“The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: ‘Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is His name: Call to Me, and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known'” (Jer. 33:1-3).

“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am'” (Ex. 3:2-4).

“And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears'” (1 Sam. 3:10).

Before I enter into communion with You, Lord, I want to warn those on the journey with us: This one will be rough, complex and maybe a little longer than normal. My God, You have all the time there is, but for others…you may want to take this either in bits and pieces or find a time when you can give it full consideration. To that purpose, the content may best be split into several readings. Please pray for me as always, and to God be the glory in all we discover together.

You, Lord, of course are aware of the group of believers, who I consider to be incredible studiers or Your Word, with whom I am honored to share fellowship. We’re studying the Word and concept of prayer and were alerted immediately to the depth of what we are approaching. I’ve even gone back in the archives of my writings and found many attempts—entire years—devoted to the understanding of my personal prayer life with You. Yet prayer is not about years, but about our walk with You. So my education continues.

For me, the challenge continues to be finding a better way to explain my understanding of prayer using human terms. One friend who’s walking through this discovery process with me suggested I sketch a picture as a method of conveying my thoughts. Before I can draw a conclusion, I need to work through my questions and misunderstandings to arrive at a better understanding. So with my keyboard, I paint:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Lord, I feel led by You to share some additional history. I have discovered others who have struggled with grasping the depth of prayer. A few notables: Martin Luther had to work through his questions about prayer by creating a study guide of Your Prayer. He began each section with, “What does it mean?” I only can imagine the hours and ironic prayers devoted prior to penning his thoughts. John Wesley implied there may be a temptation to make prayer a selfish quest. So he prayed, “…let me render to You what is Yours and let my spirit ever cleave to You alone.”

These men, your faithful stewards, had far greater brains than I, yet their writings suggest a mystery in prayer, something to which they allude but don’t directly address. Mysteries can be scary. I could become fearful of my own clumsy methods taking me down a false path; but no, Lord, I will not fear prayer. It’s one of, if not the most powerful tool with which You equip me. I understand the most powerful of tools also can do great harm. So, just as my earthly father taught me a huge respect for electricity, I fully want to seek understanding and learn respect for Your amazing gift of prayer. I pray that You guide me step by step through my learning and my application.

So in typical fashion, my time with You begins with a question. This one, I believe, to be one of the biggest: Does prayer as You present it mean the same as what I’ve been taught by mankind?

That seems to be the best place to continue my exploration—Scripture. Who prayed? Did anyone not pray? Prayer in Your First Testament and the Hebrew text seems a bit different from Your Second Testament in the Greek. Are they really divergent, or does one compliment the other? Knowing Your ways, I can’t help but believe it’s the latter.

It doesn’t take long, Lord, to see the Hebrew words tefilah for “prayer” and palal for “pray” are the favorites used by Your chosen writers. The primitive roots suggest judgment (officially or mentally); by extension to plead on behalf of another judged worthy; for both words humility or supplication—my laying flat on the ground, face down, pleading my own soul out to You—is included in the definition.

Odd, the phrases “by extension” or “by implication” are used in connecting these words to the idea of prayer or praying, but they don’t define prayer. Furthermore, judgment? My Hebrew study implies it means “self-judgment.” Interesting. Am I doing the judging, or is it You causing me to be aware of my abilities and limitations. If it is You, of course it’s You, then I have, in the past, had the tendency to begin my prayers inappropriately. I have, by nature, come to You requesting before I know what Your desire is for me in our relationship.

Lord, it sounds as if before I get to the act of prayer I need to be ready to pray. I confess I get in a hurry to pray. I expect You to be at my beck and call when I’m in need. I have tended to approach You as if You were taking my order at a drive-through window, that I may receive a quick happy meal to send me on my way. Other times, I callYou as if You were a 9-1-1 operator, when things get bumpy in my life. I plead now for Your forgiveness, Lord. Those two approaches don’t seem to be included in Your First Testament scriptural examples.

What’s more, there seems to be more to intersession—praying on behalf of others—than intracession. If that’s the case, I should be much more concerned with the needs of others and making sure I understand Your will for them.

Wait…”Your will”? Where in Your First Testament does is say prayer has to be about Your will? Yes, I know how Jesus teaches us to pray, but where is the Scripture to support it? How did Abraham and the other great ones know Your will was the key to a righteous prayer life?

That seems to be a good place to bring in two other Hebrew words…twsah, which means “command/said” and shama (shema), meaning “to hear and respond.” No, neither one contains prayer in its definition, but they do suggest the idea that You have something to say about our relationship before I start to add definition in my prayers.

Adonai, I confess there are still so many things I don’t understand about our relationship—more of that mystery stuff—but nothing was, is or will be a mystery to You. That is the peace I find in our time together. You are my Source, my Refuge and my Redeemer in prayer. It’s another wonderful twist, Lord that I find by this very exercise, by reaching to You for my spirit’s feeding, that I grow closer in prayer with You.

Your design for relationship is so beautiful in that way. You know what I need before I ask, but Your joy is when I come seeking Your guidance as I am doing now. Lord, I’m so grateful for Your Word in this matter. You have, by others’ examples, shown me the blessings of obedience and the curse of rebellion. So please forgive me, but I want to look back in perspective to what others heard that seemed odd or contrary to Your ways, yet You blessed their actions.

Noah encountered You and built an ark. Hosea heard a word and married a prostitute. Peter had a vision and ate bacon (or something non-kosher). These and other examples in Your Word present a puzzle. There were no previous scriptural commands these men were following. Arks weren’t in fashion. There was little to no rain to worry about at the time. The Torah forbade marrying a prostitute—doing so was punishable by separation from the society. As for dietary restrictions, Your people are famous for their laws on this matter.

Yet these very actions caused those in the know to seek You more deeply. Is that how the prayer circle works? Is it similar to praying for patience and receiving circumstances by which to learn patience? In the same way, when I pray for understanding, should I expect to see events in my life that will challenge me to greater understanding?

Here’s my own personal historical concern, Lord: In the past, I have worshiped on a regular basis with congregations of believers who believed they had the gift of tongues. All fine and good until they suggested those who did not define this gift as they did suffered a diminished prayer and worship life. Lord, I never would question another believer’s personal relationship with You, the hearts of these folks appeared genuine and strong as I know mine to be, also. Yet in my personal experience and studies, I cannot find a complete scriptural foundation to solidify such as position.

These prayer language folks, with whom I fellowshipped, prayed actively and loved mightily, informed me they had a word from You, the spiritual implication being that such messages from You trump all.

Wow, what power that gives to the individual—what opportunity to Satan! Such instruction sounds wonderful when presented as Your response to prayers, but what if such messages are not like those You bequeathed to Noah or to Moses? What if they are the will of my heart couched cleverly in the depths of my soul as a desire I want You to grant. What if I am the one, even innocently and subconsciously praying You to obey me!?

Lord, such a possibility warns me, especially by other scriptural examples such as Saul in You First Testament and Elymus in Your Second Testament. Yes, You can and do inspire new ways of examining and fulfilling Your Word through individuals. I believe You still deliver messages of prophecy though prayer, but, Lord, prayerfully, I can’t find a place in Scripture or in respected books that support Scripture of any time when You will change Your Word once spoken. You are and always will be unchanging; it is I who must be held accountable, reconciling my understanding with all (not part) of your Word. Testing what I think to be with what has, is and will be according to those greater and wiser than me.

Who would those greater and wiser be? If we’re all in this together, is one person’s word better or stronger than another?

That question brings me back to the memory of my prayer language friends. I desperately wanted to come to a common understanding with them. They were and are still my brothers and sisters in You. Instead of desiring to pursue unity, seeking common understanding, many of them drew another picture for me, a line of demarcation, explaining I could not possibly achieve their level of relationship with You unless I accepted their interpretations. There would be no discussion with them, only instruction from them. After all, You had spoken to them, had You not? Was that not enough? Is that not what prayer is all about—putting our words out and waiting for Your word to come back?

Or is there more to prayer than that? Didn’t Noah have Methuselah? Didn’t Moses have Aaron? Didn’t You encourage Solomon, the wisest of all men, to continue to sharpen his iron with that of other strong and wise believers in order to come to stronger agreement and complete understanding?
You are so rabbinical in Your ways, Lord! As for me, all this seems to be a lot of work. In case You haven’t noticed, Lord, I don’t like work. Hence my wanting drive-through solutions to the issues I present at the altar. I’d just as soon have the quick answer, if You please…so spoiled am I.

Master of all prayer, I apologize if my heart sounds too sarcastic or frustrated about this study. I’m struggling only because I love the prayer relationship You are building for me with You. If I’m honest, when I look back, I can see the strengthening in my spirit each time I come to You with Your will as my quest.

I get frustrated only because of my own laziness. Yet I’m hungry to learn more, studying the languages of Your prophets and apostles, which simultaneously is a struggle and a joy, and discovering I don’t use the language of my native tongue well enough to share Your love with others. Thank You that You understand me better than I understand myself. Thank You that You have understood from the beginning of time how all of mankind would try to make their prayers Your prayers, their words, Your Word. Thank You for the community of strong studying believers I now am associated with, those who are willing to walk with me, offering their own prayers and observations on my behalf that we all may seek You, Jesus, as the Word, the Truth, our Life.

Let me not intervene with requests and desires that have nothing to do with Your desires. Let me be aware that as Isaiah 45 tells me, You are still creating and there are still mysteries—even new (to me) pieces of Your plan to be revealed that may not be integrated easily into my scriptural understanding.

Also important, let me shema! Let me continue to learn more about being still long enough in my own soul that You can share Your Word and Spirit with me. Let me not just hear and know. Let me also be and do as You have designed me to be and do. Let me get out of the way with my limits so Your limitless love can lead me, even using other people, new sources and my own submission as Your powerful tools for our prayer life and walk together.

Prayerfully I rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! Let my reasonableness be seen by all. Let me not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and supplication, by thanksgiving let my requests be reflections of Your will and desire. Let Your peace, which surpasses all understanding, guard mine and all of Your believers hearts and minds through personal relationship and prayer with you, my Messiah, Jesus. Amen

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