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The Hebraic Approach to Prayer (part 2)

The power of God’s name is the power of God himself. So when we pray in Jesus’ name, it does not matter whether you say Jesus or Yeshua. The point is that there is no magic in the name of Jesus, nor is there any magic in the name of God. It is a sacred name, but it is not a secret name. When you pray in the name of Jesus, you are praying in accordance with the purposes consistent with the character and the nature of God and the nature of Jesus. That is why John tells us that if we pray according to God’s will our prayers will be answered. The heathen knew about vain repetitions. You see it in the story of Elijah on Carmel. The priests of Ba’al keep repeating his name over and over. Elijah with prophetic sarcasm says to them: “say it louder, your god must be sleeping.” So they repeat these names louder and louder, trying to invoke their deity for their purposes. You see, in Jewish prayer you actually are exhorted not to pray aloud, because it is considered an offense to God and a lack of faith. He is not deaf, He hears you, you do not have to scream at Him, or holler at Him and you do not have to huff and puff. You just have to conform yourself to His character and His will. The name of God that we have come to know as Yahweh which He revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 is a sacred name. It is sacred because God is holy; not because it is a secret name. The name Yeshua, Jesus, is a sacred name, but it is not a secret name. In fact, it was a very common name in the time of Jesus—as common almost as John or Simon. So when we read in Acts 19 that the exorcists tried to use this name of Jesus to cast out demons because they saw the disciples casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and having far greater success than they, they decided this must be a more powerful name and wanted to use this name. They did. The demons spoke back to them and said: “Jesus we know, and Paul we heard of, but who are you?” Then they jumped upon them and beat them. Even the demons spoke the name of Jesus, but they did not invoke His power, because they were not speaking in faith, in conformance to His will and purposes. So there is no magic in the name. We must guard against prayers that speak of a magical world view, that if we say it in the right way, if we speak the right name, if we use the right formula and if we believe hard enough then it is going to happen. All of this speaks of magic, not of God’s majesty. You cannot compel God. You may praise him, you may petition Him, you may beseech Him, but He is not a man or a force that you can compel. Repetition per se in prayer is not a bad thing, however, vain repetition is what Jesus is guarding against. We are exhorted to pray repeatedly, persistently and regularly. In fact as part of Jesus’ world, one would pray three times a day. In the early church the same practice was carried over with the tradition of saying the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. Repetition is not a bad thing, but Jesus speaks against empty, vain and meaningless repetition.

"In Jewish prayer you actually are exhorted not to pray aloud, because it is considered an offense to God and a lack of faith. He is not deaf, He hears you, you do not have to scream at Him, or holler at Him and you do not have to huff and puff. You just have to conform yourself to His character and His will."

​Mantras are not biblical prayer. Back in the days when I was in the New Age (part of this organization that was nationally known) several members of our group were initiates of a guru in India (a very high guru from ancient spiritual tradition). When one was initiated into that group, he was given five secret names to use as a mantra. Every morning the initiate would get up at 4 o’clock and meditate from 4 to 6:30. The initiate was to repeatedly utter under his breath these five secret names that were forbidden to share with anyone that was not an initiate because these names were the names of the deities of the five heavens. By invoking these names the initiate was invoking these deities. This is all part of a magical pagan world view. This is not the world of which we biblically belong. Once some itinerant evangelists from Mexico came up to where we were holding a conference and they wanted to know exactly how to pronounce the name of Jesus. They took me aside and said: “we have travelled a long distance because we want to know from you exactly how the name of Jesus was pronounced in His day.” I told them: “Yeshua.” They said: “Are you sure? We’ve been told it is Yashua.” I told them that this was a common misunderstanding and explained the linguistics of it. They were wanting to turn the name Yahweh into Jesus, because He came in His Father’s name. So they had to get Yah in there by making it Yashua. Linguistically that can never happen. The y in Yeshua refers to the Yah of Yahweh. So it is there, they just did not recognize it. They wanted to be able to hear it when they said it. They were quite argumentative about it. They stated that saying the name of Jesus correctly was imperative because when they baptized people in the name of Jesus (as described in Acts 2) that it would be null and void if the name was not properly pronounced. I explained that they had completely misunderstood the power of a name in the Jewish world. If what they claimed was correct then why then does Paul use the Greek name of Jesus? There are other Christians in the world confused about this issue. I just ran into a brilliant young man in Vancouver who counseled with me. He is connected with a group of people called the Sacred Name Movement. They claim that if you say God, you are actually saying gut. They also claim that when you say Jesus, you are actually calling upon the name Zeus. They tell you that if you do not say Yahweh or Yashua and if you do not say it correctly then you are invoking pagan forces. This is baloney! If that were the case, Paul would not have written the name of Jesus in Greek. He would not invoke Zeus. This false claim is based on a pagan conception of reality—that what you speak is what you get. It is part of a world view (even part of some Christians’ world view) that if you speak the right thing, if you say it the right way, your prayers will be answered. It is a faulty world view that we must challenge. It is very important that when you pray you understand that you are not engaged in what some have rightly called “soulish prayer.” You must not be engaged in some form of prayer believing that if you say something enough times and consistently enough that you are going to get the result you want. It is not even a matter of your will power or believing power. Jesus says that if you have the faithfulness of a mustard seed a mountain can be moved—if it is in accordance with God’s will. So it is not your faith in the sense of your intrinsic power to do something that compels God to respond, it is His love. You just have to be faithful to God’s greatness, and His faithfulness is what responds to our prayers. So, repetition is not bad, but vain repetition is. It is not even the length of your prayer that matters, but it is the quality and the character of your prayer. Moses was noted among the sages as praying the longest prayer in the Bible and also the shortest prayer. He prayed for 40 days on the Mount and in Numbers 12:13 when Miriam came down with leprosy he said a prayer of only five words: “Please heal her, O God!"

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

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