Sunday, February 21, 2010

OT Words for Prayer

Praying By The Book (Part 1)

Intro.:  What is this?  (Keyboard, Key Chain)
  1. It could be called many things.
  2. Much of our spiritual life has similar characteristics.  For example, Billy Graham talks of “Being born again.”  Others may call it “Having saving faith.”  Or “Being a child of God.”  Or “Being a part of the family of God.”  What is the right term – I suppose that we could say that any of them are right – or none of them since they each show a snapshot of our relationship with God.
  3. There are other parts of the Christian faith that also have this same kind of multifaceted meanings. 
  4. As I mentioned last week, we will spend Lent looking at and examining the nature of prayer. 
  5. This week I want to look at three words from the OT that are used to refer to prayer – next week I will highlight some of the New Testament words that refer to prayer. 

Read     Matthew 11:25-30


Trans:  Because I do not want overwhelm you with a Hebrew vocabulary list, I have chosen only a subset of words to discuss today.
  1. There are actually 9 Hebrew words in the OT translated regularly as pray, prayer, praying, prayed, etc.  These 9 words are used a total of 83 times in the books of Genesis through Malachi.
  2. The New Testament has fewer words (only 5) but they are used more times – a total of 98 times.
  3. Our English text, depending on the translation you make use of, includes another 10 to 20 occurrences of the word prayer or some variation thereof.  This happens because the context in which a word is found obviously refers to prayer, though one of the usual words for prayer is not used by the writer.

T.S.  The Old Testament has nine words that are translated by our English words “to pray”.  In the next few minutes I want to look at four of those words.

I.  The first word I want to look at is the Hebrew word “Palal”.

  1. Actually, this is the verb form – not found in the OT, but the most common word for prayer teppila is derived from this verb - 
  2. The word itself is a word picture -

(Ill.)  Do you remember the old see-saw, the teeter totter.  I remember as a kid getting on one end and my father sitting on the other – there was no way I could make him budge.  Then one day it hit us – a bunch of us could get on one end of the see-saw and keep my dad in the air.  We found out how to balance that see-saw to our advantage.

  1. Now what does that have to do with our word Palal – you God serves as the that pivot point where everything is in balance.  He is the judge, he is the mediator, he is called on to settle an issue.
  2. Five of the Psalms are titled with this word - “A Prayer of David” - I won't look at all five of these Psalms, but I want to call your attention to one of them – Psalm 17:

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;

   incline your ear to me; hear my words.

Wondrously show1 your steadfast love,

   O Savior of those who seek refuge

   from their adversaries at your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

   hide me in the shadow of your wings,

   from the wicked who do me violence,

   my deadly enemies who surround me.

  1. Larry Richards, in his book Every Prayer in the Bible, notes that as David talks about his prayer, he is very much aware of God's loving care.  As I read this Psalm, I see a small animal sitting in the and of loving person.  An animal whose very life depends on the care of the one who holds it.  And we also learn that the one who holds us will care for us.  

II.  The second most common word for prayer is “Atar”

  1. The root of “Atar” means to entreat or to plead.
  2. This is the word that is used when a believer in the Old Testament has a need so great that God is the only one who can grant it. 

(Ill.)  Perhaps you remember the story of Isaac and Rebecca.  Isaac was 40 years old before he married Rebecca – I do not know how old Rebecca was, but we are told she did not have any children and Isaac was old enough to be concerned.  So he prayed – listen to Genesis 25:21 - “And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”  “And Isaac atared to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his atar, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”  He would have twins – Esau and Jacob.  It would not be a friendly relationship, but it was an answer to Isaac's prayer.

  1. We can take our deepest needs to God.  Regardless of how much hurt, regardless of how impossible they may seem; but, like Isaac, we can plead our case before God.  
  2. In a few minutes we will be entering a time of prayer in the midst of our service.  Today, and tomorrow, and whenever you pray, remember that you can bring your most hopeless needs to God's attention.  Whether you say them out loud or merely say them to yourself, we can  bring our needs to God's throne.

III.  The final word I want to examine today is Paga'.

(Ill.)  Last week my wife and I were eating lunch at one of our favorite coffee shops.  Now, you need to realize, we do not drink coffee, but the Jitters coffee shop has some wonderful sandwiches and salads.  They have a tasty Chicken, Grape, and Walnut in Croissant sandwich.  But we were in there for lunch with our son – and sitting over at that table was Chet, no Chris, no … no, it was Bob Christ.  Now Bob and his family had a long history with our previous church before he moved away.  And when he moved back to the Brockport area, he attended the Garland church for a few weeks.  But they decided they needed a church with a youth group for their teenage girls – and they I had not seen Bob since they left four five years earlier.  And there at Jitters, I was able to meet Bob again. 

  1. And that is what Paga' means.  When we come to God in prayer, we come face to face with the Savior.
  2. There is no hiding, there is no deception.  When we come to God in prayer, we bring everything we have, everything we are, to Him.  We cannot pretend to be any better than we are, we cannot pretend to more spiritually fit than we are.  You see, as we come, He knows it all.
  3. And it is okay.  You see, that is the difference between meeting God in prayer and meeting Bob.  I know nothing of Bob's life in the last five years – but God already knows everything about mine.
  4. He knows where I hurt – whether it be physical pain, emotional baggage that I carry around, or whether it is pain of sins committed in my past.  He knows.  And you know what – that is exactly what he wants.  If we try to hold anything back, he knows it.  We need to give him are all.  

(Ill.)  Perhaps the words on the Statue of Liberty apply as well to God as they do our country:

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries He

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

  1. Come to the savior – holding nothing back.



No comments: