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Question #1:

Professor I'm struggling, it seems as if God won't answer any of my prayers. For years I've been experiencing disappointments after disappointments, rejections after rejections. I'm exhausted. I'm trying to hang on. I defend the word faithfully, try to take care of my family, don't drink, don't smoke, and don't put myself in compromising positions but still the Lord seems to be ignoring me. I've been saved since 1991 and this is the longest drought I've ever experienced. I'm tired of this wilderness. I need some wise counsel. Your brother in Christ

Response #1:

I'm sorry to hear of your troubles, brother. I think you know in your heart of hearts, however, that the Lord always hears our prayers. I think you should read the book of Job a few times, inasmuch as your circumstances seem similar. Job, after all, had done nothing wrong. In fact, he had done everything right – which was at the center of the issue. God was paying Job the ultimate compliment. And, after all, the Lord does not lay major testing upon those who are not able to handle it. In fact of course, He never tests us beyond our ability (1Cor.10:13) – although as I have often remarked it can sometimes seem as if what we are dealing with is beyond our capacity. That, after all, is the test. I will give you some links on this, since "your brethren around the world are experiencing the same sort of suffering you are" (1Pet.5:9), so that their experiences and victories can be comforting to hear about and consider.

One other thing to mention: the plan of God is perfect and absolutely complete. Everything that has and will happen, including all of your thoughts, words and actions in response, have been perfectly incorporated into the absolutely perfect plan of God. Jesus is right here, right now, and He most certainly knows what you are going through and how you feel – and why all this is happening. When we look back at this time – as we all surely will when your life is evaluated before Christ's throne – may we be able to say that in spite of what your eyes and ears were telling you, you trusted in the Lord's deliverance and maintained your course of daily spiritual growth through the Word, daily progress in walking with Christ, and continued ministry to His Body, the Church even so. That, after all, is why we are here and what the wonderful crowns and rewards we anticipate are based upon.

Here are those links:

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

In Need of Guidance and Encouragement.

Spiritual 'ups' and 'downs'

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Mutual Encouragement in Christ.

Christian Trials and Testing

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.

In need of encouragement.

Spiritual Resiliency.

Waiting on God.

The Book of Job and Christian Suffering

The Peter Series (focus on personal suffering)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

How has your holiday been going? Great, I hope. I haven't been doing what I'm supposed to. That's the simplest way I can put it. I haven't been to church in like a month. I feel kind of guilty about it. I feel like I'm counted on to be there, which is kind of weird considering I'm not really relied upon to be there. It's not like anything would function differently if I wasn't there. I haven't been reading my Bible, or praying lately. I've been avoiding God, if you can call it that. I've just been out of it spiritually lately. I know it seems like the same thing over and over again. I know it's my fault. I can't seem to shake these behaviors. I guess it's because I enjoy being a Christian in theory, but in practice it's a really unpleasurable experience. When I pray it's basically me asking God for forgiveness of all the things I did wrong that day, and in the past. It's really awkward and forced. I don't feel comfortable asking God for anything, so if there's something I need in my life I usually just set about achieving it on my own. I ask God for direction but I can't really hear. So I make a plan that seems good in my mind, and look for signs of obvious disapproval. I feel like I'm just wandering around. I haven't been feeling as fulfilled by religion. It's like the candles blown out. It's not that I don't think about it either. I think about it constantly. I'm racked with guilt constantly. What I watch, what I say, how I dress, what I want to do I feel so guilty about these choices because I know it's not the absolute best I could do. For example, a while back I got rid of all of my clothing that I felt was inappropriate. I got rid of a large part of my wardrobe. I was upset for a while after that. I got over it though. Now, I feel guilty again though because I know I'm still not up to the standard of perfect holiness. I still like to buy clothes and make myself look good. I don't buy anything that is too short. It's just that a Christian is supposed to dress so that no one remembers what they are wearing. So even though I'm not dressed inappropriately, I'm still drawing attention to the outside. I'm still adorning the outside. I haven't put away my self entirely. And you can't negotiate with God, I know that. And yet, I still keep thinking, "I'll do this, but not this." I try to be nice to people, but I'll occasionally have a mean thought. I got rid of all my books that I thought were against God. I'm an avid reader, though. I still read books, even if their not blatantly against Christianity. Anything that isn't for God is against Him though. Books are just useless escapism if they don't have anything to do with God. I have a job interview on Thursday, and I'm really nervous about it. At first I thought it was an answer to prayer. I don't know though, I haven't done anything to deserve a job. I know we don't deserve God's grace. It's just that God blesses obedience. This job probably happened by accident, or it's a trap. I know the devil is after Christians. I know God disciplines wayward Christians. I know I'm due for some punishment, I'm just not sure from whom. Will you please pray for me? Whatever you think I need. I do have some good news. I found out I have a 4.0.

Thanks,

Response #2:

Good to hear from you. Apologies for the delay. I was out of town visiting family for Christmas and after, and it was not convenient to be answering emails.

I did receive your last email, and I had been keeping you in prayer on this – happy to hear good news on the job front! And congratulations too on your 4.0!!! Keep up the good work next semester.

Holidays or any time we are out of our normal rut are times when we will be challenged as to our spirituality and our spiritual application. To me this illustrates very clearly how that the really important thing is learning and believing the truths of scripture, and also learning how to apply them day by day in our walk with Jesus Christ. If we are depending upon people or institutions or the like for our spiritual welfare, we are only making ourselves dependent on things which, even if very good, are not going to build our independence and spiritual "backbone". But if we have been making it a habit to be thinking the truth, walking with the Lord, and conversing with Him in normal times, even though abnormal situations may be a bit rocky, we will still have the necessary truth in our hearts and practiced relationship of walking with the Spirit to get through those high waves and crosswinds.

I know that you have expressed having "issues" with prayer before. But to me, reading this email and remembering what you had expressed some time before, you seem to me to be making wonderful progress – coming from a place of not being able to pray at all. Besides, not being one of those people who expect to have everything handed over on a silver platter just because they or someone else prays is a decidedly good thing in my view. Pray, but also do – whatever it is Jesus would have us do. Also, your prayer for guidance is right on too in my estimate. Of course when we pray in this way, just how do we expect the Lord to answer it if not by empowering our inner person through the Spirit to be able to come up with the best approach to whatever is concerning us? That is precisely how it works. Our end of the process is 1) to listen by not ignoring what seems to our Spirit-filled consciences informed by the Word to be the best course and 2) not to take credit for a good plan and resultant success that is really all about the Lord helping us.

Here's wishing you and your family a wonderful 2014! Thanks also for your prayers on my behalf. It is looking very much like they are going to be very needful next year too.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Sometimes I get so tired of all these mickey mouse do and don't gray area things. At one point I cried out to God for wisdom on this subject, and got to the point where I was going to flip a quarter. I said "Lord, if it is okay to do this, let it come up heads, if not, tails". Well, I did not flip the quarter. I said, "Lord , I want YOU to let me know rather than me trying to cast lots". I went my way. That very day while walking up some stairs, I found a quarter. And it was heads-up. It later dawned on me that maybe He was trying to tell me something. Then later, I found ANOTHER quarter on the street. Again, heads-up. I can count on one hand how many quarters I find laying around in a DECADE, let alone one day. What do you think?

Response #3:

I'm not much on believers actively engaging with the Lord in asking for guidance through means of their own choosing. Gideon asked for the fleece to be made wet and dry, and, while he seems to have been a great believer, the impression left by this incident is that he was not as solid in his faith as one would hope. Wasn't God's speaking with him personally enough? On the other hand, this seems to be very close to putting God to the test. The only example of casting lots in the New Testament is in the book of Acts before Pentecost. The disciples gave the Lord two choices and then flipped a coin. The problem is, Paul was the Lord's choice, not Matthias or the other fellow (see the link), and this sort of clearly questionable behavior was never repeated by the apostles after they received the Spirit. It is true, however that the Lord does make use of all manner of events in our lives to remind us that He is in control and that we are under His special care. Sometimes these events will offer guidance (which I suppose we could call "signs", although I'm reluctant to use the word because they may not necessarily be physically miraculous even though in any case they are amazing to us since we know for certain that they are from Him); more often (in my experience, observation, and reading of scripture) they are reassurances clearly from Him that He is on our side and that we are walking the way He wants us to walk:

And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
Acts 28:15

So I guess the bottom line on all this is that these matters are largely personal and involve the application of scriptural truth – as opposed to the interpretation of specific scriptures. Believers get better at this the more they learn from the Bible and, more importantly, the more they accept its truths by faith (i.e., "spiritual growth"). I will certainly say a prayer for your guidance on all these things.

Question #4:

Could you clarify 1 John 5:16-17 (NASB):

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

a) In particular, what does John mean by "he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death"? We know that God doesn't override our free will, so I'm not clear about the meaning of this passage, as the ones receiving life as a result of someone else's prayer might not themselves have a genuine intention to repent?

b) Also, what does John mean by "life" here ("God will for him give life")?

Response #4:

The two questions are interdependent. The "life" is (physical) recovery from potential death falling upon a believer as divine discipline for some pattern of sinning so egregious that the one doing the praying has noticed it (i.e., it has gotten past the point of keeping it secret). In such cases, prayer will prevent the brother/sister from dying. But this prayer will not be effective if it is a case of the sin unto death (see the link). This is where the free will of the sinning/suffering brother comes into play. If said person is not willing to repent, then it is a case of the sin unto death; if on the other hand the person is repentant, then a prayer of intervention will be effective.

Question #5:

This last one is something that I struggle with a fair amount. I love reading and learning (assuming I am not running away from God like I tend to do more than I'd ever want), but I confess that I am very bad at praying by my own estimation. As a kid my parents always prayed with me before bed, but obviously that doesn't continue. I either feel like my prayers are too structured (Dear God, forgive me for *long list of things I've done wrong*, thank you for dying on Calvary, be with my family and relatives, help the oppressed/poor, In Jesus' name Amen), or I get too lazy and say "Lord, you know my sins, forgive me." I feel the true path is somewhere in between trying to wrack my brain for every single thing I can think of that I did wrong and just saying forgive everything without trying to recount what needs to change. I also seem to have a very hard time focusing when I pray, as in my thoughts always go down rabbit trails instead of staying focused on God. I know I also tend to scold myself and repeat similar things to what I already prayed for when my mind wanders, but my focus will inevitably wander again just seconds later. I've tried praying for focus, but I'm sure this a problem on my end and not God failing to provide for me. Is there a post you could refer me to on "how to pray: for the spiritually immature" or something of the like? Also, should we include the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or is this something that churches have elevated to an unscriptural place of importance?

Response #5:

Prayer: I think when you suggest that an in-between approach would be right for you that this is a mark of spiritual maturity. Making prayer perfunctorily short on the one hand or concocting a very long and arduous prayer discipline that becomes ritualized beyond any spiritual meaning on the other are both questionable approaches. Keep praying. You will find the approach which is right for you. Good self-discipline is important in this as in many things, but some Christians are just more interested in prayer than others – we all have our gifts (and we all have our strengths and weaknesses). As with all things, finding a time and place to pray where one can be consistent in the effort day by day is very helpful. Also, thanksgiving should always be an important part of prayer, as is putting in petitions for other people. The Lord's prayer is a wonderful prayer to pray every day, and much more so when a person truly understands the import of its phrases (it gives a synopsis of the whole plan of God and the Christian way of life; see the link: "The Lord's Prayer"). Confession is something which can be both general and specific; the former because we often sin in ignorance, the latter because, after all, "all sin" (Rom.3:23). More prayer is, generally speaking, better than less (as long as it is truly done in the Spirit in the right way and for all the right reasons), but mixing all these elements together in the proper proportion, manner and method is an individual thing – that is why when He was asked our Lord gave the disciples the perfect "format prayer" without telling them that this was the only one or only way to pray (after all, there are two slightly different versions of the Lord's Prayer for a reason; see the link).

Question #6:

Hello, Doctor.

I have a question on prayer. As I've grown through the Spirit and your studies, I'm finding myself in prayer almost exclusively "in my head" and I'm wondering if I'm missing something. Should I make more time for out loud prayer? I am recently aware that our family doesn't pray enough together, so I'm getting on that now. My son seems more aware of Jesus all day when we do, also. I wonder if it's for the angels as well?

I've never been so aware of The Lord's "mind" than I am now, Doc, you are a great spiritual "personal trainer". I now meditate on actual Truth more than ever; I approach all aspects of life through The Word better than ever! You've really helped me see how "happy" and "sad" in this life are not relevant to our spirit and we have at more control than we think.

I always pray "please take care of the Doctor, there's no one like him." I could be off, but considering the date . . . we'll see in eternity.

Talk soon, brother.

Response #6:

Thanks for the excellent and very encouraging report! Thanks also for your prayers – very needful at the moment. You and your family are in my prayers daily.

There is certainly nothing wrong with personal "out loud" prayer (as long as it's not done for public consumption: Matt.6:6); it's not necessary to pray that way, but I can see where it might be helpful. In the ancient world people were much more likely to pray out loud, apparently (e.g., Lk.18:9-14; cf. 1Sam.1:13), and certainly to read out loud (silent reading was little known or practiced). My own feeling is that whatever legitimate technique results in our prayers being more natural and therefore more genuine is a good thing; I would add that pushing ourselves in one direction or the other on this would not be good if the net effect is to inhibit prayer (i.e., to make us more reluctant to actually do it since we feel we're not doing it "the best way").

As to family spiritual leadership, that is a very important thing for the head of the family to keep in mind and pursue (good for you!). One wants to make the whole family aware of how important these thing are – both to you and also in absolute terms; one also wants to avoid things becoming ritualized or done merely out of tradition, worked up or in any way artificial. Difficult to thread that needle but the middle road is best: on the one hand, less may often be more, while on the other hand next to nothing may be as bad as nothing. One wants to lead and encourage and yet not over burden or alienate those one is trying to inspire and lead forward.

I'm very happy to hear of your own spiritual progress, my friend. The truth of the Word of God is the answer to every important question in this temporary world, and the only entrance to the next:

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2nd Peter 1:10-11 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Thanks again. Further question, I was wondering about Daniel 6:10. 1) Why was he praying towards Jerusalem? 2) Should we actually be on our knees when we pray?

Response #7:

Hello Friend,

Daniel was a godly man and an exceptional believer, so that we should consider his example. However, there is a difference between a personal application and a divine commandment. People and circumstances differ, after all. So we should pray – but how we pray (posture, direction, timing, etc.) is not decreed in scripture. That is a matter of personal choice. If we are trying to please the Lord, we will develop the best approach for us personally that fulfills the mandates of prayer we have been given according to the circumstances we are in. Elijah prayed on his back (1Ki.18:42); Abraham's servant prayed while standing by his camel (Gen.24:11-17); David did so while walking (2Sam.15:31); Hezekiah while lying down (Is.38:2) – and there are plenty of other examples of various posture (holding up "holy hands", just for example: 1Tim.2:8). No doubt there are many religious types who think they will be heard for their pious looking posture or many fine sounding words (Matt.6:5-7), but God honors what is in the heart, not the posture or the particulars of our expression. The important thing is that we do pray consistently, doing battle on behalf of our brothers in sisters in this world who, like us, are in deadly spiritual combat with the forces of the evil one.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.
Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Daniel prayed towards Jerusalem because that was where the temple had been, and he was looking forward to the restoration of Israel at the end of the seventy years (cf. also 2Chron.6:21). I am quite certain that he would have been heard by the Lord just as clearly and with just as much favor without that orientation – but this is who Daniel was, and it certainly is an inspiring example.

Here are some further links:

Prayer and our walk with Jesus

*Prayer: the Persistence, Purpose and Power of

The Lord's Prayer

Essentials of the Lord's Prayer (in CT 7)

The Will of God and Prayer

Praying for Wisdom

Eyes open in prayer?

Holding up Holy Hands

Imprecatory Prayer and Blessing by Association

Cumulative Prayer

Corporate Prayer: "When Two Agree"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is in us as we are in Him,

Bob L.

Question #8:

I have a question on prayer. How does sin and stumbling affect it?

Response #8:

Our spiritual status does affect our prayer-effectiveness in some ways (e.g., 1Pet.3:7). After all, the more mature and experienced we are, the better we understand the will of God, and the better we will be able to pray for things that are actually in God's will:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14 NIV

Jesus says, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (Jn.14:13 NIV). Clearly, the closer we are to Him as believers the more effective our prayer life will be.

However, if only the 100% obedient were heard, then no one's prayers would be heard (not even Paul's, not even Elijah's). When we pray, we are told be confident that we will receive what we are asking for:

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
Mark 11:24 NIV

So we should always confess our sins and always repent of wrong action and always strive day by day to draw closer to the Lord; but we should not second guess ourselves in praying – we should pray. And we should not doubt that will receive – we should have confident faith that we will. And we should not blame ourselves if our prayers are not immediately answered in precisely the way we imagined – God will answer in good time and in the right way that works everything out for good, taking so many things into account that we would never think of that it would boggle the mind to know the tenth part of them.

So keep praying and keep believing that you will receive, and do keep doing everything necessary to draw closer to the Lord while resisting everything that threatens to draw you farther from Him.

Question #9:

Dear Bob,

I hope you’re doing well. Sorry for the delay in response. We were celebrating my dad’s birthday this weekend. Work has also been especially hectic, and the bombardment of snow the NJ/NY area has gotten recently hasn’t helped.

I scanned through Part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series again (it’s been about six months since I finished reading it). From what I recall, my impression when reading it was that I kept waiting for the part where the Leviticus 23 holidays being fulfilled by Jesus in his first and second advents was discussed, however, the whole thing was focused on the overall span of human history and God’s plan for humanity through the course of the millennial days. My conclusion was that you’ve written a thorough, well organized, and well explained study that has done exactly what was intended—prove God’s plan for humanity to be the perfect foil for Satan’s selfish plans for usurpation. If there is any place where I think the scope could be expanded for additional discussion it might be in Section II.2 where, in addition to discussing the old and new covenants, perhaps the fulfillment of the holidays could further demonstrate the "shadow" versus "reality" phases of human history. However, upon continued rumination, adding that might require other editing to the later section discussing the holidays and the seven millennial days for continuity in the overall narrative of the text. All that might be too much effort. The study is complex and detailed enough as it is, and in the end I would say leave the scope as it is (but of course that’s really up to you). I haven’t read the Bible Basics series or finished the Peter series, so I don’t know if there are other places in your already-written studies which discuss the fulfillment of the law in Jesus in that way.

As for arguing with people over celebrating holidays, I do see your point that there are much better and more important things to fight for. I find it amazing, at this late stage of the game, how deeply the devil’s corruption has seeped into our everyday lives and I’m ever thankful that God still allows salvation even among such evil.

I wanted to ask if you’ve ever read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay "Pray Without Ceasing" from 1826. Emerson uses Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to explain that God, being omniscient, knows your every thought and thus you should treat every thought as a prayer to God. This seemed extreme when I first read it, but it does make some sense. It fits with verses such as Matthew 5:22 and 28 where even accepting sinful thoughts is deemed a sin. I realize that Emerson’s point (as well as Jesus’ point in Matthew 5) further speaks to our inability, due to the inherit flaws of our physical bodies and environments, to ever come close to the perfect righteousness of Christ, the standard by which we are supposed to judge ourselves. However (and it took until I read your studies and email postings on sin to fully understand this), even though we aren’t perfect and can never be perfect and sinless in our current state, God has provided the means to save us from sin and backsliding, which is to confess our sin to God as soon as possible after it is committed and then it is almost as though we are cleansed in the blood of Jesus again by this simple prayer of confession and absolved of our offense (taking care not to let a simple means for forgiveness be an excuse for sinning in the first place). Which brings me back to Emerson. I believe that by treating one’s every thought as a sort of prayer it could naturally lead to a more diligent focus on heavenly matters and perhaps not only discourage sinful or tempting thoughts, but also encourage "virtue thinking" (as written about in your series on Peter’s Epistles) and spiritual growth. So, have you read Emerson’s essay? I am interested in your take on this matter.

I look forward to hearing from you and to completing my testimony.

In Christ who gives us victory over the world,

Response #9:

Thanks for this. I appreciate your understanding! With all I've got on my plate, going back to some of these studies would be a task almost beyond my means (though if there are errors, typos, or serious gaps, I make a point of trying to do so in any case).

As to the question, I'm not much on essays or Emerson. The idea is interesting, but I don't find it in scripture. I personally would make a clear distinction between prayer (actually talking to the Lord) and thinking about Him and His truth (e.g., Ps.1:2: "In the Law of the Lord is his delight, and in His teaching he meditates day and night"). Our relationship with Jesus is just that, a relationship – the most important one we will ever have. Just as a man may sometimes talk to, say, the "love of his life", that does not mean when he thinks about her in appreciation that it is the same thing. So while I do feel that it is important for believers to be "thinking of the things above" as often as possible, making it their goal to ever keep our Lord and His truth as firmly in view as possible, I would wish to distinguish this from, say, petitioning Him for help for a fellow Christian, thanking Him for deliverance and comfort, praising Him for who and what He is, or confessing our sins to Him. Otherwise, it seems to me, the danger in adopting the suggested mind-set (which, as I say, I don't see supported by scripture) would possibly be the exact opposite of what E may have intended, that is, to reduce "actual prayer" in importance by making "everything prayer". If "everything is prayer", then, to some extent (given that we are weak creatures with a sinful nature very susceptible to all manner of mental transgression), the risk is that "nothing will be prayer". Where we are told to "pray without ceasing" (1Thes.5:17), I take the Greek to mean, "don't stop praying at every appropriate opportunity" rather than "pray in your sleep and while you are trying to do long division in your head at the same time", e.g.

Yours in Jesus Christ in whose glorious Name we pray,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Do you believe I should pray for people who reject Jesus and currently blaspheme the Holy Spirit?

Response #10:

It's a noble thing to pray for unbelievers, especially since we cannot know the true state of their heart. However, the Lord expects us to be good stewards of what we have been given, so in my personal estimate of such matters, time spent in prayer for our fellow believers is, on balance, likely to be better spent (in other words, my advice would be not to overdo it, which is generally good advice in all things).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Dr. Bob

Mark 16:17-18 describes divine abilities believers should possess but not observant to the contrary. This too I find hard to explain often. Kindly explain the biblical view of prayer in Mark 11:24. Thx in advance for continuous perseverance.

Response #11:

Good to hear from you as always. The gospel of Mark ends at verse eight. The false interpolation, part of which includes the two verses you ask about, is not biblical and should be crossed out of all Bibles. Here is a link explaining the hows and wherefores of this interpolation which has caused so many negative consequences to believers throughout the ages (as lies taken to be the truth always do): The Longer Ending of Mark.

On Mark 11:24, when anticipating God's answers to our prayers, we should keep several other verses and principles firmly in mind:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1st John 5:14 NIV

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3 NIV

The effect of both of these verses taken together is that we must not expect the Lord to grant us very specific prayer requests when these requests are not the Will of God, or when they are asked for with the wrong motivations. For example, it is entirely possible for me to pray for the Lord to create life on the moon, or to turn the oceans into grape juice, or to make me twenty feet tall. Certainly, it is no problem for the Lord to do any of these things. Reading this, it is no doubt in the heart of any one who hears these examples, "well that's just silliness". Indeed. But much of what we asked for when we were immature believers was, looking back, silliness, even if not of the type or scale of the examples above. Doesn't this mean that of course we have to have right motives, and that, of course, even if our motives are correct, then we are still not going to prevail with our prayers above what the specific will of God is? After all, everything has been decreed, and it has been decreed for the absolute good of all of us who truly love God (Rom.8:28). So for us to be able to change all manner of things materially merely by praying would wreak havoc in the plan – and in fact no single thing can be changed in history without altering it all.

Why pray, then? Because our prayers have indeed been anticipated and their answers incorporated into the magnificent Plan of God – if we don't pray, then we didn't pray, and that has already been taken into account. The main take-away from all this is that the more mature we become, the more we grow spiritually and begin to see things from God's point of view instead of our own incredibly myopic human point of view, then the more constructively we will begin to pray, and the better results we shall receive.

Second, God knows our hearts and He knows what we truly desire as well as what we truly need. If a believer asks for a million dollars in the desire to be happy, God knows the truth of what will happen and would never grant such a request if the result will be (as is likely, given the human condition), ultimate unhappiness. However, if we are asking something legitimate from legitimate motives, something that certainly seems to us, perhaps even as mature believers, in accordance with the Plan of God, we still should be very careful about expecting that things will turn out exactly as we would plan them. God has a way of doing the unexpected. He often answers pray at a time we would never guess (very often long after we have given up praying) and in a manner of which we would never have dreamed. The Lord waited until Abraham had, understandably, given up any hope of a naturally born heir. He and Sarah were past the physical point of producing a child, absent a miracle – but a miracle was precisely what the Lord wrought in answer to many prayers prayed over a long period of time. So there is also a very big element of faith involved in prayer: we have to be willing to let the Lord do His Will at His time and in His way, handing over all of our concerns to Him in prayer each and every day.

I have no doubt that when we stand before our dear Lord Jesus on that great day to be evaluated for what we have done in this life, we will be shown that every prayer counted, that every prayer was answered and dealt with appropriately, and that we will have then and so should have now no cause for regret for any instance in which we truly trusted God and handed a problem over to Him in prayer – we will only regret that we didn't / aren't doing it more.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Dear Bob,

Your disclosure was news to me having had the idea that KJV was comprehensive out of all historical publications. I need to get conversant with this reading references you have highlighted. I live in a country Christianity is viewed as an imported religion and does not deserve recognition. Questions have been raised from various sectors every now and then on the queries I have presented to you and therefore need to be acquainted adequately specially when in the business of sharing Gospel. I intend taking this Mark 16:8-20 interpolation to our preachers hence thankful if receive more reference of confirmation if you have any.

Thank you for your always obliging approach to shed light on our Savior's revelations.

Blessings

Response #12:

You're most welcome,

Please do feel free to write back about any of the above. There are other files at Ichthys which deal with this and related subjects, including the KJV (see the link for one).

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

How have your classes been going? Good, I hope. What do you think about a prayer journal? If I write things down, is that still a form of prayer? It's easier for me to find the words when I'm writing. I wonder if I could switch to writing entirely. I feel strange praying aloud. I even feel weird praying in my head. It's just really awkward.

Response #13:

Good to hear from you as always. As to prayer, I think perhaps the reason you are still reluctant to pray is that you actually take speaking with the Lord seriously – and that is a good thing. I've never heard of a prayer journal before, but David wrote down his prayers and songs of praise (the Psalms). Anything that helps you with this can't be a bad thing. I know that this will get better for you over time – and there is no need to pray out loud. For most of us, I would imagine that 90%+ of our praying is silent prayer.

Question #14:

Robert,

How are you? I hope all is well with you. Still reading CT diligently every might. Really good work. Only on section 3. Just digesting every word.

One question for you. What is your thoughts on God's answering non-Christian prayers? Here is what I think and let me know if I am off course and I would love to know your thought.

My boss is a Muslim. And he fervently says he prays to God/Allah every night. My believe is that God bestows blessings on righteous and unrighteousness but eternal life is only for those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ's atoning work and repents if his sins. Am I correct in that context? From man's outward view, my boss doesn't do the egregious sin but is a sinner nonetheless. But temporal blessings and eternal salvation are two different things and this doesn't contradict God's character.

Thanks for your thoughts. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ continue to bless your ministry for laymen like me.

Response #14:

I think that you are exactly correct.

[The Father] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:45b NKJV

The Lord has established a system of truth in the world, law and nationalism (see the link), whereby if a person follows these truths which are written into the creation, that person may well prosper. For example, hard work often brings success. Refraining from sinful and illegal behavior often pays temporal benefits. There are many people who have been prospered in this life because of leading a hard-working, responsible and moral life; and there are many who have been destroyed for the opposite. But at the end of the day, a life of unbelief is just that, namely, a decision to reject God for one's own will instead. Being "religious" is often a part of that life of rejection of the truth. It may be traditional (people feel "warm and fuzzy" for sticking with tradition); rituals also give people a sense of security and continuity. And some people buy into the lies of religion in a very big way (this usually undermines respect for common sense principles that may bring worldly success, however).

Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 9:9 NIV

But afterwards come the "days of darkness" for the unbeliever.

However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 11:8 NIV

Meaningless, that is, for the unbeliever. Unbelievers, even if they have worldly success, "are like the beasts which perish" (Ps.49:12; 49:20).

As to prayer, the only prayers we see in scripture being answered for unbelievers are the heartfelt prayers of those who really do want to come to know the Lord so as to be saved (e.g., Acts 10:4). That, after all, is what every unbeliever really needs, the gospel . . . and to accept it. It would be so much better for any unbeliever to be hit with the most overwhelming suffering – and then come to believe as a result – than to live the most blessed earthly life for a few short years, then face an eternity in the lake of fire. And I believe that God does indeed give each and every person not only every opportunity to believe but also precisely the life circumstances in which he/she would believe . . . if he/she were willing to believe (see the discussion at the link in BB 4B: Soteriology). It is a sad fact, however, and an absolutely amazing fact (especially for us who do believe) that unbelievers are absolutely determined not to believe (in the vast majority of cases). But we who do believe should still pray for them. If we had been alive during the first century, I am sure that we would have rated the apostle Paul when he was still Saul as the least likely person ever to accept Christ – and yet he became one of the greatest believers to ever live.

Thanks much for your encouraging words!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

How have you been my dear brother? I trust you and your family had a wonderful "Resurrection Sunday", as we all remembered the incredible sacrifice that our precious Lord, Jesus Christ, paid so that we might forgiven of our sins, and might dwell with Him forever. If you have some time may I ask your thoughts on a couple of matters related to both, "Salvation", and also to "Prayer", as it relates to Salvation? Now, I must inform you at the start that I personally am not a "Calvinist" in the strict sense, nor am I an "Arminian" in the strict sense. I believe that God desires all people to be saved, yet because of His desire to have people genuinely "want" to love Him, out of His kindness, He allows people to choose whether or not they want to accept His gracious offer to them.

I bring up this issue because I have been spending allot of time in prayer on behalf of a young person who is not a Christian at this time, and is not living a godly lifestyle, however, I have had a real burden on my heart to intercede for ___, praying for an experience with the Lord Jesus, resulting in ___ giving life completely to Him, and also, praying that in the meantime, He will be merciful, gracious, patient, and long suffering, for as long as possible within the limits of His Righteousness. Of course I humbly acknowledge that I cannot make the "salvation decision"; I understand that is a choice only ___ can make. However, in my personal study and examination, of God's Word on the matter, I have seen numerous examples where God was willing and even chose to show an "above average" amount of Mercy and Grace towards certain people or places, because of the prayers offered to Him by believers, who interceded for sake of others. I believe several examples of this principle can be found in the following references: Genesis 18:16-33, 19:18-21, Exodus 32:11-14, Job 42:7-9, Isaiah 53:12, Jonah 3-4, Acts 27:23-24, Romans 10:1, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, James 5:15.

May I ask you to share your thoughts on this matter? I'm sure it goes without saying, that I really care about ___ very much, and have been spending much of my time praying for ___, with all of the humility, sincerity, and love, that I know how to give. It would not at all be an exaggeration for me to say that, if it came down to it, I would gladly lay down my own life, if it would help.

In closing, I just want to say thank you for sharing your time, to correspond with me, and for your help as a fellow brother in Christ Jesus, our Hope. I am very grateful Mr. Luginbill, may God be with you my brother. Your friend in Christ Jesus,

Response #15:

I will be praying for your friend, and have put a request on the Ichthys prayer list.

I'm not a Calvinist or an Arminian either. God has a plan. We have free will. Free will is part of the plan.

So when it comes to prayer, I have no problem praying for the salvation of others, in full knowledge of the fact that they do have to make that choice themselves. God has provided for everything in His perfect plan. It is true that we cannot know if someone will choose to be saved. But it is also true that for anyone to be saved they have to be presented with the truth (Rom.10:14ff.). God knows who wants the truth; He also knows how and when He will present it to them. And He uses us to do so in most cases.

Taking an overly fatalistic view (ala hyper-Calvinism) would suggest that we should sit back and not interfere – but we know that is the wrong thing: God has already prepared the works He wants us to do on behalf of His Church (Eph.2:10). Viewing the situation in this world too much through human eyes (ala hyper-Arminianism) can lead to the impression that if we don't do something, person X will not be saved. But God is in control. And He uses us as part of that control. So when we pray for someone, that fact was known by God in eternity past. He has put our prayers into the plan in just the perfect way. For all we in our myopia may know, person X has been put where he/she has been put precisely so that we would pray, and so that God would then answer that prayer in bringing about the perfect circumstances for person X to believe. There is no way for us have any idea about these specific hows and whys of the plan of God, but we can have absolute faith that God has it all worked out and perfectly so, and, more than that, that He is bringing everything to the perfect conclusion in the perfect way. Would person X be saved anyway if we don't pray? No one is going to be lost because of what we do. But consider that if we don't pray, perhaps God would not have put person X where He did – or that He might have put person Y there instead (someone who was never going to believe in any case).

Since we cannot know these things, but can trust God entirely and with all our hearts, the best policy is always just to ask ourselves what God wants us to do, then do it. Does He want us to pray for and witness to unbelievers? Absolutely. Will this always result in salvation for each one? No, but it will always result in the will of God being done. At the last judgment, it will be revealed to all unbelievers that God did absolutely the most for each one of them to bring about salvation – starting with the bedrock fact that Jesus died for all of their sins so that they might be saved. "I didn't know!" will not be a defense, because God will be able to show everyone in full detail what went on in their hearts. And as far as person Y (hopefully not person X) is concerned, He will no doubt say something like, "My servant Z prayed for your salvation, and I did ABC to lead you to salvation as a result, but you were not willing". This may not be the answer we are looking for here and now, but it will certainly redound to the glory of God, and will certainly demonstrate that since Jesus died for all, all could have been saved, and that those who were not were not because they did not want to live with the Lord for all eternity. We certainly hope that this is not the case with your friend, and we choose not to underestimate the wisdom of God, the power of God, the great mercy of God, or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Yes. We shall pray.

Thank you so much for all your good words and encouragement, my friend!

For more on all of these issues please see the important link:

BB 4B: Soteriology: the Biblical Study of Salvation

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

I happen to have a break in my schedule and wanted to have somewhat of a sanity check since things have been so crazy over the last couple of months (moving out of the house, moving into dorm life, meeting new people, starting new classes, not failing said new classes, etc.). It feels sublimely peaceful to roll back all the stress and expectation for a time and just fully delve into God's word and all its subtleties, like opening a well worn book in a favorite chair. At least that is the feeling I am experiencing right now.

I am actually rather pleased to say that I found a Church on campus that does not make me want to hurl every time I go there. It's rather amusing since pretty much everyone at the Church except my roommate and I are Korean, but there are no sermons (they actually call it "the preaching of the word") and their doctrine is as sound as I've found in any modern church I've ever been in (minus pre-trib rapture, but I've yet to come across a "church" that doesn't teach that). The Sunday services consist of about 5 minutes of opening prayer, then some worship music (pretty typical new age stuff mind you), and then about an hour and half of the pastors actually teaching on a particular passage. At the first service I went to, I was actually super excited to see a power-point presentation with Bible verses on it being used DURING the sermon, and it was really the first time in my life that I've ever actually been able to not feel silly taking notes on what a pastor was saying. After a couple weeks, I joined their small group studies and am now in a group of about 15 other people (college students) that meets once a week to pray together, worship, and then talk about the application of what was taught in the sermon from the previous week (we are currently doing Ephesians). I was unsure of how "social" such an activity would be, but I've decided that the positives (having the opportunity to talk about what I believe with other people my age, making Christian friends who are at least receptive to growth, really thinking about application of scripture in a group setting, etc.) outweigh some of the time lost time from eating cheese doodles together and learning what other people's favorite ice cream flavors are.

One thing that is very different at this church than any of the churches I grew up in is that they pray out loud ... as in everyone does. In my rather limited experiences with Churches (ex-Presbyterian mostly), prayer was always a silent thing between you and God, not something you really spoke to the world. Talking with some of the leaders here, they tell me that they pray out loud because hearing brothers and sisters praying for you can be an encouragement. Doctrinally I wouldn't have a problem with this, except sometimes others are rather more emotional and vocal than what I would consider ordinary behavior. I am very leery of confronting anyone about it because the only basis for bringing it up is a subjective sense of malaise on my part (and I do not have any experience in these matters either). Some of this may be culture shock; I am used to praying silently and having others pray silently, so when others pray out loud, I cannot focus. I do not believe anyone there is really "praying to be seen" as Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for doing, but am not entirely sure that my uneasiness is really unfounded either. Outside of not praying loudly for recognition, is there a great deal more that can be gleaned from scripture about communal/vocal prayer?

In Christ,

Response #16:

Good to hear from you as always. I'm happy to hear that you have found a good Christian fellowship. Whenever Christians today from various backgrounds get together and form a fellowship with regular meetings and practices, it is probably inevitable that some things are going to "rub us the wrong the way". In such instances, we have to take things on a case by case basis and consider whether our objections are based upon clashes with our particular "comfort zone" and/or traditional practices, or genuine violations of what is good and right to do. Even in the latter situation, more often than not it will not be a case of some absolute principle of truth being egregiously violated as much as it will be of a failure to understand and apply scripture as well as we would like, or of some addition or other which is unnecessary and unhelpful.

I agree that group prayer of the type you relate can be problematic, and it is also something which always bothered me in evangelical settings (less so in more traditional denominational settings). The believers who prayed with Paul and his company at Tyre did so as a group – it was a needful and unique situation – but scripture doesn't say that they did so out loud (Acts 21:5). I would certainly not wish to say that praying out loud in a group is wrong or never appropriate. However, institutionalizing it as opposed to seeing it as something to be done when special circumstances call for it is in my view what leads to the uncomfortable experience you relate. There are certainly times to pray out loud:

"Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head." After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.
Acts 27:34-35 NIV

Setting up a situation in a group meeting where group prayer out loud is expected as a matter of routine, however, has a tendency to promote prayer for prayer's sake rather than being a specific response to a specific need. The result can easily be that more attention is paid to how the prayer sounds and what the emotional reaction of those listening may be than to the reason for praying in the first place, and this is true even if, as you relate, there is no overt effort to make a show of praying (though this is indeed another potential problem, especially in a group: cf. Matt.24:13).

(5) "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (6) But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."
Matthew 6:5-6 NKJV

The above sets a high standard for group prayer out loud, one that no doubt is often not met. Even if the intent is not Pharisaical as in verse five, still there should be good reason not to do as our Lord instructs in verse six. One reason behind this is that we are all "believer priests" with individual access to the Father and His throne of grace in heaven itself (Heb.10:19-22; see the link). We do not need any human being to intercede for us for our prayers to be heard; we are grateful for the prayers of others, but group prayer through one person doing the praying is not required for this (nor, I think, ever paralleled in scripture in the sense we are speaking of here).

It is true that where "two agree" there is an additional effectiveness to prayer (Matt.18:19), but this strikes me as different from one person voicing prayer concerns in front of a larger group without any prior consultation with anyone else. Simply put, anything that smacks of "theater" is usually going down the wrong road (we have quite enough of that in our Laodicean age), and it seems to me that it would be hard to avoid that sort of thing entirely whenever audible group prayer becomes a ritual. Even in situations like "grace", or prayer before a Bible teaching session, it is probably a case of "less is more" for all these reasons.

These can be subtle things, but things which may militate against the straightforward, no-nonsense search for God's truth nonetheless.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Just to clarify a bit: when I say "everyone prays out loud" I do not mean everyone in turn, like going a around a circle (I apologize if I misinterpreted the later part of your response, but that seems to be what you were addressing). Rather, people pray all at once, in what amounts to a rather significant amount of noise if one is in a room with enough people. Now "all" is probably a somewhat misleading word as well, since not everyone joins this vocal "praying en masse" , but it is a large enough fraction of the people that show up to the prayer meetings to make the environment uncomfortable (at least from my perspective). Though we do have the "one person praying for the group" thing too (at the close of meetings), I was not actually troubled by that facet of our group prayer nearly so much as the aforementioned one. I have found the "one person" prayer to be most often some member of the group volunteering to pray for everyone's safety and blessing in the coming week (i.e. very reasonable requests and nothing out of the ordinary). Does any of this change the general sway of your response to the situation?

Also, you mentioned several other things that I am curious about (or am not sure I understand completely).

1) Do you think designated prayer meetings (cf. "institutionalized prayer") are a good idea, or rather misguided? What about "prayer vigils" and groups such as the International House of Prayer whose sole purpose for existence revolves around such things? (absent the very prominent doctrinal issues concerning the aforementioned group)

2) While there is nothing inherently wrong with gathering together to pray, it should be done for a specific purpose not "just because." Am I understanding correctly?

3) As an addendum to the above, what if such meetings have "a reason" (let's pray for our missionaries!) but seem to last a rather long time more than what seems necessary? I fear I may be rather too much a pragmatist, but sometimes it seems that if people would pray in earnest, have faith in God's ability (instead of praying for the same thing for the next hour), and then actually go and try to materially contribute towards that for which they pray, it wold be much better.

As I understand it, we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and such a sentiment rejects the very thought of "prayer meetings." Obviously we are human, and obviously we fall short, even spectacularly so. But I still do not find it particularly necessary to set apart these "prayer meetings" if we are even trying do the right thing in the slightest. I like what Spurgeon has to say:

" 'Pray without ceasing.' That precept at one stroke overthrows the idea of particular times wherein prayer is more acceptable or more proper than at others. If I am to pray without ceasing, then every second must be suitable for prayer, and there is not one unholy moment in the hour, nor one unaccepted hour in the day, nor one unhallowed day in the year. The Lord has not appointed a certain week for prayer, but all weeks should be weeks of prayer: neither has he said that one hour of the day is more acceptable than another. All time is equally legitimate for supplication, equally holy, equally accepted with God, or else we should not have been told to pray without ceasing."

In Jesus Our Dear Savior,

Response #17:

If what you are saying is that everyone in the group is praying different prayers out loud at the same time, that would be to me a very negative warning sign:

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
1st Corinthians 14:33 NKJV

Let all things be done decently and in order.
1st Corinthians 14:40 NKJV

And . . .

Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
1st Corinthians 14:23 NKJV

The situation you describe is different from the one directly above, but the effect of so many people talking at the same time would be the same – no one could understand what was being said (and I imagine just trying to concentrate on what you personally were trying to say would be difficult).

On the issue of one person at a time praying for the group, it's typical, as I said before (and I have the same feelings about it as before). As to your list of questions:

1) Group prayer is, in my view, problematic for the reasons discussed earlier. There are times for it, but I would be more inclined to feel it to be appropriate to the extent that it is impromptu to meet a particular situation, and less inclined to be persuaded of its legitimacy to the extent that it is, as you put it, "institutionalized"; that makes me quite leery of groups or meetings who have this as their sole purpose. To take but one example, who is doing the praying? What about the person's spiritual bona fides? Why am I expected to be in agreement with whatever any Tom, Dick or Harry spouts out in prayer? Just as popular Christian music is an issue because its words are not always written by people with deep understanding of scripture, so it is with any given prayer. It's fine for this person to pray what he/she prays – God takes us where we are and leads us where we are willing to be led – but why must I agree with something I think it is inappropriate to pray for, or questionable to pray for, or am unsure about praying for, or am just unsure about the point of the prayer? One could go on. I don't recall Jesus and His disciples praying in this way. Our Lord went off on His own to pray (Matt.14:23; Mk.6:46; Lk.6:12); and even when He went with others, it was individual prayer that resulted (Lk.9:28; cf. Matt.26:36; Mk.14:32). I'm not condemning group prayer as practiced in evangelicaldom; still less am I criticizing the ministries of other people. If the Lord is leading someone to have a group prayer meeting or ministry or to participate in such, that is fine. But I do object to a legalistic attitude that suggests or says such a thing is required or that those who choose not to participate are somehow not good Christians; in my view they are likely to be doing more for the prayer support of the Church through their individual prayers than those who are farming out their efforts in ways discussed above.

2) Yes, prayer should be purposeful. I don't have a problem with being regular about prayer, but that strikes me as an individual thing. Making group prayer a rote or ritual is likely to make Christians feel they have "checked the box" whereas in my view no amount of prayer meetings or prayer organizations can take the place of the prayer we are supposed to be offering up individually as individual Christians day by day. And the more focused on a particular purpose and occasion prayer is when it comes to groups, the less organized and the less regular it will of necessity be (in my opinion).

3) I think your analysis here is right on the money. Someone says, "let's pray for the missionaries!" Fine. What is preventing you or me from doing so right now or at any time? Is it necessary (or beneficial) to get together at one place and at one time to do so? Why not say a prayer right then and there? And if it is a matter of great concern on the heart of the person who says this, one hopes that said person will be praying regularly for them, adding them to his/her individual prayer list, and possibly asking others to do the same. This strikes me as a better way to have consistent prayer support for things that matter. As with all other things in the Church, anything that smacks of hoopla, excitement and entertainment is likely to be of little true spiritual value; things that are instead serious, responsible and no-nonsense are more likely to have spiritual gravity.

Your point about "pray without ceasing" sums this all up nicely. To the extent that we make some prayer time "special", to that extent we imply that other prayer is not as important or is unlikely to be as effective (when in my view just the opposite is usually the case).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Professor, just one more question. When it comes to prayer, do you think it's a good idea to have a rhythm that is repeated every day? This is what I have adhered to. It has developed over the course of last few years, but it doesn't change from day to day. While I understand the critical role of prayer, recently under time limited circumstances I have wondered if sometimes maybe I could have made the prayer a little shorter and spent more time on study. I know that this is a personal issue which is influenced by many factors, but your view will be appreciated.

Response #18:

Hello my friend,

I am keeping you in prayer daily for your big meeting (please let me know how that goes) and for your move to new quarters. As to the question of prayer, I had to smile when I read this. I have likewise developed a daily prayer routine which has grown over the years and now takes up a good deal of time. It doesn't change much day to day, but it does grow and modify with time (as I am sure is the same with yourself). I personally think there is great benefit in being persistent in an aggressive and comprehensive prayer life, and routine is a tool that helps us in that – just as long as we can avoid becoming so routinized that we are no longer spiritually engaged (a rare thing for those who are really growing in the Word, but necessary to say). I have found that not only is this consistency valuable for others, but also very much so for myself. And I have also found that it has lead me to understand certain principles of the truth more completely. Bible study is important, but so is prayer. I wouldn't want to trade one for the other on either side of the equation. We can't do everything, but we can often do more than we realize. When it comes to someone as dedicated as yourself, I am not in the least bit worried about your approach: there is only good, better and best (and hopefully we are all working away at moving forward towards "best").

The "how to" of prayer is individual, or should be, and cannot help but change in its dynamics as we grow in our understanding of the truth, even if the routine and content stays pretty much the same. It has come to me recently that "give us our daily bread" and "forgive us our sins" and "deliver us" is asking for things which in faith we know that we already have, and so in the mature believer will develop past a frantic please into a confident remembrance as he/she progresses in the faith: of course we have what we need today (these things were decreed in the plan of God in eternity past), of course we have been forgiven (Christ has already died for us all), of course we are being delivered from the evil one (God loves us; if we are experiencing trouble, it is not from God but the evil one, and God will protect His own). So prayer, as we grow, becomes a way we remind ourselves of the goodness, power, and perfect plan of God. The victory has already been won, and we are merely entering into the fruits thereof – and prayer for ourselves and others is one of the ways we do this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

It is often said 'G_Ds will' when talking or praying about the best in life for another or ourselves. It may often be what we would say to avoid the selfish desires of the flesh. With the endless supply of trouble in this world, I come to John 6 verse 40, and pause (selah). What better thing could I possibly want for anyone, myself included.

G_Ds will.

Response #19:

Indeed – this life is very temporary. We are here to choose, and the first and most substantial choice is that of accepting eternal life, the reason we have been given the image of God. The rest of it is all about fighting the fight, and for that fight we do need logistics. It is certainly right and proper to pray for these for ourselves and others, but also always spiritually salutary to remember where exactly we are, why we need what we need, and what precisely we ought to be doing with everything we have graciously received – glorifying the Lord who bought us with His blood.

In Jesus who is our all in all, in this life and in the next.

Bob L.

Question #20:

Dear Bob,

While I was reading your weekly email posting, "Finding a Church - Or Something Better", I felt the need to share with you a recent blessing I've been given. For the past five years, I've been looking for land out and away from the madding crowd. I've prayed for good soil with reasonably shallow well depths (both uncommon in my area) fairly consistently over those five years. A week ago, I closed on that piece of land.

I had exhausted every other listing and this was the last property left on the market but it went off before I got around to looking. I was ready to give up for the time being but before I did, I made one last scan of the available listings a couple of weeks later. That particular tract was back on the market. Three other parties looked at the land the same day I did.

I discovered that this particular property was the last one in a small area of unusually good soil and well depths. It sits over an excellent aquifer and is surrounded by good neighbors; the kind of people I prefer to be with. My prayer was answered with a richness that I never dreamed possible.

There were many times when I had doubts and wondered if the Lord wanted me to do something else, but the urge remained. When the Lord said, "Ask and you shall receive" he meant exactly that. I asked and was given exactly as I asked and much more besides.

There's no question in my email today but maybe some assurance for those who are having doubts. I've never felt good about asking for something personal. I assumed He knew what I needed and would see to it that I got it - which He has done and done more than I deserved. This was the first thing I asked specifically for myself. I had no right to expect what I received and I have absolutely no doubt this was a gift and an answer to my prayer.

I just had to share.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #20:

That's great news – and a wonderful testimony!

Say a prayer for me, would you?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hello--I was wondering if you could clarify something for me. In the new Bible translations, like the NASB it has "me" in John 14:14--"Whatever you ask ME in MY name, that I will do." A Mormon has said the "me" doesn't belong in there; and quoted some scholar or other to back him up, that says it is missing from many manuscripts and contradicts what Jesus said elsewhere. In my own research, I have found that it is rather evenly divided as to whether or not it belongs in there; Lenski says it does, Bruce says "no" and Carson says "yes". So, there is a lot of opinion out there on this. Mormons don't believe in praying to Jesus, that only heavenly father should be prayed to.

So, I was wondering your opinion on this. Carson said the ones that omit the "me" are in the minority and it is missing from a few ancient and very important manuscripts, but he doesn't say which ones, in his commentary on John. Is it in the Sinaiticus? (sp.?)

I maintain that, whether or not it belongs in there, the meaning is the same even without it, because Jesus says "that I will do." It has HIM answering prayer.

Thanks, as always, for your help. God bless!

Response #21:

Good to hear from you as always. You make a very good point about John 14:13; "that I will do" certainly assumes asking our Lord Jesus something directly.

Not only is the Greek word for "me" (με) present in Sinaiticus the oldest ms., but it's also present in the second oldest ms., Vatincanus, and also in the Bodmer papyrus (late 2nd cent. – a very early witness; there are few earlier), as well as in many other witnesses. Of the mss. which omit "me", some have nothing, some have "the Father", and the confusion about what to replace "me" with is a clear indication that the "me" is original (a basic principle of textual criticism). Moreover, since this is said directly by our Lord only in this one place, putting in "me" accidentally or for theological reasons is a very low probability situation. On the other hand, since even in the early church many did not accept the divinity of Christ, there were pressures to take out the "me" (as well as reasons for confusion such as the alternative versions suggest).

After writing this I consulted Metzger's Textual Commentary on the New Testament half expecting to be disappointed (because of strong pressure through theological prejudice to ignore these facts) and found instead that Metzger makes the same arguments (in different prose), but presents the case as if it is decided (i.e., that there is no legitimate scholarly question about the fact that "me" is the correct reading). In short, from a text-critical point of view, the issue is rock-solid. The only reason to wish to "cook the Book" here is to de-fang a passage contrary to one's theological views: no one who does not accept the deity of Christ will be pleased with what the Lord actually says here. I have something written up about this (the theology not the text) at the following link: "Can Prayer be Offered to the Son? The Meaning of Jesus' Words in John 14:14".

I find it interesting that the Lord always allows a certain amount of "plausible deniability" on most such things, giving those who do not really want to have a relationship with Him plenty of rope with which to hang themselves; that, after all, was also the reason for using the parables.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – to whom we are blessed to be able to pray.

Bob L.

Question #22:

Thanks. This is all very interesting. I found stuff by Dr. Carson that more or less agrees with you, though he never mentioned in his commentary on John what manuscripts omit it and which don't. Dr. F. F. Bruce thinks it does not belong in there, the "me", but both scholars say basically the same thing--the Father can deny the Son nothing since both are One God and of one will, whether we ask something directly of Jesus or of our Heavenly Father in Jesus' name.

As a side thing, I have a Mormon who says the NT Gospels are all based on hearsay and the bible contains fables, like other religious texts--like the flood in Gilgamesh (though I always thought that Gil got the idea from the actual flood, the details of which would be handed down orally until Moses wrote the Pentatuch, much later, and that it would have become "paganized" by a pagan people, hence, the Gilgamesh version of the great flood). I have studied some of this stuff, and it's been refuted, but do you have something on your website that explains about the witness of the Bible, esp. the Gospels? I told this guy they were written by either eye witnesses or close associates of eye witnesses and that the early church accepted them almost immediately. I also said that they were written within the lifetime of many other witnesses to Jesus' ministry and life and death and if they contained anything false in them, they would not have enjoyed such wide acceptance. Also, the early church fathers in the early second century quote from the Gospels and call them by the names we cal them. But do you have anything further to say about this, on your website?

Thanks as always, for your help!

Response #22:

You're very welcome. I see things exactly as you do. I can't tell you how many readers have problems understanding that a pagan epic about the actual flood written before the Bible does not in any compromise the truth of the biblical account which came later directly from God through divine inspiration (see the link). The gospel question is a similar hobby-horse problem I have to deal with quite a bit, but your precis here is exactly right. I don't have a comprehensive treatment of that issue (some day when I finally finish BB 7 Bibliology I hope to include such a piece), but here are a few links to where different aspects of the issue are discussed at Ichthys:

Composition of the Gospels (in Bible and Canon)

The Dating of Mark's Gospel

The Synoptic Gospels

Did Matthew Write his Gospel in Hebrew?

The "Q" Hypothesis and the Dating of the Gospels

John's Gospel

Gospel Questions

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

 


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