This article from Si is part of the Somali Bible Society Journal: Volume II, Issue 2
The Islamic religious and cultural background to prayer
In Islam after the Shahada – testifying to the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Mohamed; the second pillar, and the main one that daily Islamic life is built around, is the Salah – Prayers. 5 times a day the Muslim is called to face the Sacred Mosque in Mecca according to the Quran (see Surah 2:144+149), or more precisely the Kaaba within it; performing set prayers between certain specific times (see Surah 4:103).
Prayer should be done in Arabic,1 in a clean space free from impurities and likewise the body must be ritually cleaned (Wudu) before praying in the presence of Allah (see Surah 5:6).2 The ritual cleaning of the body does not have to be repeated throughout the day only after certain bodily functions happen in between prayer times, which require you to be made ritually clean again.3 The worshipper’s attire is also specified – for men from the naval to the knees at least must be covered and women the whole body except the face, hands and feet.4
After the worshipper has performed the set prayers which involve the whole body following set motions that the Imam will lead the congregation in (if corporately gathered). Then they are free to raise their hand and bring Du‘a – requests, petitions and supplications which whilst Arabic is recommended it is not considered necessary. Du‘a in practice are also made upon entering a home, in the home and elsewhere.
Ladies who attend prayers with groups of men should stand behind the men, and they should not perform the prayers during their menstruation or whilst post-natal bleeding occurs.5
The set prayers that need to be performed 5 times differ slightly from each other and are known as Fard Prayers and are compulsory. These prayers are said to clean the worshipper from sin as a bath cleanses the body from dirt and are the first thing you will be quizzed about on judgement day.6 In fact it is actually seen by some as a major sin to miss Fard prayers,7 unless you’re a women who is menstruating or bleeding.8 There are also additional set prayers that are recommended (Wajib) or the prayers that Mohamed performed (Sunnah) along with other lesser prayers (Nafl) that can earn extra rewards with Allah. These come before and/or after the set Fard prayers. In fact, all but the last category (Nafl) are considered sinful to miss by some Muslims.9 Where possible prayers should be done corporately together.10
Thus, in Islam prayers need to be performed in a clean space, by a clean person, who is dressed appropriately (different for men and women), in the right language, facing the right direction, at the right times each day. These prayers should be a group activity where possible with different positions for men and women. The prayers not only help shed sins, they are considered part of one’s righteous deeds to go in their favour on judgement day if done well and potentially judged sinful if missed or performed irreverently.
It is with this religious and cultural backdrop that the many Somalis who have turned/are turning to Christ find the privileged position the Christian has in praying to God.
The difference Christ makes to prayer
Despite being sometimes misunderstood by those in Islam; prayer, whilst viewed and performed differently is a key part of life as a Christian. Famous 19th century theologian J.C. Ryle said, “Prayer is the very life breath of true Christianity.”11 19th Century preacher Charles Spurgeon when asked what was more important as a Christian, to read the bible or prayer answered it by saying, “What is more important; breathing in or breathing out?”12 Respected 20th Century expository teacher Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees, he comes face to face with God . . therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual position.”13 Well known 21st Century evangelist J John says, “Personal prayer lies at the very heart of walking with God – prayer is the means by which we begin, maintain and develop our relationship with God.”14
One becomes a Christian through a prayer of surrender, confessing that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead (see Romans 10:8-11). By recognising that Jesus is Lord, they are acknowledging that he is the promised Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God to rule over God’s people including over your life [for more on this see article by Owen Mudford p??]. Likewise to acknowledge God raised Jesus from the dead, one is also accepting, as the bible elsewhere teaches elsewhere; “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and that he appeared to . .” [1 Corinthian 15:3-5].
For the Christian, their sins have been dealt with once for all by Jesus death on the cross (see Romans 6:10, Hebrew 10:10, 1 Peter 3:18), because of the Lord’s sacrifice the Christian is made righteous before God not by his/her own efforts but the completed work of Christ (see Philippians 3:9, Romans 3:20-26). [For more on this see the article by Andy Johnston p??] Faith in Jesus is the straight path that leads one off the road of the misguided, those under God’s anger, onto the path of those blessed, those who receive God’s grace and mercy (see Acts13:8-12).
Therefore, there is no need for the Christian to perform ritual cleaning before coming into God’s presence, because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross has made them clean before God (see John 15:3, Hebrews 10:19-23). Likewise, it does not matter what one wears (either male or female) as they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ (see Galatians 3:27, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 6:10). In truth the only way one gets access to God is through the Lord Jesus Christ, not by any inherent righteousness or ritual cleansing performed by oneself (see John 14:6, Acts 4:12).
Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” As Romans 3:9-20 along with many other Scripture verses make clear the whole human race is unrighteous, something the Quran agrees with (see Surah 16:61). Only in Jesus – the sinless one (again the Quran also agrees with this, see Surah 19:19), is someone made righteous and can approach God in prayer. Christians often finish their prayers in Jesus’ name, knowing that it is through him and in line with his will that prayers get heard and answered (see John 14:13-14, 16:23-24). It is also why both men and women in Christ have equal standing and come to God on the same basis and in the same way, this is also true across racial and social divides too; all come to God through Jesus and are equally valued because of him (see Galatians 3:25-29).
Before Jesus came to earth, the presence of God was seen as dwelling in the Temple in Jerusalem, even though it was acknowledged that God fills the highest heaven, prayers could be directed towards it (see 1 Kings 8:27-30). However, with Jesus, God came in human form and dwelt amongst us (see John1:1-3,14,18, Philippians 2:6-7, Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus engaged in every area of life (yet without sin). Upon his death on the cross the curtain in the temple that separated the most holy place from the rest of the temple, symbolising the barrier between where God dwelt and unclean human beings, was ripped in two (see Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). Through Jesus people can not only have access to God (see Ephesians 2:18), but God through his Holy Spirit actually comes and makes his home in them (see John 14:15-24). His people become a living Temple (see Ephesian 2:18-22, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Therefore, thanks to Jesus, God is always with his people through his Spirit’s presence in them. The Spirit helps the believer to pray and prays for them (see Romans 8:26); and if that is not enough: Jesus himself is in heaven at the right hand of God his Father interceding for each and every Christian (see Romans 8:34). Influential pastor Nicky Gumbel writes, “When we pray the whole Trinity is involved. . .He is our loving Father and we have the extraordinary privilege of coming into his presence and calling him ‘Abba’. .’Daddy.’ . . We have no right in ourselves to come to God but we are able to do so through Jesus. . . We find it hard to pray, but God has not left us alone. He has given us his Spirit to live within us and help us pray.”15
So, prayer to God for the Christian can and should happen anywhere, whether they or the place they are in is clean or dirty. This is possible as what makes them acceptable to the Master of the day of Judgement is not some external righteousness or ritual, which before God none of us possess or are good enough to perform, but an internal one freely given through faith in Jesus (see Romans 4:1-13). Paul and Silas prayed and worshiped in a Philippian prison that would have been full of blood, urine and excrement (Acts 16). Jesus himself prayed from the cross where he most likely would have been stripped naked, covered in blood and filth.
There is no need for the Christian to face a certain direction to remind them of God or focus on a place that is the centre of our religion; for the living God who is Lord of the whole world; through his Spirit lives in the Christian thanks to Christ (see Acts 17:24-28, John 14:15-23). Jesus, nor the disciples commanded or set the tradition of praying in a certain direction, even though Jews for centuries traditionally prayed towards Jerusalem (see Daniel 6:10).
The focus of God, who is the Lord of Worlds, since the time of Christ it would appear rather than being fixed on one place that represented the presence of God or the centre of the religion (at that time it was in Jerusalem), has shifted onto those who through Christ carry the presence of God outwards from Jerusalem, to Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (see Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus wants people from every ethnic group to be saved through the gospel (see Matthew 24:14), indeed there will be people from every tribe, tongue and language worshipping God (see Revelation 7:9-10). God wants people from all languages worshipping him, and as he created all the languages, he understands them and is happy to receive prayer and praise in them all. For the One we are called to worship and call on for help is not concerned about the language or the location, but that the person worships God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind (see Luke 10:27) and this is most easily done in one’s mother tongue, their heart language. Famous 17th Century writer John Bunyan, best known for his book written in prison ‘Pilgrims Progress’ says, “The best prayers often have more groans than words.”16 Timothy Jones notes in his book ‘The art of prayer’, “The most profound prayer is often the simplest because it arises from deep within.”17 For the Christian it is more about honest communication of the heart to God than the language or words used to communicate this.
Nowhere in Scripture is the Christian encouraged to pray in a particular language (apart from arguably a heavenly one 1 Corinthians 12-14); or adopt a particular culture for that matter (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). Rather they are to adapt in order to make it easy for many to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that Jesus most likely would have read the Old Testament in Hebrew, spoke in Aramaic and yet the New Testament was written in Greek – the most universally known language at the time. Christians therefore tend to pray in the language that they can most effectively express their prayers to God, and if others are present, one that the majority can understand. Those who God enables to speak in tongues of angels are also encouraged (primarily on their own) to speak to God in this language too (see 1 Corinthians 14:13-19), but there is not time to go into this now.
For the believer whilst prayer may involve the body by looking up to heaven, lying prostrate, kneeling or raising of the arms; the actions of the body is secondary and often in response to what is being prayed, or the emotional state of the person praying. Theologian Wayne Grudem explains, “When we truly pray, we as persons in the wholeness of our character are relating to God as a person, in the wholeness of his character.”18
Finally, the bible does not set times that a Christian must pray. Regular patterns can help but they are not obligatory, nor add anything to ones right standing before God which can only come through faith in Jesus Christ not by any works of ours (see Ephesians 2:1-10). John Wesley the famous evangelist and founder of the Methodist Movement recommended every one of his ministers read 18th Century writer William Law’s book, ‘A serious call to a devout and holy life.’ In this book Law recommends prayers in the early morning, 3rd hour of the day, 6th hour of the day, 9th hour of the day and evening prayers, as well as regular intercessory prayer for others. For some Muslim Background Believers (MBB) this may be a helpful pattern to follow as they are accustomed to setting aside five times a day to pray; as long as they recognise that this does not add to their righteousness or take away from it if they miss some prayer times. Jesus is our righteousness (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). Some Christians copy the Jewish custom of praying three times a day, as the early church document the Didache would seem to encourage as it exalts its readers to pray the Lord’s prayer 3 times a day, this pattern has helped many.19
Jesus modelled and clearly expected his disciples to make time to pray, so much so that it shaped how they developed the early church (see Acts 6:1-7); however ultimately according to the bible, “There is no need to pray at a specific time, in a fixed way or using an unchanging set of words.”20
So having made it clear that the Bible teaches outside of Christ no one can approach God at all; however, in Christ the Christian (both male and female) can come to God through Jesus at any time, any place, anywhere, using any language, facing any direction, wearing any clothes they choose (or none at all – if not inappropriate for modesties sake), and finally whether they are clean or unclean physically speaking. Let’s look briefly at what the Bible teaches about prayer and the privileged position the Christian is in.
There are many good books on prayer looking at the great prayers of the Bible, the development of prayer, praying through the Psalms, others look at the prayer life of Jesus. Popular writer Phillip Yancey notes, “The gospels record just over a dozen specific prayers by Jesus, along with several parables and teachings on the subject. . . We can also safely assume that Jesus prayed in private, for when the disciples asked for instructions on prayer Jesus said they should seclude themselves. . five times the Gospels mention Jesus’ practice of praying alone. Like most of us, Jesus turned to prayer in times of trouble. . .Jesus often lifted up prayers for others. . . When alone, Jesus relied on prayer as a kind of spiritual recharging. . Jesus’ prayers intensified around key events. . .He prayed as if it made a difference, as if time devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as time he devoted to caring for the people.”21
For the sake of time though, I will look at the prayer that the Lord Jesus taught his disciples to pray when they asked him to teach them how to pray (see Luke 11:1), and then briefly consider praying continually. I will not spend time looking at the different types of prayers or words used for them, other than just briefly to quote 1 Timothy 2:1 which says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Four different Greek words are used, which famous reformed theologian John Calvin explains, “Prayers is the general Greek word for every kind of prayer, and supplication where specific things are asked for. Intercession is usually the word Paul uses for our prayers for each other . . .there is nothing difficult about the meaning of thanksgiving.”22
Terry Virgo, the founder of Newfrontiers, says about the disciples’ question to Jesus on prayer, “There was no one better to ask and there is was no better answer than the one given. . . His plan was to provide us with a structure to help us concentrate better when we prayed. The phrases weren’t meant to be mindlessly repeated, but treated as headings that we could expand ourselves.”23 Respected Pastor Pete Greig in his book, ‘How to pray,’ notes, “The Lord’s prayer which is just 31 words long in the original language and also originally rhymed. . . Arch Bishop Justin Welby says, ‘the Lord’s prayer is simple enough to be memorised by a small children, and yet profound enough to sustain a whole lifetime of prayer.’”24 So let us consider this prayer now:
The Lords Prayer
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”Matthew 6:5-13
Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5:5-6 that for the Christian, whilst corporate prayer is modelled in scripture and even encouraged in the wording of the Lord’s prayer (“Our, . .us”), the primary purpose of it is to connect with God in heaven. Nicky Gumbel says “Prayer is the most important activities of our lives. It is the main way we develop a relationship with our Father in heaven. . . It’s a relationship rather than a ritual. It is not a torrent of mechanical or mindless words.”25
Prayer is not about impressing others (or praying with others) but connecting with God, who knows what we need and is not impressed with clever words or phrases uttered mindlessly (v7-8). William Law states, “We readily acknowledge that God alone is to be the rule and measure of our prayers; that in them we are looking wholly unto him, and act wholly for him, that we are only to pray in such a manner, for such things and such ends, as are suitable to his glory.”26
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed by your name
Incredibly, wonderfully, amazingly because of Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven; the Christian can approach the living God, the creator of the universe and Lord of Worlds, the one who holds everything in His hands, as their heavenly Father! Terry Virgo says, “Jesus didn’t teach us to pray, ‘our master in heaven.’ That is because God doesn’t want us to relate to him as slaves. He isn’t looking for dutiful obedience to a set of rules. He is looking for a loving relationship with his children. It will involve discipline but that discipline will be motivated by the Spirit and spurred on by love.”27
Through faith in Christ Jesus the Christian is adopted into God’s family (see Ephesians 1:3-6), counted as one of his children (see Roman 8:9-17). God’s Holy Spirit is at work within the Christian causing him/her to be able to cry out to God as, “Abba! Father!” (See Romans 8:15). ‘Abba,’ being the Aramaic word for Daddy or Papa, which Jesus used in the garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:36). As adopted sons and daughters, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence,” [Ephesian 3:12 NLT]. Not arrogantly, or presumptuously but as Jesus himself taught, respectfully and reverently, knowing we are loved and will be heard by the Almighty. The writer of Hebrews encourages those in Christ with these words, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” [4:16]
This truth is beyond what anyone could ever expect or earn, but it is revealed in scripture as God’s free gift for all who believe in Jesus. Lloyd Jones says, “Do you know that the true essence of prayer is found in the two words in v9 ‘Our Father.”28 Terry Virgo says, “Once we draw near God as Father he wants us to worship him.”29 Which is exactly where the Lord Jesus takes us next, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.” Jesus reminds his followers that whilst they can approach God as Father, he is in heaven as the ruler of heaven and his name is to be hallowed – made holy. He is to be worshipped and adored. So Christians come in prayer to their heavenly Father who loves them, whom they know they have access to thanks to Jesus and begin by worshipping him and thanking God for who he is, what he has done and is doing around the world, declaring his greatness, as his beloved people who stand in awe of his awesomeness.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
The believer next prays God’s kingdom would come on the earth as in heaven. That God’s will in terms of things that please God and bring him worship would be done here on earth. The Christian, through prayer, is playing their part in praying into God’s eternal purposes that they have the joy and privilege of being involved in [for more on this see my article in Somali Bible Society Journal volume2 June 2021]. Wayne Grudem explains, “In prayer God allows us as creatures to be involved in activities that are eternally important.”30
William Law says, “earnestly beseeching God to forgive the sins of all mankind, to bless them with His providence, enlighten them with his Spirit, and bring them to everlasting happiness, is the divinest exercise that the heart of man can be engaged in.”31 Nicky Gumbel writes, “Prayer not only changes us but changes situations.”32 Popular speaker Stormie Ormartian says “Prayer not only affects us, it also reaches out and touches those for whom we pray.”33
The Christian’s prayer is not only heard by their Father in heaven, but heaven answers them with God’s divine power as implied by Revelations 8:1-5. Commenting on Revelation Morris writes, “That means more potent and more powerful than all the dark and mighty powers let loose in the world, more powerful than anything else is the power of prayer set ablaze by the fire of God and cast upon the earth.”34
Finally, praying your kingdom come and your will be done allows the one praying to surrender their life and plans afresh to the will of God and building his Kingdom. Just like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:36 they are praying, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Disciple making movement leaders David and Paul Watson advise, “Prayer isn’t about twisting God’s arm to get him to do what you think he should. It is about aligning your heart and mind with God.”35
Indeed, there are situations and tragedies that God allows to happen in life that leave us confused, saddened and even broken, that we have to reverently accept as part of our cross that we will have to bear this side of eternity. The living God knows our thoughts feelings and motives (see 1 Corinthians 4:3-5, Hebrews 4:12-13), he is not indifferent to them so we must bring all these feelings before our heavenly Father who loves us and ultimately say, ‘your will be done in and through my life.’ Well known Pastor Rick Warren says, “You must be honest with to God, sharing your true feeling, not what you think you ought to feel or say.”36 Knowing for some situations and tragedies there will be no answers we understand this side of eternity as famous writer CS Lewis wrote, “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But rather a special sort of ‘no answer.’ . . As though God shook His Head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’”37
Give us this day our daily bread
Just before the Lord’s prayer in v8 Jesus tells his followers that, “Your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask him.” Then towards the end of Matthew 6 in v25-34 Jesus reminds his followers not to be anxious about the practical things of life – what we will eat, drink and wear – God knows about them and will provide them for his people. Jesus closes that section by encouraging his followers, “To seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The Christian is called to trust God for his/her needs, finding their contentment in Christ, so that along with the Apostle Paul they can say, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through God who strengthens me.” [Philippians 4:12-13]. Therefore, it may seem unnecessary, or even a lack of faith in God to come to him with the requests (Du’a if you like), but it is not as Jesus encourages us to do so. 19th Century theologian J.C. Ryle explains, “We are here taught to acknowledge our entire dependence on God for the supply of our daily necessities.”38 Wayne Grudem says, “Prayer expresses our trust in God and is a means whereby our trust in him can increase.”39
Terry Virgo writes, “‘bread’ includes physical, emotional and spiritual needs. At the beginning of the day we can look ahead and tell God how we’d like him to help us. At the end of the day, we can look back and thank him for the way he’s answered our prayers”.40 As stated earlier, prayer for the believer is about a relationship with God, it is about intimacy with our heavenly Father who like any good father loves to not only provide what his children need but give them gifts that please them too. That is why Jesus taught us to ask, seek and knock in our prayers to God (see Matthew 7:7-11) here He finishes by saying, “If then you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Note, it is good things not necessarily everything we ask for, as our heavenly Father knows what is good for us and what isn’t and some of the requests we make to God whilst we may think them advantageous, he knows they are not. Sometimes God’s answer is no, and he will make that clear to us in time if our hearts remain soft and we truly keep praying, “Your will be done.” Other times he wants the Christian to persist in prayer and keep seeking him over this issue (see Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8). Whilst we trust in God’s sovereignty to bring about everything in his perfect timing often in these cases of persistent prayer God is actually doing a good work in the person praying’s heart through the waiting (see Psalm 27:14, 38:15)! Theologian William Hendriksen explains it this way, “What God demands is that his people persevere in opening their hearts to him.”41
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
The Christian having been washed clean by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross (see Ephesians 1:7, Romans 5:9), is now encouraged to daily confess their sins to God. The image Jesus used when trying to wash Peter’s feet in John 13:11 is most apt, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean.” This side of eternity as we go through life we fall into sin (sometimes accidently, sometimes deliberately) that offend God, hurt others and ourselves, likewise others wrong us (accidently and sometimes on purpose).
It is important to emphasis here as Lloyd Jones explains so eloquently, “Nothing is quite so fallacious as to think of sin only in terms of actions, and as long as we think of it in terms of things actually done, we fail to understand it. The essence of the biblical teaching on sin is it is essentially a disposition. It is a state of heart.”42 A state of heart that is set against God, it is proud, rebellious and self-governing and therefore independent from God. Yet one becomes a Christian by humbly recognising our rebellion and need for a saviour and therefore they surrender their life to the Lordship of Christ. Whilst this is a one off act of surrendering to Jesus (see John 5:24, Acts2:38-39, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 1:13-14), the outworking of this should impact and bring into line every thought, decision and action (see 2 Corinthian 10:5-6, Philippians 2:12-13, Hebrews 12:14). When sinful actions, words, thoughts and motives are committed, then one should quickly repent of them.
Jesus calls those who are his to seek daily forgiveness before God and before God offer others the same spirit of forgiveness they have received from God. Interestingly it is around these two areas of seeking forgiveness and giving forgiveness to others that Jesus gives very strong warnings of what he expects of his true disciples; implying you are not really a Christian if you do not do these.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is no in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15. See also Matthew 18:21-35 where it makes it clear that God expects his people to forgive others not just externally but, “From your heart.”
Theologian John Stott explains, “This certainly does not mean that our forgiveness of others earns us the right to be forgiven. It is rather that God forgives only the penitent and that one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit. Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling.”43
Thus, Christians should regularly come to God and seek his forgiveness for the things they have done wrong that they are aware of and ask God to do a check of their own heart and deal with any wicked ways in them they are not aware of (see Psalm 139:23-24). It also enables them to state their forgiveness of those who have wronged them before God and ask his help in this area when they are struggling to genuinely forgive from the heart. There is not time to look into the forgiveness of others here, as this particularly for some things is a process that happens over time with the Holy Spirit’s help. Sometimes he enables people to feel supernatural love and offer immediate forgiveness from the heart; but often it is a process that God, in his grace, allows us to take time to work through properly, this phrase helps remind us of that destination.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
The final part of the Lord’s prayer is more about protecting the Christian from yielding to future sin than it is about protecting us from other peoples’ or demons’ malicious plans. Famous theologian Augustine of Hippo said the meaning of the line is best understood as, “We are conscious of our own weakness, and desire to enjoy the protection of God, that we may remain impregnable against all the assaults of Satan.”44 Calvin writes, “Whoever implores the assistance of God to overcome temptations acknowledges that, unless God deliver him, he will be constantly falling.”45
For the Christian there is great peace in knowing that God is sovereign over our lives and therefore everything that comes our way he has a purpose in (see Genesis 50:19-20, Proverbs 19:21, Acts 2:23). Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” However this does not mean that we accept everything that comes our way, God wants us to exercise our faith in seeking him through prayer to deliver us out of trouble (see 2 Corinthians 1:10-11), to seek him for peace in our land (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4), and yet also trust him when he allows us to go through various afflictions which will come along (see 2 Corinthians 1:6-7, 2 Timothy 3:12).
Even in temptation the Christian can be sure that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” [1 Corinthians 10:13]. So, thanks to God’s loving Fatherly care for the Christian, they need not fall into sin when temptation comes their way. The problem of temptation then is not that God tempts us or allows us to be tempted beyond our ability, but as James writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” [James 1:13-14]. The problem is with us, as Jesus makes clear with his disciples in Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Thus, the Christian in prayer is recognising the human hearts proclivity to sin and daily is to seek their heavenly Father for help not to give into sinful temptations that come along and to deliver them out of any evil that comes their way, either from the devil, the world or indeed from their own sinful heart within. Calvin writes on this verse, “We are in danger from the devil and from sin, if the Lord does not protect and deliver us.”46
This daily request to God will find its ultimate fulfilment once Christ returns and ushers in the eternal age to come where we will be given imperishable resurrection bodies that live on a renewed earth, where there is no evil and no sin (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-49, Philippians 3:20-21, Revelation 21:3-4+27). Yet, this side of eternity the Christian prays this recognising their complete need for God’s help to keep them on the straight and narrow path he has called us to (see Psalm 25:4-14).
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen.
Tradition adds these words to the end of the prayer the Lord taught. Whilst they are a very fitting end to the pray as it finishes with praise, something J John encourages,47 and I personally often include them; it is not actually there in the original texts of God’s word and therefore not incumbent upon the Christian to use them. Even the word Amen, is just an ancient Hebrew word from the Old Testament meaning, “Yes. I agree. So be it.”48 Whilst the Christian does not have to finish prayers with ‘amen’, if they choose to do so, as the majority of Christians do, they are aligning themselves with how through the ages and indeed covenants (Old and New) the saints of God have chosen to close their prayers and affirm the prayers of others. However, though it is good if corporately gathered to verbalise our prayers and let others know we are agreeing with them in prayer; it is important to remember the all seeing and knowing God knows when one has finished praying and when they actually truly are agreeing with another person’s prayer whether the word ‘Amen’ is used or not!
Praying without ceasing
Before I bring this paper on the privilege of prayer to a close it seems prudent to briefly cover the call to ‘pray continually’ as several New Testament passages encourage believers in.
- Ephesians 6:18, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
- Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
- Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
- 1Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Thus, for the Christian, whilst it is important to take time out to pray each day, they are also called to continually be praying to God as they go about their daily lives. William Barclay writes, “Prayer must be constant, intense and unselfish.”49 Rick Warren helpfully says, “Friendship with God is built by sharing all your life experiences with him. ‘Praying without ceasing’ means conversing with God while shopping, driving, working, or performing any other everyday tasks.”50 Yes, even when going to the toilet! As Jesus is clear it is not bodily functions that make us unclean before God, but the evil that comes out of our heart (see Matthew 15:10-20); and if God has chosen to dwell in us through his Holy Spirit, then he is with us all the time anyway. Therefore, arguably it is a good use of that and any other time to pray to our heavenly Father.
Prayer for the Christian is essentially as Wayne Grudem puts it, “Personal Communication with God.”51 Prayer is about coming to our heavenly Father who loves us, praising him, seeking his heart and surrendering our lives to do his. It is about talking to the One who knows us intimately, perfectly, supplying our needs before we even submit them into his loving hands. Seeking his forgiveness when we have messed up, and his help for us to offer the same grace to others who have hurt us. Prayer is seeking him for future grace to enable us to stand strong for him in what lies before us.
Essentially by praying we are recognising God for who he really is, bringing ourselves voluntarily under his Lordship and asking his help in our daily lives so that we have all we need and live in such a way that brings glory to him. For the Christian it is not a duty to be performed but a privilege to be enjoyed as we spend time communing with our heavenly Father. Grudem says, “Prayer brings us into a deeper fellowship with God, and he loves us and delights in our fellowship with him.”52 It is a lifestyle not a schedule. Peter Greig advice on prayer is, “Keep it simple, keep it real, keep it up.”53 James Houston says, “The life of prayer is a call to exchange the less important for the more important.”54
When Christians pray, we bring joy to God’s heart and glorify his name as we can only come to the Father in prayer, through Jesus Christ his Son by the power and help of the Holy Spirit.55 Thus, the whole Godhead is involved in the process of helping God’s people relate to God as he had always intended from the beginning.
What a privilege the Christian (both male and female) has, thanks to Jesus, to be able to pray to God as their heavenly Father who loves them. The Christian can pray anytime, anyplace, anywhere, in any language and in any situation and state they may be in. Whilst this is true for all Christians; what wonderful freedom and special significance these truths have for those who come to Christ from an Islamic background.
Why not finish this paper by spending time to pray to God now just as you are?
 Umar 2011:18
 Al-Tomer 2019:18
 Umar 2011:14
 Umar 2011:15
 Al-Tomer 2019:24
 Umar 2011:9-10
 Umar 2011:15
 Umar 2011:44
 Ryle 1997:229
 Lloyd Jones 2009:361-362
 John 2002:135
 Gumbel 1994:88-90
 Jones 2006:39
 Jones 2006:41
 Grudem 1994:376
 Staniforth 1987:194
 John 2002:137
 Yancey 2006:68-69
 Calvin 1998:36
 Virgo 2004:98
 Greig 2019:19
 Gumbel 1994:88
 Law 2013:1
 Virgo 2004:104
 Lloyd Jones 2009:368
 Virgo 2004:107
 Grudem 1994:377
 Law 2013:256
 Gumbel 1994:91
 Omartian 1995:19
 Morris 1992:118
 Watson 2014:84
 Warren 2002:107
 Dunn 1994:57
 Ryle 1993:40
 Grudem 1994:376
 Virgo 2004:122
 Hendriksen 1979:817
 Lloyd-Jones 2009:338
 Stott 2008:149-150
 Calvin 2007:304
 Calvin 2007:304
 Calvin 2007:305
 John 2002:141
 Greig 2019:200
 Barclay 1974:218
 Warren 2002:99
 Grudem 1994:376
 Grudem 1994:377
 Greig 2019:3
 Houston 1996:65
 Grudem 1994:376
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Bible quotes unless stated otherwise are from the ESV.