Why Devote Time to Daily Prayer?

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons . . . And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:33–35)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus modeled daily prayer.

The Gospel of Luke records the most instances in which Jesus prays. The first instance of prayer is during his baptism when Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove (Luke 3:21–22). When crowds gathered following miracles of healing, Jesus would retreat to a desolate place to pray (Luke 5:15). When the Pharisee attacked him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus climbed a mountain and prayed all night—the following day, in what was among the most important decisions in his ministry, he chose the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12). Jesus, while praying alone among the disciples, posed the question: “who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18) While praying with Peter, John, and James on a mountain top, Jesus was transfigured (Luke 9:28). Jesus was praying when the disciples asked him: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) On the night before his death, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41).

Two things that Jesus’ prayers have in common in the Gospel of Luke are that he often prayed alone and he always prayed at critical points in his ministry. Significantly, God was visibly or audibly present in two of the seven incidences of Jesus’ prayers recorded in Luke. In the Book of Acts, Peter and Paul are likewise both shown practicing the habit of prayer and experiencing important visions during prayer [1]. From these few examples, we know that God answers prayer.

Jesus is not our only model for prayer. Our first model of prayer arises in the book of Genesis. God appears to the pagan king, Abimelech, in a dream where God instructs him to return Sarah to Abraham and to ask Abraham to pray for his healing. Abimelech obeys God’s instructions. Abraham then intercedes for Abimelech in prayer and God heals him (Gen 20:7-17). Clearly, God cares for pagans and asks us, like Abraham, to pray for them. And, this is the first prayer in scripture!

Prayer is important in the psalms. For example, Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession. King David begs God’s forgiveness following his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 11). Psalm 51 is important for Christians [2] because Jesus descends from King David (Matt 1:6–17).

The Apostle Paul also models prayer by admonishing us to: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). Unceasing prayer suggests that daily prayer is something of a misnomer. What we really mean by daily prayer is prayer in the morning, prayer during meals, and prayer before bed. Prayer while running, prayer while deliberating decisions, prayer while walking to work . . .

Prayer means opening ourselves to God. And, some-times, even words are spoken.

Footnotes

[1] For example, Acts 10:9 and Acts 9:11.

[2] Ps 51 is also important for Jews because it is an example of willful sin not covered by sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant. Both David’s adultery and his murder of Uriah were intentional. Under the law, only unintentional sin could be atoned with sacrifices.

Why Devote Time to Daily Prayer?

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Doxology

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matt 6:13 KJV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Newer translations of the Bible exclude the doxology: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” [1]. Why?

Jesus gave the disciples the Lord’s Prayer to teach them how to pray, not as an obligatory prayer. Three times Jesus repeats the phrase: “when you pray” (Matt 6:5-7). Then, he simply said: “Pray then like this” (Matt 6:9). Jesus offers a pattern for prayer which can be adjusted as needed. The early church loved this prayer and took this advice seriously. The most common addition was to add a doxology and the word, amen, which means so be it. Consequently, this addition does not appear in the earliest manuscripts even though churches continue to use it today.

When the reformers began examining the original Greek texts in the fifteenth century, Saint Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible had been used almost exclusively for a thousand years. The Greek New Testament manuscripts immediately available in local libraries were assembled and translated in English, German, French, and other European languages. Much later, however, when scholars began to compare the thousands of Greek manuscripts available throughout the world’s churches and libraries, they became aware that not all manuscripts were equally ancient. Recent Bible translations focus on the more ancient manuscripts [2].

The older manuscripts exclude the doxology and amen. This is why translations of the Bible made before that discovery include the doxology and amen, while newer translations do not. Hugenberger (1999, 55) observes that the doxology abbreviates a longer doxology found in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13.

Doxology is taken from the Greek word, doxa, which means: “the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance” [3]. Amen is a Hebrew word attributed to Jesus himself that means truly. When Jesus says: “truly, truly I say to you” (John 1:51), the Greek text reads—amen, amen—which the Greek transliterates from the Hebrew.

Personal prayer is a Christian distinctive. Jesus taught us how to pray, not exactly what to pray. He wants us to come to him as a community of faith, but he also wants us to approach him as individuals. Personal prayer is a Christian distinctive.

[1] .”For example, the English Standard Version and the New International Version do not include the doxology.

[2] Metzger and Ehrman (2005) review the New Testament textual history in great detail.

[3]  (BDAG 2077, 1). For example: “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory (δόξα) of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” (Luke 2:9).

References

Bauer, Walter (BDAG). 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Ed. Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. <BibleWorks. v.9.>.

Hugenberger, Gordon P. 1994. Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Metzger, Bruce M. and Bart D. Ehrman. 2005. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. New York: Oxford University Press.

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

   
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Attitude in Prayer: Monday Monologues (podcast) April 12, 2021

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 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Attitude in Prayer. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Attitude in Prayer: Monday Monologues (podcast) April 12, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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What is Your Attitude in Prayer?

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Lord’s Prayer radically changed the disciples’ attitudes about prayer.

To understand how much attitudes had to change, think about how a first century Jew would view Jesus’ prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer, we, metaphorically, enter the city of Jerusalem; go through ritual purification to the outer courts of the temple, step into the Holy place, and pull back the veil of the Holy of Holies. Then, at the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, we put on the ephod [1] of the high priest and begin to pray, not to YHWH, but to Daddy! Talk about radical!

If this metaphor for prayer seems far-fetched, consider Paul’s last trip to Jerusalem. Paul arrived in the city in the company of fellow believers (gentiles), probably Greeks from Corinth (1 Cor 16:3). When he entered the temple a riot broke out as Jews who had seen him in the city accused Paul of bringing a gentile into the temple. Paul escaped with his life from this riot only because the Roman guards rescued him (Acts 21:26-32). This story underscores the point that it was unthinkable, to a Jew, that anyone could enter God’s presence—especially in the Temple—without proper cleansing, preparation, and authority.

What is your attitude in prayer? Are you reverent or cavalier in approaching God? Although the temple veil was torn when Christ died on the cross [2], God is still holy and we can approach the mercy seat only by the invitation of Christ. Respecting God’s boundaries is an important step in approaching prayer. “Be holy because I am holy” (Lev 11:44) says the Lord God.

[1] A ceremonial garment worn by the high priest described in Exod 28.

[2] The splitting of the temple veil is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38; and Luke 23:45). Roman armies destroyed the temple during a Jewish uprising in AD 70.

What is Your Attitude in Prayer?

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Prayer Day 1

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

By Stephen W. HIemstra

Almighty Father:

thank you for the person of Jesus of Nazareth;

who lived as a role model for sinners;

who died as a ransom for sin;

and whose resurrection gives us the hope of salvation.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire the words written and illumine the words read.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer Day 1

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Believers’ Prayer

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

I believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. 

Come into my life, help me to renounce and grieve the sin in my life that separates me from God. 

Cleanse me of this sin, renew your Holy Spirit within me so that I will not sin any further. 

Bring saints and a faithful church into my life to keep me honest with myself and draw me closer to you. Break any chains that bind me to the past—be they pains or sorrows or grievous temptations, that I might freely welcome God, the Father, into my life, who through Christ Jesus can bridge any gap and heal any affliction, now and always. 

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Believers’ Prayer

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Exhaustion

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Today many people have reached their point of exhaustion.

Exhaustion comes when energy fails. When I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, I reached the point of exhaustion on crossing the 14th Street Bridge (mile 24) and reached up to wipe my forehead and found only salt crystalsI freaked out and did not quit only because of the support of another runner. Exhaustion is the point when failure seems inevitable, like when the freezing person suddenly desires only to go to sleep. When you reach the point of exhaustion, you continue only with great pain and because persistence has become a habit.

At this point, the corona virus pandemic is exhausting everyone. People are starting to do crazy things, not even aware of how crazy they are. Discarded masks can be found everywhere; businesses are opening in spite of the obvious risk; people are complaining and demonstrating and fighting. Why? No obvious reason. People are exhausted and do whatever their hearts desire without considering the consequences.

Temptation is ever present when you are exhausted because you lack the energy to resist. It is no accident that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert40 days without food leaves one exhausted and unable to resist. Exhaustion from dieting leaves one vulnerable to the temptation to eatask Esau, who sold his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew (Gen 25:30-34). Is it any wonder that the first presidential debate yesterday looked like a mud-wrestling contest? People are exhausted and doing crazy things.

When you are exhausted, the only rational thing to do is to pray.

§

God Almighty, Great Physician, Holy Spirit,

We praise you 

for your goodness in granting us life,

which we often take for granted, 

living as if tomorrow was always promised,

but knowing that it is not.

Break the power of sin over our lives—

forgive us for our presumptions, 

for our neglect of giving thanks, and 

for living selfishly for ourselves, 

As though we were worthy.

Thank you 

for your eternal presence, 

your healing touch, and 

for sending others to comfort us in our hour of need.

Break our bondage to worthless idols—

heal our broken bodies, 

our troubled spirits, and 

our damaged relationships, 

for your name’s sake.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, 

send us doctors to offer your healing touch and 

nurses to offer your comfort in lonely hours.

Grant us strength for the day; 

grace for those we meet; and 

peace in a troubled world 

that we might rest only in you, 

this day and every day.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.1/

1/ Taken from: Stephen W. Hiemstra.  Everyday Prayers for Everyday People. 2018. Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LCC.

Exhaustion

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

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Prayer for Health

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Eternal and Compassionate God,

We thank you, Lord, for visiting us when we are afflicted and suffer unjustly.

For you are a God who cares, who understands our grief, our wounds, our sorrows, our diseases.

We lay our afflictions before you for we cannot bear them alone.

Heal our wounds, comfort us in our griefs, and purge us of disease.

Restore us; redeem us; save us.

Teach us to bear the wounds, griefs, and diseases of those around us and to point them to you.

Teach us to intercede for the people around us in action and in prayer.

For you are our God and we are your people.

You are with us; you are for us; and you have given your name to us. In the power of your Holy Spirit, let our security reside only in you, now and always.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for Health

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

 

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Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer

Henry and Richard Blackaby.  2002. Hearing God’s Voice. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Does God answer prayer?

In October 2014, I was invited to offer comments on my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality, at the Mubarak Mosque in Chantilly, Virginia on the day of Eid. This invitation made me very nervous–what would I say about my faith to a group of Muslims? Consequently, during the three days before Eid, I began a period of prayer and fasting and asked God what I should say. God responded to my prayer, but he said nothing about my invitation. Instead and much better, God gave me the inspiration to write a new book, Life in Tension, which I hope to publish later this summer.

In their book, Hearing God’s Voice, Henry and Richard Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International[1] write:

“We contend that God does speak to his people. However, people must be prepared to hear what his is saying…The question, then, is not whether God speaks to his people, but how he does so…When God speaks, he does not give new revelation about himself that contradicts what he has already revealed in Scripture. Rather, God speaks to give application of his Word to the specific circumstances in your life.” (17-18)

To make this point about “specific circumstances”, the Blackabys inventory the ways that God spoke to his people in the Old and New Testaments. In just the Old Testament: “creation, angels, prophets, dreams, visions, casting lots, Urim and Thummim, gentle voice, fire, burning bush, preaching, judgments, symbolic actions, signs, miracles, writing on the wall, a talking donkey, trumpets, thunder and lightning, smoke and storms, fleece, the sound of marching on treetops, face-to-face, personal guidance, and various unspecified ways” (31-32). Obviously, God does not always wait for us to seek him out—it is hard to ignore those talking donkeys, especially the ones we see in the mirror!

The Blackabys note, however, an important problem:

“Our problem so often is not that we don’t know what God is saying to us. The problem is that we do know, but we don’t always want to hear what he is telling us.” (44)

For example, we do not need to ask if God wants us to display the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

The Blackabys give countless examples of God intervening in response to prayer. Perhaps none is as dramatic as that of George Muller who lived in nineteenth century Britain and who worked to support homeless children. They note three points about Mueller’s experience of God:

  1. Mueller sensed a personal burden for a need,
  2. He sought advice from a Christian friend, and
  3. God spoke to him through scripture (105).[2]

The Blackabys observe that: “The best way to hear God speak to you is to spend regular time reading, studying, and meditating on his Word.” (110) They see God’s answers to prayer as: yes, no, not yet, and silence—prospective evidence of sin (122-129). What is perhaps more interesting is the idea that God invites us to into prayer—a positive answer to prayer is never more certain than when God invites us to do something or ask for something (136).[3]

The Blackabys write in 12 chapters:

  1. The Question: Does God Speak to People Today?
  2. For the Record: God Speaks
  3. God Speaks: His Way
  4. The Holy Spirit: God’s Presence in Our Lives
  5. The Bible: God’s Word
  6. Prayer: What it is and What it Isn’t
  7. Circumstances: A Time for God to Speak
  8. God Speaks to People through People
  9. Lies and Half-Truths
  10. A Historical View
  11. Learning to Respond to God’s Voice
  12. Questions Often Asked

These chapters are preceded by a preface and followed by notes, a scriptural index, and an introduction to the authors.

Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Hearing God’s Voice changed my attitude about prayer and reading this book marked an important milestone in my preparation for later entry into seminary. I commend it to you.

Reference

Carothers, Merlin. 1970. Prison to Praise. Escondido, California.

Müller, George. 2000. Release the Power of Prayer. New Kensington: Whitaker House.

Footnotes

[1] http://www.Blackaby.net.

[2] Mueller (2000, 91-93) offers 5 conditions for prevailing prayer:  1. “entire dependence upon the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus”, 2. “separation from all known sin”, 3. “exercise faith in God’s word of promise”, 4. “ask in accordance with His will”, and 5. “preserver in prayer”.

[3] If God already knows what is in our hearts, we need only praise him!  (Carothers) Also: consider the example of Abimelech: “Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” (Gen 20:7 ESV)

Blackaby Expects Answers to Prayer

Also see:

Nouwen: Make Space for Self, Others, and God 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Books, Films, and Ministry

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

 

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Prayer for God’s Peace

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Holy and Gracious God,

In the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to separate ourselves from sexual immorality, impurities, sensuality, idolatry, and sorcery, fleeing from enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, and envy, refusing to engage in drunkenness and orgies.

Through the example of Jesus Christ, bid us to pursue the fruits of the spirit by practicing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:19–24).

Crucify the passions of the flesh that naturally grow in us.

May peace on your terms grow to become peace on our terms and may we share it with those around us.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Peace on God’s Terms

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

 

 

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