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Thursday: Prayer Focus — 15 Comments

  1. I can remember praying at my mother's knee when I was a kid. At some stage in our church experience, a missionary on furlough from the Pacific Islands came to our church and took a couple of meetings and must have impressed me because I added the sentence, "Bless all the missionaries in the island fields!" Well, it was a good sentiment but to a certain extent, it was a vague wave in the direction of the Pacific Islands without any knowledge of what was going on. Interestingly I heard the same phrase used in a public prayer in Church only last year. Is it possible we need to grow and develop our prayers a bit?

    The problem is that often we fill our prayers with generalities when there is so much that we can pray for that is specific. Here is another one. How often, before we start on a journey do we ask for "travelling mercies". What are "travelling mercies". Someone pointed out the vagueness of that phrase to me and I realised it was one of those pet Christian phrases we use as part of the ritual before travelling. Nowadays, I pray to stay alert and to know when it is time to take a break. (And Carmel does her best to answer my prayer! - She is my little "travelling mercy"!)

    Regarding intercessory prayer, we also need to be specific. Pray for people we know, rather than "those in need or who are sick and suffering". And we need to be prepared to listen to the Holy Spirit because maybe we have a part to play in answering our prayers.

    Jesus gave this instruction just before he taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer:

    And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt 6:7,8 NIV

  2. Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:
    With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
    2 Chron 32:7-8

    Prayer Focus
    King Hezekiah was specific in his prayer by calling out the other king's name. Be specific in calling as much as possible others names, that is why some prayers have to be done at our homes and not in church.
    In Samuel and Job's case, the scenarios were different. The people who Samuel was praying for were sinning willfully. They saw the Ammonites had a King to fight for them, as a result, the Jews asked for a human king to fight for them despite Jesus was already their king who led them all the way. Unlike Job, the men were in ignorance. They truly believed that Job had sinned and that was the result of his sins, but Job was encouraging them to plea with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor.
    We might have knowledge about someone willfully doing wrong, as a result, sickness occurred. Sometimes, they might be caught up with the law. So when we pray, we should pray specifically about the problems to Jesus.
    I personally don't like to pray for others asking for 'unspoken requests'. People ask others for strange things and strange requests in their prayers. I always ask Jesus to let my prayer be in his will, not mine. I don't like to pray against his will no matter how hard that thing might appear.
    Throughout the bible, we saw people uplifting others in prayer.
    Let us cont to uplift others in prayer.

  3. Two difficult texts were brought up in the lesson but not really explained:
    (1) Matt 18:18 could the disciples pronounce someone saved or lost and the LORD in heaven had to abide by their decision?
    (2) 1John 5:16 what is the sin that leads to death?
    Can anyone help us understand these texts?

    • Hi Shirley,
      The version of Matthew 18:18 you are quoting is a falsified translation invented by the catholic theologians. The true translation is : "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be having been bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be having been loosed in heaven", which means a disciple only says a sin is forgiven if it has first been forgiven by the Lord. And not the reverse.

      As to 1 John 5:16, the "sin unto death" pertains to the various manners in which humans sin against the Holy Spirit, because Jesus said this kind of sin "will not be forgiven, either in this age, or in the one to come" (Matthew 12:32). He said his when the Pharisees declared he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils, thereby saying the Holy Spirit (through which Jesus cast out devils) is Satan. This sin refusing to acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit by saying (in various manners) it is the work of Satan is the sin unto death.
      ALL other sins can be forgiven.

      • Regarding Matt 18:18 the assertion that it is a translation invented by Catholic theologians is not quite true. I have checked 60 English translations of the Bible and 15 of them translate the text with the notion that the binding will already have been done in heaven. The remaining 45 (including the KJV) translate it with the sense that the binding will be done in heaven.

        What does the original Greek say: The Greek word in question is "estai" and occurs in the New testament 119 times. In the vast majority of cases, it is translated as "will be". I am aware that some interlined Greek New Testaments give the future perfect translation, "will have been", for Matt 18:18 but I don't know enough linguistic theory to understand why they have done so.

        One of the things that surfaced in my quick study of the issue is that "estai" is based on the verb "to exist" and that does give a sense that the binding/loosing exists in heaven already.

        I think that two points ought to be made:

        1) the big picture issue is that Heaven and those who preach the Gospel should be in harmony with one another.
        2) The notion that the church can use these texts to arbitrarily decide who is saved or lost is a travesty of interpretation and serves the purpose of control and subjugation outside the original intention of this passage of Scripture.

        Hope that helps us understand the passage.

    • Hi Shirley,
      For 1 John 5:16 if you click on the verse that is referenced in that section of that verse it leads to Matthew 12:31 which explains the sin that leads to death. Hope that helps, Tammy

    • 1)Matt 18:18 "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
      Through prayer, we welcome the power of God to be unleashed on the various issues we pray about. And in this way God gave the disciples and us believers a way to 'bind' and 'unbind' things on earth as we pray in His will and in faith.
      2) 1 John 5:16 "If anyone sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal;I do not say that one is to pray for that."
      Mortal sin(sin that leads to death) is sin that is grave" serious" and is committed deliberately(in full knowledge that it's a sin) examples of these are murder, suicide, railing, idolatry, witchcraft among others. These sins are truly a rejection of God's love and law.
      Sins that are not mortal(venial sins) are sins less grave or sins where the sinner did not fully consent or did not have knowledge that his actions were sinful.
      One can pray to God on behalf of their neighbor for the forgiveness of their venial sins.
      All our sins can be forgiven since Jesus paid the price by dying on the cross for the salvation of humanity, provided one believes in Him and repents.

      • Hello Isaac,

        Please do not introduce erring catholic systematics into the SDA Church. The "venial sin" is a catholic concept that has nothing to do with the Bible.
        ALL sins are "grave" and can lead to eternal death. The only way to escape this fate is to repent and to ask forgiveness for our sins, and to ask it to the Father, as Jesus taught us. If you don't ask forgiveness, the sin will be mortal to you. Otherwise, it will be removed from you and not stand in the way of your eternal life.
        But the sin against the Holy Spirit (i.e., saying His influence is from the devil) CAN absolutely NOT be forgiven, because a person who has this attitude will never ask forgiveness for the sins the Holy Soirit presents to his understanding, since he thinks it is the devil who presents this to him, and he is right in continuing to practice this sin.

    • What did Jesus mean by bind/loose?
      At the beginning of His ministry Luke 4:18 He quoted from Isa 61:1
      Annointed by the Spirit
      Preach good news to the poor
      Bind up the brokenhearted
      Loose the chains of the captives
      Sight to the blind

      When John's disciples came to ask if He was the Coming One Luke 7:20-22
      Jesus cured the sick, cast out evil spirits, gave sight to the blind then He told John's followers to tell John what they saw - blind see, lame walk, lepers cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised and gospel preached to the poor. This was the fulfillment of prophecy of Isa 61:1, what it meant to bind/loose.
      When Jesus sent out the twelve he gave them authority to heal the sick and cast out demons Matt 10:8
      Jesus sent out the 70 Luke 10:16-19 saying he who accepts your message accepts Me, he who rejects your message is rejecting Me and he who rejects Me rejects the Father who sent Me. Their mission had divine consequences.
      When the 70 returned they rejoiced saying even the demons are subject to us in Your name. Jesus said I give you authority over the power of the enemy.
      This is what Jesus meant by bind/loose.

    "Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you." (1 Samuel 12:24)

    "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." (1 John 5:14)

    "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:18)

  5. I am confident that no one can judge another person but the Lord. He is our defense, jury and judge and only He knows every hair on our head. I took 1John 5:16 meaning to not pray for a person sins after they have already died as there is no time for repentance after death.

  6. I am joining the discussion a bit late, though I hope that everyone takes a moment to read the explanation found in regard to 'binding' and loosening'. I did not understand the meaning of the words 'bind' and 'loosen', so I looked it up. What I found is very helpful toward resolving the understanding of Matt.18:18.
    I hope that the moderator will allow the quotes, since they are directly linked to the question everyone has commented on already:
    Other biblical reference to better understand the context related to 'binding and loosing' is found in Matt.16:13-20. (v.19), and Acts 15:1-35.

    From Wikipedia: Binding and loosing is originally a Jewish phrase appearing in the New Testament, as well as in the Targum. In usage, to bind and to loose simply means to forbid by an indisputable authority and to permit by an indisputable authority. ... The words rendered “prohibit” and “permit”.
    Binding and loosing is originally a Jewish Mishnaic phrase also mentioned in the New Testament, as well as in the Targum. In usage, to bind and to loose simply means to forbid by an indisputable authority and to permit by an indisputable authority..
    One example of this is Isaiah 58:5-6 which relates proper fasting to loosing the chains of injustice [2].

    The poseks had, by virtue of their ordination, the power of deciding disputes relating to Jewish law.[1] Hence, the difference between the two main schools of thought in early classical Judaism were summed up by the phrase the school of Shammai binds; the school of Hillel looses.[1]

    Theoretically, however, the authority of the poseks proceeded from the Sanhedrin, and there is therefore a Talmudic statement that there were three decisions made by the lower house of judgment (the Sanhedrin) to which the upper house of judgment (the heavenly one) gave its supreme sanction.[3] The claim that whatsoever [a disciple] bind[s] or loose[s] on earth shall be bound or loosed in heaven, which the Gospel of Matthew attributes to Jesus,[4] is probably therefore just an adoption of a phrase popular at the time.[1]

    This is also the meaning of the phrase when it is applied in the text to Simon Peter and the other apostles in particular[1][5] when they are invested with the power to bind and loose by Christ.

    This also serves as the scriptural and traditional foundation for the Catholic Church's conception of papal authority, stemming from such an investiture of St. Peter, since, according to Roman Catholic doctrine, the Popes are the Successors of St. Peter.

    Acts 15:1-35 - *First evidence of binding and loosening*. (Asterix provided by me to highlight):
    Acts chapter 15 expresses the first documented instance of loosening and binding; what has been later termed the Council at Jerusalem. Here the early controversy of circumcision was resolved, and loosened from being a qualification for salvation and acceptance into the community of believers. In the depiction below, we see an appeal to follow what has been revealed by the Holy Spirit, and not what opinions of men would suppose. Four things are bound while one thing is loosened:

    1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So *Paul and Barnabas were appointed*, along *with some other believers*, to go up to Jerusalem to *see the apostles and elders about this question*. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

    5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

    6 *The apostles and elders met to consider* this question. 7 After much discussion, *Peter* got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe [ first Gentile conversion, Acts 10 ]. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

    12 The whole assembly became silent as *they listened to Barnabas and Paul* telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, *James* spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

    16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— 18 things known from long ago.

    19 *“It is my judgment* [ James speaking ], therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

    22 Then the *apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided* to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:

    *The apostles and elders*, your brothers,
    To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
    24 We have heard that some went out from us without *our* authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So *we all agreed* to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas *to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing*. 28 *It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements*: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

    30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. [34] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.[7]

    Controversy still exists today whether the authority to loosen or bind is still in effect, if it passed at some point during the church's early development, or to what extent Gospel and doctrine have been loosened or bound by either the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Protestant and other traditions.

  7. I am following up with this post to add a comment in regard to the 3rd paragraph (following my introduction in my previous post); there, it speakes off and identifies a new 'Authority'.
    I agree with the definition of 'bind' and loose' as submitted in the earlier post, though would like to make the extra point to duly highlight this 'new' authority.

    The point I am making refers to the Authority Jesus speaks of and tells the Apostles to now turn to. This new authority is making the deliberative authority of the Sanhedrin of secondary influence or eliminating it all together regarding certain spiritually related circumstances.

    It is the Holy Spirit residing in the Apostles which now gives them the Authority to judge matters of Christian life. This is the direct connection between heaven and earth, having been established by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    Under the Mosaic Law, the Sanhedrin - the authority invested with the 'discerning- power' up to the time of Pentecost - was the designated authority to decide what could/should/was to be 'bound' and what was to be 'loosed' as it regarded the Jew's spiritual relationship with God.
    The reference to Acts 15:1-35 is the example to that effect.

  8. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
    Ezra 7:10

    Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.
    And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.
    And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment. Ezra 7:24-26.

    I got up and those passages were given to me for my morning devotion. I found out the go hand in hand with Matt 18:18 and 1 Jn 5:16. The contexts were- solving problems and who has the power to pronounce the judgment on the guilty party/or the supposed guilty party. Remember you are not/never found guilty unless tried in the court of law, that's why magistrates and judges were set up. Remember, whenever we study the OT civic laws and the cities of refuge we will have a clearer view of the NT system. If someone does something to a brother/sister, 1st go and speak to the person, if the person refuses to listen, then 2nd have 2-3 witnesses to speak to the person, then if the problems remain, go to the church. If the guilty still refused to yield and listen, then you can take the person to the law of the land. The Jews had their own legal systems-magistrates and judges. At this point then Ezra 7:26 will have to take over/go into effect which stated- And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment. Ezra 7:26
    Certain sins in the bible carries certain punishment as mentioned above. 17 different sins people were stoned to death. Certain sins people were banished for some time into the cities of refuge. Certain sins you had to repay four-folds, etc etc. Remember if any sin against the Holy Ghost that sin cant be forgiven because you are rejecting the one who forgive sins.


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