Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eighteen through twenty-five of the thirteenth chapter. When you come to this particular set of verses you come to the final portion of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. What I find to be absolutely intriguing and captivating when reading the words at the end of the epistle is what the author writes unto their audience. If you begin reading verses eighteen through twenty-five of this chapter you will notice the very first word that is used to bring the epistle to a close is the word “pray.” Please don’t move too quickly past this particular word, for after all has been said and done, and after everything that was written in the epistle—from the first verse up until this verse—has been a powerful presentation of Jesus Christ. Within and throughout this chapter the author has painted a wonderful and beautiful portrait of Jesus the Christ—and not only of Jesus Christ, but also of His humanity and divinity. The author of this epistle presented unto the readers a powerful picture of the marriage which existed between the humanity of Jesus, and the divinity of Jesus. This is quite captivating when you think about it, for the author used such a reality to present Jesus Christ as our faithful high priest after the order of Melchizedek—en enduring priesthood which has no beginning and has no end. I’m all reality, I am actually intrigued with and by the fact that the author presented their audience with an appeal to pray for them—particularly and especially when you consider the presentation of Jesus Christ as a high priest who ever lives to make intercession. We dare not miss the incredible link and connection which exists between Jesus Christ as our faithful high priest who makes intercession for us and we who have been called to stand before Him and serve as a kingdom of priests of the most high God.
PURSUING THE MINISTRY OF THR PRIESTHOOD. FOLLOWING IN THR FOOTSTEPS OF THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST OF HEAVEN. That which we find in the final verses of this particular epistle is absolutely and wonderfully remarkable, for the author begins their final conclusion of the epistle with a passionate appeal to and for prayer. Oh beloved please don’t lose sight of and miss this all important reality, for to do so would be to miss something which each and every Saint desperately needs within their hearts and lives. If you read this final set of verses within this chapter and epistle you will notice the author actually uses a particular phrase to bring the epistle to a close—the phrase “pray for us.” Now, while I will get unto the awesome reality of that phrase and what it means for us as the saints of God, I feel it First necessary to break apart that phrase unto succinct pieces. If you take this particular phrase and break it apart, you will find it as follows—(1) pray, (2) pray for, and (3) pray for us. I am convinced that if we are truly going to understand that which is found and that which is contained within this passage of scripture we must break this phrase apart into its indivisible parts. It is absolutely necessary to begin with the reality and concept of prayer in general, for I am convinced that until and unless we can learn this wonderful practice we cannot move beyond it into the realm of praying for others. It is easy to get caught up in the reality of praying for others when we have been called to enter into a place where we simply pray—that place where we simply commune and converse with God. Perhaps one of the most powerful and intriguing realities concerning prayer within the heart and life is the saints is that at its very core it is simply communion and conversation with God. If we are to understand prayer at its simplest form we must understand it as simply talking to God as one would talk to and with another. We dare not forget what was spoken of Moses when it is written that the Lord spoke to Moses face to face.
I have to admit that there are so many of us who struggle with prayer at its very core and at its simplest truth and foundation. There are countless men and women who have an incredibly difficult time with prayer, for they don’t recognize and understand that it is simply conversation with the Lord. It’s almost as if you are opening your heart and you are opening your life to the Lord, and inviting Him to speak directly with and to you, and vice versa. INVITING GOD TO DINNER! INVITING THE SON TO SUPPER! Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for prayer is more than just conversation and communication with the Lord, but it’s actually an open and honest invitation for Him to enter into our very hearts and lives. In all reality, it could very well be said that every prayer is indeed and is in fact an invitation unto and invitation for fellowship with the true and living God. Whenever you open your mouths, and whenever you open your heart and spirit to commune with the true and living God, you are essentially inviting Him into that place of fellowship and communion with you. Oh how wonderful and powerful it is to think about and consider the tremendous truth concerning prayer and how prayer is an open invitation to the living God to engage Himself in fellowship with you. What’s more, is how incredible it is that the Lord would even choose—and not just choose, by delight in fellowship and communion with us. When you think about and when you consider prayer you must remember that even thought it is communion and fellowship with the Lord, it is not to be one sided or even one dimensional. What I mean by that statement is that prayer should not be one sided where we do all the talking and where we do all the Speaking. Prayer should not be of such a nature where we enter into our secret closet of prayer and simply do all the talking. In fact, I would dare say that when we engage ourselves in much talking, we cannot even think for one moment that we are actually praying unto the Father the way we were created and intended on doing. Any time we attempt to enter into the presence of the living God and we do so in order to present many words, I would dare say that what we are doing is anything. It praying.
The more I consider this reality of prayer the more I can’t help but be reminded of specific references within scripture which shine a tremendous amount of light on to the reality and concept of prayer. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew—words which were found in His famous Sermon on the Mount. If you read this particular passage or scripture you will not only find Jesus speaking concerning but prayer, but also teaching us how not to pray, and what we should not be like. What’s more, is that when speaking concerning prayer Jesus emphatically and succinctly links the reality of prayer with a powerful emotion which if left unchecked within us can run rampant within our hearts and souls. What I am speaking of is that powerful emotional response to situations and vice instanced within our hearts and lives known as worry. In fact, I would even add to the reality and concept of worry fear, doubt and unbelief. I would emphatically deflate that worry, doubt, fear and anxiousness are all intrinsically linked and connected with each other, and that prayer is that which does in fact overcome these realities within our hearts and lives. I would bring your attention to the words which our Lord spoke—not only concerning prayer, but also how we should pray, as well as worry. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke when He delivered His famous Sermon on the Mount, which Matthew one of His disciples records for us beginning with the fifth verse:
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the sayngoagues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be healed for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:5-15).
Within this passage of Scripture you will not only notice that Jesus speaks to and address the concept of praying in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets to be heard, but He also addresses using much words when seeking and attempting to pray unto our Father which is in heaven. I am convinced that when we speak of prayer we must recognize and understand that two of the greatest temptations we face are the temptation to use many words thinking that by using them we will be heard, as well as the temptation to pray loudly in the synagogues or house of the Lord, as well as the streets. Within His Sermon on the Mount Jesus lays to rest and puts to bed both of these dangers and both of these temptations, for He sought to declare unto his readers that neither many words, nor loudness of voice and tone can and will make our prayers any more effective. Oh how many men and women there are among us within the house of the Lord who think and believe that if they use many words, and perhaps even if they use big words, they will somehow be heard by their Father who is in heaven. There are men and women among us in this generation who think and believe that the louder they are when they pray, the greater the chance is that they will be heard by the living God. IN all reality, I can’t help but find a powerful example of this in the Old Testament account of Elijah on top of mount Carmel in the northern kingdom of Israel when confronting the prophets of Baal concerning the God who answers by fire. If you read, study and examine the actions of the prophets and priests of Baal within this passage of Scripture you will find a tremendous picture of how many men and women act and behave within he house of the Lord. Consider if you will the words which are recorded for us in the Old Testament book of First Kings concerning the life and ministry of Elijah:
“And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him b3e God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaken. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded” (1 Kings 18:24-29).
Please don’t miss or lose sight of what is found and contained within this passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find the prophets of Baal calling on the name of their god from morning even until noon. The author of this particular epistle wrote concerning the prophets of Baal that they even leaped on the altar which was made, and did so until Elijah opened his mouth to mock them. When opening his mouth to mock them, Elijah taunted them to cry even louder, for perhaps Baal was talking, or perhaps he was sleeping, or perhaps he was on a journey. IN response to Elijah’s taunting, the prophets of Baal cried all the louder, and cut themselves until the blood gushed out. Now, please understand that I am in no way suggesting that there are men and women among us in the house of the Lord who are mutilating themselves in an attempt to be heard by the true and living God. What I am speaking about, and what I am suggesting is crying aloud, leaping upon the altar, and using many words in an attempt to somehow be heard by the true and living God. There are men and women among us in the house of the Lord who believe that if they just raise their voice even more, or if they cry out a little louder, or if they shout at the top of their lungs the Lord will hear them. I have to admit that at one point in time I used to believe this to be a sign of passion when praying, and even as a sign of being anointed when praying. I used to believe that the louder one was when they were praying unto the living God, the greater the chance of them being heard by God—as if God was somehow was deaf. I remember even doing this myself, and raising my voice, and crying aloud all the more when praying unto the living God. There are many among us within the house of the Lord who believe that the louder we are, and the more we lift up and raise our voices, the more the Lord will somehow hear us. Not only this, but there are men and women among us in the house of the Lord who not only use many words, but who also use vain repetitions when praying unto the living God. Such. Individuals will continue praying—almost as without even taking a breath—for they think and believe that they would and could be heard by the Lord. Would it surprise and shock you to hear that God is neither impressed with your many words, nor those words and phrases you repeat, nor even your much shouting, and the raising of your voice in prayer. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this concept, for I fear there are many men and women who believe they are praying unto the living God, when in all reality the only thing they are doing is making noise with their words and their voices. Along these lines I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Solomon wrote in the fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Consider if you will the words which Solomon wrote and spoke in this Old Testament book beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon the earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business: and a fool’s voice is known by the multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God. If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-8).
Please pay close attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for Solomon begins by instructing his audience to keep their foot when they go into the house of God. Oh, consider and imagine how vastly different our worship services would be if we as the people of God truly did keep our feet when we entered into the house of God. Consider how vastly different our worship services would be if when we entered into the house of the Lord, we entered in more ready and more eager to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools. How many of us who enter into the house of the Lord do not recognize that not only are we offering the sacrifice of fools, but we are also committing evil in the house of the Lord and against the living God through our many words and much speaking? What’s more, is how many of us enter into the house of the Lord and are rash with our mouth, and allow our heart to be hasty in that we utter various words and phrases before the living God? Solomon goes on to emphatically declare that God is in heaven, and we are upon the earth, and then proceeds to instruct us to let our words be few. I would encourage you to carefully consider that which is found in this passage of Scripture—particularly and especially in light of what we find and read in the sixth chapter of the gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew. It was Jesus Himself who spoke of many words and much speaking, and Solomon in the Old Testament wrote and spoke of being rash with our mouth, being hasty with our hearts, and being more eager to speak than to listen and hear. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is how we act and how we conduct ourselves when we enter into the house of the Lord. Are we quick, and perhaps even eager when we enter into the house of the Lord to present our many words and our much speaking rather than hearing and listening to the words and voice of the Lord? Are we rash with our words, and is our heart hasty in the house of the Lord, and as a direct result of this we sin and transgress against the Lord with our mouths? How many of us are deceived into thinking and believing that we will somehow be heard with our multitude of words, and with our much speaking in the house of the Lord? How many of us are sorely deceived by thinking and believing that if we elevate our tone and raise our voice when praying unto the living God, we will and shall somehow be heard by Him from heaven? The truth of the matter is that when we pray unto our Father who is in heaven, He is neither impressed with the loudness of our voice, nor is He impressed with our multitude of words. I would bring your attention to one more passage in Scripture, which is found in the New Testament gospel of Luke concerning the Pharisee and the publican—both who attempted to lift their voices before the Lord in prayer believing that they would be heard by Him. This particular parable which Jesus spoke must also be carefully considered when seeking to understand this concept of loudness of voice and a multitude of words, for more often than not that which we think and believe is prayer is actually the furthest thing from it, and that which we think is heard and regarded by the Lord actually isn’t. Consider if you will the parable which Jesus spoke unto those who were present before Him on this particular occasion:
“And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
This parable which Jesus spoke unto those which trusted in themselves that they were righteous not only speaks to self-exaltation, pride, arrogance, and boasting, but it also speaks to the tremendous reality that it is possible there there are men and women among us within the house of the Lord who not only think that they are heard by the Lord when they pray, but also that they they are somehow justified by and before the living God. This particular parable presents an incredible challenge unto us who would read the words, for how many times do we enter into the house of the Lord like this Pharisee did and declare unto the Lord all that we have done—“I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adultery, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”This Pharisee not only boasted in Himself, and not only exalted himself in the sight and presence of the Lord, but he also thought that what we was doing was actually prayer before and unto the true and living God. The truth of the matter is that what this Pharisee engaged in was nothing more than vain babbling and mincing of words in the sight and presence of the living God. There is not a doubt in my mind that this Pharisee thought and believed that he was actually praying unto the living God, and yet that which he was actually doing was just uttering vain and useless words in the temple. Oh how many men and women among us are incredibly guilty of offering vain words and are nothing more than clanging cymbals in the house of the Lord because of their much noise? Oh that we would recognize and understand that there are those among us within the house of the Lord who are very good at making noise when it comes to prayer, and even when it comes to worship, and yet what they are doing is actually nothing more than making loud noise in the sanctuary and house of the Lord. Such individuals are like fireworks in the night sky—a loud bang, a bright flash, and a great noise before fizzling out. Such individuals engage themselves in what I would call “fireworks prayer,” for their prayers begin like fireworks which are launched into the night sky, explode with a loud noise and a bright array of light and color, and then fizzles out. The only thing that makes a fireworks display so appealing on events such as the Fourth of July is a continual shooting off of fireworks in the night sky, for the more fireworks which are launched, the brighter and more colorful the fireworks are, and perhaps even the noise they make in the sky, the more we are intrigued and entertained with and by them. FIREWORKS PRAYERS AND A GOD WHO PAYS NO ATTENTION! Oh that we would be incredibly wise and discerning concerning this particular reality, for there are many of us who engage ourselves in “fireworks prayer(s)” and “fireworks worship,” for our worship and prayer is nothing more than a loud noise and a bright light with a vast array of color before eventually fizzling out. In order to sustain such a practice, we need to continue to launch these fireworks before the Lord within the house of the Lord thinking and believing that He has heard and will somehow hear us.
When you come to the eighteenth verse of the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews, you will not only find the author of the epistle appealing to their audience to pray, but also to pray for them. You will notice how in the eighteenth verse of this chapter the author emphatically writes and appeals unto the audience to “pray for us,” and then goes on to declare “for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly” (Hebrews 13:18). I have to admit that I am incredibly challenged when I read the words which the author wrote unto those to whom they were writing, for the appeal they made is one that is not at all easy. I am utterly and completely convinced that one of the most difficult and one of the hardest things to do in the house of the Lord is to appeal to others and ask them to pray for us. One of the greatest struggles we as the saints of God face within the house of the Lord is being willing to open ourselves up and allow ourselves to be vulnerable before others in order that we appeal to them to pray for us. Tell me you who are reading these words—when was the last time you asked someone to pray for you? When was the last time you approached someone and simply stated that you were struggling, and then immediately asked them to pray for you? Why do we find it so incredibly difficult to ask others around us to pray for us—particularly and especially when we have great need of being prayed for? I can’t help but be reminded of the final verses of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Thessalonian congregation, for at the conclusion of the epistle the apostle Paul set forth this appeal: “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25). It’s worth noting that this wasn’t the only instance where the apostle asked for the brethren and saints to pray for them, for when you come to the first verse of the third chapter of the second epistle written unto the Thessalonian congregation you will find the following words: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3). I am utterly and completely convinced that the apostle Paul was neither ashamed nor afraid to ask for pray from the saints, for the apostle knew, recognized and understood that he could not do that which he was called to do without and apart from the prayers of the saints. This apostle who regularly boasted in his weaknesses and infirmities also continually asked the churches for prayer on his behalf. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in the second epistle which was written unto them:
“Are they ministers of Christ? ( speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in reptiles of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen,, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beige those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burnt not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities” (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbvear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I will take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
I am incredibly challenged with and by these words, for I am finding myself coming face to face with my unwillingness to appeal to others to pray for me. I know that I myself find it incredibly difficult to be vulnerable in the sight of others, and to admit my struggles, my faults and my weaknesses, and to then proceed to ask for prayer. I am convinced that we as the saints of God shy away from asking others to pray for us because we know that sometimes making such a request requires us to be open, and honest and vulnerable before others, and such a reality scares us half to death. As I am sitting here right now I can’t help but be gripped with and by the tremendous reality to not only be open and honest with ourselves, with the Lord, and with others, but also to be ready and willing to ask others to pray for us. What’s more, is that it is incredibly easy to ask others to pray for us as it pertains to the furtherance of the gospel, and as it pertains to the work of the ministry, but it is something else entirely to ask another to pray for us in order that we might be delivered from our enemies and adversaries, or as it pertains to that which we struggle with in our every day lives. I am sitting here right now and I can’t help but be wonderfully and powerfully gripped and captivated with the incredible need to find others around me who I can truly go to and ask them to pray for me—and not just to pray for those good areas within my life which are appealing and attractive, but those areas which I would rather hide and conceal. Oh that we would possess a willingness to be open, honest and vulnerable with ourselves and with others, in order that we might be ready and willing to ask for prayer—regardless of whether or not we feel or think we need it. I am utterly and completely convinced that whether we want to believe or admit it, we all need prayer, and we all need others who can pray for us. We dare not, we cannot, we should not, we must not be so naïve into thinking that we don’t need prayer, and we must not be afraid to approach others—perhaps even those who we aren’t even that close with—and ask them for prayer. That doesn’t mean we need to open up and reveal everything to them, but simply asking for prayer and allowing them to be led by the true and living God. Oh that there were a willingness within my heart and my spirit to allow others to pray for me, and allow others to fulfill their ministry as a kingdom of priests who can carry out and carry on the ministry of intercession before the true and living God on our behalf.