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It is written:
Luke 11:1-Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
Jesus taught His disciples how to pray.
We need to be taught how to pray!
In the next few lessons, we will learn more about prayer as Jesus teaches. We will begin by noticing some important lessons Jesus teaches us about prayer.
Specifically, we will notice three things that Jesus teaches us to beware of when praying. There are three barriers that the Lord warns us about-barriers that if we are not carefully can easily sabotage our prayer life!
Matthew 6:1-6-Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. 5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Jesus here teaches us about the dangers of praying in order to be boasting before men. The people who “worship” in this way are well known for exercising their piety before others because their goal is to be seen by the world.
“(7) The final fault which Jesus found with certain of the Jews was that they prayed in order to be seen. The Jewish system of prayer made ostentation very easy. Jews prayed standing, with hands stretched out, palms upwards, and with heads bowed. Prayer had to be said in the morning and in the evening. It had to be said wherever they might be, and it was easy for people to make sure that at these hours they were at a busy street corner, or in a crowded city square, so that all the world might see with what devotion they prayed. It was easy to halt on the top step of the entrance to the synagogue, and there pray lengthily and demonstratively, so that all might admire such exceptional piety. It was easy to put on an act of prayer which all the world might see.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel Of Matthew, Volume One, 3630-3638 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England; Saint Andrew Press)
Jesus had much to say about this particular aspect of the Pharisees:
Matthew 6:16-Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Jesus here is not condemning public prayer. Instead, He is condemning the boasting attitude that the Pharisees had in showing off how religious they were.
The early worship services of the Christians enjoined prayer publicly:
Acts 2:42-And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
1 Corinthians 11:2, 5-Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you…But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
1 Timothy 2:8-9 (TPT)-Therefore, I encourage the men to pray on every occasion with hands lifted to God in worship with clean hearts, free from frustration or strife. 9 And that the women would also pray with clean hearts, dressed appropriately and adorned modestly and sensibly, not flaunting their wealth.
The prayers of these passages demonstrate to us that public prayer was a stable in the worship of the early church. It isn’t public prayer that Jesus condemns: it is the motive behind the people praying in Matthew 6 that Jesus finds reprehensible. We must carefully examine our hearts to seek God and His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus also teaches us that we must beware of babbling when we pray:
Matthew 6:7-And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Notice that phrase “vain repetition.” It is often translated as “babbling” in other Bible versions.
What exactly does this word mean?
Some teach that if you recite prayers, then this is a vain repetition.
Is that true?
After all, we remember that the Book of Psalms was given to the Jewish people for the exact purpose of praying the same words to the Lord. These were certainly not “vain repetitions”since God Himself inspired those prayers to be prayed!
More to the point, we are told that Jesus Himself often repeated the same words in prayer:
Matthew 26:44-So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Mark 14:39-Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words.
What then are “vain repetitions” that Jesus warns us against?
The answer lies in the rest of what Jesus said along with the phrase vain repetitions: “as the heathen do.” Jesus teaches us that there was a certain type of “vain repetitions” that the heathen (pagans) used in their devotion to their gods. With that in mind, there are two applications of these “babbling” that Christians are to avoid.
The first is what we know today as “mantras.”
“(6) THERE were certain other forms of repetition, which the Jews, like all people of the middle east, were apt to use and to overuse. People had a habit of hypnotizing themselves by the endless repetition of one phrase or even of one word. In 1 Kings 18:26, we read how the prophets of Baal cried out: ‘O Baal answer us’, for the space of half a day. In Acts 19: 34, we read how the Ephesian mob, for two hours, kept shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.’ Muslims will go on repeating the sacred syllable HE for hours on end. The Jews did that with the Shema. It is a kind of substitution of self-hypnotism for prayer. There was another way in which Jewish prayer used repetition. There was an attempt to pile up every possible title and adjective in the address of the prayer to God. One famous prayer begins: Blessed, praised, and glorified, exalted, extolled and honoured, magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One. There is one Jewish prayer which actually begins with sixteen different adjectives attached to the name of God. There was a kind of intoxication with words. When people begin to think more of how they are praying than of what they are praying, their prayers die upon their lips.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel Of Matthew, Volume One, 3622-3630 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England; Saint Andrew Press)
Indeed, I have worked with many in the Hazard area who ritually use “mantras” (usually certain sounds or specific words which it is believed will effect change in the world through the vibrations generated and the spiritual beings harnessed). This is especially prevalent among those who practice witchcraft and other forms of pagan religions.
“Both mandalas and mantras are frequently used in occult meditation and visualization practice. For example, “Continuous repetition of mantras is practiced as a form of meditation in many Buddhist schools” (2380: 220). A standard definition of the mandala is “a symbolic diagram used in the performance of sacred rites and as an instrument of meditation” (2383: 555). Because the mandala is a visual symbol of the macrocosm, the one who meditates on a mandala can visualize himself absorbing cosmic knowledge and power through meditation. Mandalas are thus often used to assist the meditative process through visualization upon its symbolic pictorial representation. Just as visualization is a key component in the use of mandalas, so it is for mantras. In many religious traditions, “Recitation of mantras is always done in connection with detailed visualizations and certain bodily postures,” e.g., mudras (2380: 220). Magic, Occult Practice, Psychic Powers Mandalas and mantras are also related to or incorporated as part of magic ritual and occult theory and power: The mantra functions as a magical incantation, conjuration, invocation, evocation, and all the varieties of spells that comprise the armory of words of power. It is said before, during and after all important ceremonies. It is used as a curse, a blessing, a prayer, a way of remembrance. There is hardly an activity for which there is not a mantra (2468: 139). The word “spell” is perhaps the nearest approach to the Sanskrit word mantra. It is a form of words or sounds which are believed to have a magical effect when uttered with intent…. A sound is a vibration, and when we consider that the family of vibrations include not only the things we hear but all material objects seen (which may be said to be patterns of vibrations), we can appreciate why the magician has always laid great emphasis on words of power. Sound is the foundation of all magic, and an armory of mantras forms part of the equipment of the magician in all countries. Mantras can create, sustain and destroy. The ancients believed that miracles could be performed by means of magical formulas, and they made extravagant claims for the powers of such formulas…. The real power of the mantra resides in its effect on the invisible world. A mantra repeated often enough can penetrate the dense barrier of the material sphere and draw power from the occult planes (2382: 1727-28). The power of the mantra also functions to facilitate altered states of consciousness:” “Humming mantras … lead to a kind of intoxication which results in trance. Such mantras are ideal for magical purposes” (2382: 1728). Consider the following description of witchcraft and other neopagan practices in Margo Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon: Chants, spells, dancing around a fire, burning candles, the smoke and smell of incense, are all means to awaken the “deep mind” … and facilitate entry into an altered state…. “Mandalas,” “sigils,” “pentacles,” and “yantras” are all pictures to stimulate the sense of sight; “mudras” or “gestures” stimulate the kinetic sense; “mantras” or “incantations” stimulate the sense of hearing (429: 154). Thus, proper use of the mantra is believed to internalize the power of the gods for attaining altered consciousness, and for securing occult goals such as the development of psychic powers. Mantras are therefore mental tools “for manifesting particular ‘divinities’ within the reciter, i.e., for transforming his or her consciousness into specific forms of psychic power leading to the attainment of various worldly or transcendent ends” (302: 458). In Magic: An Occult Primer, occult magician David Conway soberly describes how the use of a mantra evokes the ritual “madness” leading to the sought-after spirit possession and the successful completion of the ritual intention: The aim of such unreason will be to receive the deity that is being invoked. The method adopted to induce this frenzy will be the one which the adept’s experience has shown him to be the best…. Some magicians cultivate the sweet madness by reciting one word over and over again. The adept begins by heaping incense on the charcoal and then, kneeling before the altar, he starts his verbal repetition or mantra. Any word will do for this purpose; it may be one of the words of power, an euphonious word of the adept’s own invention or even a keyword associated with his ritual motive, a crude example being the word “money” in a ritual intended to procure wealth. While engaged in this, the adept imagines that the god-form … is materializing behind his back…. Slowly, as the altar candles flicker, he will sense with a sureness which precludes all doubt that the visualized form is in fact towering inside the circle behind him…. At last—and he will certainly know when—the god-form will take control of him…. As this happens, and while the power is surging into him, he forces himself to visualize the thing he wants his magic to accomplish, and wills its success (237: 130-31).” (John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Knowing the Facts about Mantras and Mandalas, 149-143 (Kindle Edition): ATRI Publishing)
Author Ken Johnson notes that this paganism infiltrated many of the Gnostic sects of the early church:
“According to the testimony of the early church fathers Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Eusebius, Montanus wrote the book The New Prophecy, in which he taught the following false ideas: Montanus, said he, himself, was the “other” comforter that Jesus said would come. He brought with him a new form of prophecy. In this new kind of prophecy, a “vain babbling” was used to alter a person’s consciousness so that he could channel the “Holy Spirit.” We see here again the use of meaningless words, or mantras, to get into this state of consciousness.” (Ken Johnson, Ancient Church Fathers, 154 (Kindle Edition); http://www.biblefacts.org)
Again, speaking of the Gnostic book, “The gospel of the Egyptians,” we are told:
“According to this false gospel, the path to knowledge, or salvation, comes by five seals of Gnosis. The first seal, or sacrament, is water baptism. Along the path of these five seals one is awakened and begins to see visions and speak in diverse languages. A sample of the babbling that begins the “voices” stage of the rites is given in the text. IE IEUS EO OU EO OUA! O Yesseus Mazareus Yessedekeus, O living water, O child of the child, O glorious name! AION O ON, IIII EEEE EEEE OOOO UUUU OOOO AAAA EI AAAA OOOO, O Existing one who sees the Aeons! A EEEEE IIII UUUUUU OOOOOOOO, Who is eternally eternal! IEA AIO, In the heart, who exists U AEI EIS AEI EI O EI, EI OS EI You are what you are SOU IES IDE AEIO OIS, O AEON, AEON, O God of Silence! If correctly done, the “voices” stage would bring about a meditative silence that would initiate an experience of transcendence. This would begin to open up one’s divine spark.” (Ken Johnson, Demonic Gospels, 808-823 (Kindle Edition); http://www.biblefacts.org)
The second application of “vain repetitions” is what we know today as “speaking in tongues” among many professing disciples of Christ. The Bible gift of tongues was speaking in languages that a person had not previously studied. Notice the Scriptures clearly teach this:
Acts 2:4-13-And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” 13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”
Look at the Greek word translated as “tongues” in the New Testament, and look how other synonymous terms are used with it to describe languages of other nations.
“Tongue The Greek word here is the same as what is found in verse 6—dialectos, the common Greek word for “language.” So it definitely should be translated “language” here. In the Greek we have glōssais, “tongues,” in verses 4 and 11, and dialectō, “language,” in verses 6 and 8. This proves conclusively that the speaking in tongues (v. 4) was not ecstatic utterance but speaking in known, intelligent languages of that day (see v. 11).” (Ralph Earl, Word Meanings In The New Testament, 4107 (Kindle Edition); Kansas City, Kansas; Beacon Hill Press).
1 Corinthians 14:20-21-Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. 21 In the law it is written: “WITH MEN OF OTHER TONGUES AND OTHER LIPS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE; AND YET, FOR ALL THAT, THEY WILL NOT HEAR ME,” says the Lord.
Again, the terms used to describe “tongues” show its’ clear connections with other national dialects:
Revelation 7:9-After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Revelation 10:11-And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
Revelation 11:9-Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.
Revelation 17:15-Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
The pagans had a counterfeit that they used under demonically controlled religions: a gibberish speaking that was not a language.
“The 1972 study by John P. Kildahl “The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues” concludes that: “… from a linguistic point of view, religiously inspired glossolalic utterances have the same general characteristics as those that are not religiously inspired.” In fact, glossolalia is a “human phenomenon, not limited to Christianity nor even to religious behavior.” (Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements by Spittler, P. 340). George Jennings in an article in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation expands upon the universality of the experience: “… glossolalia is practiced among the following non-Christian religions of the world; the Peyote cult among the North American Indians, the Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest, Shamans in the Sudan, the Shango cult of the West Coast of Africa, the Shago cult in Trinidad, the Voodoo cult in Haiti, the Aborigines of South American and Australia, the aboriginal peoples of the subarctic regions of North America and Asia, the Shamans in Greenland, the Dyaks of Borneo, the Zor cult of Ethiopia, the Siberian shamans, the Chaco Indians of South America, the Curanderos of the Andes, the Kinka in the African Sudan, the Thonga shamans of Africa, and the Tibetan monks. An article in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation entitled “An Ethnological Study of Glossolalia” by George J. Jennings, March 1968. Other studies and sources reach the same conclusions: “Summary of Behavioral Science Research Data on Glossolalia: 1. Glossolalia is an ancient and widespread phenomenon of most societies, occurring most usually in connection with religion.” “Behavioral Science Research on the Nature of Glossolalia”, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation; September, 1968 “There are records of ecstatic speech and the like in Egypt in the eleventh century B.C. In the Hellenistic [Greek] world the prophetess of Delphi and the Sibylline priestess spoke in unknown or unintelligible speech. Moreover, the Dionysianrites contained a trancelike state as well as glossolalia. Many of the magicians and sorcerers of the first century world exhibit similar phenomena.” G.R.Osborne, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984, page 1100. “Descriptions of ecstatic speech are common in the study of comparative religions…. The Delphic and Pythian religions of Greece understood ecstatic behavior and speech to be evidence of divine inspiration by Apollos.” C.M. Robeck, Jr., in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, 1988, page 872. “… Glossolalia is a very ancient practice it is still practiced nowadays in many religions, especially those where one seeks contact with the spirit world (witchcraft/ shamanism, voodoo) or a union mystical with the “All”. Mohamed, the founder of Islam, is probably the most famous of those who have practiced glossolalia.” “Glossolalia (Tongues) and 1 Corinthians 14” Bruno D. Granger http:// http://www.apologetique.org/ en/ rticles/ neomontanism/ BDG_glossolalia_en.htm “Enthusiastic, ecstatic, mystic, possession, trance and other kindred phenomena have long been of interest to anthropologists. Cross-cultural reviews of ethnographic data on glossolalia in particular have been published by L.C. May, Jennings, M. Eliade, among others. The practice was known in ancient India and China, and ethnographies describe glossolalia in almost every area of the world… speaking-in-tongues is widespread and very ancient.” E. Mansell Pattison Behavioral Science Research On The Nature Of Glossolalia Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, September 1968 Research conducted by Al Carlson at the University of California and Werner Cohn at the University of British Columbia indicate that anyone can produce glossolalic speech which sounded genuine even to believers. Jimmy Jividen, “Glossolalia: from God or man?” p 163. “This survey has shown that speaking-in-tongues is widespread and very ancient. Indeed, it is probably that as long as man has had divination, curing, sorcery, and propitiation of spirits, he has had glossolalia … Whatever the explanation, it is clear that pagans as well as Christians have their glossolalia experiences.” Jimmy Jividen, “Glossolalia: from God or man?” p 74,75.” (C. Alan Martin, Scientific Observations of Speaking in Tongues, 437-516 (Kindle Edition))
Christians do not use mindless mantras: we use passionate prayer to the eternal God.
The last thing that we need to beware of in regard to prayer is bitterness (i.e., an unforgiving spirit).
Matthew 6:14-15-For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Forgiveness is something which we must be willing to do.
Yet what is forgiveness?
“Forgiveness means dismissing a debt. 3 In the New Testament, the Greek noun aphesis denotes a “dismissal” or “release.” 4 When you grant forgiveness, you dismiss the debt owed to you. When you receive forgiveness, your debt is dismissed. (You are released from any requirement for repayment.) When you grant forgiveness, you dismiss the debt from your thoughts…. Forgiveness is dismissing your demand that others owe you something, especially when they fail to meet your expectations, fail to keep a promise, and fail to treat you justly…. Forgiveness is dismissing, canceling, or setting someone free from the consequence of falling short of God’s standard…. Misconceptions abound when the word forgiveness is mentioned. Some think forgiveness is the equivalent of excusing sin, saying that what was wrong is now right. Yet this is not the example of forgiveness that Jesus displayed. When He encountered the mob of men eager to stone a woman caught in adultery, He chose not to stone her; however, never did He excuse her. Instead, He said, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11 KJV). To help correct any confusion, you need to know what forgiveness is not! Forgiveness is not circumventing God’s justice. It is allowing God to execute His justice in His time and in His way. Forgiveness is not waiting for “time to heal all wounds.” It is clear that time doesn’t heal wounds—some people will not allow healing. Forgiveness is not letting the guilty “off the hook.” It is moving the guilty from your hook to God’s hook. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. It takes two for reconciliation, only one for forgiveness. Forgiveness is not excusing unjust behavior. It is acknowledging that unjust behavior is without excuse, while still forgiving. Forgiveness is not explaining away the hurt. It is working through the hurt. Forgiveness is not based on what is fair. It was not “fair” for Jesus to hang on the cross—but He did so that we could be forgiven. Forgiveness is not being a weak martyr. It is being strong enough to be Christlike. Forgiveness is not stuffing your anger. It is resolving your anger by releasing the offense to God. Forgiveness is not a natural response. It is a supernatural response, empowered by God. Forgiveness is not denying the hurt. It is feeling the hurt and releasing it. Forgiveness is not being a doormat. It is seeing that, if this were so, Jesus would have been the greatest doormat of all! Forgiveness is not conditional. It is unconditional, a mandate from God to everyone. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It is necessary to remember before you can forgive. Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice—an act of the will. “ (June Hunt, Forgiveness: The Freedom To Let Go (June Hunt Hope for the Heart), 9-13 (Kindle Edition); Torrance, CA; Aspire Press)
With the help of God, let’s work on removing these barriers to our prayer life: boasting, babbling, and bitterness.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.
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