year, and he entered alone. Two or more persons were never known to meet there save the High Priest and Yahweh Himself. Can we not see by this that the highest form of prayer is impossible, unless and until each member of the Royal Priesthood, the body of the great High Priest, deliberately seeks to meet God absolutely alone. Yes, every son of God needs to meet the Father absolutely alone. All thought of human auditors or observers is a hindrance to the closest approach and the highest power in prayer. This holy and secret place is not a place for oratory- a place for the pouring out of great volumes of needs and wants- so much as a "place of vision"- of contemplation of God, from which to get new views of God, fresh revelations of Him, and fuller impartations of His grace, wisdom and power. Each and every son must KNOW GOD FOR HIMSELF.
There is a quest higher than mere request- a search after knowledge of God and communication from Him. In this secret place we are changed, just as Jesus was metamorphosed on the holy Mount "as He prayed." The closet is the perfect school teacher for a son of God. One can learn more in an hour alone with God than from many hours of study. Books are in the closet that can be found and read nowhere else. Revelations are given in the closet that are given and received nowhere else. Power is obtained in the closet that is available nowhere else. The true closet of the son of God is not built of stone and lime. The secret place of God is not a thing of wood and nails, or bolts and bars. The man after God's own heart builds for himself a little sanctuary, all his own; he builds a house for God in the inner world of the spirit. We say, "This is the house of God: this is the gate of heaven." This inner sanctuary of the spirit, in the deepest part of our life, is the quiet place of inner reality where we experience God as our ALL. "Be still and know that I am God," saith the Lord out of His holy place within.
The sons of God are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son. "Having PREDESTINATED us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:5). The Greek word translated "predestinated" is POORIZO, a compound of the preposition PRO, meaning "before," and the verb HORIZO, meaning "to fix a limit, to establish a boundary.'' Our English word "horizon," the boundary that sets the limit to how far we can see, comes from HORIZO. Thus, predestination means that in love God has PRE-ESTABLISHED A BOUNDARY ABOUT US and in this way determines beforehand the sphere of our existence, activity, and state of being. Those whom the Father "chose" to place as members of His Son are, by God's sovereign will, brought into blessed fellowship and vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Those whom the Father did not at this time see fit to establish "in Christ Jesus" are merely left in that realm outside the conscious awareness of His love and grace, the realm of death. ALL will be drawn in due time for the promise is sure: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL MEN unto Me!" These are simply not being drawn now, nor are they predestinated to the present calling.
Several years while teaching in a meeting a sister asked the question: ''Brother Eby, don't you think there are some people who are predestinated to sonship in this hour, and, regardless of what comes or goes, what they do or don't do, they will make it?" Now, I perceived by the Spirit where she was coming from, and what she meant was that there are certain persons who are predestinated to be sons, and matters not the depth of consecration, how they live, what they do, how they conduct their lives, what is their lifestyle, whether they revel in worldliness, wallow in sin, or any other thing, they will finally make it in by grace just because they are predestinated.
I replied, "It is true that certain persons ARE PREDESTINATED to sonship and because of that predestination WILL become the sons of God. The message is clear: 'For whom He did foreknow, He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son' (Rom. 8:29). Thus, if one is truly apprehended to sonship, the proof of his predestination will be found in the fact of his EXPERIENTIALLY BEING TRANSFORMED INTO THE IMAGE OF GOD'S SON. Men are not predestinated to be either "saved" or "lost." No scripture on predestination applies it on that level. That is one of the gross misunderstandings of Calvinism. Predestination is unto two things: sonship and conformation to the image of the Son. So- if one says, "I am predestinated to he a Son," but lives and acts like a devil, he obviously has no revelation of sonship. When any man or woman claims to be called to sonship but no change to God's divine nature is taking place in their lives, then I do not hesitate to tell you, my beloved, that sonship to such a person is merely a doctrine or mental concept and they are in all reality self-deceived. Nothing can be clearer than this bright gem of truth: "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.'' Therein lies the unmistakable proof of one's predestination. Predestined...TO BE CONFORMED!
Nothing but the knowledge of God, as the Holy One, will make us holy. And how are we to obtain that knowledge of God, save in the INNER CHAMBER? It is a thing utterly impossible unless we take the time and allow the holiness of God to shine on us. How can any man on earth obtain intimate knowledge of another man, if he does not associate with him, and place himself under his influence? And how can God Himself transform us into His nature and character, if we do not yield ourselves to His holy promptings to turn aside and be brought under the power and the glory of His presence and life? This is how our Elder Brother teaches us to pray- He brings us into the Father's living presence. Nowhere can we get to know the holiness of God, and come under its influence and power, except in the inner chamber. No one can expect to be changed into His glorious image who is not often and long alone with God.
"Shut in with God in the secret place,
There in the Spirit beholding His face;
Gaining new power to run in the race,
I love to be shut in with God."
The following words of inspiration from the pen of Carl Schwing add precious height and depth to this blessed reality. "There is a special feeling in the forest during the winter which only comes with the absence of man. All nature seems free as the cold wind howls through the frozen fingers of the mighty monarchs of the forest. The bear rest safely in their dens...the deer search for delicacies hidden in the snow, and birds find warmth in the brush of the field. As far as the eye can see there are no footprints in the soft white gift of winter…there have been no intruders into this holy place. The only sounds are that of the bluejay, hawk, or owl...or the screaming of a wildcat. In these precious moments one truly knows that the earth is the Lord's. Indeed there is a peace and sacredness that exists in the absence of man. There is a still small voice which can only be heard in the absence of man. Our spirits are free as the wind as the Spirit gently moves within our hearts. There can be no intruders into our holy place. We are alone with the Father...we hear His voice...we know that we belong to Him, and that once again we are dwelling in the regions of His Kingdom. Indeed there are truths that we can see and know and become...in the absence of man.
"Let all who will, turn against us...God is for us, nothing else really matters. We are the firstfruits of the Kingdom, not by choice, but by predestination. We were created to sit with Christ in heavenly places, yea, to sit with Him in His Father's Kingdom. Soon the light of His Kingdom shall cover the earth, and all shall see and know God's Christ. We can see the light of the dawn as it breaks through the darkness of an old dying age. We can hear the Living Word as it flows from the 'still small voice.' And with the mouth of the Spirit, we speak the things of the Father. Alone, forsaken, rejected, and despised...how lovely to worship in His presence...in the absence of man. In the absence of man, there is truly an entering into the Kingdom of God, and indeed there is a receiving of Jesus Christ into the earth which we are. There is a partaking of the Order of the Kingdom, a knowledge of the Everlasting Gospel, and there is a fellowship with the Spirits of justified men. There is a place by Him where sons abide, a place where the Everlasting Covenant is reopened, a place where we regain the glory we had with Him in our beginning. In this secret place of gold (deity) we share union with God, which is partaking of the Godhead: Father, Sons and Spirit"-end quote.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Mat. 6:7). For centuries men have practiced their VAIN REPETITIONS before the Lord, thinking they would be heard for their much speaking, hoping that by often repeating their requests God would at last take heed to their supplication and grant them the answer they desired, all the time forgetting that our heavenly Father knows what things we have need of before we ask.
This element of wordiness, of reiteration of the same phrases and words over and over, was characteristic of all heathen prayers. The idea was to overcome the indifference or preoccupation of the gods by the continual drum-beat into their ears of your desires and needs. This laborious and time consuming custom resulted in the creation of the prayer wheels of the Tibetans and other Eastern peoples. Thin paper prayers are attached to a great wheel. Then the wheel is cranked and the devotee turns the wheel all day long. Each revolution of the wheel is supposedly equivalent to the utterance of the prayers inscribed on the wheel. Each time the wheel goes around it means that your prayer has been made without you doing anything. It is a mechanized prayer life! In Christendom the burning of candles is supposed to fulfill a similar purpose. This, my beloved, is the death-knell of all prayer, the chief aim of which is to bring man into intimacy of fellowship and vital union with the heavenly Father.
Does our Lord forbid all repetitions of the same words? Certainly not. There is misunderstanding here with some people that all repetitions are vain. The emphasis is not upon repetitions, but upon vain. There are some repetitions that are not vain. There are some repetitions that are good. For example, how many times does our Lord Jesus say "Father" in the 17th chapter of John? Sixty-two times! Is that a vain repetition? Abba, Father! You can say it adoringly. You can say it respectfully. You can say it confidentially. You can say it tenderly. Again, Jesus repeated the same prayer three times in Gethsemane. Was that a vain repetition? What then does He warn against? The senseless and mechanical repetition of prayers for repetition's sake, substituting quantity for quality. And this is a characteristically heathen habit. That is how the prophets of Baal prayed on mount Carmel in Elijah's time, calling out the name of their god from morning even until noon, saying, "O Baal, hear us!" Thus pray the Buddhist monks today, ceaselessly repeating for whole days the sacred syllable, "Um! Um! Um!"-a lot like the pagan ''harmonic convergence" of the contemporary New Age Movement. But is this any worse than the rosary of the Roman Catholics, which requires at each large bead the recitation of a Pater Noster, or at each of the small beads the recitation of ten Ave Marias, to end with a Gloria Patri?
The howling Moslem devishes will yell, "Allah! Allah!" for hours without any praise or petition. One Greek poet has in a single prayer nearly a hundred verses filled with a repetition of the same invocation to the gods. The Hindu fakir will stand all day long and repeat the name of his god. The Buddhist thinks there is salvation in the endless repetition of a magic formula. The pietistic Jews are still under the influence of this error. When they read their prayers, nothing can exceed their vehemence. They read with all their might, and then cry aloud like the prophets of Baal. But is this much worse than the ritual of our Pentecostal friends who gather at the altar and shout the same requests over and over, as they cry out loudly and emotionally to God in much the same way as the prophets of Baal on far away Carmel? Ray Prinzing once wrote: "I remember standing outside the building one day, having gone to my car to retrieve something I had forgotten, and I could hear the noise rising in pitch as it came through the open window, and wondered what others walking down the sidewalk would think. Is God so deaf He must be screamed at? Or, was this simply an indication of their own soulish frustration in prayer? I was used to this method of praying-having been raised in a Pentecostal denomination where they would often say, 'God is not deaf, so you can pray in a whisper, but neither does He get nervous if you shout.' And often it was deemed a measure of the anointing upon you as to how loud and fast you gave voice. We learned that loudness was not synonymous with anointing. Prayer is not a screaming at God, but a communion with Him. A child may demand attention with its screaming, and the parent will immediately set about to first quiet the child, and then gently minister to the need. But as that child grows into maturity, he approaches the parent calmly, quietly, to share whatever is upon his heart and mind. He has learned to get past the noise approach into an intimate relationship."
SEASONS FOR PRAYER
All the various works of God know their appointed times. The wise man said, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven (Ecc. 3:1). Everything in nature sets the example of precise order and patterns, and so it is also in the realm of spirit. Every spiritual activity has its appointed time and season. There is a time to be a babe in Christ, a time to grow, a time to learn, a time to mature. There is a time to give oneself to prayer, a time to devote oneself to the Word, a time to share and witness, a time to work and bless, a time to heal and encourage, a time to correct, admonish or rebuke, and a time to simply BE the expression of God in the earth. But while I am asserting the necessity of seasons for prayer and all other spiritual activities, let no one think I am suggesting that we should carnally determine these seasons, for instance, "I will pray for an hour every morning between 5:00 and 6:00," or "I will study the scriptures each night just before I go to bed." While such resolutions sounds logical and laudable to the natural mind, spiritually it just doesn't work! Spiritually, such self-efforts are rubbish!
The seasons for spiritual work are spiritual seasons, not natural. They depend upon the leading and moving of the Spirit of God, the flow of His life, the discernment of His mind, the unction of His will- not the position of the hands on the clock or the sun in the sky. Are you familiar with the legend of Chanticleer, the rooster? Chanticleer thought that his crowing caused the sun to rise. He even felt that if one day by accident he should fail to crow, the sun would not rise at all. Of course, the universe is quite different from what Chanticleer imagined. For in fact it was the sun with its soft rays of dawn that awoke Chanticleer. He was only a herald, the announcer of all the light and warmth contained in the sun. It is so with God and us. We do not move God by our efforts and prayers- it is God who moves us to pray!
There are times when I have "decided" to spend time in prayer, but when I turned aside to give myself to it, no matter how I labored there was no sense of His presence, no flow of His life, no quickening of His Spirit; the heavens were brass and God seemed a million miles away. I could get nowhere and the whole time proved unproductive. But there are other times when I found myself praying, I found myself desiring to pray, moved to pray, and that was the Holy Spirit urging me to do what was necessary to enable things to happen the way they were supposed to happen. It's a mystery I don't fully understand, but there are times when I have to pray, there are times when the altar of my soul is full of clouds of holy incense as I send up petitions, as I decree a word, not for myself, but for others, and when I can't articulate them in English I send them up in an unknown tongue. This is the spiritual "season" of prayer of which I speak determined, not by my carnal understanding or soulish effort, but set by the Spirit Himself.
Ah, dear one, discern the "mood" of the Spirit, be sensitive to the "times" of the Spirit, find the "stream" of the Spirit, and FLOW WITH IT. Pray when the anointing for prayer comes. I do not hesitate to tell you that more will be accomplished in ten minutes in the flow of HIS LIFE than can be wrought in many hours of praying or studying or ministering after the flesh. Learn this and you will understand a great secret: If a person is not moved to pray by the unction of the Spirit he can hardly succeed in prayer. Except you be quickened inwardly, you cannot pray in the Spirit. But when you pray "in season" you touch the throne of the Most High, and just as the apple tree bears its apples "in season," just so will your prayers bring forth a mighty harvest when they function in season. You mount above the stars beyond creation's limit, and the soul is alone with God. The electric current which thrills every fiber of the human frame, is but a faint image of that spiritual force that comes forth at this contact with the celestial and the divine. We touch, in union with Him, all things that are lawful and high in His eternal dwelling place.
If we would fulfill the divine function of the Kingdom of God on earth let us cherish the motions of God's Spirit in our hearts. The mariner may spread his sails, but the ship cannot go to its destination without a gale of wind; so we may spread the sails of our endeavor, but we cannot bring the Kingdom of God on earth without the moving wind of God's Spirit. How vital then becomes our sensitivity and yieldedness to the motions of the Spirit, motions to prayer, motions to intercession, motions to praise and worship and thanksgiving. "When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself, for then shall the Lord go out before thee" (II Sam. 5:24). So, when we hear a voice within us, a secret inspiration stirring us up to pray, we must hasten to move with God. It is the power of His Kingdom in manifestation. While the Spirit works in us, we should work with the Spirit. Oh! make much of the motion of the Spirit- it is the energizing of God to accomplish great and mighty things for the Kingdom!
TO BE THE LORD'S PRAYER
It is one thing to understand. It is another thing to do. But it is yet another thing to BE. "We shall be, like Him..." As we arrive at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ we do not merely understand the great truths of the Lord's prayer; we do not only truly pray the Lord's Prayer; WE SHALL BE THE LORD'S PRAYER. We will learn to become the Lord's Prayer, but in order to do so we must walk with the Lord of the Lord's Prayer. In the words of Michael Wood from Australia, "We have had a completely new breakthrough in our prayer life. It seems that union and communion with the Father, beyond the veil, changes prayer into a state of being and a oneness with God, rather than a tedious labor, even of love."
The greatest manifestation of power is not in what we say or what we do- it is just simply what we are. If we are the image of God in the earth, the Lord's prayer will be inspired in the minds and hearts of men though they have never heard nor learned it. Beholding in us the nature of God lived out will create in men, the intense longing, the deep and insatiable cry for God to be their Father, to know the Father as we know Him, to receive from the Father what we have of Him, for His rule to come in their lives, for His will to be done, sins be forgiven, temptation and weakness to be conquered, and evil to be overcome. Simply, men will want what they see in us. When the glory, power, love, purity, reality and life of God in you evoke the desire for salvation and transformation into the likeness of God in other's hearts, YOU HAVE BECOME THE LORD'S PRAYER!
The entire Lord's Prayer must be something that flows out of a transformed heart. It must be a definition, a statement of your spirit, the expression of God, what is inside you, what you are. Thus:
I can not say "our" if I live only for myself.
I cannot say "Father" if I do not endeavor each day to live and walk as His son.
I cannot say "who art in heaven" if I am not seeing by the spirit.
I cannot say "hallowed be Thy name" if I am not expressing His nature.
I cannot say "Thy Kingdom come" if I am not making Him Lord in my life.
I cannot say "Thy will be done" if I am not following His leading and obeying His word.
I cannot say "in earth as it is in heaven" if I do not yield my members unto Him.
I cannot say "give us this day our daily bread" if His Word is not being made flesh in me.
I cannot say "forgive us our debts" if I harbor a grudge or bitterness toward anyone.
I cannot say "lead us not into temptation" if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say "deliver us from evil" if I do not put on the whole armor of God.
I cannot say "Thine is the Kingdom" if I do not give the King the loyalty due Him from a faithful subject.
I cannot say "Thine is the power" if I fear what men may do or blame things on the devil.
I cannot say "Thine is the glory" if I am seeking honor only for myself, promoting my ministry, or taking any credit for what God does through me.
Jesus prayed. How He prayed! And yet, the fact of the matter is that when we contemplate deeply the prayer life of Jesus we find that prayer was not simply a part of His life; it was His life. Prayer was the underlying attitude of His mind and heart. Prayer was the atmosphere in which He lived, the energy that fueled His engine, the air that He breathed. So true was this of God's firstborn Son that the Hebrew of Psalms 109:4 was literally true of Him: "But I am prayer." The King James Version reads, "But I give myself to prayer." Notice, however, that the words "give myself to" are in italics. That means they are not in the original, but were supplied for some reason by the translators. Without those added words the Hebrew says, "But I prayer." There is no word in Hebrew for "am"- it is understood. The correct way to say "I am prayer" in the Hebrew language is to say "I prayer." And that is how it reads! Jesus was prayer. And God is making a people prayer in this hour- it is becoming our nature, our state of being.
I would close by sharing these meaningful words by Ray Prinzing: "The Greek word for prayer is PROSEUCHOMAI meaning: to pray or wish toward God. But it is far more than getting God to run our errands for us, or begging Him for all the things on our 'wish list'. For true prayer seeks GOD HIMSELF, it is a coming into an awareness of Him- while we share with Him not only the desires of our heart, but a fellowship, and a listening for Him to share with us of His desire for us, and His plan for us. Truly prayer goes far beyond petition, it is that outflow of desire to HIM, in worship, adoration, desire for HIS WILL alone to be fulfilled within. As this becomes the focus of our days- to live out, to become HIS WILL, HIS PRAISE IN THE NOW, then we have linked that seemingly distant future of full salvation to our present times, and brought deep meaning to our daily living.
"There is a principle which we have spoken of over and over again through the years, namely: The highest form of anything is TO BECOME that thing. Thus we see that the highest form of prayer is not just a bended knee and offering our petitions, it is when we become a LIVING PRAYER, our state of being is a pulsating desire for His kingdom to be established in the earth. We are to become HIS PRAISE, not to just praise, but a state of being that redounds to His glory. We are not just to speak truth, but we are to BE TRUTH.
"James brings us a very enlightening point, when he says, 'The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much' (James 5:16). The words "effectual fervent" are from one Greek word ENERGEO, which Young's Concordance gives to mean: to work in, be inwrought. And again the thought is two-fold. First of all the prayer WORKS IN US, it becomes an INWORKING PRAYER, for the first essential changes must be in us. Thus it works in us until we become aligned with, are ONE IN HIS WILL. And then there is power in the prayer to reach outward to help one another, as is so beautifully borne out in the Amplified translation which says 'The earnest (heart-felt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available- dynamic in its working"'-end quote.
To be continued...
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