"You are worthy, Jehovah our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they came into
existence and were created" (Revelation 4:11)
WHO IS GOD?
In the Bible, it is written, that He has the attributes of a person: He has a Name written in the form of a Tetragrammaton (four letters) YHWH, which is found written more than 7000 times in the Bible. This name is vocalized in English, Jehovah: "I am Jehovah. That is my name" (Isaiah 42:8). He has many qualities: "God is love" (1 John 4:8). “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love and truth” (Exodus 34:6). He created all things: "You are worthy, Jehovah our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they came into existence and were created" (Revelation 4:11). He has a presence: "But will God really dwell on the earth? Look! The heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens, cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27). The very fact that under inspiration, King Solomon says that the heavens (the universe) cannot contain his presence, suggests that the dimensions of God are immeasurable and difficult to imagine for us, mere humans. The main focus of this condensed answer to this broad question is to bring out the very important idea that God is a spirit, with personal (not impersonal) characteristics (John 4:24).(The question of who God is is fully dealt with on the page entitled "Biblical Teaching" and regarding his Name (YHWH), on the page "Jehovah, Revealed Name", of this site (yomelyah.com)).
HOW TO PRAY GOD?
In a dialogue with a Samaritan woman, Jesus Christ spoke of "true worshipers", which presupposes only one form of acceptable worship in the eyes of Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ: "Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth" (John 4:22-24; 7:21-13).
"True worshipers" must worship God with "spirit," or spiritually, without idolatrous religious objects, such as crosses, statues, images, or medals connected to Marian worship or others "saints".
If a Christian has such objects, he must get rid of them and destroy them (Acts 19:19,20). The Christian must worship God with the "truth" set forth in the Bible (John 17:17, 2; Timothy 3:16,17; 2 Peter 1:20,21). The Christian must not make gestures that are
not suitable, biblically, before and after the prayer, such as making the sign of the cross. It is a non-biblical practice that did not exist in the time of the apostles. As the apostle Paul said, under inspiration: "Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry"
(1 Corinthians 10:14).
Jesus Christ, indirectly, did not encourage to worship his mother, Mary (who was a virgin at the time of his conception) (Luke 1:34,35). Here is what is written
about a homage paid by a woman to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ: "Now as he was saying these things, a woman from the crowd called out to him: “Happy is the womb that carried you and the breasts that nursed you!” But he said: “No, rather,
happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!" (Luke 11:27,28). It is true that Mary was an "highly favored one", to use the greeting of the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:28). The opportunity would have been entirely chosen, if it had been the case, for
Jesus Christ, to mention the Marian cult. However, Jesus Christ never mentioned the Marian cult which has Greco-Roman origins, and therefore has no place in the Bible.
Christ's counsel about the prayer
"Also, when you pray, do not act like the hypocrites, for they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the main streets to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have
their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. Then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you. When praying, do not say the same things over and over again
as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words. 8 So do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need even before you ask him. “You must pray, then, this way: “‘Our Father in
the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the wicked one" (Matthew 6:5-13).
What lesson to draw from the model prayer?
Is it appropriate to repeat this prayer by rote, without thinking about it? On the basis of the declarations of Jesus Christ, it is obvious that no. We can read again what he said about not mechanically repeating, without thinking, always the same things,
in our prayers: "When praying, do not say the same things over and over again as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words" (Matthew 6:7).
We must pray to God with love and affection, as when a son and a daughter speak to their father whom they love deeply and sincerely. We must be concerned for His Name, to be sanctified, which includes the desire to defend the reputation connected with
the divine Name. We must express to God our sincere desire that his righteous purpose be fulfilled on earth (Matthew 6:9,10). Jesus Christ makes it clear that our prayers, in general, should be an act of worship directed towards God, expressing to Him praises
and deep gratitude for the many expressions of love that He manifests to us. The book of Psalms gives many examples of praises we can direct to Jehovah God, such as a pleasant spiritual incense for Him: "May my prayer be as incense prepared before you, My
uplifted hands like the evening grain offering" (Psalm 141:2). Jehovah God is very sensitive to the fact that we love Him and that we make him know by our praises and our good conduct: "(God) showing loyal love to the thousandth generation of those who love
me and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:6). Through our prayers and good behavior, let us respond to His Love, BY loving God in return. Psalm 145, is very rich in praise directed to God: "I will exalt you, O my God the King, I will praise your name forever
and ever" (Psalms 145:1).
Then we can pray to God, referring more specifically to our personal needs, such as to ask God to help us spiritually and materially. We can share with God
our most intimate feelings that concern us, or express to Him our joy in thanksgivings (The biblical book of Psalms is a precious poetic collection of feelings expressed to God). Jesus Christ, in the last part of the prayer, encourages us to ask God to help
us to fight against our weaknesses, that the devil is exploiting to tempt us and thus undermine our integrity (Matthew 6: 11-13 Romans 7: 21-25).
In Matthew 6: 14,15, Jesus Christ shows that the quality of our relationship with God depends on the relationship we have with our neighbor: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 5:23,24; 1 John 3:15; 4:8).
Is the Christian under the obligation to forgive everything? Like all biblical teaching, it must be based on the context of the statements of Christ. In Matthew 6:14,15, Jesus Christ shows that humans must absolutely forgive the sins of their neighbor. However, this injunction to forgiveness is part of a normal human relationship strewn, very often with tensions, with more or less serious offenses. Going back to the context of this commandment of forgiveness to one's neighbour, in Matthew 5:23,24, we have confirmation that this required forgiveness is in a daily framework of the human relationship, which very often needs adjustments to reach serene relationships, every day. And forgiveness helps to ease tensions, and to learn to bear with one another (Romans 15:1,2).
Going back to the question of 7 times forgiveness, mentioned by the apostle Peter, and Christ's response of 77 times forgiveness, Jesus Christ emphasizes more on the kind of forgiveness. Indeed, if a person says to himself, I will forgive him only 7 times, does he really forgive his neighbor, keeping an accounting of his neighbor's sins? Christ's response makes such a count more difficult. Which means that the person who forgives his neighbor will do so with all his heart, without residual resentment that would push him to make a count. If we have understood that Jesus Christ, in Matthew 18, insists on the good quality of wholehearted forgiveness, then we will also understand, according to the context of this same chapter, that is not an invitation to forgive everything.
The apostle Peter's question about forgiving seven times, comes precisely from a statement of Christ who describes a situation that could lead to not forgiving: "Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go and reveal his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector" (Matthew 18:15-17). This text is not to be confused with Matthew 5:23,24 because Jesus Christ, in Matthew 18, mentions that the kind of sins would require, in case of denial of the guilty, the intervention of two or three witnesses and then that of spiritual authorities of the Christian congregation. These are serious sins linked to slander that damage a person's good reputation, or even problems of debt recognition, maybe more serious, scams.
Added to this, are extremely serious sins (which do not fall within the context of Matthew 18:15-17, but which are the responsibility of police justice and that of the courts), blood and sexual crimes, such as rape and pedophilia. Obviously, the victims of such despicable acts, are not in the framework of the forgiveness mentioned in Matthew 18:21-35. In these extremely painful situations, it is the victims or the families of the victims who decide in conscience whether to forgive or not. In any case, it is God, through Christ the King, who will judge the work of each one: "So, then, each of us will render an account for himself to God" (Romans 14:12).
Is it obligatory to conclude the prayer by the phrase, "through Jesus Christ I direct this prayer"? In examining the model prayer and some other prayers made by the disciples in the Greek Christian Scriptures, it does not seem to be obligatory (Acts 2: 24,25; 4: 24-30). Of course, Jesus Christ has said that prayers are directed in his name: "Also, whatever you ask in my name, I will do this, so that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13,14). Therefore, if we wish to conclude our prayers by mentioning the mediation of Christ, we can do so (1 Timothy 2:5). Whether we do it or not, the important point is our faith that this prayer will be listened to through Christ, to the extent that it conforms to the will of God (Matthew 7: 21-23). On the other hand, the prayer should be concluded by "amen" (1 Corinthians 14:16).
We must persevere in prayer
“Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking it will be opened. Indeed, who is the man among you whom his son asks for bread—he will not hand him a stone, will he? Or, perhaps, he will ask for a fish—he will not hand him a serpent, will he? Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).
Jesus Christ says that if we want the blessing of God', we must insist and persevere in prayer. In another illustration, he showed how a widow, by dint of insisting before an unrighteous judge, was able to obtain justice: "Then he went on to tell them an illustration with regard to the need for them always to pray and not to give up, saying: “In a certain city there was a certain judge that had no fear of God and had no respect for man. But there was a widow in that city and she kept going to him, saying, ‘See that I get justice from my adversary at law.’ Well, for a while he was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Although I do not fear God or respect a man, at any rate, because of this widow’s continually making me trouble, I will see that she gets justice, so that she will not keep coming and pummeling me to a finish.’” Then the Lord said: “Hear what the judge, although unrighteous, said! Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them? I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”" (Luke 18:1-8).
Approaching God in prayer with modesty and humility
"He then went on to tell the invited men an illustration, as he marked how they were choosing the most prominent places for themselves, saying to them: “When you are invited by someone to a marriage feast, do not lie down in the most prominent place. Perhaps someone more distinguished than you may at the time have been invited by him, and he that invited you and him will come and say to you, ‘Let this man have the place.’ And then you will start off with shame to occupy the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, that when the man that has invited you comes he will say to you, ‘Friend, go on up higher.’ Then you will have honor in front of all your fellow guests. For everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:7-11).
In another illustration, Jesus Christ shows how a person can be humble or proud, based on their view of themselves. This second illustration, will serve as a commentary on the first, especially since Jesus Christ concluded it in the same way: "But he spoke this illustration also to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and who considered the rest as nothing: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and began to pray these things to himself, ‘O God, I thank you I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give the tenth of all things I acquire.’ But the tax collector standing at a distance was not willing even to raise his eyes heavenward, but kept beating his breast, saying, ‘O God, be gracious to me a sinner.’ I tell you, This man went down to his home proved more righteous than that man; because everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted”" (Luke 18:9-14).
What is true on an individual level is true on a congregational level. Just as a person may appear humble and modest or proud and presumptuous, so a congregation as a whole may have a reputation for humility or, on the contrary, arrogance. Let us take the example of two congregations among the seven that Jesus Christ disciplined: The congregation of Sardis and the congregation of Smyrna.
The congregation of Sardis had an arrogant attitude, and in his message Jesus Christ rebuked it very harshly: "And to the angel of the congregation in Sardis write: These are the things that he says who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars, ‘I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead. Become watchful, and strengthen the things remaining that were ready to die, for I have not found your deeds fully performed before my God. Therefore, continue mindful of how you have received and how you heard, and go on keeping it, and repent. Certainly unless you wake up, I shall come as a thief, and you will not know at all at what hour I shall come upon you" (Revelation 3:1-3). Obviously, this congregation had the same mind-set as this very self-satisfied Pharisee, who denigrated those who were not like him. The Smyrna congregation had a completely different mind-set: "And to the angel of the congregation in Smyrna write: These are the things that he says, ‘the First and the Last,’ who became dead and came to life again, ‘I know your tribulation and poverty—but you are rich—and the blasphemy by those who say they themselves are Jews, and yet they are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations: He that conquers will by no means be harmed by the second death'" (Revelation 2:8-11).
Just as on an individual level we must be on the watch regarding our mind-set, on the appreciation that we have of ourselves, the same the shepherds of the different congregations, must take care to maintain a good mind of love. , humility and modesty, towards one another: "For through the undeserved kindness given to me I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has distributed to him a measure of faith. (…) Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves; do not be minding lofty things, but be led along with the lowly things. Do not become discreet in your own eyes” (John 13:34,35; Romans 12:3,16).
Is it appropriate to have a particular attitude to pray?
The Bible evokes several body positions and attitudes, which express respect and deference to God: There is no strict rule. Our attitude or body position, will depend on the circumstances:
- To kneel (Acts 9:40; 21: 5).
- To low the eyes and the head (Luke 18:13).
- To lift the eyes to heaven or to present our face to Jehovah (John 11:40, Job 42: 8 "And my servant Job will pray for you. Surely I will lift his face").
to open and raise your hands (Psalm 141:2 "My uplifted hands like the evening grain offering").
These are the circumstances related to God's reverential fear, to Christian discernment and respect for local human usages (to the extent that they conform to the Bible), in local Christian congregation, which will guide us in the respectful attitude to have (Hebrews 5:14).
Are you a Son of God?
"For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons"
This question is only in the biblical context, and particularly of the letter to the Romans, the chapter 8. The answer will be based on the context of chapter 8, in order to know if, the status of "son of God" is only reserved for a category of Christians, for example, those who have the heavenly hope of being one of the 144000, or to all Christians, including those who are an earthly hope (Apocalypse 7:1-8 (144000); 7:9- 17 (the great crowd coming out of the great tribulation). In order for the reader to check by himself, the context reveals two important points:
1 - The apostle Paul does not speak at any time directly, of two categories of Christians, but rather of two categories of humans, those who live according to fleshly desires and those (the faithful Christians) who live by being led by the Holy Spirit.
2 - The apostle Paul does not evoke the hope of everlasting life, by directly making a difference between everlasting life in heaven and everlasting life in the future earthly paradise.
Let us examine the context of Romans chapter 8: "Therefore, those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation. For the law of the spirit that gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the Law was incapable of doing because it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, condemning sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, on the things of the spirit. For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace; because setting the mind on the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not in subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be. So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this person does not belong to him. But if Christ is in union with you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. If, now, the spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you" (Romans 8:1-11).
In verses 1 to 8, the apostle Paul describes those who walk according to the flesh: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, on the things of the spirit" (verse 5). This verse sums up very well, the contrast between these two categories of humans, those who live according to fleshly desires, and those who live led by the holy spirit.
In verses 9 to 11, he is describing those who are "sons of God", by adoption, with the difference between the two categories of humans, in a different way: "However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him" (verse 9).
"So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you are sure to die; but if you put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live. For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs—heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ—provided we suffer together so that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:12-17).
Verse 17 seems to be applied only to the 144,000: "If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together" . When the Apostle Paul wrote that those who are sons of God, are as heirs with Christ, he seems to refer to the heavenly hope to live with Jesus Christ (even if he is not directly mentioned) (see Apocalypse 14:1-5, the 144000 on Mount Sion (in the heavens), with King Jesus Christ). In addition, the previous verses seem to describe this process which allows a Christian, to know that he has the heavenly hope (to be heirs with Christ): "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children" (verses 15,16). At this stage of the study, the question that arises, is the following, if the apostle Paul applies the expression "sons of God", to the heirs with Christ (the 144000), does it not apply to all Christians who live led by spirit, and who have the earthly hope? Let us read the context of Romans 8.
"For I consider that the sufferings of the present time do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. For the creation is waiting with eager expectation for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but through the one who subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself will also be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now. Not only that, but we ourselves also who have the firstfruits, namely, the spirit, yes, we ourselves groan within ourselves while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom. For we were saved in this hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for when a man sees a thing, does he hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we keep eagerly waiting for it with endurance" (Romans 8:18-25).
Verse 19 seems to be referring, only to the 144000: "For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God" (see 1 John 3:2: "Beloved ones, we are now children of God, but it has not yet been made manifest what we will be. We do know that when he is made manifest we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is").
Nevertheless, the 20,21 verses refer to the whole of humanity: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God". However, some will say that this last release will take place at the end of the millennial reign of Christ. This interpretation seems fair in accordance with Apocalypse 20:5a: "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were ended". It should be mentioned that just as the Apostle Paul uses the expression "creation" to designate the earthly humanity as a whole, similarly, Apocalypse 20:5a applies to humanity in the earthly paradise, as a whole. On an individual level, the human (the faithful Christian) who currently lives and in the future earthly paradise, led by spirit, according to the context of Romans 8, can be called "son of God" by being simply heir of God, without necessarily being a joint heir with Christ like the 144000: "If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God" (verse 17).
The very fact that the apostle Paul added, "but joint heirs with Christ", seems to support the idea that the "heirs of God" represent the whole of obedient humanity and the "joint heirs with Christ", in this context, regarding the 144000. It is completely logical, always according to the context of Romans 8, to consider the faithful Christians having earthly hope, as "sons of God" who will be his heirs, in view of everlasting life. It should be recalled that in Romans 8, the apostle Paul wrote that the "sons of God" are who live led by spirit, and this is quite the case of the faithful Christians who have the earthly hope. In addition, if it is obvious that the expression of "joint heirs with Christ" has a restrictive meaning in Romans (8:12-17), applying only to the 144000, this expression can be applied currently to the faithful Christians who have the earthly hope, in the broad sense of Luke 23:43: "You will be with me in paradise". The currently faithful Christians who have the earthly hope, will be, in a broad sense, "joint heirs with Christ", because they will be with Jesus Christ in paradise...
Finally, it is also good to remember how the Model Prayer begins: "Our Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:9)... If Jesus Christ asked his disciples to begin this prayer with the expression "Our Father", it is well proof that God will not wait a thousand years to consider, right away, that the faithful Christians who have the earthly hope, are their sons, the sons of God... "For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons"(Romans 8:14)…