“Deliver us…” – Prayer series VI

“And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
Matthew 6: 13


During the week leading up to Jesus’ arrest, Jesus warns Peter, saying, “Satan wants to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith might not fail” (Lk 22:31-32). Jesus does not promise Peter that there will be no trials in life. Peter pledges loyalty even unto death but falls asleep in the garden. Jesus then awakens Peter and tells him to watch and pray lest he enter into temptation, but Peter does not pray and, soon after that, fails in his time of trial by denying Jesus three times. 

When we pray, we are protected by Jesus from Satan and his attacks. Satan, the accuser, is not prevented from his work as “the accuser.” Still, the disciples are instructed in the Lord’s Prayer not only to pray in general but for deliverance from the times of trial that evil brings. 

Whatever one’s views of the nature of Satan, it can be said that the way evil functions in society is most appropriately described using personal language. A demonic energy breaks out in people, societies and nations that act with the force of a guiding evil mind. “Lead us not into temptation” is better translated as, “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” Also, “do not bring us” can be understood to mean “Do not permit us to go.” 

The petition for protection from evil, or the evil one, is a cry from the heart in every age. In 1 Peter 5:8, we find Peter’s words, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 

Seeking God’s protection and guidance must be in our minds and our prayers daily as we venture into the lions’ den..

Understand the Lord’s prayer – tip 1

The title “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (often used in Jewish prayers) was set aside by Jesus with the simple phrase Our Father (Abba). The new phrase placed all believers on the same level regardless of their racial ancestry or community history. 

Jesus could have chosen many words to address God; He selected the Aramaic word abba, which means “Father” and “Our Father.” This title affirmed both a personal relationship and the respect that would be offered to a superior. Words offered to God are precious, must be sincere and can be few. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God, who is near and yet far away. He is “our Father” and, at the same time, is “in the heavens.” 

The title abba is a precious word that affirms a special relationship between the worshiper and God. We have heard many people say they have struggled to call God father because their human father was not loving and kind and may have been perceived as absent and cruel. However, we must remember human fathers and mothers are never adequate to give the term abba its appropriate meaning. Jesus used the parable of the prodigal son to identify abba God. (Consider reading this story founds in Luke 15:11-31 looking for attributes of God). No other definition is legitimate. Using our human father as a metaphor for God carries the risk of idolatry. That idolatry can be avoided when we allow Jesus to define abba.

God is “Our Father.” The intimate term finds its most profound meaning when used in the communal setting. God is “my Father” because he is “Our Father.”

Our Father

“In this manner therefore pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name”  Matthew 6:9
He said to them: “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” Luke 11:2a.
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Many who have attended church sometime in their life have most likely heard the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13 & Luke 11:1-4). As children, we often repeated it in public school (when we did those things), in Sunday School, or as adults while in worship. We may have been taught to say it as the catchall prayer when we did not know what to say. However, how many of us have reflected deeply on what Jesus taught? 

We know that words, statements, stories, etc., found in the Bible are not placed there accidentally but have a meaning, so what was the significance of these words? I do not believe that when Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore pray “, or “When you pray, say,” that He suggested this was the only prayer we would say. He warns us in Matthew 6:5 about the hypocrisy and vanity some display when they pray to be seen or repeat phases, hoping God will hear. His guidance reminds us to acknowledge the omnipotence and grace of God, to take the focus off ourselves and turn it to God. 

The apostles would have learned and recited the Hebrew prayers in synagogues. So why did they need to be taught? They noticed Jesus prayed differently. He prayed short and long prayers in the language of the times at different hours and locations. He used the expression “our Father” which may have been surprising to them. It seems simple for Christians to refer to God as “our Father”, and we have been taught that way since we accepted Christ. We don’t give God’s title a second thought but to His first disciples, it may have seemed out of place. However, when Jesus was asked by His disciples to teach them to pray, he instituted a new way of praying. 

Two major Abrahamic religions, Judaism, and Islam, use a sacred language in their prayers. Jews pray in Hebrew while Muslims pray in an ancient Arabic tongue. Jesus lived in a world where the public reading of the Bible was only in Hebrew, and prayers had to be offered in that language. However, when He invited the disciples to call God Abba (our father/my father), He took the giant step of endorsing Aramaic as an acceptable language for prayer and worship. He opened the door for the New Testament to be written in Greek (not Hebrew) and then translated into other languages. Ancient languages or customs do not bind Christians as Jesus implies, we are free to worship as we are.  

There is a deeper meaning, not a hidden one, in the Lord’s prayer. Over the next few weeks, you are invited to join us as we dissect the Lord’s Prayer and share tips that may change how you understand this prayer and how you pray in general.  

Stand-To!

Military Basic Training was a culture shock. Before, I was a student at university working part-time as a janitor in a seniors’ residence in Wolfville, NS. After two years, I had run out of funds and decided to apply to the military; after all, my dad was a former military pilot, and my brother was a serving aeronautical engineer.
 
Going on exercise was part of Basic Training, as it is part of the military experience in general. Part of the military exercise was a routine called “Stand-to.” The practice of “Stand-to” was a hold-over from WWI when at just before dawn and shortly after dusk, soldiers would stand by their trench with their weapons loaded and ready to fire in the event of an enemy attack, which routinely came at just before dawn or just after dusk. It was part of being ready.

Several months ago, I was on a course led by Dr. Steve Brown, which was entitled “Jesus Centred.” The course was named after the book that Dr. Brown wrote. To me, the book’s gist was about being ready to share and live the gospel in a non-permissive environment. A vital element of the course was focused on Luke 10:2
 
Dr. Brown emphasized that the number of “harvesters” was diminishing in Canada. I note that local churches and mission agencies are echoing the same message… Gospel messengers are fewer and fewer, and this is when the spread of secularism is increasing. Generally, the Canadian population, including the military community, has little to no information about who Jesus is or the opportunity for eternal life that is available only through Him. 
 
I shared with Dr. Brown the ministry of the MCF and our mission to bring the gospel to the military community. He was intrigued and asked how it was going. “Not very well,” I responded. Dr. Brown reminded me of Luke 10:2 when Jesus was sending out missionaries and explaining to them the dilemma that many were ready to hear the gospel, but there were too few messengers. Jesus’ solution was to pray for an increase in labourers. Dr. Brown told me he had set the alarm on his phone for 10:02 am every day when he prayed for labourers. This resonated with me, so I set the alarm on my phone for 10:02 am daily. I pray for three things:

  1. Lord, please spread Your gospel throughout the military community.
  2. Lord, please use the MCF as an instrument of your messaging.
  3. Lord, please use me as one of your harvesters.

This prayer takes me about one minute. 
 
Can you imagine if you were to join me at the same time and pray the same thing every day? Can you imagine if five, or 10 or 50 or 100 of us pray the same thing every day at the same time? I think that God would be moved to answer our requests.
 
Would you join me at 10:02 am every day to “Stand-to” and pray for these three requests? 
 
Are you with me?
 
Gerry Potter
Colonel (Ret’d)
President

Pray without ceasing Pt 3

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)


Pray according to God’s will.
To pray without ceasing means that prayer is not primarily about us; it’s about God. While God wants us to come to him with our concerns, we must understand as fully as possible what his concerns are.

When a man asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, he answered by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:36, 39). Jesus died so we would have the freedom and capacity to love God with all we are. And to love each other.

First, seek to love God with everything you are through and in prayer. Then, seek to love your neighbour through prayer. In this way you seek God’s will in every aspect of your prayers, as you include the concerns, requests, and needs for the people God has put around you.
Pray for:

  1. Your literal neighbour,
  2. Those in your church,
  3. The missionaries that you know,
  4. Family, 
  5. Strangers you’ve interacted with recently; and
  6. Your pastors and your politicians.

Pray without ceasing for all of them as you do for yourself—with God’s will paramount in your prayers for them.

Through your times of active prayer, the Spirit will begin to cultivate an attitude of unceasing prayer, and this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Struggling to pray?

Last week I struggled to utter prayers about our children. I had many thoughts bouncing around in my head but somehow could not put them into words. I found it distressing and felt like my lips were being held close. But I was reminded of Romans 8:26, which tells me even when I don’t know or can’t articulate what is in my heart, the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf. It doesn’t mean I can stop saying prayers, but it is good to know when we struggle, the Holy Spirit is with us, even talking on our behalf.
   
My thoughts were linked to school graduations occurring across this country. I had grandchildren, nieces and nephews who reached the next step in their life. Some graduated college, high school, middle school and even kindergarten. I was pleased for them, but my heart was burdened because of the world they were entering, a world that pushed them to ignore thoughts about the image they were created in and pursue an identity based on sexuality, materialism, and self-gratification. It punishes them for not buying into the idea that they were created male or female and yells they will only be accepted if they identify as something else. They are being taught that if they disagree and have an opinion that differs from others, they must remain quiet or feel the wrath of those who will try to destroy their life and lively hood. Suicide amongst young people is on the rise because of the confusion and anxieties they face. Sadly, those who are confused and struggle with all the changes in the world are judged by a community that allegedly pursues the love of God and neighbour.  

Parents, grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and neighbours, pray for our children and love them. Here is a guide to praying for our children. Print it off and place it in your bible or stick it to your refrigerator or where you seek solitude with God. Continually bring them before God.  

Pray for our children.

B – BODY 
Pray for their physical health, safety, and protection from harm in their workplaces, schools, or training rooms. Pray for their participation in physical activities such as sporting events or outdoor activities. Pray for their time on the road, whether it is going to and from their work or school or whether they are going on a trip. 
Pray that the evil one does not use an illness or injury to cause them to doubt or question God.

L – LIVELIHOOD
Pray for their jobs, the decisions they make and the lives they interact with during their day in their workplace or school. If they are going to school or are taking training, pray for their training and the need to focus, prepare, and participate. Pray for their finances and their financial decision-making skills. 
Pray that the evil one does not use temptation to put them in dire financial situations.

E – EMOTIONS
Pray for their happiness. Pray their day is not overwhelming; it takes away from their rest and leisure. Pray that if they experience sadness, loneliness or self-doubt, they seek out someone who is a positive influence. Pray that the Holy Spirit reminds them of God`s presence and desire to comfort them. 
Pray that the evil one does not use busyness to drain their physical and emotional health. 

S – SOCIAL
Pray for their relationships and friendships. Pray they can be a positive influence on those they interact with and that they use both heart and mind when choosing friends or places to hang out. Pray they choose appropriate entertainment and leisure activities, including what they watch and read and the sites they choose for entertainment.   
Pray the evil one does not use their friends to place them in situations or circumstances they should not be. 

S – SPIRITUAL
Pray for their spiritual health and growth. If you know they are unsaved, pray that the Holy Spirit seeks them out to reveal the truth and that they respond to the calling and decide to follow Christ. Pray the Holy Spirit uses someone or something to provoke thoughts or questions about God. 
Pray for protection against the evil one stealing their day and that they make and take the opportunity to grow closer to God through prayer, reading and meditating on the word, and attending corporate worship. 

How do we lament?

First, direct your conversation to God.
Lament is not directed toward our enemies, toward our suffering, or toward our pain. We direct our conversation to God, the One who hears us. It acknowledges God’s sovereignty in all things, and He is the One in control.
 
Second, describe your suffering and your pain to Him
The Lord knows our deepest innermost thoughts, but we should make it a point to tell Him what we are feeling! How angry are we about the pain we are experiencing? How frustrated we are that He seems to be silent?

Thirdly, depend on Christ for your help and your hope
We don’t simply pour our sorrows and pain before God and end there. Instead, we then turn to the gospel of Christ to find help and hope in our suffering. We turn a corner, begin to speak the gospel of peace and hope to ourselves, and turn to Jesus and ask Him for comfort, for His perspective, and for Him to act.


In the Bible, lament isn’t about blame, or anger. 

Lament is when we acknowledge, in grief and pain, that there’s no getting back what we’ve lost. 
Our fixes haven’t worked.
Our world will never be the same again. 
We’ve all lost by what’s happened during the Covid-19 crisis, whether or not we’ve been ill or bereaved. 
We’ve lost work opportunities, the company of friends and family, the ordinary privilege of doing what we like. 
Perhaps most of all, we’ve lost the illusion of invulnerability.
The idea that life will just keep getting better, because scientists and technicians will always keep us safe, healthy and comfortable, turns out not to be true. 
These have been dark times, and it’s right to acknowledge that without joining in those calls for someone to take the blame for it.

We shouldn’t try to be cheerful, or to peddle a false optimism about COVID 
We shouldn’t pretend we can soon, if at all, go back to how things used to be. 

But we are also people of hope, because we follow a crucified and risen Saviour. 
We’re familiar with the sadness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when hope seemed buried in the tomb; but we also know the rejoicing of Easter Sunday, when Christ rose from the dead. So for us, lament is not the same as despair.
Our hope, though, doesn’t rest on human skills or achievements. 
But so is hope, grounded in a faithful God. 
We want to move forward to be part of the mission God has called us to.
We want to look at where he wants to lead us and what plans he has for our church family.
But we have to acknowledge the damage COVID did to us and the church, talk with God about it and be ready to move forward.

I read these verses on Pastor Carols O’Donnell’s Facebook page, do join me in speaking them into our lives.

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from Him. 
 
He comforts us in all our troubles. 
Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. 
We ourselves have received comfort from God. 
 
We share the sufferings of Christ. 
We also share His comfort. 
If we are having trouble, it is so that you will be comforted and renewed. 
If we are comforted, it is so that you will be comforted. 
Then you will be able to put up with the same suffering we have gone through. 
 
Our hope for you remains firm. We know that you suffer just as we do. In the same way, God comforts you just as He comforts us. 
 
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the hard times we suffered during COVID  
We were having a lot of trouble. 
It was far more than some could stand. 
We even thought we were going to die. 
 
In fact, in our hearts we felt as if we were under the sentence of death. But that happened so that we would not depend on ourselves but on God. He raises the dead to life. 
 
God has saved us from deadly dangers. And He will continue to do it. We have put our hope in Him. He will continue to save us. 

Spiritual Exercise

What happens when we don’t or can’t rest?

  • We lose sight of what we enjoy
  • We find things we enjoy doing becoming a chore
  • We fail to give people the gift of attention and presence
  • We become more obsessive about the to-do list
  • We impair our ability to hear God’s voice

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is a practice that helps us maintain a posture of heart in which we are moved and motivated by the Holy Spirit. It involves some degree of stillness, silence, and solitude. It is not about talking with God or sharing your desires or requests; but listening.  

  1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. 
  2. Choose a short passage or sacred word/phrase (i.e., “I love you Lord”, “You are Lord”) that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord’s presence and open to His divine action within you. You are not emptying your mind but focusing on hearing God. 
  3. Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, your anchor. 

Also Consider: 

  1. Reflect on what a perfect day of rest and recreation would look like for you. Is it a possibility? 
  2. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God then go and do something you enjoy: exercise, take a nap, go for a walk, play a game. 
  3. Think about what kind or rest would refresh your soul: retreat, sleep, music, reading, centering prayer.  
  4. Choose two times this week when you will intentionally enter rest for your body and soul. 

ATTITUDE OF PRAYER

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:5-8

Prayer is something that we are all familiar with, but are we familiar enough with prayer or is it possible that we have become too familiar with prayer. I believe there are instances in our lives where both are true. Many times, prayer has become so friendly that we aren’t earnest enough in it, and then there are times when we feel so inadequate. Whatever the circumstance, I am confident that we all could improve regarding our prayer life. 

As you study the life of Christ, it is quickly evident that He was committed to prayer. He enjoyed an unhindered fellowship with the Father and was in continual communication with Him through prayer. In our text, Jesus addresses various attitudes of prayer, two of which are unacceptable, and one will be heard and answered. 

Jesus had witnessed those who loved to offer prayers in public places. They wanted to ensure that others would see them as they prayed and heard the words they offered. They were not interested in getting in touch with the Lord or even having their prayers answered; they desired the recognition of men. There was no depth or substance to their prayers. They were only offered for show and recognition.

This is not a condemnation of public prayer. Jesus is not teaching that we should never pray audibly in the presence of others. Public prayer can be an effective witness for the Lord. When offered from a pure heart, we can display our faith before others as we pray. The difference lies within the motive. If we are offering a public prayer in sincerity, God will hear that prayer. If it is offered to receive the recognition and praise of others, it is nothing more than words uttered from our lips. There is something within the nature of man that desires praise. If we aren’t careful, we will seek to pray in a way that pleases others rather than making our requests known to God. 

We all know that we can pray anywhere and at any time. We are to be in a continual state of prayer. That is the beautiful thing about prayer; it isn’t reserved for special times and occasions. However, there is a great truth that we need to consider. Jesus encouraged that we have a specific place in which to pray, a prayer closet. That speaks of a storage room, but it also can refer to an inner chamber or a secret room. The point is we need a place where we are comfortable and able to pray. It may be in a particular room, the basement, or out in the garage. It doesn’t matter where it is if we have a place to pray and seek the Lord. We all need that quiet place of prayer and meditation.

God’s people need to understand and exercise the privilege of prayer. We need to come boldly before the throne of grace and make our petitions known. This is not done so that others might think we are holy, but to intercede for the needs of our day! We need to maintain a positive witness among the world, but there are far greater needs than what others think of us. We need to get in touch with God and plead for the souls of humanity and the perils that plague our modern society.

If you are facing needs or difficulties in life, bring them unto the Lord. He already knows, and He is waiting to hear from you. If you have never accepted Christ as your Saviour, He stands ready to save you today. Whatever the need is, bring it to the Lord.