The unique prayer life of God’s children

We have work to do, not stuff to get.

We have work to do, not stuff to get.

Matthew 6:9 “Pray then in this way:…”

People pray in many different ways to many different gods. Prayer is so ubiquitous that it appears to be a practice that is hard-wired into the human psyche.

What sets believers in Messiah apart from all others is not just that we pray, but that we should be praying to the one true God in a certain way with a certain focus and understanding that others do not have. When asked of his disciples for teaching on prayer, Yeshua’s answer provides a rich storehouse of wisdom in practice.

Yeshua understood that people of all nations pray but are typically using many empty words to no purpose, other than, I suppose, making themselves feel better. However, he encourages a specific way of praying that has purpose and direction. He provides a model prayer that demonstrates simplicity and humility.

First, where and how we pray are both important: our place of prayer should be a place of privacy apart from others to demonstrate sincerity in speaking only with God, and not for the sake of appearing over-righteous to others.

Prayer should be offered directly to God, addressing him as a loving Father, not as some vengeful deity who needs to be appeased. We need to recognize that even though God exists beyond this reality, he is still accessible and active here, as well. He is set apart from all other gods and his character illustrates his uniqueness.

Our primary focus in prayer should be for God’s reign to be recognized by all upon this earth, and in so doing, his will would come to pass in this reality in the same way it is accomplished in the heavenly realm. This is the unique nature of the prayer practice of those who would consider themselves Yeshua’s disciples. Everything in our lives should center around God’s kingdom, not ours.

Even when praying for our own needs that arise each day, Yeshua reminds us our focus should still be on others, forgiving those who have wronged us, just as we have committed wrongs against our heavenly Father. If we expect him to forgive us of our shortcomings, we need to have the same level of concern for others.

Our prayers for personal desires should be primarily intent on the avoidance of being led astray and succumbing to the desires of this world above the needs of the kingdom. Praying just for things we want is not always in the best interest of the kingdom.

When we pray in this way, our lives become set apart from others because we are not just praying for stuff and things, but for God’s glory and honor to be manifest in this place and time, and to recognize his will is more important than ours. When this becomes our guiding purpose, then his will can and will be accomplished on this earth through us.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Pleasing God through holy prayer

We should simply be obedient to his plain will for us.

As the apostle Paul provides Timothy instruction on correct doctrine and appropriate conduct within the congregation, he begins to focus on the various groups within the assembly: men, women, widows, and slaves, along with the roles of overseers and deacons.

But first and foremost is the admonition to prayer; praying specifically for leaders and officials so that the message of the kingdom can be spread through the peaceful lives of obedient believers.

1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. … I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands apart from anger or quarreling…

While violence was common in that generation and persecution was ever present, the kingdom message had been historically spreading through the persecutions and scatterings of the believers, even the persecution brought on by Paul himself prior to his conversion.

Acts 8:3-4 – “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

However, as Paul’s missionary efforts throughout the empire were coming to fruition in the waning years of his life, he encourages prayer for peaceful and dignified existence to exhibit the wonderful salvation of God to all.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “This [praying for leaders and peace and harmony] is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I can’t think of a more timely and appropriate lesson that we could learn from the Bible at this time in history. Our country and our world is becoming more fractured and oppositional with each passing week and month. If believers, instead of chastising administrations and leaders would instead join together and pray for them, “lifting up holy hands apart from anger and quarreling,” we may see real change towards peace and harmony. God’s desire of people experiencing salvation and coming to the knowledge of the truth could become much more of a reality than we are currently seeing.

Out of all of the actions we as believers can take in influencing this world, praying for leaders and for peace and unity is something that only we can do. If we believe we have been set apart as God’s people, then, as his children, we have the right and responsibility to petition him for this to come to pass. This is not an opportunity for us to lift up our preferred candidate over others, but a chance to ask for God’s involvement and enlightening of all those in authority, that they would make decisions that honor him and not just try to influence the polling statistics.

If this is something that pleases God, then we should simply be obedient to his plain and hopeful will for us, and the obligation that he has laid out for believers. If we consider ourselves holy and set apart, then it is time for us to act like it.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Communion with God

The deepest relationships are built over shared communication, not one-way conversations.

Psalm 5:1-3 – Listen to my words, Yahweh; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to you. In the morning, Yahweh, you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.

This psalm is attributed to David and is contextually a prayer for protection of the wickedness of his enemies. However, there is a common biblical principle embedded in the verses of this psalm that, if applied on a regular basis, can enhance our communication with God.

At the end of verse 3, David says, “in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.” This Hebrew word translated as expectantly is sometimes rendered as “look up, eagerly watch, look forward, or look out expectantly.” The definition of the word means, “to lean forward, i.e., to peer into the distance; by implication, to observe, await.” The idea is to present an earnest request to God and then to eagerly wait for an answer. It’s not as if one prays and then goes about their usual business, but instead after praying they remain or immediately go to a place where they intently wait for a response from God, not doing any other activities until they have heard from him.

In the time of the prophet Habakkuk, God was raising up the Chaldeans against unfaithful Israel, and Habakkuk would pray to God and then God would answer him in a reciprocal fashion; this became the text of the prophecy and the outline of the book. However, this same Hebrew word is used again as Habakkuk delivers his plea to Yahweh, and then describes his time of waiting for an answer:

Habakkuk 2:1 – I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

Habakkuk committed himself to “look out” to see how God would respond, and to formulate his next response. It is my belief that this type of back-and-forth communication is something that God desires to have with all of his children. Yet we typically become so distracted with the things of this life that, after presenting a request or question to God, we run off and go about our business hoping to somehow receive some sort of subconscious sign or indication of God’s response to us. In that self-induced busy-ness, I think we sometimes miss what he actually does respond to us, and we assume that his “silence” on a matter is an indication that he has left us to our own devices.

We need to slow down and savor our relationship with our Creator. We don’t build real relationships with other people over text or messaging or “tweeting.” For those who are important to us in this life, we carve out time in our days and evenings to spend time with them, sharing activities and long conversations with them. The back-and-forth discussions provide insights into each other’s thoughts and emotions that actually bind us to each other.

If we truly want to have a relationship with God, we must do the same. We need to provide some room in our days and nights to spend quality time alone with him, bringing him our concerns, praying over difficult scripture passages, seeking answers to to life challenges we face with open hearts and open Bibles in our laps. And then we need to do the most important thing: we need to listen, expectantly waiting to hear what direction or insight, comfort or correction he may have for us.

This is how close friends and family members communicate effectively. This is what it means to be a child of God in communion with him.

Micah 7:7 AMP – But as for me, I will look expectantly for Yahweh and with confidence in Him I will keep watch; I will wait [with confident expectation] for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The intentional requests of the faithful cannot go unanswered

The will of God will always be done.

2 Chronicles 1:11-12 – “God said to Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor yet have you asked for long life; but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge my people, over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge is granted to you. I will give you riches, wealth, and honor, such as none of the kings have had who have been before you had, and none after you will have.””

This request that was granted to Solomon by God was a huge measure of trust and faith in God on the the part of Solomon. He was in the perfect position to understand the need of the moment and he did not let it go to waste. His request demonstrated how in tune he was with the promise of God. Because of his faith and trust in the promise of God, his request was granted. Note the conditions just prior to God’s response to him:

2 Chronicles 1:8 – And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great and faithful love to my father David, and you have made me king in his place.

Solomon recognized his place in the scheme of the kingdom. He had been entrusted with the representative role of king in the shadow of one of the most charismatic and influential leaders of Israel, ever. More importantly, he knew that his role was one of promise.

2 Chronicles 1:9 – “Yahweh God, let your promise to my father David now come true. For you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth.

His statement of faith was one of complete trust in the promise of God that had been bestowed previously upon his father David through the prophet Nathan.

2 Samuel 7:16, 28-29 – “Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever.’ ” … Lord Yahweh, you are God; your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now, please bless your servant’s house so that it will continue before you forever. For you, Lord Yahweh, have spoken, and with your blessing your servant’s house will be blessed forever.

Solomon’s request was granted because it was in complete accord with the will of God for David’s house; to have his throne endure forever. The question isn’t in asking how God could answer Solomon’s request, but how could he have not?

For us to have an audience with God is not in a thousand sacrifices, but in a sincere and honest heart of trust and faith in his Word, recognizing our place within the kingdom of God. We need to know his instruction so fully that when we do provide requests, what we ask for is in alignment with his purpose and will. This is the type of faith that moves mountains, when God’s will, not ours, is for a mountain to move.

God desired to bless Solomon because he had promised David he would do so. God has also promised that his kingdom would fill the earth. Any requests and prayers we may ask that are in line with this purpose of God are sure to be answered in haste.

Matthew 6:10-11 – “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Psalm 119:169-173 – Let my cry reach you, Yahweh; give me understanding according to your word. Let my plea reach you; rescue me according to your promise. My lips pour out praise, for you teach me your statutes. My tongue sings about your promise, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The relevance of constant prayer

Praying all the time demonstrates what’s really important…to you.

While common to all major religions, prayer is viewed differently by different belief systems. Prayer is typically viewed as requesting something from God, and therefore prayer becomes an instrument of communication only when some desired object or situation arises.

Biblical prayer should be something that sets believers in Messiah apart from others; this is a dynamic of the holiness of believers. There are many different biblical aspects to prayer, and one of the main facets that is encouraged is an idea of constancy; we are to pray continually.

Luke 18:1 – “Now he told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up.”

Yeshua provides the example of the “persistent widow” who continued day after day to bring her request before the judge. When we pray for some need we may have or situation that arises, do we have the perseverance to continue in prayer, or do we simply give up after mentioning it once or twice in an off-hand way? I believe Yeshua desires our prayers to be genuine, and genuine prayers that remain at the forefront of all of our thinking and actions. These are the requests that demonstrate real needs exist. Flippant or careless prayers for this or that only show that whatever that issue is must not be a real need, otherwise urgent prayer for that thing would continue. So the persistence is not a demonstration to God of how important something is (since he already knows), but it is a demonstration to ourselves of what we consider important enough to bring before him day after day.

Ephesians 6:18 – “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”
Colossians 1:3 – “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…”

Whew, that is a lot of praying! Again, the emphasis is on the constancy for every and all situation that can relate to the kingdom of God in our daily lives, and the lives of our brothers and sisters in Messiah. Praying in the Spirit of God implies that those things that are prayed about relate to the kingdom of God, since that is God’s overarching purpose in the world: seeing the kingdom manifested in all things. When our prayers align with God’s purpose all the time, we will find that God’s Spirit will enable us to better accomplish his will, and it will happen all around us in real time!

Constancy in prayer is one of my personal challenges, and I hope that by highlighting these few examples, you are challenged to review your own prayer practices, as well. If we can unite in prayer for one another as brothers and sisters in Messiah, then we can both experience his kingdom coming to pass in our respective circles of influence!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “…pray constantly…”


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Watchful perseverance in love

How to stand firm in the face of opposition.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love.

A few of the final parting exhortations of Paul to the congregation at Corinth reveal some of the deepest foundations for believers in Messiah.

To be alert is vigilance, watchfulness; the idea of keeping awake when everyone else is sleeping. What is he encouraging them to be on the lookout for? If we review some other uses of this term in other letters of Paul, some of these ideas are found:

Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 – So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled.

This idea of wakefulness as Paul uses it involves thankful prayer and being self-controlled. When we relax our guard from prayer, thanksgiving, and self-control, we can be led astray. Paul reveals this to be the case by adding to this exhortation of vigilance by saying, “Stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.”

Standing firm in the faith implies persevering. One needs exhortation to persevere only when they are encountering opposition. This is a necessary element of the faith because believers, by default, can appear antagonistic to the world around them due to their opposing world views.

Psalm 37:12 – The wicked person schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.
Proverbs 29:27 – An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

Paul knows from personal experience this is the case, and encourages the believers to literally “act like men.” This bravery, strength, and perseverance in the face of opposition is a necessity among believers, or the implanted word will not bear fruit. This can bring about the situation disclosed by Yeshua in his parable of the sower:

Matthew 13:20-21 – And the one sown on rocky ground ​– ​this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.

Notice, Yeshua says “when distress or persecution comes because of the word,” not if it comes about. This is the lot of those who choose to seek out and follow the Way of God in this life, and Paul is simply ensuring those believers in Corinth are prepared.

Paul then finishes his thought on vigilance, perseverance, and courage by summing up the ultimate command for all believers: “Do everything in love.” It literally reads, “All things of you, in love, let be done.” This is the difference between the believer and the non-believer when confronting these differing world views. According to Psalm 37, the wicked person “schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.” Yet, even though to the believer the way of the unrighteous is detestable, they are still commanded to do everything in love.

True vigilance protects oneself through thankful prayer and self-control, all the while extending love to those who disagree with them. This was the path Paul encouraged those believers to navigate in their context of real danger persecution. How much more should we exhibit these characteristics in our comparatively mild day and age?


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Praying persistently according to God’s will

The things we pray for should be of such importance that we will just not let them go, no matter what.

Luke 18:1-5 – Now he [Yeshua] told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up. “There was a judge in a certain town who didn’t fear God or respect people. “And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ “For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect people, “yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so that she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.’ “

In this parable of Yeshua, he explains the benefit of persistence in our prayers to God. The parable seems a bit odd because he is using the example of a judge who doesn’t fear God or respect people. This person is not qualified to be a judge, and yet, the widow ends up swaying his opinion due to her incessant coming to him. If persistence works even with those who do not fear God or respect people, then how much more will God be willing to respond to those whom he cares for and loves?

Persistence in anything is a demonstration of the sincerity of the individual. We can pray to God for all kinds of things flippantly or without any real motivation to see things happen; however, Yeshua is encouraging us that the things we pray for should be of such importance that we will just not let them go, no matter what. This level of persistence shows God, and ourselves, that we are serious about our requests.

Now, this parable is not a one-for-all treatise on what to pray for, just how to pray. If we are praying for something that is totally against God’s will and purpose, he is not obligated to grant that type of request, no matter how many times we ask.

1 John 5:14-15 – This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him.

The “what” of the prayer needs to be according to his will, and the “how” of the prayer is the persistence in it.

We must remember that God is like a good and faithful parent, and he will not give us something that is not beneficial for us.

Matthew 7:9-11 – “Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

If God grants our prayers when we pray according to his will, then it is in our (and God’s) best interest to pray for those things that we know he desires for us and for his kingdom.

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Our minds our transformed when we openly and honestly review God’s Word on a regular basis, growing in our understanding of him and what he desires for our lives. This is how we learn to pray according to his will. And when we do so persistently, we can be assured that he hears and responds as the loving parent he is.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Caring for those who are distressed and scattered

God’s people are a precious possession to him.

Matthew 9:35-38 – Yeshua continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and helplessly dispersed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

The compassion of Yeshua for the condition of his people is a burden that still lays upon the hearts of those who are his followers today. Everywhere one looks today, people who are sincerely trying to follow God’s ways are distressed and scattered among the masses of false teachings, like sheep among so many wolves.

The compassionate heart seeks to encourage and build one another up in the the common things of the faith once for all delivered to God’s holy ones, not to tear down the feeble faith that they may have. In Matthew’s gospel, quoting the prophet Isaiah, it is said of Yeshua:

Matthew 12:20 – He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick, until he has led justice to victory.

Yeshua did not desire to further damage the bruised reeds nor snuff out a wick that was at least smoldering with the remnants of faith. His care and concern for the lost was evident in his tireless teaching and healings throughout the crowds of people.

Matthew 15:29-32 – …Yeshua passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”

Yeshua demonstrated compassion on the people because of their lost condition. Those who cannot help themselves deserve our compassion, as well.

However, those who should know better, the leaders of the people, are the ones whom Yeshua confronted.

Matthew 23:13 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

In this extended passage in Matthew 23, Yeshua delivers a scathing denunciation of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In this way, he demonstrated that the recipients of doctrinal debate are deserved to be those false shepherds who are continuing to deceive and lead astray, but not the flock members themselves.

When encountering individuals who may be sincere but are not fully conveying the truth of the Way of God, we should privately encourage them and gently offer correction, as Priscilla and Aquila demonstrated with Apollos.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Following the example of Yeshua, we should demonstrate compassion by praying to the Lord of the harvest for the safety and care of his people, that they would have their eyes opened and come out from under the overbearing error of hypocritical and false teaching. We should likewise reach out by offering assistance where we can to meet the needs of those who are unable to help themselves in those situations. God’s people are a precious possession to him, and we should show the same respect and care for them as he does.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The formula for eradicating evil in the world

Loving others is both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

Core of the Bible podcast #42 – The formula for eradicating evil in the world

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness lies at the root of all reconciliation and overcoming dissension between individuals. We will see that through forgiveness and love, all evil can be overcome.

Yeshua stated it this way:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. … You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:38, 43-44

This teaching of Yeshua is one of the most widely known yet least practiced of all of his precepts. This is because it is non-intuitive and frankly, difficult. It involves two aspects, both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

We know that the Bible teaches us our inward motivations spur our outward actions.

Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

Since Yeshua teaches us that inward understanding and wisdom drives outward actions and behavior, let’s begin our review of this passage by looking at his admonition to what our inward motivation should be in loving others.

Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

For us to practice loving our enemies through our outward actions, we must first actually love them. Even writing or saying a statement like this runs counter to every basic instinct and inclination we have been exposed to in our culture. We have been brought up to be wary of others to avoid the risk of being taken advantage of. We gauge every interaction with an eye toward what angle is being played, or what harm we could possibly receive by misjudging someone else’s intent.

To this, Yeshua simply says to love them. Easy to say, not so easy to do. How do you love someone whom you know has harmed you in some way and is not deserving of your love? Forgive them, so your love can be real. What about someone who is trying to take advantage of you? Here’s one way: give them the advantage.

Is there a chance your forgiveness will be disregarded? Yes, but maintain that forgiveness anyway. Is there a chance you will be taken advantage of? Yes. But continue to give advantage anyway. These possibilities (and quite frankly, likely outcomes) do not change Yeshua’s direction to love others through forgiving them and giving them advantage.

Peter also struggled with this concept in a discussion with Yeshua about forgiveness of others:

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.

Yeshua then goes on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant who would not forgive a small debt from someone else after he had just been forgiven of a huge personal debt from his own master. Yeshua said he would be punished for not passing on the forgiveness he received to others, and concludes with, “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart,” (Matthew 18:35).

Love and forgiveness need to come from the heart. They are two qualities tied at the hip. If we are unable to forgive, we are unable to love. If we are unable to love, we are unable to forgive. If we are unable to forgive and love, then we are also unable to pray for them. Yet Yeshua instructs us to not only love our enemies but to pray for them.

He demonstrated this himself even as the Roman soldiers were in the process of nailing him to a cross and executing him as a criminal among other criminals of the State.

Luke 23:33-34 – When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots.

Unfortunately, in our human quest for justice and fairness, we stumble over what we personally think is fair and right based on our limited perspective. Yeshua could only extend forgiveness to his enemies and pray for them because he never lost his perspective. What they did out of deliberate anger, he knew was done out of ignorance. They meant to wound him; he knew it was to heal them. They meant to humiliate him; he knew it was so they could be lifted up into God’s presence. They meant to kill him; he knew it was to save them.

Yeshua never lost the perspective that people are made in God’s image and that all are deserving of the benefit of the doubt when a situation may look otherwise. He could love them and pray for them because he knew who they really were, even if they didn’t.

If we could allow God to change our perspective to see that all others are made in God’s image and are merely souls who have possibly not yet met the God of the universe, we might have a different approach in our dealings with them. This type of perspective can provide us the inward motivation of love and forgiveness necessary to accomplish the outward actions which will likely seem just as contradictory when we do them.


Okay, so now that we have looked at our inward motivation of love and forgiveness, let’s go back to the beginning of this teaching of Yeshua to see how it should be worked out in our lives through our actions.

Matthew 5:38-42 – You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In the life of the first-century Judeans, it was not unusual to be forced by the Roman military to carry supplies for them. In this example, Yeshua presents the measure of goodness he expected them to respond with needed to go above and beyond the unreasonable demand.

But something that has occurred to me in reviewing this passage recently is that this nature of giving is based on a multiplier. What Yeshua is implying through these examples is that our outward response should somehow be more than what an equal and reflexive response might be. We should be not only be non-resistant toward personal infractions, we should be doubly-giving in nature toward others.

For example, if someone is suing us for our shirt, we should double our goodness toward them by not only letting them have the shirt but the coat as well. If we were forced one mile of carrying supplies, then we should continue to do so by doubling the one mile into two.

This is a very practical, albeit difficult, principle that we can apply in situations that confront us every day. It involves us learning and training ourselves to respond in ways that honors God by doubling our goodness and generosity, not to merely respond in a reflexive way. By expending twice the effort in a positive manner than they demanded of us from a negative motivation, we would in essence be overcoming their evil intent with a double measure of good.

It’s simple math: a negative number plus a positive number of equal value only amounts to zero. It takes a positive number of higher value to end with a positive result.

Additionally, as we looked at previously, if we are inwardly motivated for their good by loving them and praying for them and their needs, we are removed from our reflexive, emotional response of like for like. We are now placing ourselves in a frame of mind, that godly perspective I mentioned earlier, which becomes concerned for their welfare. When we are in this mindset we can truly learn of their needs and then act doubly with genuine intention.

To show how this was an expected trait of the early believers and not just some lofty, speculative ideal, the apostle Paul instructs the Roman congregation with a similar admonition.

Romans 12:17-21 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.

Paul quotes this Torah teaching instructing on vengeance by highlighting that only God can effectively mete out justice because only he knows the end from the beginning; only he knows every possibility that could apply in a situation. Therefore he is the only perfect judge to mete out any type of vengeance. We are incapable of true vengeance because we have limited knowledge and understanding. We have emotions that get in the way of the wisdom and understanding we do have, therefore the best course of action for us is simply to love, and let God do the rest.

Paul continues quoting Torah to conclude his line of thinking:

But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.  Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Our clear directive here is to overcome evil by doing good to others. Paul’s encouragement is that not only will we not be conquered, but we will ultimately successfully overcome evil by doing good.

Yeshua encourages us to double our godly response toward evil intent through love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is that necessary bridge to positive, loving responses. When we intentionally overlook a personal injustice by forgiving them, we are freed to be obedient to God’s command to double our loving actions. If we do not exercise forgiveness, we may attempt to be obedient, but our actions can become only hollow shadows with no real substance.

The motivation Yeshua provides us for practicing this kind of forgiveness and love is because when we do so, we are mimicking him, and we are mimicking our heavenly Father. If Yeshua loved and prayed for his enemies, so should we. If God blesses the wicked with life and rain and abundance, not because they are deserving, but because he wishes for their repentance, then we should also produce actions that bless those who may be adversarial to us.

Paul used this type of thinking in his outreach to the Greeks who did not know God, and he calls God’s blessing of them through rain and abundance his “testimony of goodness.” When interacting with crowds in Iconium and Athens, he speaks about the nature of the true God, and he relates how God blesses them.

Acts 14:17 – Yet He has not left Himself without testimony to His goodness: He gives you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 17:26-27 – From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

God’s goal is that through his goodness to all in natural abundance should lead people to seek his spiritual goodness.

In the same way, our intentional actions based on forgiveness and love, then, become our personal “testimony of goodness.” As a result, God is honored, people can be reconciled to him, and all evil intentions can be overcome with love.

In summary then, the typical human response in relationships is to respond in kind to how we are treated by others (eye for eye and tooth for tooth). A nobler aspiration would be to treat all people with an equal measure of kindness. However, Yeshua calls us to the highest level of interaction: not just to be kind to all, but to expend twice the effort and concern over those who are least deserving of it. This is true love, and the formula for eradicating evil in the world.

If we are to represent God as his children, we should be doing what he does by blessing the undeserving as well as the deserving. If we claim to be followers of Yeshua, we should do what he does by loving and praying for our enemies. By doubling our loving response to all negative interactions, we boldly exhibit Yeshua’s teaching to a world who needs to know him, where they can then be brought back into a relationship with the loving God of the universe. This is how forgiveness and love can overcome all wickedness, and the only sure way that God’s kingdom will be manifested in this world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

The victory over a trial or temptation is through prayer and the strengthening of God through his holy Spirit.

Core of the Bible podcast #39 – Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

Today we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how vigilance in alert and thankful prayer is a primary method of overcoming temptation and accomplishing God’s will on earth.

Matthew 26:40-41. And he [Yeshua] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Yeshua was speaking this to Peter for the specific purpose of admonishing him to stay alert with him while he was praying in Gethsemane. However, this has become a type of universal admonition regarding prayer to avoid temptation, and not without good reason.

Praying to avoid temptation was a key teaching within Yeshua’s template for prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Based on the original word definitions, this can be expanded and paraphrased as “May we not be lead into adversity and hard testing; nevertheless, rescue us from anguish, harm, and all evil.”

Praying in this manner is a demonstration of vigilance. When praying to avoid temptation, 1) there is an awareness of the possibility of impending challenges and 2) there is also a recognition of God’s ability to provide assistance or escape.

The act of praying focuses the mind on the essential needs of the moment. This is necessary because vigilance also involves alertness and overcoming the distractions and limitations of fleshly influence. While our spirit may be willing, many times we become spiritually disoriented as worldly impulses (whether internal or external) overwhelm us.

Galatians 5:16-17 …walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Walking in the spirit includes a rich and abundant prayer life. Many believers, myself included, struggle to maintain a vital spiritual walk throughout the occurrences of each day.  It’s easy to push spiritual things into the background while we attempt to deal with the seemingly urgent issues we face each day. Consistently praying helps provide leverage over real fleshly distractions and desires, and allows us to truly walk in the Spirit.

Yeshua’s template, his model prayer for believers does include the phrase: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This has been fertile soil for many commentators over the years to plant seeds for consideration in this question of overcoming temptation.

Benson Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation — the clause may be translated, Lead us not into temptation, but so as to deliver us from the evil, viz., either by removing the temptation, when it is too strong for us to withstand; or by mitigating its force, or by increasing our strength to resist it, as God shall see most for his glory. This correction of the translation, suggested by Macknight, is proposed on this ground; that to pray for an absolute freedom from temptation is to seek deliverance from the common lot of humanity, which is absurd; because temptations are wisely appointed by God for the exercise and improvement of piety and virtue in good men, and that others may be encouraged by the constancy and patience which they show in trials. Hence, instead of praying to be absolutely delivered from them, we are taught to rejoice when, by the divine appointment, we fall into them. See James 1.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

This petition teaches us to preserve a sense of our own inability to repel and overcome temptation, and of the necessity of assistance from above, to enable us to stand in the evil day.”

As for myself, I have sometimes wondered if God purposely places us in trying situations so we will learn to reach out to him more frequently. This type of logic says that if we are in the habit of praying to him during regular times, perhaps we will not need to be disciplined in as many trying times.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation— There is some difficulty in the form of the petition, as it is certain that God does bring His people—as He did Abraham, and Christ Himself—into circumstances both fitted and designed to try them, or test the strength of their faith. Some meet this by regarding the petition as simply an humble expression of self-distrust and instinctive shrinking from danger; but this seems too weak. Others take it as a prayer against yielding to temptation, and so equivalent to a prayer for support and deliverance when we are tempted; but this seems to go beyond the precise thing intended. We incline to take it as a prayer against being drawn or sucked, of our own will, into temptation, to which the word here used seems to lend some countenance—”Introduce us not.” This view, while it does not put into our mouths a prayer against being tempted—which is more than the divine procedure would seem to warrant—does not, on the other hand, change the sense of the petition into one for support under temptation, which the words will hardly bear; but it gives us a subject for prayer, in regard to temptation, most definite, and of all others most needful. It was precisely this which Peter needed to ask, but did not ask, when—of his own accord, and in spite of difficulties—he pressed for entrance into the palace hall of the high priest, and where, once sucked into the scene and atmosphere of temptation, he fell so foully. And if so, does it not seem pretty clear that this was exactly what our Lord meant His disciples to pray against when He said in the garden—”Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”? (Mt 26:41).”

And to this I would add again, this idea of alertness in prayer means that we are spiritually aware of our situation and not just being carried along by our own desires. This is where we tend to fall into temptation: when we let our circumstances guide us instead of God’s good Counsel (through his Word and his Spirit) guiding us.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“But deliver us from evil— As the expression “from evil” may be equally well rendered “from the evil one,” a number or superior critics think the devil is intended, especially from its following close upon the subject of “temptation.” But the comprehensive character of these brief petitions, and the place which this one occupies, as that on which all our desires die away, seems to us against so contracted a view of it. Nor can there be a reasonable doubt that the apostle, in some of the last sentences which he penned before he was brought forth to suffer for his Lord, alludes to this very petition in the language of calm assurance—”And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work (compare the Greek of the two passages), and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2Ti 4:18). The final petition, then, is only rightly grasped when regarded as a prayer for deliverance from all evil of whatever kind—not only from sin, but from all its consequences—fully and finally. Fitly, then, are our prayers ended with this. For what can we desire which this does not carry with it?”

Vincent’s Word Studies

“It is a mistake to define this word [temptation] as only solicitation to evil. It means trial of any kind, without reference to its moral quality. Thus, Genesis 22:1 (Sept.), “God did tempt Abraham;” “This he said to prove him” (John 6:6); Paul and Timothy assayed to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7); “Examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Here, generally of all situations and circumstances which furnish an occasion for sin. We cannot pray God not to tempt us to sin, “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).”

To my way of thinking while keeping an eye to the perspectives of these learned commentators, the thought here is that it is acceptable for us to pray to be kept from hard testing and temptation; Yeshua himself illustrated this prayer in Gethsemane:

Luke 22:41-42 – Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me ​– ​nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

As children of God, though we may need to suffer trials and temptations, things that God can use to try us and to refine us, we can still pray to be delivered safely through them. It’s ok to pray “Lord, if it is possible to avoid this trial, then please remove it from us. But if we must enter this trial, please strengthen us to remain pure and victorious over it.”

—–

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

I find it interesting that prayer is meant to be an activity in which our conscious awareness is alert and watchful. This implies that prayer is purposeful and intentional, not just something in which our rational thought is disengaged. In fact, it is just the opposite; as we can see in this selection of Scripture references, believers are encouraged to pray for very specific things at specific times:

Tenakh:

Num 21:7: “The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh, and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people.”

Jeremiah 42:1-3 – Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached the prophet Jeremiah and said, “May our petition come before you; pray to the LORD your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), “that the LORD your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do.”

Yeshua

Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, “

Matthew 6:9: “Pray like this:… “

Matthew 9:38: “Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.””

Matthew 24:20: “Pray that your flight will not be in the winter, nor on a Sabbath, “

Mark 13:33: “Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.”

Luke 10:2: “Then he said to them, “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send out laborers into his harvest. “

John 17:15: “I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. “

Apostles:

2 Corinthians 13:9: “For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. And this we also pray for, even your perfecting.”

Philippians 1:9: “This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;”

2 Thessalonians 1:11: “To this end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness and work of faith, with power;”

2 Thessalonians 3:1: “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, even as also with you;”

James 5:14: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…”

Throughout the Bible, prayer is exemplified as being enacted for intentional and specific purposes; most importantly, for the will of God to be accomplished on the earth. This strikes at the heart of the all-too-common practice of only praying for personal needs and wants.  While God does want us to trust him for everything, in the grand scheme of the Bible message, ultimately our personal needs and wants are and should be subjected to the larger scope of God’s kingdom and the establishment of his rule and reign in the hearts of people on this earth.

Remember in our Colossians passage, Paul encourages believer to pray with an alert mind (as we have just illustrated), but also with a thankful heart.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Having a thankful heart means that one is in view of all of the ways that God has blessed them. If you are thankful for the provision of your home, you won’t be tempted to go into further debt for a shiny new one beyond your means. If you are thankful for the nutritious food that God has provided you for your sustenance, you will not be tempted to eat beyond what your body needs. If you are grateful for the friends and family you have, you won’t be tempted to go astray from your spouse or to put your family or friends at risk.

Thankfulness runs all through Paul’s epistle to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:9, 12 – For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, … giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

Colossians 2:6-7 – So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 3:15, 17 – And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. … And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Constant prayer and giving of thanks is a theme Paul also brings to the congregation in Thessalonica as well. In fact, he cements this as a cornerstone of believing practice in the accomplishment of God’s will.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 – pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua.

If we are therefore praying in an alert fashion, that is, being aware of what we are praying and why we are praying, and we are doing so from a place of gratefulness and thankfulness for his provision in our lives, then we have a recipe for overcoming temptation.

This takes discipline and thoughtfulness. By intentionally praying for God to assist us when we are being challenged, this type of behavior can be changed. The victory over a trial or temptation is through prayer and the strengthening of God through his holy Spirit. How quickly it happens depends on how alert we remain and how diligent and thankful we are in prayer.

As we grow in this process, remaining steadfast in prayer to God keeps us focused and in communication with the One who is more than able to provide us the necessary strength to overcome any obstacles we may encounter.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.