Prayer: Intercession

reposted from Sept.2005

in touch with God
I began with Prayer: Getting To Know God because that is the prayer that begins the pattern of the Our Father prayer. We come to know Who God is, The Creator, the Father of All, now Our Father in a special redemptive way through Christ… we enter into a relationship of finding out His will and identifying our petitions in that framework.

We find that most of our beginning with God is as a petitioner. We recognize our needs and bring these things to Him in prayer. It is not until we have moved past our own needs that we begin to enter intercession for others. And this is the next type of prayer I wanted to examine.

Examples of Intercessors

An intercessor acts as an intermediary between two conflicting parties. The apex of mediation and intercession is always The Lord Jesus Christ, but before his ministry there have been others recorded: Moses, Jeremiah, it seems as though all the great prophets had episodes of intercession for wayward and needy people. People caught in circumstances or in trouble of their own making, it didn’t seem to matter what the cause… the intercession was made to reconcile them to God’s good grace and mercy. And it continues on….

James 5:15-17 (New King James Version)

15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.

The point made in this passage is that you do not need to be anyone ‘special’, but if you are a sincere person of prayer, who has that covenant relationship that imputes righteousness…. you hold sway with God.
Continue reading Prayer: Intercession

When Working Harder Isn’t Working

Is your Christian walk hard driven or delight directed? When first homeschooling years ago, I attended some Greg Harris workshops and purchased his books, and that is when I first came across the concept of “delight directed“. I immediately liked the idea, but how removed it was from anything in my actual experience!  It is a lesson that has taken so many years for God to illuminate in my mind. Somewhat late for my career as a homeschool teacher for my children, but not so late as to be lost on me altogether.

For one thing, my pastor , in his sermons of late, has been using the contrasting examples of those Christians that are working hard at their faith… determined with teeth-gritting will and those Christians who are delighting in God, resting in His grace. ( I hope my paraphrasing hasn’t botched the concept).  The problem with those hard working ones is their lack of joy and the weariness from carrying all those heavy burdens. Trying hard to be good and holy is very burdensome. So burdensome that the Lord says to lay it down, and contrasts that with His burden, its characteristic that it is light. We can carry our faith and good works lightly. What a revelation.

I am now trying to allow that in my life: to let my faith work me, and not me working my faith. Old ways die hard… but they really do need to die if the new life is to thrive. I can’t have it both ways, and neither can you or anyone else.

So while we like to hold onto the seeming holiness of flagellating ourselves with how we don’t love God enough, we don’t pray enough, we don’t attend to our Bible study as we should…. and the list never truly ends, does it? we could be delight directed by taking our rest in the Lord beside the still waters, in the green pastures…giving thanks for all things and rejoicing always. Is this a Pollyanna illusion that denies the sufferings of life? No, it is the reality of understanding that life holds both great opportunity for joy and unavoidable times of grievous suffering , but neither in entirety. It does not make us more holy to refuse the blessing , goodness and pleasure that God has for us, just as it is a folly to refuse the teaching of sufferings. Accepting both at His hand gives recognition of His Sovereignty.

And hidden within the parable of the prodigal son and his straight arrow brother is the parallel of the question that Jesus asked Simon: “Which do you believe loves more? the one who is forgiven much, or the one forgiven less?”  The son who was hard driven to be virtuous, somehow had missed the heart of his father…even though he enjoyed the security of the house- he did not partake of its joy and blessings…yet they were his. And the prodigal? He learned and through him his brother also was taught that the blessings are his not for what he has done or not done, but because the Father loved them both. What hard lessons the prodigal went through! But both he and his brother learned some very important things about the Father’s love and what is really important in life.

Do you feel like you are barely making it, holding onto your faith with white knuckled grip? Maybe it is time to find out what some of those old hymn writers were taking about when they penned “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”.

Nehemiah

Now is a good time to study the life of Nehemiah I think. He was a man who lived in tough times, discouraging times, and yet he was a man of faith and endurance during the worst of those. And times look bad these days for us, with many of the same challenges Nehemiah faced long ago.

You might protest that in no way is our nation in the straits that Jerusalem faced in that time. We aren’t conquered people, we haven’t seen the wholesale destruction of our cities, with a trampled and demoralized populace. But I say, spiritually, haven’t we?

The inimitable, deep thinking blogger Rusty wrote a book review of Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, which is one voice that illustrates our dilemma in terms of population shifts in part, but it is when it describes the spiritual decline that I think it most accurately portrays our crisis.

And it is a crisis today, as Nehemiah discerned that his people were in crisis long ago, although ia chronic and long standing one. As he spoke “Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” so should we take our spiritual state to mind with serious consideration. Yet we party on and like some of Nehemiah’s day are surrounded by those who seek to dissuade us from our task of rebuilding a nation destroyed at its heart. We have enemies within and without who try to discourage us, accuse us, further demoralize us. This is true on individual, general, and global scales.

What did Nehemiah do?

  1. “I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king”. Prayer and action, hand in hand
  2. Acted on the opportunity given
  3. Kept His own counsel
  4. Shared his encouraging faith and testimony “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.
    They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.”
  5. Created and maintained confidence
  6. Shrugged off mocking and deliberately false accusations
  7. set to work in an organized manner and defended the work from assault and undermining
  8. sought God’s mercy and attention in the face of insults and negative words
  9. prepared those around him to stand on their own, cultivating a sense of group responsibility
  10. unified
  11. made sure equity and honesty was maintained and honored, faced injustice with righteous anger
  12. gave a sacrificial example
  13. refused fearfulness and self-protectiveness, maintained courageousness
  14. discerned motivations of his enemies, recognized the realities of the challenge
  15. put spiritual matters in priority
  16. had and cultivated an attitude of joy
  17. returned to the core morals
  18. ongoing correction when necessary and ensured compliance with core morals

With these things Nehemiah accomplished the daunting task of returning to spiritual vitality – both his own and that of his nation.

Help For Those Hurt By Their Leadership

I’ve been in two different fellowships where I was left badly wounded emotionally and spiritually- the first was by far the most damaging, and maybe it was the fact that I read a little book that helped me put the perspective on this first experience that neutralized the hurts from the second fellowship. I wanted to share a little about that book, and point people to it, since I think it is one of the best insights into authority for an everyday Christian.

It is a very short book, and simple, it is written in play form, and it has all the more impact for those qualities. Taking the stories of David, Saul, and Absalom, Gene Edwards weaves through the complicated patterns of jealousy, betrayal, and the abuse of authority with the powerful shorthand of allegory. We see these three kings as icons of the way in which we experience authority and submission – while keeping free from pride and bitter resentment. Ultimately, our reactions to authority and to the way others treat us form us into the characteristic person we become. Sometimes it seems unfair that we must deal with hurts from those we most trusted to care for us, and then have to deal with it patiently, but if we want to obtain healing from such wounds we need to learn how to keep ourselves centered within our faith. That is what I believe this little book helps the brokenhearted to do, and why I found it to be of such worth.

This is a book written for Christians who want to handle their hurts in the way of the cross, it isn’t going to inspire one to revolt and “throw the bums out”. It isn’t the answer for how to handle all forms of abuse of authority, but it does give true guidance for those who wish to overcome failed trust within the body of Christ. It makes it easier to take those steps past the hurt and move on within the great assurance that God has all things, even in these types of situations, firmly in His loving plan and oversight.

Hesed

To begin, I have collected some of the lexicon and comments from others on the meaning of the word, hesed:

KJV (248) – favour, 3; good, 1; goodliness, 1; goodness, 12; kindly, 5; kindness, 40; lovingkindness, 30; merciful, 4; mercy, 149; pity, 1; reproach, 1; wicked thing, 1;

NAS (248) – deeds of devotion, 2; devotion, 1; devout, 1; disgrace, 2; faithfulness, 1; favor, 2; good, 1; kindly, 7; kindness, 32; kindnesses, 1; loveliness, 1; lovingkindness, 176; lovingkindnesses, 7; loyal deeds, 1; loyalty, 6; mercies, 1; merciful, 2; mercy, 1; righteousness, 1; unchanging love, 2;

Ken Brown, “Voice of One Crying“:

“Mercy” is checed, meaning kindness or benevolence (coming to the aid of those in need).  Checed always emphasizes the idea of covenant relationship. And when checed and natsar are used together it is always to illustrate the principle of covenant responsibility! This is God’s own description of His attitude towards His people – He has obligated Himself to be merciful (see Micah 7:18 which says that God “delights” in being merciful). He continues: “forgiving iniquity (avown – immorality) and transgression (pesha – rebellion) and sin” (chattah – habitual sin, committed over and over again).

Then comes the all-important phrase “and that will by no means clear the guilty” Notice “the guilty” is in italics in the King James Version, indicating that these words are not found in the original text (and indeed should not be).  The translators added these supposedly to clarify the meaning.  The word “clear” in this sentence is naqah, and means, “to be clear of an obligation or responsibility”.  By removing “the guilty” from the text, the meaning becomes evident: “God will by no means ever clear or release Himself from His covenant responsibility to maintain His mercy by continuing to forgive immorality, rebellion and habitual sins that are repeated over and over again!”

 

Micah 6:8, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” The word for mercy, here, is the Hebrew [c]hesed

“The word refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Yahweh and Israel). But checed is not only a matter of obligation; it is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy. The weaker party seeks the protection and blessing of the patron and protector, but he may not lay absolute claim to it. The stronger party remains committed to his promise, but retains his freedom, especially with regard to the manner in which he will implement those promises. Checed implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law.”

“Man exercises checed toward various units within the community– toward family and relatives, but also to friends, guests, masters, and servants. Checed toward the lowly and needy is often specified. ”

…”The association of checed with “covenant” keeps it from being misunderstood as mere providence or love for all creatures; it applies primarily to God’s particular love for His chosen and covenanted people. “Covenant” also stresses the reciprocity of the relationship; but since God’s checed is ultimately beyond the covenant, it will not ultimately be abandoned, even when the human partner is unfaithful and must be disciplined -Isa. 54:8,10.

Since its final triumph and implementation is eschatological, checed can imply the goal and end of all salvation-history ”

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words

In reading over Ken Brown‘s comments I was reminded of the words of Jesus to Peter: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but [to forgive] up to seventy times seven”. I believe this was referencing hesed, and giving example of how it works in our relationships. We have such a constricted view of how to relate to one another, and this is something to consider in repenting and in reflection of how to better mirror God.

The points on relationship give form and order to us, so we are not overwhelmed by the immensity of mankind’s need. I like that. I need that. Like a child I want to have the security of knowing that God, in relating to me, is not encumbered by my needs, but desires to fulfill every portion of loving relationship. The way He does it is in a way that is best for me and others around me, which gives it context when I must suffer through waiting for something that I feel is very important to me. Hesed contains a view of the interdependency and organic fulfilling of things within their time and season.

I have felt this hesed concept is very important to how men and women relate to each other, especially those married to one another, or those within the structure of the Church. There is a mercy that is powerful enough to set its demands forth, it is not begging and worrying that it will go wanting; instead there is a sense of duty to care for each other and help each other flourish in life. This is how God acts, towards us, and within us towards one another… to practice hesed is to be godly.

….more thoughts continued in another post….

The Secret of Prayer

I have already written on theology of prayer governing the methodology, but now I want to tell you why it works. Why does it work to simply start praying? What do we we mean when we say “prayer works”? Funny enough, I found the key to explaining this in my pastors sermon on bible study.

Since I have spent many years with prayer as centerpiece in my spiritual experience, functioning often as an intercessor, I “felt” the key, but the intricacy of stating things theologically kept me from getting to the gist in a way that I could share with others. In spiritual matters you want two things. You want concise clarity, and you want accuracy: hitting the target. Seeing the target clearly, and hitting the mark, you might say. Because all things spiritual have a goal, they aren’t “killing time” or wasting time, they are purposeful in nature. Think about that a little bit and I am sure you will see that. The other thing you want, which is related, is authority. You want authority in spiritual matters, whether acting in it or understanding of it. So the two things in spiritual matters are clarity and authority.

My pastor centered his sermon on this scripture:

John 5:39
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

…and his points were excellent on the topic of bible study, but for me, with my mind previously prepared for thinking about the theology of prayer, I found that this was also applicable to say just what needs to be said about the inside secret of effectual prayer. Prayer that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Hear from God, receive from God, and know God. Perhaps I don’t need to say more for some of you. Perhaps you are already aware of what this scripture is saying to us. But for those who want to go further into what I am saying here…
Continue reading The Secret of Prayer

The Theology of Prayer

I think we are prone to over complicate the act of prayer; we make something as vital as eating our daily bread to be something mysterious. It isn’t that there is no complexity, but the act is very simple while the understanding of the effects and the process may be the part that is so challenging to our minds.

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus taught on prayer in three simple ways? He gave a few parables to encourage the pursuit of it, along with some examples of what not to do, he gave a condensed, essential example to us in the Our Father prayer, and his own example of retreating often for prayer. That is a simple theology to follow, while at the same time there are depths to plumb for as long as we live on this mortal plane, for sure.

Much of prayer is the doing of it, and because Christians are under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit it becomes self-correcting as one goes along in the practice.

One can’t really fully teach prayer. One reason for that in my own mind is that we have differing spiritual gifts which impact how we pray, and whether praying for something is a challenge to our faith or not. We have measure of those gifts as a further factor, and yet praying is something all of us must do in order to connect with and communicate with God. I am just trying to say that prayer, while a universal practice for believers is not a one size fits all in the method.

We are taught about types of prayer, but I don’t know if that is necessary. It seems as though it is an enhancement to have such theologies. We have prayers of worship, of supplication, of intercession… but in the natural act of praying we often cycle through all the types of prayer without the consciousness of the structures and vocabulary. I think the most common questions that people have concern what they may ask for and whether God hears. Afterwards, people wonder why God answers or does not answer in the way He does. In this studying scripture is instructive, but still, it gets reduced to a few simple checkpoints.

I think I would order my prayer “theology” this way:

  • God wants us to pray, to seek, and ask. He not only invites us to do this, but communicates that it is His delight to have His people do so and receive His answers
  • It must be sincere and come from within our being
  • It should be persevering
  • It should be expecting
  • It should recognize Him, through praise and through use of His name

That would be my simple breakdown of it, and many of the things we see in prayer comes under one of those points in some way. I don’t know if we can understand prayer without practicing it. Like trying to speak of any relationship action outside of itself… we define love, but in the final event it is the experience of love that we know about it… our greatest need is to be clear about what love does and does not look like in experience. We need to be aware of what is confusing and counterfeit so we can fully participate in the reality of it.
So as Jesus taught, we know prayer is not:

  • meaningless repetitions- numbers of words aren’t commercially exchanged for answer and notice from God
  • self-inflating lists recounting one’s virtues bounce off heaven’s floor (ie the Pharisee’s prayer)
  • Faithless double mindedness- that is just an exercise in our own mind.

I’ll continue these thoughts later, in another post.

Take time to pray today.

Hesed: Connecting Mercy to Covenant

Resuming a look into the deeper meaning of God’s steadfast love, or “hesed”, now in terms of what it means to covenant and how seriously God takes this agreement. As Christians, we unthinkingly refer to covenant all the time, after all, we talk of “New Testament” and “Old Testament”, we speak of the “covenant in my blood” when joining in the act of taking communion in our churches. But what is Covenant? What sort of agreement is this, anyway? And why should it matter to us?

In modern day language covenant is a legal term. Take a look at the fine print in legal agreements and you are likely to find the term in there somewhere. It is the same in the Biblical context, but given the solemnity of this act, it is usually much more binding and far-reaching than in today’s “evolutionary” law. In certain cases it was the most sacred manner in which people could promise to align themselves together, or to their God. Or in this case, God to them. Marriage is a type of covenant, and the closest to picturing God’s covenant with man. The sharing of lives, and mingling of all future directions and considerations.

There were many types of covenanting, but the most serious was that of “blood covenant“. The sharing of one’s very lifeblood, life force. This sharing meant one could call upon the other even to the point of life, if necessary. And there were usually consequences in the event that one party failed to live up to his end of the agreement. So it was never entered into lightly, nor taken lightly. Yet, there were such special privileges in those covenants that the less powerful party, especially, was eager to enter into them.

Covenants could, by nature of there being two parties who both had responsibilities in that agreement, be broken.
Continue reading Hesed: Connecting Mercy to Covenant

Hesed, A Strong Mercy

In looking at women’s roles, especially those ascertained by the Church within Christianity, it was apparent there was a difference between the picture of scripture and the usual set of conclusions that are taught and widely written about in the gender issue.

There is something wrong with the way the roles are played out, on both side of the equation. Egalitarianism becomes a free-for-all that starts looking to the secular model to inform them and the Traditionalism of hierarchialists regularly deteriorating into a harsh and restrictive rigidity having none of the gracious ease of Christ’s example and early church form.

I really stood at an impasse in how to get across the principles that I saw in the scriptures, the inherent emphasis on mutuality being lost to a lack of defining Biblical concept. That is until I came upon a post illuminating the Hebrew word, hesed. That was a eureka moment for me- HESED! I think an understanding of this word and the conceptual view it gives of relationships holds a defining key to the gender issue. Maybe I can call it “the hesed factor”.

This is why I want to explore not just the meaning of hesed, but its concept culturally and the implications for the interaction of the genders within the Church and in marriage.

First in this post, looking at the meaning of the word.

There is some debate over how the word has been translated into English, and almost always is termed “untranslatable” in a direct correspondence to one of our own words relating a concept. So the arguments go either in favor of the “mercy” of the historical translation, or lean more to saying “loyalty”. The “eureka!” article I mentioned earlier is one written by Suzanne McCarthy at Better Bibles Blog had this to say,

חסד hesed (Koehler-Baumgartner) – obligation to the community in relation to relatives, friends, guests, master & servants, etc. unity, solidarity, loyalty, between father and son, wife and husband, relatives, people who do favours for each other, faithfulness, protection, etc.

חסד is more than just a kindness; it is a caring provision which is demonstrated by God, and men and women alike in community, to guests, friends and in family and marriage relationships. חסד is usually translated as either “kindness” or “loyalty”.

In the comments she excerpts from 7 Hebrew Words and Phrases Every Activist Should Know:
Here too the usual English translation of “lovingkindness” misses a key element. In the Bible, chesed meant living up to a covenantal responsibility, so my Bible professors taught me to translate chesed as “covenant loyalty.” Loyalty captures the blend of duty and feelings of concern, connection, and sympathy that we naturally have for those with whom we feel a bond. Doing chesed means feeling that loyalty toward all other human beings. We owe each other our compassion, not only when it happens to well up within us.

Gemilut chasadim literally means “paying back chesed.” Since chesed is showered on us each day, all our lives-from family and loved ones, from the created world around us-the only way to repay it is to do chesed for others.

Covenant loyalty would go a long way to helping Christians understand how to respond to their world and operate in a godly way towards others. It is a term that could help define what we mean by “mutual submission”, which often has an odd way of becoming vague beyond comprehension. Who submits first, and to what degree before the other one starts submitting… and in what form do we submit? Covenant obligations outline the ideas and actions with a more concrete guidance. loyalty by itself isn’t strong enough in our ideas to guide us fully, but the two together start to make mental pictures of how we should behave and what we should expect in gender interaction in specific venues, such as marriage or community.

Continue reading Hesed, A Strong Mercy

Teach Your Children Well

What do you teach your children? What sorts of things do they soak up from your example in relationships and practical, important areas of life like handling money and directing their financial future? We imprint them with more of how we live in these areas of life than we verbally teach them. I wonder if some of that doesn’t come from the familial need to identify. To reject wrong thinking is somehow disassociating ourselves from the family group.

The Biblical concept of being teachable would help us in both the teaching and learning aspects of our families. We under rate the influence of our living habits, both in consequence and in setting example for others. I think it all boils down to the point that my pastor made in a recent sermon: the parable of building upon the right foundation is absolutely key to having a life that withstands storms and pressures. The foundation dug into the rock is nothing more than simple obedience to the commands and teachings of the Lord.

It is just that simple.

All the other stuff are just teaching aids to the main lesson.