Throwback Thursday: The Lord’s Prayer, a Greek New Testament reading, translation, and interpretation

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Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 21: Acts)

In Acts 1, the disciples returned to Jerusalem after the Lord’s ascension and gathered together, constantly praying with the women, with Mary, Jesus’ mother, and with Jesus’ brothers. Peter determined that Judas’ spot should be replaced, so they prayed, saying, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs,” and then they cast lots. Prayer for guidance. It is a request, but it is also in tandem with casting lots.

In Acts 2, the believers were reported to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to communion, and to prayer. The community of believers from the outset have been devoted to prayer.

In Acts 3, Peter and John went to the temple at the time of prayer–3 in the afternoon. The Jews had set times for prayer, and the evening prayer was during the ninth hour of the day, 3pm.

In Acts 4, the believers prayed,

Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

Why do the nations rage
and the people plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together against the Lord
and against his anointed one.

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

After they prayed, their meeting place was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit; they spoke the word of God boldly. Here we see prayer as declaration, recounting the events leading up to the particular circumstances, and request, including a request for miraculous healing. These requests are based upon the name of Jesus. Again, we see that healing and prayer are associated. But now we see that prayer requests are based on the name of Jesus.

In Acts 6, the Apostles decide to appoint seven faithful servants who would devote themselves to the daily distribution of food for the widows, so that they would be able to devote themselves to prayer and the Word. When seven were chosen, the Apostles laid hands on them and prayed for them. Here again we see the laying on of hands in association with prayer.

When Stephen, one of the seven, was being stoned to death as told in Acts 7, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and falling on his knees he cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Here we see two requests in prayer.

In Acts 8, after the believers in Samaria had been baptized, Peter and John went to them and prayed for them in order that they would receive the Holy Spirit, and through placing their hands on them, they did receive the Spirit. Again, prayer and the laying on of hands are associated. When Simon the Sorcerer saw what happened, he offered money to Peter and John in exchange for the same ability. Peter charges him with wickedness and orders him to repent and pray to God that he may be forgiven. Simon, an apparently slow learner, then asks Peter to pray for him in order that nothing Peter said might happen to him. Again, prayer as request–a request for forgiveness.

In Acts 9, after Paul’s conversion, he was praying, and the Lord called to Ananias in a vision, saying, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. . . .” All we can really say from this report is that the Lord acknowledges those who are praying and sees them in their prayer. Later in Acts 9, Peter brought a dead woman back to life after praying. Again, prayer and healing is hand-in-hand.

In Acts 10, Cornelius, the Roman centurion, is reported to be a devout, God-fearing man who was generous to the poor and prayed to God regularly. An angel of the Lord approached him, saying, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. . . .” The next day, Peter went onto the roof of the house he was staying at in order to pray. Peter ultimately sees a vision and is instructed by God to go with some messengers that were about to arrive. He obeys, and he is brought to Cornelius. Cornelius said that the angel came to him while he was praying. Peter spoke, retelling the good news, and while he was speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his family. Here we see that prayer and vision go together. Peter recounts his own prayer and vision in Acts 11 to defend himself regarding the Jewish accusation that he associated with Gentiles.

Peter was later arrested as told in Acts 12, but the church was praying for him. The Lord freed him from prison miraculously, and Peter went to the house where the church was praying for him. When he showed up at the door, Rhoda, the woman who answered the knock, did not let him in right away. She reported it to the church, and they did not believe her despite their prayers. Prayer as request, but what they prayed we do not know.

In Acts 13, Barnabas and Saul were identified to do God’s special work. The church in Antioch fasted and prayed, laying hands on them, and sent them off. Here we see a threefold combination of prayer, fasting, and the laying on of hands. Similarly, in Acts 14, Paul (formerly Saul) and Barnabas appointed elders through prayer and fasting in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas converted Lydia at a place of prayer by the river in Philippi. Here we see that a specific place was devoted to prayer. Later, when going to the place of prayer, they encountered a woman with a spirit who could tell the future. The woman followed them around incessantly, constantly repeating, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Paul eventually became fed up and cast the spirit out of her in the name of Jesus Christ. He and Silas were arrested and flogged as a result. After their flogging, around midnight, they began praying and singing hymns. What they prayed we do not know, but their bonds were broken, the prison shaken, yet they did not flee. The jailer thought he would be killed thinking that they escaped, but Paul revealed himself to him, which provided the opportunity to testify, resulting in the jailer’s family believing in God. Here we see the power of prayer in dire circumstances.

In Acts 20, Paul commissioned the Ephesian Elders before kneeling down and praying. Here we see that prayer can be done while kneeling. Similarly, Acts 21 shows that Paul and company knelt on the beach and prayed.

Paul recounts his conversion in Acts 22 leading up to his return to the Temple in Jerusalem where he prayed and fell into a trance. Again, we see prayer and vision together.

Paul states in his defense before Festus and Agrippa that he prays to God that all who listen to him would become a Christian as reported in Acts 26. Prayer as request.

Prayer is also a request in Acts 27 when the ship Paul was on was stuck in dangerous conditions at sea. The sailors dropped four anchors and prayed for daylight.

After the ship ran ashore on Malta, Acts 28 reports that Paul healed a man inflected with fever and dysentery. He prayed for him and laid hands on him, and the man was healed. Here we see prayer and the laying on of hands in association with healing.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 20: John)

Ask. John 14. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Remain and ask. John 15. “If you remain in me and my words remain in your, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Furthermore, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” Here we see that prayer is a request. We also see that requests must be linked with right action.

Jesus’ lengthy prayer. John 17. Prayer for his glorification. “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Prayer for his disciples. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” And, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Prayer for all believers. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” After finishing this prayer, Judas, some Roman soldiers, and a few Jewish leaders arrested Jesus. Jesus prays first for himself, then for his disciples, and then for everyone else who would believe as a result of their work. Jesus prays for their unity, that the unbelieving world might see that through them God has loved the world. These are all requests, and we can pray for ourselves, for our believing brothers and sisters, and for the unbelieving world. Yet, this prayer also makes many declarations about God, Jesus, and the world. It is a lengthy blend of declaration and request.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 19: Luke)

In Luke 1, we find that a worship assembly was praying outside. Zechariah was among the assembly, and he was the priest chosen to go into the temple and burn incense. He went into the temple where he was met by an angel who told him that his prayer had been heard. We know not what he prayed, but the answer to his prayer is reported: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. . . .” We see two things here: assemblies may pray; we can pray for offspring.

In Luke 2, we find that a prophetess stayed in the temple fasting and praying, worshipping night and day. Here we see that prayer can be coupled with fasting, and both are a form of worship.

In Luke 3, we find that prayer is coupled with baptism.

In Luke 5, we see that Jesus heals a man with leprosy; in fact, he healed crowds of people in need of healing. Again we see that healing is coupled with prayer, for “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” What we see is not only is prayer a counterpart to healing, but it is or can be a solitary practice. Also in Luke 5, Jesus and his disciples are questioned for not fasting and praying. Jesus responds that the disciples need not fast while the bridegroom is present, but rather they will fast when the bridegroom has been taken from them. Here we see that there is a time to fast and pray and a time to refrain.

In Luke 6, we see that Jesus spends a night praying on a mountainside. Here we see that prayer can be done all night long. Furthermore, Jesus charges his disciples to pray for their enemies, those who mistreat them.

In Luke 9, we see that Jesus was praying in private, though his disciples were with him. Again we find prayer as a solitary practice. Later, Jesus takes Peter, John, and James with him on a mountain to pray. Again we find prayer on a mountain.

In Luke 11, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray.

Father, let your name be holy, let your kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us, and lead us not into temptation.

He uses a parable to show that those who ask do not trouble God and will be answered with good things.

In Luke 18, Jesus teaches his disciples to be persistent in prayer in seeking justice. In a parable comparing a seemingly righteous Pharisee and an unrighteous tax collector, Jesus declares that the former who prayed, fasted, and tithed was not justified like the latter who prayed humbly. He concludes that God wants us to pray in humility.

In Luke 19, Jesus clears the temple of the marketers, quoting Is 56:7 and Jer 7:11: “‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”

In Luke 20, Jesus warns against teachers of the law who devour widows’ houses and make lengthy prayers for eye-service. He states that they will be punished most severely.

In Luke 21, Jesus teaches about the end of the temple, and he tells his disciples to pray that they will escape its destruction.

In Luke 22, Jesus, in response to the disciples’ quarrel about the greatest among them, states that he has prayed for Peter not to lose faith. Later, Jesus goes to Mount Olives to pray with his disciples present. He instructs them to stay in one place and pray, and he goes off on his own to pray. He asks God to take away the cup, but yields to His will. In anguish, he prayed even more earnestly. Returning to the disciples, he found them sleeping, and again instructs them to stay and pray. Here we see that we can pray to keep faith.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 18: Mark)

Mark 1 tells of Jesus getting up early in the morning to pray. We know not what he prayed, but we know that he prayed early in the morning while it was still dark. Prayer can be done early in the morning. But this morning prayer session followed in the wake of his healing many. Healing and prayer are closely associated.

Mark 6 shows that miracles are closely followed by prayer. After feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus went up onto a mountainside and prayed.

The disciples failed to exorcise a demon from a boy, as told in Mark 9, but Jesus was able to rebuke the demon. The disciples asked him why they couldn’t drive out the demon, and Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Here we see that prayer is more powerful than mere words, but we don’t have any other details. Yet, Mark does not tell us that Jesus prayed. Was it a silent prayer? We should not go any further except to say that prayer is identified as a more potent command than words themselves.

Mark tells us that Jesus clears the temple in the 11th chapter of the gospel. He overturned the tables of the merchants, refusing to allow anyone to carry merchandise throughout the courts, quoting both Isa 56:7, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations,” and Jer 7:11, “But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” When they left the temple, the disciples see the withered olive tree, which Jesus had cursed beforehand, and they were amazed. Jesus tells them to have faith: “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Jesus adds a stipulation: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Here we see that the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer; Jesus’ curse is equated with prayer; prayer in faith is powerful; but prayer must be coupled with a forgiving heart.

Mark 12 warns against teachers of the law who make lengthy prayers for a show. Jesus says that they will be punished severely. Here we see a warning not to use prayer for eye-service.

According to Mark 13, Jesus tells his disciples to pray that the flight into the Judean hills will not take place in the winter. Prayer, it is implied, can have an uncertain affect on future events.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, as told in Mark 14, Jesus prayed. He told his disciples to sit and pray there. He took Peter, James, and John with him elsewhere in the garden, where he told them to stay and watch. He went on by himself and prayed with a distraught heart. He prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He returned to Peter, James, and John, who were asleep. He wakes them up, and he commands them, watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation, for “[t]he spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went off on his own again, praying the same thing. Returning to the disciples again, he found them sleeping once more. Apparently he went away, prayed, and returned, what he prayed we do not know, but upon his return he found the disciples sleeping at just the moment that he was about to betrayed. Here we see that prayer can be repeated or even quoted perhaps; prayer can be offered with a distraught heart; prayer aids the willing spirit and weak flesh. We see also that prayer can ask God for something but still submit to his will when the desire opposes God’s intentions.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 17: Matthew)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5, Jesus instructs his disciples to love and pray for those who persecute them, with the purpose that they might be children of God. This call to pray for the persecutor comes on the cusp of the instruction against resisting evildoers. Christians are to turn the other cheek and give to everyone who begs or asks to borrow from them. They are to love and pray for their enemies and not just for their friends and family. Here we see that prayer is done on behalf of others, and in this case it is to be done for both loved ones and enemies.

Still in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 6, Jesus instructs his disciples how to pray. First of all, they are not to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Instead, they are to go into their room, close the door and pray to God. Second, they are not to babble on and on. The amount of words matter not, for God already knows what they need before it is asked. Jesus then gives them a prayer template:

Our Father in heaven, let your name be holy, let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

This prayer to forgive others is qualified: if you forgive, then you will be forgiven; if you do not forgive, then you will not be forgiven. Here we have an actual prayer that we can pray. Indeed, we are to pray this prayer: Jesus said, “Pray thusly” or “Pray this” or “Pray as follows.” Here is a prayer that we can indeed pray to God. In the sense that Jesus is God, the divine Son of God, we can say, much like the Psalms, that God has given us a prayer to pray back to Him. Whether this prayer is to be interpreted as a required prayer much like the Roman Catholics do or whether it provides the guidelines for prayer, we can learn something about prayer here. First, prayer is to be done so as not to attract attention to one’s self. Second, prayer doesn’t need to be verbose in order to be effective. Third, in prayer the disciple ought to revere God and seek both His kingdom and will on earth. Fourth, in prayer the disciple should ask for daily needs to be met. Fifth, the disciple should also ask for forgiveness of sins. Finally, the disciple should ask for deliverance from evil.

In Matt 14, after feeding the five thousand men with the five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. We know not what he prayed, but he did go by himself to a mountainside. We don’t know that it was secluded, but it may have been. What we can say about prayer is that, again, prayer should be done so as not to draw attention to one’s self.

In Matt 19, little children were brought to Jesus in order for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples that were with him rebuked the children. But Jesus said to let them come without hinderance. Here we see that prayer and the laying on of hands as some form of blessing can be done together.

Jesus went into the temple courts, as is found in Matt 21, and he drove out the market vendors, saying, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” After driving these people out, the blind and the lame came to him for healing in the temple, and he healed them. Here we see that the temple was meant for prayer and not for transactions, and Jesus took serious offense to the temple being turned into a market place. Later in Matt 21, Jesus cursed a fig tree and it withered, and the disciples asked him how this could happen. Jesus replied that if one has faith and does not doubt, that person can curse a fig tree and cause it to wither or command a mountain to toss itself into the sea and it will happen. He said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Here we see that prayer is powerful when the one who prays does not doubt when asking for something.

According to Matt 24, Jesus tells his disciples to pray that their flight will not take place in winter or in Sabbath when fleeing to the mountains from Judea at the time the abomination of desolation takes its place in the temple. Here we see prayer as a request, and this request is to affect when this flight would not occur. It is, in a sense, a prayer for deliverance.

The final pieces of information about prayer in Matthew are from Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before he is arrested (chapter 26). At the garden, he told his disciples to stay put while he went off to another part of the garden to pray, and when he went off he took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. This prayer was a response to sorrow and trouble. He told Peter and the sons of Zebedee to keep watch with him. He fell to the ground and prayed, asking for this cup to be taken from him, yet not as he willed but as God willed. He returned to his disciples, who were sleeping. he woke them up, and asked them to watch and pray. He prayed again, saying that if the cup could not be taken, then God’s will be done. He returned to his disciples, and again they were found sleeping. This time he did not wake them up; he went away to pray again, repeating what he had already prayed. When he returned a final time, they were still sleeping. He woke them up and revealed that he was now being delivered into the hands of sinners by his betrayer. What do we learn here? Sometimes we may need to pray when we are downtrodden. Sometimes we may need to repeat our prayers. Sometimes we may ask for something but it won’t be done and we need to accept God’s will over ours.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 16: Lamentations)

Lamentations is a book that laments the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. It is not unlike the lament psalms found in Psalms. This book ends in tragedy, and it expresses the broken spirit of the people. It is filled with frank speech, yet it mostly is declarative of what happened.

Lamentations 1 is declarative. Yet, it makes a request:

See, Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious. Outside, the sword bereaves; inside, there is only death. . . . May you bring the day you have announced so they may become like me. Let all their wickedness come before you; deal with them as you have dealt with me because of all my sins. My groans are many and my heart is faint. (Lam 1:20-22)

Lamentations 2 is declarative. Yet, it too makes a request: “Look, Lord, and consider: Whom have you ever treated like this? Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?” (Lam 2:20). This prayer is declaration, request, and frank.

A glimpse of hope is offered in Lam 3:

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. . . . For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lam 3:24-33)

. It further declares:

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven. You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us; you have slain without pity. You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through. You have made us scum and refuse among the nations. (Lam 3:40-45)

. In the end, it requests divine retribution.

Continuing the declaration side of prayer, Lam 4 makes no request but is frank until the end.

Unlike Lam 4, Lam 5 makes a request for the Lord to remember his people in their oppressive plight, and declares in the end that the Lord reigns before asking, “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us for long? (Lam 5:20). The prayer than requests for restoration and renewal (Lam 5:21). Again, here we see prayer as declaration, request, and inquiry.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 15: Hosea–Malachi)

Out of the remaining books in the Hebrew Bible, namely Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, only three say anything about prayer directly–Jonah, Micah, and Habakkuk.

Jonah

In Jonah 1, the prophet Jonah is told to go to Nineveh and preach against its wickedness. Jonah refuses and flees, thereupon the great storm ensued, distressing the ship he was on with its shipmates. Through lots, Jonah is found to be the culprit for causing the storm. To stop the storm, he would have to be thrown overboard. The shipmates, upon their first encounter with the God of the Hebrews it seems, pray to the Lord to save their lives and then throw Jonah overboard, which caused the storm to quell, causing the shipmates to fear the Lord. Jonah then gets swallowed by a great fish where Jonah remained for three days and nights. In the next chapter, Jonah prays, and it sounds very psalm-like: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:1). Jonah was making certain declarations, retelling of the events of God’s saving acts on his behalf. His prayer makes no request, but it is declarative.

Interestingly enough, in Jonah 3, due to the prophetic message Jonah delivered, the people of Nineveh fasted and called urgently on God. Here we see prayer and fasting to appease God. And it worked, for God turned his wrath away from Nineveh.

This forgiveness spurns Jonah to pray frankly: “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:2-3).

The Lord replied with a simple question, asking, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). The Lord uses a plant to create a metaphor for Jonah, in the end saying that He cares for the people of Nineveh just as much as Jonah cared for the little plant that was seemingly miniscule.

Micah

After delivering prophetic messages all throughout the book telling of Israel’s plight, the book ends in chapter 7 with a prayer. It asks the Lord to shepherd the people of the inheritance, showing them his wonders, so that the nations will see and be ashamed and turn to fear the Lord. It asks who is like God, for he pardons sin and does not stay angry forever, because he delights to show mercy. He will be faithful to the people. This prayer is declarative but still makes a request of God to take action and be faithful and forgiving.

Habakkuk

Habakkuk has several complaint prayers. First, Habakkuk complains to the Lord, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Hab 1:2). This complaint is frank speech, asking God questions. He declares, “Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Hab 1:4). Habakkuk mixes complaint–frank speech–with declaration in prayer.

After receiving a response from the Lord, Habakkuk makes another complaint with frank speech, saying, “Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment; . . . Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab 1:12-13). Habakkuk is asking God questions with frank speech. But he is appealing to certain qualities and attributes of God in these prayers.

Then Habakkuk prays, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab 3:2). After opening with this declaration and request, Habakkuk speaks of various deeds the Lord had done before asking, “Were you angry with the rivers, Lord? Was your wrath against the streams? did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and your chariots to victory?” (Hab 3:8). Continuing, he declares, “You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. you crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot” (Hab 3:13). In the end, he declares, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab 3:17-18). Again, he states climactically, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Hab 3:19). Habakkuk mixes declaration and request in this prayer.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 14: Ezekiel, Daniel)

Daniel 6 offers a story of prayer. In trying to capture Daniel, the King’s advisors convince the king to make prayer to anyone other than the king an illegal activity. The king makes the decree, but Daniel prays three times a day before opened windows and does not heed the decree. The king’s advisors tell the king of Daniel’s disobedience, which distressed the king. He had no choice but to put Daniel into the lions’ den, where he spent the night. In the morning, the king ordered the den to be opened, and he found Daniel very much alive. The kings counselors were then ordered into the den, where the lions devoured them immediately. The king then issued a decree for the kingdom to revere God. Daniel prospered under his reign. Here we see a relationship between prayer and prosperity, even prayer that is proffered illegally.

Daniel 9 contains a lengthy prayer from Daniel. He states that he understood from Scripture–from Jeremiah–that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years. He prayed to the Lord, petitioning and fasting in mourning, confessing that God is great and awesome, and he keeps his covenant of love with those who love and obey him. He acknowledges his peoples’ wickedness; he declares that they had sinned against Him. Then he asked for their deliverance on the basis of His great mercy. Here we see a mixture of elements: prayer as declaration, confession, petition, and request.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 13: Jeremiah)

Jeremiah 7 describes the message of the Lord that came to the prophet. Jeremiah was told not to pray for the Judeans. Prayer here is alternatively described as plea, petition, and pleading. The Lord said he would refuse to listen. Here we see prayer as request, and we also see that the Lord can refuse to listen. In this case, he refuses to listen because of the wickedness of the people. Again, there is a connection between righteousness and prayer.

In Jer 10, Jeremiah didn’t pray for the Judeans, but he did pray for himself and for God to act against the nations that have wronged his people. He mixed a simple and brief declaration, “Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps,” and then he asked for the Lord to discipline him graciously and to punish those who have done wrong to the Judeans.

As in Jer 7, the prophet Jeremiah tells the people in Jer 11 what the Lord charged him to say, and he included the command not to pray for them.

Jeremiah 14 tells of how the people would fast and cry, offering burnt offerings and grain offerings in an effort to obtain drought and famine relief. This prayer and fasting would not work, for the Lord refused to listen to them, and instead punish them with the sword, famine, and plague. Once again, the Lord command Jeremiah not to pray for their well-being. Prayer here is seen also as request, in this case for relief from punishment in the form of drought and famine.

In Jer 29, the Judeans have been exiled. They are instructed to pray for the prosperity of the city to which they have been taken, because, if the city prospers, they would prosper. After the appointed time of exile, the Lord promised to prosper his people and again listen to their prayers.

The Lord declared, says Jer 31, when the people return from exile, they would pray and weep. Again, there can be a connection between praying and weeping.

Jeremiah prays in Jer 32 after obtaining the deed to a field. In this prayer he declares the sovereignty of God the Creator. He declares that the Lord is loving and just. He briefly recounts God’s deeds for his people before mentioning the erroneous way of the people and God’s ensuing punishment on them. He calls upon the Lord to look at the siege ramps set up against the city and that he had obtained the plot of land as instructed. The Lord answers this prayer as though Jeremiah’s words are a challenge-response. The Lord replies, “Is anything too hard for me?” He charges both Israel and Judah for all their evil they had done and recounts their deeds. Yet, he promises to gather them from exile and let them live in safety, making an everlasting covenant with them, doing good to them always. Prayer can be frank communication with God.

According to Jer 37, in contrast to the Lord’s instructions to Jeremiah not to pray for the people, the King of Judah, King Zedekiah, sent messengers to Jeremiah and asked him to pray to the Lord for the people.

Jeremiah 42 shows that Jeremiah decided to pray to the Lord against the Lord’s instruction as per the request of the people. The people wanted to know what to do; they wanted guidance from the Lord, so they sought help from the prophet. He prayed, and the Lord responded. We don’t have the prayer, but we have the message of the Lord as relayed by Jeremiah. The Lord promised to bless them if they stay in the land but to punish them if they leave. Jeremiah scorned the people for asking him to pray to the Lord, because now their judgment was sealed, because they did not stay. Here prayer is a request, a request for guidance.