Power of Prayer or Power of God?

I was waiting at the hospital yesterday for Donna to finish a procedure and the TV had on one of those “daily” shows, which was talking about a “miracle” kid whose parents state that he has survived because of the power of prayer. Although I was intently playing on my laptop, I stopped to listen for a bit.

They even had a medical doctor who was confirming that study after study has shown people who believe in the power of prayer have remarkable results. He went as far as to say medicine and religion are a powerful combination. It’s about time someone who works in a scientifically-based profession is willing to speak up for prayer.

It was then that I thought- is it really “prayer” we should be giving the glory? Isn’t prayer just a spiritual conduit to God? Shouldn’t we really be saying that it was the power of God that caused the miraculous survival, and not the power of prayer? The family that was being interviewed, and the young man who was the one surviving, knew who to credit as they constantly said it was God who has done this. Yet, don’t we hear often about how powerful prayer is, and it almost seems as though it is prayer that is given the credit. I am afraid that some people are giving the glory to prayer instead of the one being prayed to.

The inherent danger I see in this is that not everyone prays to God; at least, not the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob. If people believe that prayer is their salvation, to whom are they praying? Is it God? Is it Allah? Is it the Enemy? Is it just a generic activity, some “New World” idealism that we are able to heal ourselves through some mystical biofeedback mechanism called “prayer?” All of these are viable concerns, don’t you think?  The Enemy has the power (and will have the authority) to perform miraculous signs, so if I am just praying for something to happen, not praying to anyone in particular, and it happens, could it have come from the Enemy? He will do good things for you if it can lead you to trust him enough to accept his mark.

We need to stay focused on the giver of salvation and not (so much) the means. We say we are “saved by the blood of Yeshua”, but in reality we aren’t saved by his blood, we are saved by the fact that He gave it on our behalf. We are not saved by Yeshua, but by God. It was God who resurrected Yeshua (because He was a proper sacrifice) and because Yeshua performed works and lived (and gave) His life in order to make it possible for God to save us; we are saved, ultimately and wholly, by God. Yes, the blood was important, as was the life Yeshua led to make the blood acceptable. The suffering, the passion, everything about Yeshua’s life and death was what made the salvation through His sacrifice possible, and it is because of Yeshua that we can be saved. But it was, it is, and it always will be God who saves us through His Messiah, Yeshua.

In a nutshell, it isn’t prayer or blood or anything other than God who saves. Read the Psalms, listen to the Prophets, and hear what Yeshua is telling us.

The problem with humans is that we always try to complicate things, and add our own meaning. Remember the snake in the desert (Numbers 21)  that Moshe made at God’s command? When people were bitten by the snakes God sent as punishment for their rebellion, if they looked at the bronze statue they would not die. The snake didn’t save them, it was God- the snake was nothing more than a symbol of His mercy. Later, though, we read about how the Israelites worshipped the snake (2 Kings 18) and even gave it a name, Nehushtan. The snake was to be a symbol, just like the blood of Yeshua and the Cross, but these have become almost like idols to many people today. Didn’t God say not to bow to other gods, yet in the Catholic church they bow and worship a graven image on a wooden cross! I know they don’t mean to do wrong, but isn’t that exactly what God said not to do? No graven images, of anything? No bowing down to anyone or anything else? When did they miss that part? Do you think Yeshua is happy that many Christians (forget the Catholics, this is Christian-wide) pray to Him not to intercede with God, but instead of God? Yeshua is the Messiah of God, not the replacement. He is Lord, yes, but not the Lord. His Father is who He worshipped, and still worships, and still gives the glory, and to Yeshua God still is “The Man.”  We pray to Yeshua to intercede, to ask of God, so when we pray to God in Yeshua’s name we are doing what Yeshua would do, aren’t we?

When you talk to people about the power of prayer and the wonderful things that Yeshua did, please make sure that you do not create stumbling blocks by making prayer, blood, even Yeshua, an “idol” that replaces God’s true part in the plan of salvation.  Prayer, by itself, is useless; you must be praying to God, the one, true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If you pray to Him, you are to pray in the name of Yeshua. That is the promise Yeshua made- when we pray in His name; that doesn’t mean pray to Him to deliver you, it means pray to God, the one who grants your prayer, the one who is the giver of salvation, the one who is Judge. Pray to God and not to anyone or anything else, and ask Him to answer your prayer, and ask it in the name of Yeshua. Don’t pray to someone else to ask Yeshua to ask God. That’s just silly: why pray “retail” when the manufacturer of your salvation says you can get it “wholesale.”

Maybe I am being over-cautious. Maybe I am making something out of nothing, but I believe we should always be vigilant and careful not to create idols and stumbling blocks in our spiritual lives. In John, Yeshua said that whatever we ask Him to do He will do when we ask in His name, but that doesn’t mean to pray to Him instead of God because Yeshua then adds that it is so He can glorify the Father. It is still all about God. And the easiest way to avoid misdirected prayer is to keep focused on God, pray only to God and ask that God grant your prayer by invoking the name of Yeshua.

You have to decide if you want to pray to a saint, or Yeshua or to God. It is going to be your decision, and you will have to square it away with God, individually. As for me, I pray to God and I ask that He grant my prayers in the name of Yeshua Ha Maschiach. That has worked for me.

Prayer is powerful only because of the one to whom the prayer goes, so when you are talking about how powerful prayer can be, please remember to give the glory not to prayer but to the one who answers your prayers.

It’s Between You and God

Comeuppance. What a great word…”comeuppance.”  They say that all people who cheat others or do bad things will, one day, receive their “comeuppance.” It is usually defined as just deserts with the intimation that the person receiving their comeuppance was evil, but it is really just getting what one deserves. Good or bad, we all will have our own comeuppance.

God tells us, in Proverbs, that we should not return evil for evil and that He shall repay. We should wait upon the Lord.

After all, He is the Judge. Yeshua will rule the world, some or many of those who follow Him will be judges in their own right, answering to Yeshua, who answers only to God. God is the Ultimate Judge.

When it comes down to it, what we do, say, and how we live will be judged by God and so everything about your life is, ultimately and finally, between you and God. We all will face our own comeuppance, whether it’s a good one or a bad one.

Have you ever wondered if Gandhi was “saved” because he was such a holy man, even though his holiness was not that defined by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Is Mother Teresa in heaven? I think that many Catholics who are devout Catholics will be gravely disappointed, the same as many devout Jews will be when they come to their comeuppance.

God tells us what He wants from us, and He is pretty easy to understand. This past Shabbat we started the book of Vayikra (Leviticus), which tells us what we are to eat, how we are to act with each other (in intimate relationships) and what the Priestly duties are. It discusses the sacrifices and, even though we cannot sacrifice (because the Temple no longer stands), we should be familiar with the process because we can still make sacrifices today. Not sheep or goats or bulls, but personal sacrifices that are the ones God really wants- to do T’Shuvah, to obey His laws and ordinances, to love each other (even though this one is really hard at times.) How many times does God tell us, through the Psalms and the Prophets, that He doesn’t care for the blood of bulls and lambs but that He wants obedience?

Yeshua said if we love Him we will obey Him; He loved His father and obeyed Him, so it follows that we should obey what God said if we want to be like Yeshua. In fact, if you really want to know the answer to “WWJD” read the Torah, because that’s what Jesus did. Always.

Only God really sees the heart, and he sees us not as we see each other. God told Sh’muel (Samuel) that people see the outer image of a human but God sees their heart- that is how He picked David to be king. And even after David was anointed, it took years, with David running for his life, hiding with his enemies to be protected from his own father-in-law, living in caves like an animal. And he did that for years, then he ruled for 7 years from a small town until he ruled in Yerushalayim. It took many years from when he was first anointed as king until he came to his comeuppance, and all that time his mind was set on what his relationship was with God. He really did know how to wait upon the Lord. He certainly provides a good lesson for all of us.

We are all called to serve God, and we can choose to serve God or serve the Enemy. There is nothing in between, no abstainers in the Kingdom of Heaven, and no gray area. It’s God’s way or the Hell-way. Sorry: that’s the truth about it.

And because it is about you and God, let no one even try to tell you what to believe. However, we who believe that God exists, that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah and that all I say above is true, at least owe it to everyone else to ask them to seriously think about their eternal future. I am not much of a missionary, but I do have a gift for teaching. Maybe that’s why I was such a good salesman, but in any event, I will always talk to people, tell them what I believe and why I believe it, and if they are willing to listen or discuss it, I will inform them about the Good News and how to enter the Kingdom of God. If they disagree I will respect their right to do so, because it is between them and God. The best I can do is tell them what is right for me and why; if it seems right for them, all the better, but they have to decide. You can’t scare someone into believing and you can’t ram God down their throat. The best you may get is a temporary change of heart, but it is seed on rocky soil and will not last. Many of the sales I made were cancelled and the cancellation form was in the office before I even got the contract there. Many times people will renege on their agreements or get “buyers remorse”; it’s expected and happens in all things. Once someone realizes what sacrifices they have to make to follow the Lord they start to talk themselves out of it. That’s why it has to be their decision, made with the full understanding of the sacrifices they will be making, but also reminded of the rewards they can get.

God holds each of us accountable for our actions and decisions, and whether someone else tells us what to believe or not, it is going to be accounted to us as our decision. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. He chose to believe.

What do you believe? What do those you care about believe? And what are you doing to help them understand what their decision, or lack of decision, is going to result in when they will have their comeuppance?