Prayer Series IV
The Living Example
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 25 November 2000
Back to Part 3
Today I want to talk to you about my own experiences in prayer, and the experiences of many other Christians. I have spent three weeks looking into the theory of prayer. Though I know for some this might seem heavy work, it is very necessary indeed. If we omit any of the seven ingredients of the Lord's Prayer, or start adding our own, we are going to come face to face with a blank wall or start opening channels to demonic impersonation. Prayer is so important to the welfare of a Christian that the enemy, Satan, uses a lot of his time and resources to stopping people from praying. And sometimes he does it in most dramatic ways.
On Tuesday morning one of my friends in America telephoned me and we got around to talking about this subject and he was telling me about some recent experiences from his ministry. He made this startling observation which confirmed my own experience: if you are ministering the truth to someone, and the Holy Spirit is filling you and telling you what to say, and the person you are witnessing to doesn't want to hear the truth because it is attacking the foundation of their false belief, their spirit literally puts up a barrier and they go to sleep. He said to me how he would notice peoples' eyes start to roll, as one does when one passes out. They then start to fidget looking from one side to the other, and can't seem to sit still. Their one inner unconscious desire is to escape - to physically get out of your presence. And if they can't do that they will start falling asleep. If they are demon-posessed themselves then they will show different symptoms - they will physically launch out into an attack which may, if you persist in your witness, get more and more violent.
On 8 December 1941 the Japanese launched their infamous attack on Pearl Harbour which marked the entrance of the United States into the Second World War. Japan made no declaration of war so the attack came as a complete surprise. The American President rightly called it "a day of infamy", and the worst kind of treachery and cowardice. But what the Japanese did not realise was that they had unleashed a power that would lead to their own eventual destruction in 1945, bringing atomic destruction in its wake at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now the man who formed the plan of attack on Pearl Harbour, Admiral Yamamoto, concluded that in order to retain the element of surprise he would attack the Americans when they were most vulnerable. So he chose to attack on a Sunday and in the early morning when he knew that everyone would be asleep.
When Satan attacks our prayer lives, he does exactly the same thing too. He gives no warning and attacks you at your most vulnerable spot. In terms of tactics and strategy, he puts Yamamoto and all the greatest military geniuses throughout history, into the shadows. What Satan does is to look at the seven elements of the Lord's prayer in a Christian's life and asks himself: where is this person not doing as he or she is told? When Yah'shua (Jesus) was asked how one should pray, he gave the infallible formula. He gave seven steps - not eight, not nine, not six or five, but seven. And he gave them in a certain order.
Some of you here will know that we have a BBC computer game in which you have to put actions in the right order so they make sense. The actions are given, for example, for driving a car or planting a seed, but they're mixed in the wrong order. The game teaches you mental logic. A problem that many Christians have is that they know the different parts of the Gospel but they get them in the wrong order. Thus one group of Christians says that in order to get something from God all you have to do is visualise it and claim it in Christ's Name. If you do that, they say, you will eventually get it. Needless to say, the Lord's Prayer absolutely does not teach us to do this. This technique comes straight out of the occult and is demonic.
Thus let's say you want someone to send you some money that you think you need. What these people do is create a mental picture of the person and in their mind's eye imagine that that person is giving them the money. What actually happens is that when you do this you psychically attack that person and establish, whether successfully or unsuccessfully will depend on the degree of control Satan has over you, a telepathic link. Telepathy is mediated by demonic powers - it is not of God. There are many who have undoubted psychic powers and who believe it is God who has given them these powers. He has not. The Lord's prayer tells us that we are to direct all prayer to Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, in the Name of the Son, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) - we are not to direct prayers towards people or circumstances. The godly kind of prayer may be called vertical prayer because it is heaven directed - that's why in the 'Sunday' part of the Lord's Prayer we acknowledge "our Father which art in HEAVEN" - we make it quite clear what the direction of our prayer is. The other, false kind of prayer, may be said to be horizontal prayer - between humans. When a person indulges in that kind of communication demonic forces will immediately pounce on him.
The other week my mother and I were talking about an Englishman and his wife who defected to the nazis in the last war and who broadcast German propaganda to Britain. He was known colloquially as Lord Haw Haw. The Germans would jam the British airwaves and break in at the same wavelength with their own broadcasts.
Satan does exactly the same thing in prayer. He can, and very often does, deflect you off onto something completely different - it can be almost anything possible. You might be in deep prayer when, suddenly, you're thinking of your last meal, your favourite game, your career, or whatever. When he does that he literally shuts down the prayer channel. Sometimes he breaks in himself, as the German broadcasters used to do, and starts giving his message to you. He will try at first to convince you that it is God talking and get you to believe him - he may give you burning feelings, visions, some dramatic psychic, telepathic link which he knows will hold you fascinated because of its novelty or dramatic power, or, if he senses you are on to him, may dispense with all subtle forms of deception and just attack you outright. He prefers the subtle approach, of course, because that way he remains concealed and he can manipulate you. But even if you expose him, he will not just leave you alone - he will try to wear you out, create a sense of desperation within you, and if he can, even try to kill you. Let's be quite clear about his agenda: your destruction. Sometimes Christians just cave in - they surrender - because they're worn out. But they don't need to.
Whether any of us likes it or not, we are in a war zone called planet earth. There may be physical wars between nations, within societies, and within even families, but the prime cause is on the invisible plane. We can't escape that war. When you're at war, small mistakes can be very costly. I've been telling you recently about the German defeat of France in 1940. France need not have lost that battle and Europe need not have been plunged into six years of terrible warfare if certain governments hadn't been weak. Hitler could have been stopped as early as 1936 when he remiliterised the Rhineland. But with each success caused by weakness on the part of the allies he got bolder and bolder. And each time he took more and more. That is Satan's method. Wear down your enemy, get him to compromise with the truth, and then smash him with one final blow.
Well, Hitler nearly succeeded and believe me Satan has nearly succeeded in destroying many strong Christians because they gave way on a critical font. And if you want to know how and where they fell, you have only to look at the steps of the Lord's Prayer to find where they went wrong.
Let's take the first step of the Lord's prayer: "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name." Millions of people go off course because they worship the wrong god. Even most Christians don't know what God's actual Name is! It's incredible, but true. Most pagans don't see God as a "Father" at all - the Moslems don't. So what is God's Name? It is, as we have already discussed, YAHWEH. The Jehovah's Witnesses worship an entity called "Jehovah" which is a blasphemous name mocking the true God, meaning in the Hebrew, "Yahweh is perverse". Yes, that is what that vile name means. And the incredible thing is that that hideous name has been appearing in our Bibles since it was put there four or five centuries ago. That name even appears in our hymns and spiritual songs, including one of my favourites, "Guide us, O, Thou Great 'Jehovah'". Jehovah is a name of Satan.
The Mormons worship a god called "Ahman" - they do not worship Yahweh at all. They also worship someone called "Elohim" which, though a Biblical word, is not the name of God. It's a word that can be used to mean either the true God or pagan gods and demons. That is why in the Scriptures it is attached to God's true Name, and is why we sometimes address Him as "Yahweh-Elohim".
Even the word "God" isn't adequate because that is the translation of El or Elohim which can refer to either the true God or to false ones.
The Freemasons worship a God called "Jahbulon", a combination of Jehovah, the Canaanite Baal, and the Egyptian On, though they don't tell their members this until they reach about the 30th initiation degree or higher. One active high ranking freemason, Albert Pike, admitted that the god of the Freemasons was Lucifer, Satan's name before he fell.
The list goes on and on. I knew a girl who had been into witchcraft who wanted to become a Christian who tried to praise the Name of Yahweh but who couldn't open her mouth - she was still demon-possessed. The same happened when she tried to call upon the Name of Christ. Many people can't even get beyond the first part of the Lord's Prayer.
What is most important, however, is that we know what sort of a person Yahweh is. Do you see him in intimate terms as your Father - as my children see me as their earthly father - or as someone distant and remote?
The Hebrew for Father is "Abba" and the way it is used in the Lord's Prayer is in the same way that my children call me "Daddy" or "Pappa" - it is a term of intimacy and personal endearment. Yahweh had never been addressed in this way before. It is perfectly true that the Jews did know Him as "My Father" - however, they didn't use the word "Abba" but the more distant and impersonal "Abhi".
Notice also that Yah'shua instructed us to call Yahweh "OUR Father" and not "My Father" - only Yah'shua Himself is ever recorded in Scripture as calling Yahweh "My Father". You may think this is not important but it is. You see, Yah'shua was uniquely the Son of God, with a capital "S", whereas we are "sons" (with a little "s") and "daughters" in a quite different way. Can you see again the importance again of the family of Christ, the Church? We are supposed to be praying the model prayer as a community of believers and not just as individuals. Why didn't Yah'shua (Jesus) teach us to say: "My Father, which art in heaven..."? Do you remember Day 2, Monday? That was the day we pray for "Thy Kingdom come" - a society of true believers. From the very beginning, therefore, we see that Christian discipleship is most certainly not a private, personal thing but communal. That Family is so eternal - so unbreakable - that we are described as being married to Christ allegorically in heaven as though we were all one single Bride! Christianity is about believers working together, praying together, living together, being saved together. The first word of the Lord's prayer is "OUR" - , not "My" - note that well.
The Lord's Prayer completely blasts away all notions of personal, private Christianity, and there are many reasons for this which I don't have time to go into today. I will only say, though, that there is safety in numbers - I can't tell you how often I have been grateful that there have been people praying with me, even if they have been on the opposite side of the world. There's nothing quite as terrible as being alone. We weren't made to be alone either in day to day affairs or in the spiritual realm. So the first message of the Lord's prayer is to be found in the first word "our" and that is - pray with others. That isn't to say you should not pray privately because Yah'shua (Jesus) taught us to go into our closets and do that too. We need the one-to-one relationship to be sure. But it can't end there.
Day 3, the Tuesday of prayer, is about being in Yahweh's will. If we're not in His will, we are actually praying not only against God but against ourselves too!
We are all born with willpower and it can be strong. People pride themselves in their will. And it is perfectly true that determination and guts have achieved great things. The human will is not a force to be underestimated. The trouble is, it can be terribly abused. We live in a New Age-inspired culture which tells us that so long as you believe in something and want it you'll get it. That may or may not be true. The more important question is whether what we finally get builds us and others up spiritually, or destroys us.
In any one human life there are a seemingly endless number of possibilities. We face a bewildering array of choices. In my life I have seen all the different possible avenues I could have gone down. There are many who, equally inspired by New Age thinking, believe that we have no ultimate choice and that it's just a matter of predetermined destiny. It's amazing just what people believe when it comes to this idea - some even believe that if they are led to do evil that that is their destiny and they have no power in themselves to do anything about it. They just "let go" and let unknown and untested invisible powers "take over". It is astonishing how rash people can be.
Hitler was convinced that he had a destiny to conquer the world. He had an iron will, and it was that iron will that enabled him to trample over most of Europe. Human willpower is not in itself good or evil - it's what you do with it that counts. Yahweh knows this and that is why He insisted that the only safe course for a human being was to be in His will where He can safely guide us through the dangerous terrain that is earth life: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", is what we pray on Tuesday.
When we are young and are full of vital energy we convince ourselves that we can do just about anything. Time and experience teaches us otherwise if we go through life with that mentality. When I think of all the rich and famous in the world I can think of few if any who are truly free and happy, even if they try to convince themselves that they are.
I want to finish today by talking about the kind of power that we can get through prayer if we are in God's will as well as to dismantle some of the myths about human willpower. Human will can only ever succeed alone by overpowering the will of other people. It involves a kind of military conquest by force. As I have mentioned to you before, there is only a certain amount of wealth in the world, and when a person becomes very rich it is only because hundreds of thousands of others must first become poor. The same is true of power. When we seek for worldly power, or influence, then it follows that in order to have that, other people must be denied it. Politicians have power, but they are only a small handful of men and women. The rest of the world is dependent on them and are quite helpless as a rule. Our recent experiences here with the Welfare State and the Tax Office are examples of this. But when God gives power to His people, it is a power that robs no-one else because it comes directly from Him - we do not need to rob someone else of power in order to possess divine power. That is the main difference between the earthly and the heavenly, between the carnal and the spiritual. And I think you'll find it quite a good measuring tool.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "God...has blessed us with every blessing in heaven because we belong to Christ" (Eph.1:3). Please note that the power we are promised is heavenly, not earthly. It is the only promise with a guarantee if we are His children by faith - notice and remember that the only earthly guarantee we are given in the Lord's Prayer is that we will be given our "daily bread". That immediately tells us where our priorities should be - if our ambition is worldly power, success, or wealth, we are already on a collision course with Him. Our focus should be entirely on heavenly power. Notice, moreover, that this blessing we are promised is not based on our own talents, skills, or hard labour, but purely on the basis of trusting - of active faith - faith which leads to obedience.
Let me illustrate this with an example. Let us say I sat down and decided, in my own will power, that I wanted to grow another 10 cm. Let us say that a young boy of 10 decided he wanted to grow 10 cm within the next two years. It wouldn't make any difference if he sat down and willed himself to grow, would it? He doesn't even have to say: "Heavenly Father, I'll be extra good if you make me grow by 10 cm"! He will grow that 10 cm with or without the exercise of willpower.
We don't need to be good to receive our daily bread either if we belong to Christ. If we are in His will, as we pray to be on Tuesday, then on Wednesday we will get our daily bread - enough to survive without suffering hunger. A 10 year-old child is similarly fed, clothed, loved and protected by his mother irrespective of how good he is. If my son is naughty, I don't stop feeding him, take all his clothes away, or throw him outside into the cold, do I? I take care of him because he is my son and I am his father and for no other reason. If we, therefore, trust Yahweh as our Heavenly Father, He too will take care of us. It's as simple as that.
Now there are many people who, when you share the Gospel with them, will say something like this: "Oh, I'm not ready to be saved yet." But can you imagine a 10 year-old child refusing to eat or wear warm clothes on a winter day, say: "Sorry, Mummy, I'm not ready yet. I'm over here stretching. When I've grown 10 cm on my own, I'll be ready to eat"! The whole idea is absurd, isn't it? And yet that's exactly what people do when they say they will strike out on their own or try to save themselves.
Yahweh has already made all our provisions for us - we don't have to worry about the future or about the basic necessities of life. All we have to do is accept Yahweh as our Father and Yah'shua (Jesus) as our Saviour, put the Kingdom first in our lives, and make sure we are in His will, and everything else will be taken care of. If people would do this, there wouldn't be poverty and starvation in the world at all. Yet what do people do? They try to solve the world's problems by political means, by operating out of human will alone.
Human will succeeds to a certain degree. But as one man once told me who was involved in clearing slums: "Clear one slum and two more appear in their place". Human will isn't enough. You may solve one problem through your own will but two more will take their place. That's what Yah'shua meant when he said it was no use throwing out a demon from someone if they didn't walk in God's will because seven more demons would take its place. Christians pray long and hard for unbelievers or backslidden Christians, intervening on their behalf, but the final result they desire for those persons can never be realised until the person him- or herself makes the final decision to walk a life of obedient discipleship.
I often remember someone I knew in Oslo, a young man called Hans Kristian Århus. He was a believing Jew, very wealthy, but had a drug habit. We prayed a lot for him. Many times he came close to turning around his life and kicking the habit but each time he returned to narcotics and got worse and worse. He often wanted to commit suicide many times. He actually came to a meeting which we have on tape when I was preaching about that subject. He was in a terrible state. Herman tried to get him into a rehabilitation centre. The breaks which intercessory prayer gave to him in which to make a decision to quit drugs soon closed up again after he refused to respond. Today he is dead. He turned away God's grace and now, goodness knows where he is. We may think drug taking an extreme example but it's only a degree of a sickness called carnality and worldliness in general. To be out of Christ is to be addicted to something, a prisoner to the lower impulses and a puppet in Satan's hands.
When unbelievers look at a Christian they will almost certainly see you as you were before you converted. You may even look at yourself and see yourself as you were and wonder if in fact you belong to Yahweh. The trouble is, when we use our own eyes we see only through our own eyes - human eyes. God has told us that when a person accepts Christ and walks in truth that He no longer sees us - He sees Christ. In God's eyes, you become holy, faultless and perfect because that is what Christ is. Your imperfections may remain and may take time to be removed before you are literally holy, but you don't need to be perfect to get into right relationship with God and called Him "our Father". The Gospel isn't that difficult! Growing up in Christ may be tough, but getting into right relationship with Yahweh is dead simple. This is what Paul said to the Ephesians: "Long ago, even before He made the world, Yahweh chose us to be His very own, through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy..without a single fault" (Eph.1:4).
Try to understand that in spite of the fact that you are imperfect, not very pure, and have plenty of faults, that as far as God is concerned, you are perfect, pure and faultless so long as you are trusting in Christ and trying to walk in obedience to Him, because He can only see Christ who has stood in your place. That is the gift of God's undeserved loving kindness - His grace - in that Christ's death on the Cross allows us to talk with Him directly through Christ as an intermediary. Whilst we are still to become literally perfect, faultless and holy through our daily work, a process which takes a long time, so long as we are trusting Christ, seeking to build His Kingdom first, and learning to align our will with His, then the prayer channel to heaven is OPEN.
I have small children who are very, very naughty at times but I don't stop being their father so long as they keep calling me "Daddy" and trusting that I will take care of them. But I correct them nonetheless, even if it sometimes hurts them and me. Moulding their character will take a long time. But so long as they are trying, admitting when they are wrong and feeling sorry, the channel is open. I can communicate with them. And it is the same with our Heavenly Father.
I promised last week that I would tell you some stories about fulfilled prayer so I will end today with one. It's about an American army chaplain called Merlin Carothers. One day he found himself far away in another State without any means of getting back in time to carry our his duties. Bad weather had cancelled the flight he had planned to travel on, and the next scheduled flight would not get him to the base on time. To buy a car was out of the question. He had left the base to accept a private speaking engagement but had always returned on time. Now he was stuck and might get into trouble.
So Carothers prayed: "Lord, you know I've never been late before; I place this entire situation in Your hands. I know You've got a perfect plan for me. I thank you and know that you will meet my needs."
I want you to note the ingredients of that prayer. Firstly, the chaplain put his duty first. Secondly, He completely trusted the Lord to sort it out even though he had no power to do anything about it himself. And lastly, he thanked the Lord in advance.
At the meeting at which he was speaking he met an airforce pilot. he was stationed at a base nearby and when he heard of Carother's problem, he said: "I'm going to call my commander and see if anything can be done."
The commander responded to his request: ""Why sure. I need to get in some flying time myself; I'll be glad to fly the chaplain to Fort Benning. Bring him to the base at 0600 tomorrow morning."
He spent the night as a guest in the pilot's home, and the next morning at 6 o'clock they walked onto the airfield. He felt refreshed and rejoiced that God had met his needs. But what he didn't realise was just how abundantly God had met his needs!
He looked all over the airfield for the plane he expected to see. A row of huge four-engined planes was lined up, but nothing that looked like it was ready to be taken up on a routine flight just to put in routine flying time. I expected something small and not too comfortable, just something to get me home on time. That was all I needed, I thought.
His pilot friend stopped and said: "Here it is, Chaplain, step aboard."
He looked up. Before him was the biggest plane on the runway! It seemed to be a block long.
"This can't be for me, Lord!" he thought to himself. He waked up the steps in a half-daze and followed the crew member who showed him to a comfortable seat in a large lounge. He was the only passenger, and the plane was outfitted with every possible convenience. This was no cargo or transport plane.
The commander came back to introduce himself and said he hoped I would enjoy the flight. He could only mumble his thanks - he was still overwhelmed. He knew that God have provided the plane to bring him back to Fort Benning on time, but why this huge luxury plane? Why hadn't He just picked a small, adequate plane?
He felt very undeserving, and a quick thought that such a big plane was really a waste went through his head.
"What does it all mean, Lord?" he asked, bewildered.
"Only that I love you," came the concise answer. "I want to show you that this is how I want to provide for all my children who trust Me."
"I am beginning to understand, Lord", mused Carothers, joy welling up in him as the thoughts continued.
"I want you to tell everyone who will listen to be thankful for every detail in their lives, and I will open the windows of heaven and pour out more goodness than they can ever ask for or hope for."
"Thank you, Lord," he replied.
"And remember," the Lord went on, "you can never deserve My blessings. You cannot work for them or earn them. I must give everything to you as a free gift, and because of My own goodness, and you must learn to understand and accept that."
To operate in the Spirit of Yahweh we need to be baptised in that spirit. This isn't water-baptism which comes first. To be able to pray to God we have to pray in the Spirit too. But to be able to do that we need to be baptised in the Spirit. Only then can the miracles start in the Christian's life. And it's that I want to talk about next week.
To Part 5
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