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James wrote (at James 5:16):
‘So, admit your sins to each other and pray that each of you will be healed.
Because, prayer has a lot of power when it’s working through righteous people.’
From these words, we learn that we should never underestimate the powers of righteousness and prayer.
Then, as you continue reading that account (James 5:17, 18);
You will find the wonderful example that James used to prove his point when he spoke of the great things that the Prophet EliJah was able to accomplish through the power of prayer.
But, why don’t prayers always work?
As James pointed out;
The more righteous the person truly is, the more likely his/her prayers will be answered.
So, righteousness is involved.
Also, as Jesus taught us in ‘the Lord’s Prayer;’
God’s Will is involved.
So, whatever a person may ask for can’t be out of harmony with God’s purposes and direction.
In the past, certain prominent religious leaders have declared ‘Holy Years,’ when all Christians were asked to pray for world peace. But, remember that Jesus told us (at Matthew 24:7), these same things are to be the signs that precede his arrival.
For he said:
‘Then nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and shakings in many places.’
So it appears as though it is God’s Will that the world should not to be granted peace, since great wars must happen before the Lord arrives…
And as the result;
Such prayers for world peace have gone unheeded by God.
If these same religious leaders truly wanted world peace;
Don’t you think that it would be far better and a more positive action for them to just tell the members of their own religion not to go to war? For, prayers work much better whenever we are willing to work in harmony with (not against) what we’re asking of God.
Several years ago, during a period that led to a terrible war in the Middle East;
This sign was seen posted outside of a large church:
‘Pray for peace, but prepare for war!’
So the faithlessness of this message was clear:
But don’t trust that He will do anything.
Rather, prepare to work against whatever you may be praying for.’
Also in Matthew;
Jesus set out another important guideline regarding prayer.
Note that he said this at Matthew 6:6:
‘When you pray, go into your room and after shutting the door, pray to your Father in secret.
Then you’ll be repaid by your Father that is watching in secret.’
Here you can see that Jesus was telling us that our prayers are best not said in public places, if the act of doing so causes others to notice us and our piety. Yet, Christians have often been instructed to let others see them as they pray over their meals in public places.
Notice that the very reasons we are given for doing this are the same as why Jesus gave us the warning against praying in public…
He was pointing out that such conspicuousness becomes our total reward.
In other words:
Our prayers won’t be answered, because our reward is this public display of our piety.
For, this was the sin of the Pharisees!
Another important warning against improper prayers is found in Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:7, where he said:
‘When praying, don’t babble the same words (gr. de me battalogesete – not you stammer words) as the gentiles do…
Because they think that by [repeating] them they will be heard.’
So, notice that he was saying that we shouldn’t repeat memorized prayers.
Then in his next words (in the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father Prayer, at Matthew 6:9-14), Jesus listed the important subjects that we should talk about in our prayers.
· Expressing our desire to see God’s Name cleared of any accusations made by the Slanderer
· Praying for the coming of God’s Kingdom
· Expressing our desire to see God fulfill His purposes regarding the heavens and the earth
· Asking God to provide us with our daily needs
· Asking Him to forgive our sins (with the reminder that this obligates us to forgive others)
· Asking Him to save us from the many trials of life
· Asking for His protection against the Wicked One.
Also notice that that in this Bible;
The ‘Lord’s Prayer’ doesn’t end with the words,
‘For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the glory forever.
Because those words aren’t found in the oldest available Bible manuscripts.
Rather, they appear to have been added hundreds of years after Matthew wrote his Gospel.
And if you think about it, these extra words don’t make any sense anyhow.
For, why would Jesus have said,
‘For thine is the Kingdom,’ when he had just told us that we should pray for ‘your (or thy) Kingdom to come?’
Also notice that Jesus wasn’t really praying to God here;
Rather, he was teaching his disciples the things for which they should pray.
So, this is why he didn’t say Amen at the end.
And in fact, if you search the Christian Era Scriptures, you won’t find the Hebrew word Amen said at the end of any prayers there (though it was likely said in affirmation by the hearers of congregational prayers).
You can see from the actual setting in which Jesus spoke the words of ‘the Lord’s Prayer,’ which we find at Luke 11:1-4, that Jesus was just showing his disciples the things that they should ask for in prayer…
Because, this is what they had asked him to do.
Notice that the account in Luke says:
‘Now, he was in a certain place praying;
And when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him,
Lord, teach us how to pray, as John taught his disciples.’
However, recognize that memorizing and repeating even this prayer is doing what Jesus told us not to do…
For our prayers to God should come from our hearts, not from something that we’ve memorized.