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The Hebraic Approach to Prayer (part 6)

Pray with great devotion

Biblical prayer is an outpouring of the soul characterized by an attitude of praise, thanksgiving, adoration and exaltation. For examples read Jeremiah 29:13, Psalm 96:9 and Psalm 94:18. An ancient Jewish proverb says: “prayer without devotion is like a body without a soul". We are to worship God with devotion, intensity and earnestness. Here is a wonderful summation of prayer from a biblical point of view: "the aim of our devotion in prayer consists of the soul’s longing for God, humbling oneself before him, extolling the Creator with praise and gratitude unto his name and casting all burdens upon him". Included here are thanksgiving, praise and petition. Let me read to you a prayer which is really an outpouring of a Jewish heart and characteristic of what prayer is supposed to be: “He is the eternal Lord who reigns before any being was created. At the time when all was made by his will, he was at once acknowledged as King—and at the end when all shall cease to be, the revered God alone shall still be King. He is and was and shall be in glorious eternity. He is one and there is no other to compare him to, to place beside him—he alone is God. He is without beginning and without end. Power and dominion belongs to him. He is our God, our living Redeemer, our stronghold in times of distress. He is our guide and our refuge, our share of bliss the day we call. To you I entrust my spirit when I sleep and when I wake, as long as my soul is with my body. The Lord—you are with me and I am not afraid.” I do not know about you, but my prayers are not nearly that eloquent. That is why I enjoy reading these prayers, and call upon the Scriptures to give vent what my heart longs to do—to adore, to worship and to praise the One who made me and who saved me.

The great focus of all prayer—biblically and jewishly, in the time of our Lord—is always, invariably at every turn, God’s kingship It is no coincidence that the apex of The Lord’s Prayer focuses on the kingdom of God: “your kingdom come, your will be done”. Biblical prayer is far less impressed with material needs, but it is consumed with a desire, a passion for all of mankind to recognize God’s sovereignty—that he is Lord, and Lord alone. It is compelled to pray for the final victory of righteousness in the universe. That is why even on the occasion of mourning, you utter a prayer (such as I have just read) that focuses on the kingdom of God. I want to say to you, in your prayer life in the days ahead, try to find times of discipline, try to draw upon scriptural prayer, and do it with great kavanah, with great devotion and focus. In every prayer try to always acknowledge, affirm, declare and petition for God’s kingship to be established in your life and in the life of our community, and in our world. The great hope before us is that the day is coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue give confession that Jesus is King. He is Lord, he rules at the right hand of the Father. I have found, in my experience, that most of us Americans spend the predominant amount of our prayer time petitioning for personal things. God is a loving Father, and he is eager to hear your needs, but how much more does a loving Father love to be praised, to be extolled, magnified, appreciated, to be given thanks. How much more does he respond when you say: “Father there is nothing in all the earth I desire so much as Thee, there is nothing I want more earnestly in this earth than to see you rule as King over heaven and earth, to see your will be done.” I have gone through extended times, daily wrestling with God, trying to seek his will, trying to find the answers to what I should do, where I should go, how I should do it, when I should do it. It is a constant battering at the door with petitioning and petitioning. To no avail. Until finally almost a year later in utter exhaustion I decided to stop asking and start affirming: “God, your will shall prevail in my life, God you will get me to where you need me to be, you do not have to tell me, you do not have to give me a sign, you do not have to write it on the wall, you do not have to wake me up in the middle of the night and give me a word. I just want your will to be done Lord. Please—your will be done, your will be done.” You know—there is no more liberating prayer in all the world than to say with great kavanah (with great focus and intensity): “Lord your will be done. Father do whatever it takes, but get your will done in our community. Let us not go astray, but may your will prevail.” How many of you can testify to the fact that every good and perfect gift that has come into your life has come by the grace of God, and not by your intellectual acumen, by your managerial skills, by your logical analysis? Do you find (as I do) that these more often than not get in the way of God accomplishing his will? That is why there is such power in the prayer “Thy will be done”. Do you have enough trust and enough confidence that you can actually say to God: “no matter what it takes, I want your will to be done”? I do not think most of us (myself included) can pray that way with complete truth because we put caveats on God. We want him to do it within the parameters of our comfort, convenience, good pleasure and preference. If we would ever learn to humble ourselves, to be consumed—not with our needs, not with our desires—but with his kingdom, we would learn the power of prayer. Father in heaven, our King of the universe, your name is holy and there is nothing O Lord that should matter more to us than to see your kingship, your sovereignty, your ruling and reigning prevail in every circumstance of our lives. There is nothing that will give us such eternal joy, undying gratitude, a compelling sense of purpose, of destiny, of identity in our lives as to see your kingship established in our midst. Come, O Lord God of Israel, take your throne in our presence, may we bow before you in your holiness, worship you in spirit and in truth. Come Lord Jesus, rule and reign in us, your will be done. Forgive us where we have interfered, where we have sinned, where we have fallen short of your will. Purge us O Lord in the precious blood of Jesus, and then propel us into obedience and faithfulness so that your name may be sanctified, may be hallowed in all the earth.

Lord, we pray the prayer of Zechariah, the declaration that the day is coming in which you shall be King over all the earth and your name shall be one. But in the meantime Father we pray that your will be done in our community and in our heart.

"Be lifted up God in the midst of the congregation, church of the Messiah— ​be lifted up, your will be done. AMEN"

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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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