Prayer is simple. But how difficult some people and churches make it. "You have to speak in tongues", "You must be slain in the Spirit", are two of the expressions heard in some churches today. But what does the Bible say?
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." Luke 18:1. In the parable Jesus told of a woman who had been wronged. She kept going and going and going to the judge with her plea to be granted justice.
Finally the judge said, "Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming." Luke 18:4, 5.
There are two lessons to be learned here. The first is obvious - speak up. Pray often. Let God know what you need, and are thankful for. Pray and not give up.
The other is the absence of "tongues". Jesus didn't teach his disciples how to speak in "tongues" to be heard or accepted by the Father. He just wants us to speak in whatever language we can most eloquently express ourselves.
"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 saints." Ephesians 6:18.
Again, pray with all kinds of prayers and requests, not "tongues". Be alert and "in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue." 1 Corinthians 14:19.
When the disciples came to Christ and asked Him to teach them how to pray, He showed them the principle of how to pray. “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” Matthew 6:9-13. There are five main points in the “Lord’s Prayer”.
1. Recognize that God is our Father and hold His name in reverence.
2. In whatever we ask, we must remember that we submit to God’s will being done.
3. Today is all we need to be concerned about. Pray for what is needed now.
4. We must forgive as we expect to be forgiven.
5. Ask for the power to reject temptation and say “NO” to sin in our lives.
Another point is, there is nothing taught by Jesus on how to pray in tongues. Did Jesus forget that part? I don’t think so. It wasn’t important. Not only was it not important, He doesn’t want us to pray in the “tongues” of today. You see, the Pentecostal “tongues” of today are not the tongues of the book of Acts.
In order for us to understand the difference, we must humble ourselves and remember that Jesus always speaks the truth. Even when He is silent on a subject, we must recognize that He is speaking truth. Never attempt to add or subtract anything from what has been taught.
The Bible gives us clear indication of how to pray and how not to pray. It clearly indicates prayer that is of God, and prayer that is of the devil. Remember, for every true way to do something, the devil has a counterfeit. You must study and humble yourself before the Word of God and test yourself by the Word and the Word only. If your actions do not measure up to the Word of God, stop doing what does not measure up, and start doing what does.
Let's first take a look at prayer that is from the devil. The Bible gives us a glimpse of such a service in 1 Kings 18:26-28. Israel has rebelled against God and has turned to the worship of Baal and Asherah. God sent Elijah to hold a revival meeting.
Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a showdown. The prophets of Baal and Asherah accept and come prepared. They built their altar and prayed to their gods to send fire down from heaven in answer to their prayer. In verses 26 through 29 we see an example of a pagan worship service.
1. They shouted
2. They danced around the altar
3. They were frantic
4. They slashed and cut themselves
1. Starting with the first one, we can see that they were shouting. Walk into many churches and you will see the minister or people shouting. As Elijah taunted them, so I do to these people. What is wrong with your god that you have to shout at him? Is he busy? or traveling? Or maybe deep in thought? "Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened."
My Bible says, "be still (shut up) and know that I am God." I don't have to shout at Him. He knows what I need before I speak. “The LORD—knows the thoughts of man.” Psalm 94:11. He reads my heart. In quietness is the soul found in God.
2. Dancing around the altar. Yes, in many services you will find lots of dancing around. But is it of God. Nope! Where is it shown in the Bible that Jesus danced in the synagogue? Jesus is my example. Is He yours? The ONLY reference to dancing before the Lord is David. And that was NOT in church. It was bringing the Ark of the Covenant up to the City of David. You should also know that David disrobed during this dance. Are you going to disrobe and dance naked in the public street, as David did? If you claim to follow David's example in one, you must follow it in the other.
However, considering how much David feared the Lord and reverenced Him, I doubt seriously that his dance was like anything that you see going on in the churches of today. Since the Bible does not describe the dance that David did, how dare we attempt to "dance", since we do not know what kind of a dance it was. This was not a "dancing lesson", it does not teach us how to dance before the Lord. It probably was a holy dance of some kind. Where there is silence, let us not assume.
Some services, and those who speak in tongues, can get pretty frantic. Falling down and writhing around on the floor, babbling and screaming, none of it is from the Lord. There is a spirit that is in control, but not a spirit from Jesus. This falling down and writhing about is also demonstrated in the Bible. But it is not of God. Turn to Mark 9:17 to 27. A father brought his son to Jesus. A spirit possessed the boy. When the boy was possessed, the spirit would throw the boy down to the ground causing him to foam at his mouth, gnashed his teeth and become rigid.
Sounds like a lot of worship services to me. Must be the wrong spirit. I don't want to worship that spirit. I don't want that spirit inside me! Do you?
When the father brought the boy to Jesus the spirit "immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth."
Jesus allowed the spirit to demonstrate his power. He wanted to make sure that we understood the difference between the work of God and the work of the devil. You need to do the same. Look around your worship services and see what spirit is there. Use the Bible as your guide. If it is as depicted above, run.
Now it is Jesus' turn. He takes the boy and casts the spirit out. Then He takes "him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up."
See the difference?
When Jesus and the Spirit of God come into a person, that person stands up. He is made whole. He has complete control of himself. God made us in His image and likeness. He will not have us acting like animals and freaks. The Spirit of God makes dignified men and women out of us.
Another example of this is found in Luke 8:26-35. Jesus and His disciples landed in Gerasenes country. As they stepped ashore, a demon-possessed man ran towards them. He cried out, fell at His feet and shouted at the top of his voice. See the same parallels? "Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him." Mark 3:11.
Jesus then cast out the evil spirits and filled the man with the good Spirit. When the town folk came to see, they found the man "sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind." That is the power of the gospel. Jesus raises up and returns us to our "right mind". The devil casts down and takes your “right mind”.
Paul says the same thing. "I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue." 1 Corinthians 14:19.
"For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." 1 Corinthians 14:33. "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." 1 Corinthians 14:40.
However, the most important is, "The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets." 1 Corinthians 14:32. Notice, the Spirit of God let's us control Him. He doesn't take control of our bodies. That would be against everything God stands for; freedom of will. Our will and the Spirit of God are to work together.
Looking at other texts, we come to the same conclusion. "He said to me, 'Son of man, stand up on your feet." "The Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet." "Then the Spirit lifted me up." "The hand of the Lord was upon me there, and he said to me, 'Get up and go'". "Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet." "Then the Spirit lifted me up." "The Lord said to Joshua, 'Stand up!'" "Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.'" Ezekiel 2:1, 2; 3:12, 22, 24; 11:1; Joshua 7:10; Mark 3:3.
My dear friend, don’t be fooled. Jesus came to give us a new Spirit. The old one has bound us down to sin far too long. God wants to free us up from the spirit of animalistic behavior. He wants to give us a Spirit of freedom, dignity and self-control. Get up and get out of those churches that are binding you down to sin.
The tongues of Acts are just that, tongues that spoke different languages of the world. At the time of Pentecost, thousands of Jews from "every nation under heaven" were in Jerusalem. The disciples did not have time to learn all their languages. God provided them with the ability to speak their tongues: languages. That is all it is. It is not important for salvation in any aspect. If it was, Adam would have had to speak in tongues. Elijah would have spoken in a babbling tongue. John the Baptist and Jesus would be recorded as having spoken in babbling tongues. But the God Who hears us before we speak, doesn't even need us to speak. How would a "deaf and dumb" person be saved otherwise?
Two more aspects about “tongues”. If those “tongues” are not teaching the teachings of Jesus: Stop sinning, be perfect and keep the Ten Commandments in order to earn your eternal life, they are not of God. This book is written in “tongues”, the tongues of those who speak English. It is of the Spirit of God because this “tongue” teaches you the teachings of Jesus. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Remember, Love is the keeping of ALL the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 11:1).
The second aspect is, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:32. Those who claim they are of God and “have the Spirit” but are not obeying the Ten Commandments do not have the Spirit of God. It is just that simple. (2 John 1:8-11).
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6.
Jesus and Jesus only. Don’t let a church, a minister, a pastor or a priest try to tell you “what it means”. Jesus has already done that. If those people don’t agree with Jesus have nothing to do with them. They are not of God. Prayer is a special time for Christians. It is a time when we can come into the presence of God and let it all out. He has a big shoulder to lean on. A large ear to hear.
Let me give you two personal experiences of prayer. I could give hundreds but these two might help you. A friend in prison who was studying with me and had accepted the truth became sick. He came and asked if I had anything to take the pain away. I told him I did not but that I would give him what I had. I placed my hands on his head and quietly asked Jesus to heal him. He came back about a half hour later and told me that he was no longer sick.
Another time I was studying at a table on the dorm floor. We were asked to go to our bunks or go outside so the floor could be cleaned. I decided to go outside. When I got outside it was raining. I turned around to go back in but the door had closed. I did not want to get wet. I raised my hand to Jesus and asked Him to stop the rain until the door opened. The rain stopped over our yard, the clouds rolled away and the stars came out. When the door opened an hour later the rain poured down again. Thank you Jesus. James 5:16.
No, the teaching of Jesus is, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:7, 6.
Jesus and Jesus only!
Don't let a church, a minister, a pastor or a priest try to tell you "what it means". Jesus has already done that. If those people don't agree with Jesus, have nothing to do with them. They are not of God.
Prayer is a special time for Christians. It is a time when we can come into the presence of God and let it all out. He has a big shoulder to lean on. A large ear to hear.
4. A most important aspect of prayer is quietness. We must listen with the heart. We must be silent before God. After we pour out our hearts, we need to listen back.
In my experience, I have discovered that four times a day is a necessity for my Christian growth. Morning, noon, supper and bed time. By putting everything aside at those times, I recognize that God is the most important part of my life.
It is easy to get caught up in a project, family, work, etc. and think, Oh, God can wait, I'll do it later. But before too long we have gone days without God. If you are not that concerned about God, He won't be that concerned about you. If you don’t make time for Him, He won’t make time for you.
If you feel that God is far away, maybe it is because you have moved far away from Him. It is time to come home, like the prodigal son.
What I did was start in Genesis.
I would pray and read four pages from the Bible. This sequence, prayer and reading four pages, was then maintained four times a day. I found that I could read through the Bible two to four times in a year. This kept me familiar with the Bible. But most importantly, it kept me in tune with God. The relationship was necessary to conquer sins in my life.
One aspect that goes along with prayer is fasting. In the world today, you might see or hear of people who are trying to earn their way to God through fasting. It might even become tempting to join them. Fasting is such a "doing" thing that makes us feel like we are doing something. Much like going to church. Don't.
Again, I cannot stress enough the point that most of what the “Christian” world teaches comes from paganism. True fasting is not going without food over long periods of time. Nowhere in the Bible does God command us to fast (going without food) for salvation. Nowhere is that kind of a fast commanded for righteousness. The Bible does tell us to fast. But the fast of the Bible is not what the world teaches. Let me share with you just a glimpse of what Isaiah says about the true fast. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:1-10.
Do you see how different God’s requirements are from man’s? What a shame that we are no longer doing what God commands but running around to see how long we can go without eating. It won’t do you a bit of good eternally.