Category Archives: Prayers

CONTEND FOR THE FAITH:

The epistle of Jude is written to Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem. In the opening passages, the author explains that he had initially intended to write a general letter of encouragement on the topic of “the salvation we share.” Instead, Jude explains, “I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 1:3).

Jude is concerned because “the faith”—the Christian message of the gospel—is under attack from false teachers who are spreading dangerous heresies. Jude urges his readers to contend for the faith against those who seek to undermine and erode it. The Greek word Jude chooses, translated “contend earnestly,” usually describes an athlete striving with extreme intensity to win the victory in a physical competition. The Amplified Bible translates the command as “fight strenuously for [the defense of] the faith.”

Jude wants all believers to contend earnestly for the faith. A true contender vigorously endeavors to win the competition, not holding anything back. In this case, the struggle is for “the faith,” which is the saving truth of Jesus Christ and His teachings (2 Corinthians 11:3–41 Thessalonians 2:13Hebrews 1:2).

Since this faith was “entrusted to God’s holy people,” all believers, not just Christian leaders, are called to defend the truth of Jesus Christ. And since this faith was entrusted “once for all,” Jude intends to stand against those who claim to receive “new” revelations of truth. Through Christ’s personal teachings and the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has already given the full message of truth to the apostles (John 14:2616:12–13). Paul gives a similar warning not to let anyone pervert the gospel of Christ with new and different teachings (Galatians 1:6–9). God has spoken, and any new, continuing, or special revelations of “truth” are to be rejected.

The two basic false teachings Jude contends with are stated in verse 4: “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” First, Jude opposes the false teachers in their sanctioning of immoral behavior—they “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” Second, Jude calls them on their rejection of the deity of Christ—they “deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

The faith entrusted to God’s holy people for which they must contend is grounded in Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), He is God with us (Matthew 1:23), He is the Word, and He is God made flesh (John 1:1–18). This faith is expressed through holy living to which all believers are called (Leviticus 20:71 Peter 1:16Romans 6:1–1412:1).

Several verses in the New Testament reinforce Jude’s call to contend for the faith. Paul charges Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” as a soldier of God in pursuit of holy living, persistent service, and defending the gospel (1 Timothy 6:11–21). To the church in Corinth, Paul advises believers to see themselves as runners in a race who “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27). To the Philippian church, Paul writes, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Fight, run, and strive—in other words, “contend earnestly” for the faith.

In a practical sense, what does it mean to contend for the faith? What does contending for the faith look like? Fortunately, the book of Jude sets out several disciplines showing us how to contend for the faith:

1. Build yourself up in the faith (Jude 1:20). We are to keep pressing ourselves to grow spiritually. A big part of spiritual development involves reading and studying God’s Word so that we know and understand it. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The inspired Word of God has the power to teach, train, rebuke, and correct us in righteousness so that as God’s servants we are wholly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

2. Pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:20). By praying under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we receive help in our human weakness to understand God’s truth and not be deceived by false teachers (Romans 8:26).

3. Keep yourself in God’s love (Jude 1:21). Staying in God’s love means living by faith and obedience to God. Jesus told us, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10). We obey God because He has captivated our hearts and won our allegiance (Romans 6:17). The ultimate expression of our obedience to God is shown through our loving others (1 John 3:11–241 Peter 1:22).

4. Wait with hope (Jude 1:21). To contend for the faith, we must keep the fire of hope alive in our hearts. When Jude says to wait “expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life,” he is referring to living every moment of life with the confident expectation that Jesus Christ may return at any moment (Titus 2:13).

Prophet Nathan Emol

SPIRITUAL WARFARE:

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There are two primary errors when it comes to spiritual warfare—over-emphasis and under-emphasis. Some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons that need to be cast out. Others completely ignore the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers. The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the biblical balance. Jesus sometimes cast demons out of people; other times He healed people with no mention of the demonic. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to wage war against the sin in themselves (Romans 6) and warns us to oppose the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10–18).

Ephesians 6:10–12 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This text teaches some crucial truths: we can only stand strong in the Lord’s power, it is God’s armor that protects us, and our battle is ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in the world.
Ephesians 6:13–18 is a description of the spiritual armor God gives us. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and by praying in the Spirit. What do these pieces of spiritual armor represent in spiritual warfare? We are to know the truth, believe the truth, and speak the truth. We are to rest in the fact that we are declared righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are to proclaim the gospel no matter how much resistance we face. We are not to waver in our faith, trusting God’s promises no matter how strongly we are attacked. Our ultimate defense is the assurance we have of our salvation, an assurance that no spiritual force can take away. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God, not our own opinions and feelings. And we are to pray in the power and will of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is our ultimate example of resisting temptation in spiritual warfare. Observe how Jesus handled direct attacks from Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). Each temptation was combatted with the words “it is written.” The Word of the living God is the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the devil. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

A word of caution concerning spiritual warfare is in order. The name of Jesus is not a magic incantation that causes demons to flee from before us. The seven sons of Sceva are an example of what can happen when people presume an authority they have not been given (Acts 19:13–16). Even Michael the archangel did not rebuke Satan in his own power but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9). When we start talking to the devil, we run the risk of being led astray as Eve was (Genesis 3:1–7). Our focus should be on God, not demons; we speak to Him, not them.

In summary, what are the keys to success in spiritual warfare? We rely on God’s power, not our own. We put on the whole armor of God. We draw on the power of Scripture—the Word of God is the Spirit’s sword. We pray in perseverance and holiness, making our appeal to God. We stand firm (Ephesians 6:13–14); we submit to God; we resist the devil’s work (James 4:7), knowing that the Lord of hosts is our protector. “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2).

Prophet Nathan Emol

FAITH AND WORKS GO HAND IN HAND:

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James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart. There are many verses that say that true saving faith will result in a transformed life, that faith is demonstrated by the works we do. How we live reveals what we believe and whether the faith we profess to have is a living faith.

James 2:14–26 is sometimes taken out of context in an attempt to create a works-based system of righteousness, but that is contrary to many other passages of Scripture. James is not saying that our works make us righteous before God but that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. Works are not the cause of salvation; works are the evidence of salvation. Faith in Christ always results in good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ has a false or dead faith and is not saved. Paul basically says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. James contrasts two different types of faith—true faith that saves and false faith that is dead.

Many profess to be Christians, but their lives and priorities indicate otherwise. Jesus put it this way: “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:16–23).

Notice that the message of Jesus is the same as the message of James. Obedience to God is the mark of true saving faith. James uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab to illustrate the obedience that accompanies salvation. Simply saying we believe in Jesus does not save us, nor does religious service. What saves us is the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of our hearts, and that regeneration will invariably be seen in a life of faith featuring ongoing obedience to God.

Misunderstanding the relationship of faith and works comes from not understanding what the Bible teaches about salvation. There are really two errors in regards to works and faith. The first error is “easy believism,” the teaching that, as long as a person prayed a prayer or said, “I believe in Jesus,” at some point in his life, then he is saved, no matter what. So a person who, as a child, raised his hand in a church service is considered saved, even though he has never shown any desire to walk with God since and is, in fact, living in blatant sin. This teaching, sometimes called “decisional regeneration,” is dangerous and deceptive. The idea that a profession of faith saves a person, even if he lives like the devil afterwards, assumes a new category of believer called the “carnal Christian.” This allows various ungodly lifestyles to be excused: a man may be an unrepentant adulterer, liar, or bank robber, but he’s saved; he’s just “carnal.” Yet, as we can see in James 2, an empty profession of faith—one that does not result in a life of obedience to Christ—is in reality a dead faith that cannot save.

The other error in regards to works and faith is to attempt to make works part of what justifies us before God. The mixture of works and faith to earn salvation is totally contrary to what Scripture teaches. Romans 4:5 says, “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” James 2:26 says, “Faith without works is dead.” There is no conflict between these two passages. We are justified by grace through faith, and the natural result of faith in the heart is works that all can see. The works that follow salvation do not make us righteous before God; they simply flow from the regenerated heart as naturally as water flows from a spring.

Salvation is a sovereign act of God whereby an unregenerate sinner has the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” poured out on him (Titus 3:5), thereby causing him to be born again (John 3:3). When this happens, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him (Ezekiel 36:26). God removes his sin-hardened heart of stone and fills him with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit then causes the saved person to walk in obedience to God’s Word (Ezekiel 36:26–27).

Faith without works is dead because it reveals a heart that has not been transformed by God. When we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, our lives will demonstrate that new life. Our works will be characterized by obedience to God. Unseen faith will become seen by the production of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Christians belong to Christ, the Good Shepherd. As His sheep we hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:26–30).

Faith without works is dead because faith results in a new creation, not a repetition of the same old patterns of sinful behavior. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Faith without works is dead because it comes from a heart that has not been regenerated by God. Empty professions of faith have no power to change lives. Those who pay lip service to faith but who do not possess the Spirit will hear Christ Himself say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT’S LORD’S PRAYER AND SHOULD WE PRAY IT?

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The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Matthew 6:9-13 says, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’“ Many people misunderstand the Lord’s Prayer to be a prayer we are supposed to recite word for word. Some people treat the Lord’s Prayer as a magic formula, as if the words themselves have some specific power or influence with God.

The Bible teaches the opposite. God is far more interested in our hearts when we pray than He is in our words. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:6-7). In prayer, we are to pour out our hearts to God (Philippians 4:6-7), not simply recite memorized words to God.

The Lord’s Prayer should be understood as an example, a pattern, of how to pray. It gives us the “ingredients” that should go into prayer. Here is how it breaks down. “Our Father in heaven” is teaching us whom to address our prayers to—the Father. “Hallowed be your name” is telling us to worship God, and to praise Him for who He is. The phrase “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a reminder to us that we are to pray for God’s plan in our lives and the world, not our own plan. We are to pray for God’s will to be done, not for our desires. We are encouraged to ask God for the things we need in “give us today our daily bread.” “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” reminds us to confess our sins to God and to turn from them, and also to forgive others as God has forgiven us. The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” is a plea for help in achieving victory over sin and a request for protection from the attacks of the devil.

So, again, the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer we are to memorize and recite back to God. It is only an example of how we should be praying. Is there anything wrong with memorizing the Lord’s Prayer? Of course not! Is there anything wrong with praying the Lord’s Prayer back to God? Not if your heart is in it and you truly mean the words you say. Remember, in prayer, God is far more interested in our communicating with Him and speaking from our hearts than He is in the specific words we use. Philippians 4:6-7 declares, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prophet Nathan Emol

TO WHOM SHOULD WE PRAY, THE FATHER, SON OR HOLY SPIRIT?

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All prayer should be directed to our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible allows for prayer to one or all three, because all three are one. To the Father we pray with the psalmist, “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray” (Psalm 5:2). To the Lord Jesus, we pray as to the Father because they are equal. Prayer to one member of the Trinity is prayer to all. Stephen, as he was being martyred, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Jesus assured His disciples that whatever they asked in His name—meaning in His will—would be granted (John 15:16; 16:23).

We are told to pray in the Spirit and in His power. The Spirit helps us to pray, even when we do not know how or what to ask for (Romans 8:26; Jude 20). Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through (or in the name of) the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer.

Equally important is whom we are not to pray to. Some non-Christian religions encourage their adherents to pray to a pantheon of gods, dead relatives, saints, and spirits. Roman Catholics are taught to pray to Mary and various saints. Such prayers are not scriptural and are, in fact, an insult to our heavenly Father. To understand why, we need only look at the nature of prayer. Prayer has several elements, and if we look at just two of them—praise and thanksgiving—we can see that prayer is, at its very core, worship. When we praise God, we are worshipping Him for His attributes and His work in our lives. When we offer prayers of thanksgiving, we are worshipping His goodness, mercy, and loving-kindness to us. Worship gives glory to God, the only One who deserves to be glorified. The problem with praying to anyone other than God is that He will not share His glory. In fact, praying to anyone or anything other than God is idolatry. “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Other elements of prayer such as repentance, confession, and petition are also forms of worship. We repent knowing that God is a forgiving and loving God and He has provided a means of forgiveness in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. We confess our sins because we know “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and we worship Him for it. We come to Him with our petitions and intercessions because we know He loves us and hears us, and we worship Him for His mercy and kindness in being willing to hear and answer. When we consider all this, it is easy to see that praying to someone other than our triune God is unthinkable because prayer is a form of worship, and worship is reserved for God and God alone. Whom are we to pray to? The answer is God. Praying to God, and God alone, is far more important than to which Person of the Trinity we address our prayers.

Prophet Nathan Emol