Praying as Jesus Prayed

Continuing our series on prayer and how to delight in it and God, today we look at the model that Christ laid forth. Next time, we will look a little closer at the how He prayed. Then look at how that relates to the believer of praying to the Father and what it means to pray in the Spirit.


 

As Jesus instructed the disciple to address the Father in prayer, “Our heavenly Father,” (Matt 6:9-15) so we should do the same.[1] In Jesus, we see an example of a prosperous prayer life, but also how we should pray to the Father. The examples of Jesus’ prayers in the Bible display a deep love that the Son has for His Father, the importance, benefit and necessity of prayer, and the distinct Personhood of the Father and Son. While some object to Jesus’ prayers and say He was praying to Himself, it is in fact through His dialogue with the Father (Matt 3:17; 17:5; John 5:19; 11:41–42; 17:1ff) that we see the best evidence that they are separate individuals with distinct “centers of consciousness.”[2]

“Every situation, every petition always brought Jesus back to the object of his mission, the divine will, the work his Father had entrusted to him. Jesus desired nothing else. Prayer enabled him to discern and bless the plan of his Father whom he had come to serve.”[3] Everything Jesus did was motivated by His submission and trust of the Father. Jesus knew the importance of talking with His Father in prayer. He is repeatedly pictured as withdrawing from the crowds and ministering to the people in order that he might be refreshed through a period of solitude and prayer.[4] In Jesus, who was given by the Father to this world as an inexpressible gift (John 3:16, 2 Cor 9:15) and has revealed the Father to us (Matt 11:27), Christians are the beneficiaries of the great honor to call God, “Father.” Because Jesus has come and taken our place, we can dare to come before God the Father as His children and address Him as “Father” in the same way that Jesus, the true Son of God, called Him “Father”.


 

[1] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 75.

[2] Matt Perman, “What is the Doctrine of the Trinity?” Desiring God, 2014, accessed 30 November 2014, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity.

[3] Gauthier Adalbert Hamman, Prayer – The New Testament, (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1971), 182.

[4] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 276.

Prophecy: Jack Deere’s view on it

Next, we look at how Jack Deere views the office of the prophets and prophecy both in biblical times and modern times. The main definition for prophecy focuses on Deuteronomy 18. While this writer agrees that prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must be careful to not elevate that gift to the same level as the divinely inspired Word.

Deere’s View on Prophecy

A serious issue with the book is Deere’s casual handling of the biblical prophets, or as to use his term, those that are “prophetically gifted.” Deere doesn’t believe that a failed or missed prediction makes a false prophet. He will even go so far as to say that the 100% accuracy rule of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 is not the correct interpretation of that text, nor does he hold 100% accuracy view for the New Testament.[1] Thus, let us now look at Deuteronomy 18:18, 20, 22 to see what it says:

[A]nd I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him…. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death…. If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.

In reviewing the passage in Deuteronomy, the view of this writer is that Deere has missed the mark. If one claims to be a prophet and speaks presumptuously for God a message that God has not delivered to them, then the prophet is a false prophet. Since they are a false prophet, then they are deserving of death. From this passage, there are two main standards of truth. First, that it must be 100% accurate. Second, that it must match the word of God. This standard would then apply in spirit at all times, not just in ancient Israel. In view of the text, an Old Testament prophet could be defined as one who speaks for God. A prophet is one in whom God has placed His words and because they are from God, the standard of accuracy is 100%. “Deuteronomy 18 does more than establish the prophet as a divinely deputized spokesman; it correlates his mission with the proclamation of God’s divinely given words.”[2]

Contrary to the biblical standard of Deuteronomy 18, Deere instead believes that “the way to discern between false and true prophets is to examine the fruit of the prophet’s ministry.”[3] Deere later mentions that “certainly, truth or fulfillment of prophecy would be part of the good fruit.”[4] By mentioning fruit, he is causing the reader to observe the effects of the prophet instead of the accuracy. While Deere admits that he knows of no prophets that are absolutely accurate 100% of the time, he believes that prophetic error can still produce fruit of the Spirit.[5] At the same time, in viewing prophets in this way, he has made a fundamental mistake saying in effect that God speaks in error.

This directs us back to the definition of a prophet. If prophecy can be defined as speaking God’s words, then what Deere terms a “prophetically gifted” person must be called a prophet. While Deere says that the “prophetically gifted” are right most of the time but not all of the time, if they claim to speak the words of God, then by definition they must be called prophets. If the standard of a prophet is that they will speak the words that God will put into their mouths, and because God is who He is and He is the standard of truth, then the prophecy must be 100% accurate. Unfortunately, these “prophets” do not meet the standard of truth that God set out for them in His Word. Deere instead tries to fit God’s Word into his theology. Truth can be defined as “a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true.”[6] Examining truth further, the “root notion of truth is that of something measuring up – that is, measuring up in being or excellence.”[7] God is the only and best standard of truth. When God-breathed out His inspired Word by using the Spirit to guide the biblical authors to write these inerrant words, He gave us His standard of truth.

The issue at hand is not about adding these prophetic words to the Bible. As discussed, the canon is a closed discussion. The issue is if God is speaking these words through these “prophets,” then they are from God and have God as their source. This means that they are also considered inspired, which means they must be true. But when Deere says that not every prophet is 100% accurate and are wrong some of the time, then they cannot be from God because His words meet the standard of truth and come with His authority. These “prophets” simply do not measure up.

[1] Deere, 69.

[2] Henry, 16.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Deere, 326.

[5] Ibid, 68-69.

[6] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “True,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/true.

[7] Nicholas Wolterstorff, “True Words,” in But is it All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, ed. Alan Padgett and Patrick Keifert (Cambridge, UK: WM. B. Eerdmans 2006), 43.

“True Words” by Nicholas Wolterstorff – what is truth?

This post discusses the meaning of truth as defined by Nicholas Wolterstorff in his article “True Words.”

How does Wolterstorff define truth? interact with his biblical support.

    • Wolterstorff suggests that the “root notion of truth is that of something measuring up – that is, measuring up in being or excellence.
    • In the John 5:31 verse where Jesus says, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.” This is a response by Christ that the standard was the law which required two or three witnesses. So His testimony alone doesn’t meet or measure up to the standard of the law. This is also why He goes on to say, in this context, that another testifies about Him which makes it true in the very next verse.  “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.”

How do you evaluate his definition of truth?

    • While each case will be different and the standard will be dependent on the context, Wolterstorff lays out a simple yet sophisticated way to determine what truth is. He also does a good job of distinguishing between commands and assertions. His definition provides an excellent litmus test to determining if these assertions are “true” by meeting a certain criteria that pertains to the context. Wolterstorff does well in providing an explanation to what a “standard sense” is by saying that the “true assertion” must fit or “correspond to the facts.”

What are the most significant strengths?

    • The most significant strength of his definition is that it simply uses a certain criteria, or standard, to measure truth against. It says that if this assertion, with all of the facts, meets this standard, then it is accurate, correct and thus truth. If it doesn’t, then it is not true. Or if the proposition states that something is not true, then it is not true.

Are there any significant weaknesses?

    • While he provides one of the best definitions of truth, it does have some weaknesses. First, there will be different standards for different assertions. Each case will be different and dependent upon the context. It will be limited to those propositions. Secondly, Wolterstorff states that the listener assumes the way of measuring up to the standard is the way the speaker has in mind of measuring it. This leads to the human factor. This means that because we view truth through our limited perspective of humanity. That if we “assume” incorrectly, we may not have an accurate view of truth.

Is relativism and postmodernism the same?

The self-identified postmodern philosopher Richard Rorty asserts: “Relativism is the view that every belief on a certain topic, or perhaps about any topic, is as good as every other. No one holds this view. Except for the occasional cooperative freshman, one cannot find anybody who says that two incompatible opinions on an important topic are equally good.” (Consequences of Pragmatism [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982], 166.) Why do you think the charge that postmodernists are relativists persists?

The primary connection between the postmodernist and the relativist can be narrowed down to the principle of truth. Both have a very similar description of truth and what it means, at least how the term “truth” can be defined. To understand how the charge persists, we must look at the most basic similarities between the two.

Relativism is the concept that differing points of view have no absolute truth or validity. In addition these points of view only have relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. The very essence of relativism is that there is no one standard that is valid for everyone. Relativists may infer that there is no such thing as truth since there are no external objective standards that are valid for everyone. In addition, relativist may use the word truth but it may be filtered through their own subjective preferences, i.e. “what is true for you is not true for me.” Additionally, relativism chooses its path and direction according to the ruling preferences of the individual and acts not in a humble way. Since relativism doesn’t submit to an objective external truth or authority it is self-serving and prideful, reflecting that the individual’s decision are best.

The concepts of right and wrong, true and false also fall under the category of expressing personal opinion or agreed upon community values, but these are not based on a universally accepted valid system or standard. Because of this rationale, the relativist can do what he pleases since he is not submissive to a universal truth. The final by-product of relativism is its effect that it has on language. It seeks to obtain the preferences of the writer and turns language into giving the people what they want to hear.

Similarly, postmodernism was developed on profound skepticism toward language, knowledge, history, reason and truth. Because it doesn’t have a single definition that can be agreed upon, it can almost mean anything, everything and nothing. It is objective to different communities. Jean Lyotard, the French champion of many postmodern themes, said that “postmodernism requires a suspicion of the overarching stories (often called “metanarratives”) that support our claims of truth. Any claim to know truth or any attempt to commend truth to others is likely to be just a power play, they argue, an attempt to impose one’s own metanarrative in the guise of an absolute truth.

At the heart of postmodernism is a redefining of truth. While the truth of the Modern Age could be discovered or reasoned in an individual way, truth in the postmodern age is found in community. If truth is found in community, then the tradition and culture are the means of growing truth. The concept of truth can be different because what one community defines as truth may be different from what another defines as truth. There is no longer a single authoritative truth.

Where postmodernism and relativism are connected is how they both deny an external source of authority. Postmodernist attempt to redefine the concept of truth in a number of different ways. First, it depends on the definition of truth. For example, what is true to one person may not be true for another. Second, truth is not a transcendent, timeless, universal absolute that is present everywhere and applicable everywhere. Truth is also located in and relative to the community in which the individual belongs.

Language and literary theory is another similarity between the two. Postmodernists’ view that language must be deconstructed from its oppressive cultural overtones to a non-standard flow of amoral values. The postmodernist believes that there is no one meaning of the world and that a transcendent center to reality as a whole does not exist. One of the main ideas of postmodern philosophy is that it doesn’t search for a unified, objective reality; it accepts that everything is different.

Based on the evidence provided, the persistent claim that postmodernists are relativists can be summarized by understanding the similarities with truth and how no absolute truth or external authority exist. Postmodernism is identified with relativism because both reject the claims of absolute knowledge and objectivity. In addition, both reject the role of reason and rationality in science. Finally, each have similar views on language since there is no truth, it is easy for the writer or speaker to flatter the audience with what they want to hear because they both create their own realities.

RESPONSE TO GRENZ & OLSON, WHO NEEDS THEOLOGY?

Book Review of Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson’s “Who Needs Theology”. The book describes the public misconception about theology in the church, the good and the bad, and why proper theology is so useful in today’s society.

RESPONSE TO GRENZ & OLSON, WHO NEEDS THEOLOGY?

The book “Who Needs Theology” by Stanly Grenz and Roger Olson takes the reader on a journey to discover why everyone needs theology and everyone is a theologian. It describes the common misconceptions that many have with theology and exposes those misconceptions to the real purpose and truths of theology. That purpose is not just one of amassing knowledge or growing to know more about the Christian faith, but it is to affect the life of a believer in Christ, and allow one to be able to articulate truth to the surrounding culture. It is to take that knowledge and truly know what one’s beliefs are and whether they are doctrinally sound. Proper theology does not follow with blind faith but develops a strong faith to use as a background as to why one does believe God and why God is real; theology moves us from knowledge to living out ones faith and “help us be the believing people of God in the world today.”[1]

The major thesis of the book and greatest lessons are that theology is not just about a set of beliefs or doctrines but it is about strengthening the foundations of Christian faith, living out that faith in the identity that God created the Christian to be, and not being satisfied to just know truth but to explain that truth to contemporary culture. The authors remind us that theology is not about us, but about knowing God and being God-centered. The authors describe that theology “results in God being glorified even in believers’ minds themselves. Theological reflection leads to thinking rightly about God as well as about oneself and about the world as a creation under God.”[2]

One of the brightest parts of the book is essentially a step-by-step guide in forming theology. These instructions guide the reader by using the critical and constructive tasks of theology to rely on the proper sources to form ones’ theology. They remind the reader that God’s Word will always be the primary source, with the additional sources being tradition and culture. They share the dangers of starting with the wrong idea first and the repercussions that could lead to by not having a theology that is either relevant or effective.

Reading this book reminded me that our lives are to glorify God in all we do and to seek knowledge where our theology “moves beyond our head to touch our heart and even our hands.”[3] A challenge that is posed to the reader is to create one’s own “integrative motif”. While they selected community, what struck me the most as I read was how the authors reinforced the idea that theology can’t just stay inside of a believer. For a believer’s faith to grow, theology is necessary to know what to believe, to discern false doctrines and to know and please God by knowing Him more. That is why my “integrative motif” for this book and Scripture as a whole is the glory of God, specifically revealed through Christ Jesus our Lord.

[1] Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 94.

[2] Ibid, 48.

[3] Ibid, 46.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Grenz, Stanley, and Roger Olson. Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Stand firm on Truth

Over the past several months, there have been several verses that have become very important to me. They have been going through my mind when things seemed grim. They were great reminders of hope. They were truths that I could stand on. As the days mounted and trials persisted, more verses kept coming. What was amazing was and is that they became hidden in my heart. They were my treasures. It was a way to focus on who is in control. It wasn’t about saying these ritualistically or like a mantra, but the power came from who they were talking about. It wasn’t faith in the words, but faith in what the words pointed to. I can honestly say that when we did discuss our fears and anxieties with God, that He did bless us with a peace and continues to do so.

We don’t know where this journey is taking us or for how long we will be on it, but we do know there is hope. We do know there is peace available and has already been given. We do know that this isn’t our home, this isn’t where we belong. We know that this journey through the wilderness is just a visit. Maybe this visit lasts until our mortal lives are over, but they will end. God doesn’t guarantee us a good life or an easy life, in fact He tells us quite the opposite that there will be pain and hurt. There will be times of trial and torment. But there is hope, there is always hope to cling to.

That is what these verses speak to for us. That is what we cling to, hope and faith in something beyond what we can see. These few verses are just a small sampling of the hope God gives us. There are so many more verses and reminders He gives us, but during this time, these stand out. Just like when we keep being reminded of the same lessons during these trying times the past few months, so have these verses and some others kept coming to our minds. In what may seem like a very random time, we will be reminded of a very important lesson or a verse and a smile will come on our face for God’s reminders.

We share these to praise the Lord for the hope, reminders and lessons He keeps sharing with us. We praise the Lord for the truths and the power of the Gospel.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through him who gives me strength

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see

Ephesians 3:20 – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us

Romans 8:25-26 – But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Genesis 50:20 – You intended to harm me, but intended it for good…

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

James 1:3-6 – because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (5)If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (6) But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Psalms 56:10-11 – In God, whose word i praise, in the Lord, whose word i praise – (11) in God I trust and am not afraid…

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Luke 22:44 – And being in anguish, he (Jesus) prayed more earnestly…

Luke 18:1 – Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. From the Parable of the persistent widow

Luke 18:27 – Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (10)… For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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

Not up to me, but the One that listens

​Many times over the past few days my human sin nature comes out. Actually it comes out more than the past few days, it comes out all the time but I have been particularly aware of it these past few days. During my many prayers, it becomes easy for me to think that there is something else I need to do. that there is something more that I can do. I start thinking of all of the other words or phrases I could say to God to get Him to answer my prayers. I think of all the ways I could kneel or throw myself on the floor begging, pleading for God to come and intervene.
Then, I am reminded about truth. Maybe it is a faint voice. Maybe it is the Spirit at work in me. Or maybe it is something else that I can’t even understand or know. But the basis of faith comes back and smacks me in the face. It is simply not up to me. It is doesn’t matter what I say or what I do. it is simply up to The One that listens. I could say all the fancy words and phrases we have heard throughout our lives and say the most eloquent prayers, but it doesn’t make a lick of difference. God doesn’t want those things. He doesn’t want the ritual and the words that aren’t from our heart. He doesn’t want the things we do that don’t truly seek Him. All He wants is our honesty.
The One that knows us intimately, actually knows us better than we know ourselves, just wants us to be honest with Him. He just wants to hear our heartfelt words. The things that are on our mind.
In all honesty, here I am telling God what I need. Telling Him when I need it. telling Him that I need this healing. I guess maybe, I take my eyes off of heaven and God and put them back on myself and what I can do. I start thinking about what can I do to make God answer these prayers. What else do I need to do? What more can I do? I just want this to be over. I just want healing to come and the pain to be gone.
But it is not up to me…
It is doesn’t matter what I say or what I do. It is simply up to God. Sometimes, if I am honest with you, that is scary. It is scary as I wrestle with God over control. Or in this case try to earn His favor by doing things. Most of us if we are honest with ourselves have probably prayed prayers that we made wild promises to God that if He answered we would do something or give something up. We just want those things so bad whether it is healing or overcoming addiction and suffering or something else. We just want God to answer those prayers. As we all know, sometimes God doesn’t answer. He doesn’t give us what we ask for. He doesn’t give us what we think we need. He may give us shattered dreams.
This reminds me that as we may do this in our prayer life of trying to earn God’s favor or do something to get Him to answer our prayers, it is easy to do this with our own salvation. It is easy to start down that slippery slope of trying to earn salvation. We start off with the best of intentions or sometimes we don’t. sometimes we do things out of guilt or because we feel we have to so that we can be a “good Christian”. We say long ritualistic prayers to make ourselves feel better so we can mark off a box. We volunteer but we don’t do it with pure and loving motives. We do so many different things but in the end, are we doing it out of love and thanksgiving or out guilt and obligation? I am not here to judge and criticize. Who am I to do that? I do the very things that I just discussed and I am not proud of it at all. I fall into the trap of looking at my salvation as a bank. Doing good things to make deposits and my sins as taking withdrawals. The problem is I am in terrible debt that I will never recover from.
Yet for the grace of Jesus that I can enter His place of rest. I don’t have to do any more. I don’t have to try to earn salvation. I don’t have to run my self into exhaustion. For in His land of grace, I can simply rest. I can simply let the joy and thanksgiving and satisfaction in God pour out of me into acts of service. Not because I have to, but because I am thankful for His great love that paid my debt. Salvation is not up to me. It is not up to what I do or say.
And the same goes for my prayer life. I simply need to humble myself before the Almighty, acknowledge Him as God and trust in His ways. Is it easy? No, we still wrestle for control. We still think we need to do or say something. May our faith never be in what we do or say or certain words and phrases, but in the One who listens. He knows our hearts. He knows our pain and He is sending the Comforter. Thankfully, He gave us His Spirit that helps us when we do not know what we ought to say. I hope and pray that you and I both can give our worries and anxieties to God and trust in Him and what He can do. That we trust in His Spirit to help us and depend on Him.
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:25-27