STUDY 2: THE GOD TO WHOM WE PRAY [PART TW0: ‘IN HEAVEN’]

 Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009

A. ‘IN HEAVEN’ - GOD IS NOT LIKE THE IDOLS

Take time to read the Old Testament through quickly from beginning to end. If you do you will become aware that there is an over-riding theme, almost monotonous and certainly powerfully impactive in its recurring presence. That pervasive theme is simply this: that God is the one true God and that men substitute for him gods of their own making. Earthbound gods. Powerless gods.

When we address God as ‘our Father in heaven’ this is to keep in our minds the utter otherness, uniqueness and holiness of God. He is not a common god. He is not a fabrication of human minds or human hands. He is over and above and beyond all other concepts of god, and he looks with anger and scorn on all the gods we might think to put in his place. He is called ‘the God of gods’ – Deuteronomy 10:17 ; Daniel 2:47 , 11:36 .

The gods of the earth (including wrong concepts man has of the true God):

For God’s opinion of the gods of the earth, check out the following references. You will discover how utterly inadequate and incapable they are – in start contrast to ‘our Father in heaven’.

Exodus 32:1-35; Deuteronomy 12:30-13:18; 32:15-21; 1 Kings 12:28-33; 18:16-39; 2 Kings 17:29-41; 19:12-19; Psalm 96:4-6; 97:7-9; 115:2-8; Isaiah 19:1; 30:22; 41:21-24,29; 42:17; 46:1-2,6-7; Jeremiah 2:11-19,28; 10:1-16; 11:12-14; 16:10-18; Ezekiel 14:3,5,6; Habakkuk 2:18-20; Zechariah 10:2; Romans 1:23; 1 Corinthians 8:4ff; Revelation 9:20.

B. IN HEAVEN – NOT LIKE OCCULTISH POWERS

Although some do not substitute physical idols for the one, true God, they do pray to and seek counsel from various psychic or occultish powers. This has always been the case, and always will be the case where the one, true God is not known, or is very poorly known. Check out the following references:

Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Numbers 23:23; Deuteronomy 18:9-13; 1 Samuel 28:1-25; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:24; 2 Chronicles 33:5-6; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3; 44:25; 47:9-13; Jeremiah 14:14; 27:9; 29:8; Ezekiel 13:6-9,23; Nahum 3:4; Zechariah 10:1-2.

The God to whom we pray – our Father in heaven is not some psychic or occultish power: he is so far over and above these supposed powers that he can turn their ‘counsel’ into foolishness for his own purposes. Thus the Christian who knows the one, true God by knowing Jesus Christ has no need to pursue guidance from any of these sources, of which the modern expressions are such things as astrology, numerology, tarot cards, ouija boards, palmistry, clairvoyance, séances, mediums, past lives therapy, channelling, angel messages, dreams, spirit guides, and so on. In fact to seek help from such sources is sin.

C. ‘IN HEAVEN’ – GOD IS NOT LIKE US

Nor is God like us: limited, finite, largely ignorant, weak. He is, as we will see in a little while:

      • Eternal: he exists outside of time.
      • Omnipresent: present everywhere.
      • Omnipotent: all powerful.
      • Omniscient: all knowing.

Also unlike us, he is changeless, dependable and perfect. All of this gives great meaning and confidence to our praying.

D. ‘IN HEAVEN’ – THAT IS HE IS TOTALLY SET APART: HOLY

This otherness, this uniqueness of God, which we have seen in the three points above, is what the Bible means by his holiness. ‘Holy’ means ‘set apart’. It includes his moral perfection and purity, but it is much more than that. It is that quality of God that sets him apart from everything else that is – from his creation, from man, from occultish powers, and from idols. He is not ‘common’. He is not ordinary. He is utterly unique. He is one of a kind. He cannot be put in a box, or stuck with a label. He cannot be likened to anything with any degree of accuracy because there is nothing like him.

CS Lewis, in one of the Narnia books, when describing Aslan (the allegorical character representing Christ) wrote: ‘He is not a tame lion.’ This is our God: he is not a ‘tame’ God – one we can manipulate and identify by our categories or coerce to do our will. As it is written a couple of times in the Bible: ‘he does whatever pleases him’ (Psalm 115:3; 135:6). This holiness, this uniqueness, is also included when we pray to our Father in heaven.

Check out the references in the following table and fill in what they teach about God as holy:

Deuteronomy 6:4

2 Kings 19:15-19

Psalm 83:18

Psalm 86:10

Psalm 89:5-8

Psalm 96:4-6

Psalm 136:4

Psalm 148:13

Isaiah 2:11

Isaiah 6:1-3

Isaiah 40:18

Isaiah 43:10-13

Isaiah 44:6-8

Isaiah 45:5-7

Isaiah 45:18,21,22

Isaiah 46:5,8-10

Romans 9:5

1 John 5:20-21

E. ‘IN HEAVEN’ – THE ALL-POWERFUL, MAJESTIC, SOVEREIGN KING OF ALL

The God to whom we pray is also powerful. Powerful beyond our imagining. He stands in authority over all that exists. No power can thwart his purposes. No authority can undermine his. It is only this truth that gives any significance to prayer; without it prayer is nothing more than singing in the dark, emotionally soothing and comforting for the moment perhaps, but ineffective. It is only he who is the Almighty Sovereign Lord of all who has any final power and authority to answer our prayers. (It is interesting that both Job, in trying to work out what God was doing, and his friends, assuming that they already knew what God was doing, in Job’s suffering, all frequently use the title ‘the Almighty’ when speaking of God.)

[Thus, the Biblical teaching of the Sovereignty of God, which at first seems to make prayer redundant and beside the point, is the only valid basis for genuine, expectant prayer.]

Read the Psalms listed below, and identify references to this awesome, majestic, sovereign authority of God, noting verses that impress you with God’s sovereign authority.

Characteristic of God

Psalms

Your notes

Majesty/glory

Exalted/awesome

8,19,29,47,

57,63,66,

68,72,76,

89,93,96,

97,99,102,

104,111,

113,138,

145,148

King

Enthroned

Dominion/rule

Sovereign/reigns

2,5,9,10,

22,24,29,44,

47,55,66,68,

73,74,84,89,

95-99,103,

109,140,141,

145,149

Most High

7,9,18,21,

46,47,57,73,

77,78,82,

83,87,91,

92,97,107

Related to these are references to his power – not only is he in the position of authority, he has the mighty power to back that authority up. He authority packs a punch; it is not in role, position or word only. He also holds legal authority: he is the Judge of all the earth.

The Almighty Mighty

The Lord Almighty

24,46,48,

50,59,68,

69,80,84,

89,91,99,

132,145,147

Judge

Judgement

Justice

7,9,11,33,

36,50,58,75,

94,96,98,

101,105,

110,140

We could add to the above references the Psalms that mention the righteousness of God, which is part and parcel of his justice.

 

F. ‘IN HEAVEN’ – THE ONE WHO KNOWS ALL THINGS, WHO SEES THE END FROM THE BEGINNING

As our Father in heaven God has no limitation of wisdom and knowledge: he is omniscient (he sees, hears and knows all things). He knows everything. This is related to his timelessness (his eternity) and his omnipresence (his being everywhere). Along with his sovereign authority and power this characteristic of God makes prayer relevant and valid. It is no use praying to a god who doesn’t know, or who has limited knowledge. Nor is it any use praying to a god who is not wise. Again we turn to the Psalms where we find that:

      • God Watches, Sees, Observes, Looks: in Psalms 1,10,11,14,31,33,34,53,66,69,94, 102,113,121,139,145,146.
      • God Hears and Listens: in Psalms 4,6,10,18,28,31,34,61,65,66,69,94,116,145.
      • God Knows: in Psalms 7,44,92,94,119,138,139,142.

 

G. EXAMPLES OF ANSWERED PRAYER IN THE SCRIPTURE, IN WHICH THE POWER OF GOD IS SEEN

Power over nature: Judges 6:13-40; Joshua 10:12-14; 1 Samuel 1:1-20; 1 Kings 18:16-39; Matthew 4:23-24; Mark 4:35 -41.

Power of life and death: 1 Kings 17:17-21; 2 Kings 20:1-6; Matthew 9:18-26; Acts 9:36-43.

Power over the nations: Exodus 2:23-24; 2 Kings 19:14-36; 2 Chronicles 14:2-15; 20:1-30.

Power over circumstances and people: Genesis 24:12-52; Nehemiah 1:1-29; Acts 12:5-19.

 

PERSONAL CHALLENGE BASED ON STUDIES ONE AND TWO:

To which God do you pray? Think about this question when you pray. Is he your strong, dependable, loving, caring Father? Is he also the Almighty, glorious, powerful, sovereign Lord of all? Do you come into his presence confident of his love and acceptance and willingness to listen? Do you come also, confident of his awesome ability and authority to respond to your request in the best way possible? Do you also come acknowledging who he is?

Prayer is only significant and valid if it is prayer to the one true God. An overwhelming, over-riding theme of the Old Testament is this: that God alone is god – there is no other – and to put in his place alternate concepts of god – whether they be physical idols, conceptual idols or psychic, occultish powers is the sin above all sins.

It was to re-establish a right concept of God – apart from which there can be no salvation – that Jesus came and lived among us. He revealed God [Colossians 2:2-3; Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:14 -18]. He is the Light [John 8:12 ]. He is the truth [John 14:6]. To see him is to see God. To know him is to know God [John 14:6-10]. He and the Father are one [John 10:30 ]. He is the one, true God – God over all [1 John 5:20 -21]. Apart from him we cannot know God and we cannot see God [Matthew 11:25 -27], nor can we approach God [John 8:24 ; 14:6].