Day 290

How to Pray

Wisdom Psalm 119:49-56
New Testament 1 Timothy 2:1-15
Old Testament Jeremiah 35:1-37:21

Introduction

Prayer is the most important activity of your life. It is the main way in which you develop a relationship with your Father in heaven. If you love someone, naturally you will want to spend time in their presence communicating with them. Like any relationship, communication can take many different forms.

Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626), was one of the great theologians and preachers of his day. After he died, his private notebook on prayer was discovered and published. In it he had written two lists:

First, he wrote a list of times of prayer in the Bible:

‘Always...
Without ceasing...
At all times...
Three times a day...
Evening,and morning, and at noon...
Seven times a day...
In the morning, a great while before day...
At daybreak...
The third hour of the day...
About the sixth hour...
The hour of prayer, the ninth...
The evening...
By night...
At midnight...’

Next, he wrote a list of places of prayer in the Bible:

‘In the assembly... and in the congregation...
Your closet...
An upper room...
A housetop...
The temple...
On the shore...
A garden...
On their beds...
A desert place...
In every place...’

There is no limit to the times, places and different ways in which you can pray.

Wisdom

Psalm 119:49-56

ז Zayin

49 Remember your word to your servant,
||for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
||Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
||but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
||and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
||who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
||wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
||that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
||I obey your precepts.

Commentary

The word of God, song and prayer in the night

Prayer is two-way communication. Prayer involves listening to God as well as speaking to him. The main way in which we hear God today is through his word. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1) and the Bible is all about him. As you study the Bible, pray that God will speak to you through it.

This will give you ‘hope’ (Psalm 119:49) in the midst of all the difficulties of life: ‘These words held me up in bad times; yes, your promises rejuvenate me’ (v.50, MSG). You will find comfort in God’s words to you (v.52).

These words also inspire our worship of God: ‘Your decrees are the theme of my song’ (v.54). So many of the greatest hymns and worship songs are based on the words of the Bible.

You do not need to confine your prayers to daytime. ‘In the night I remember your name, O Lord’ (v.55a): this is one of the best ways to use times of wakefulness in the night. It may even be a way to cure insomnia!

Prayer

Lord, please speak to me through your word and bring me hope and comfort. Help me to pray.

New Testament

1 Timothy 2:1-15

Instructions on Worship

2I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying —and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Commentary

Requests, prayers, intercession, thanksgiving and raising hands

What is your first priority? Paul writes, ‘The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know’ (v.1, MSG).

Do you ever complain about your government or your politicians? If you want good government you must pray for it. Paul prioritises prayer ‘for kings and for those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (v.2).

If you live in a country with relatively stable government, thank God and pray for continued stability. In much of the world, people suffer due to unstable governments and tyranny. The rule of law was a high priority in the prayers of the apostle Paul.

When there is good and peaceful government it can make it easier to spread the gospel and for as many people as possible to hear the message. ‘This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (vv.3–4). God loves every human being. No one is destined by God to be lost. He wants everyone to be saved.

Jesus died for us all. He ‘gave himself as a ransom for all’ (v.6). This is a beautiful summary of the work of Jesus. Through his mediation and the ransom he paid, it is possible for everyone to experience an intimate relationship with the Father.

Pray ‘for everyone you know’ (v.1, MSG). This will include your family, friends, neighbours and anyone for whom the Holy Spirit is prompting you to pray.

It is interesting to note in passing that there was an expectation that people would lift up their hands in prayer. ‘Not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God’ (v.8, MSG). It was taken for granted that Christians, like Jews, would lift up their hands in prayer (v.8).

This was the traditional form of prayer. I often jest that ‘if you go into a church and see everyone with their hands in the air say, “This is a traditional church practising ancient forms of worship.” If they all have their hands down by their sides that is fine also. Just say, “This is a modern, trendy church experimenting with new forms of worship!”’

There is a difficult section to expound at the end of today’s passage (vv.9–15). Many of the interpretations of this passage do not really fit with the rest of the New Testament where it is clear that women had roles of leadership within the church. Paul speaks of women as apostles and deacons (Romans 16). He expects them to be praying and prophesying in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11).

Paul also wrote that Christ has brought an end to disunity and prejudice on the basis of gender – in Christ ‘there is neither... male nor female’ (Galatians 3:28). In Jesus’ ministry, we read of Mary of Bethany sitting at Jesus’ feet. In other words, she joined the men in becoming a disciple and a learner (Luke 10:38–42).

Paul’s basic point is to insist that women too must be allowed to learn (1 Timothy 2:11) and study as Christians. In order to do that they needed to exercise humility and not dominate proceedings. The word Paul uses here for ‘authority’ (authentein) is used elsewhere for brutal or domineering forms of leadership – so this probably refers to particular issues in this congregation, rather than being a more general comment on the leadership of women.

As The Message translation puts it, ‘I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God... doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it’ (vv.9–10, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, I pray especially today for those in authority, that the rule of law may be established and that people will be able to live peacefully in all godliness and holiness.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 35:1-37:21

The Rekabites

35This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: 2 “Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.”

3 So I went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons—the whole family of the Rekabites. 4 I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper. 5 Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the Rekabites and said to them, “Drink some wine.”

6 But they replied, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. 7 Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’ 8 We have obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine 9 or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. 10 We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab commanded us. 11 But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded this land, we said, ‘Come, we must go to Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies.’ So we have remained in Jerusalem.”

12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. 14 ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. 15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me. 16 The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’

17 “Therefore this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’”

18 Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Rekabites, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jehonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ 19 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’”

Jehoiakim Burns Jeremiah’s Scroll

36In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now. 3 Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.”

4 So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll. 5 Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I am restricted; I am not allowed to go to the Lord’s temple. 6 So you go to the house of the Lord on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the Lord that you wrote as I dictated. Read them to all the people of Judah who come in from their towns. 7 Perhaps they will bring their petition before the Lord and will each turn from their wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the Lord are great.”

8 Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet told him to do; at the Lord’s temple he read the words of the Lord from the scroll. 9 In the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, a time of fasting before the Lord was proclaimed for all the people in Jerusalem and those who had come from the towns of Judah. 10 From the room of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper courtyard at the entrance of the New Gate of the temple, Baruch read to all the people at the Lord’s temple the words of Jeremiah from the scroll.

11 When Micaiah son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the Lord from the scroll, 12 he went down to the secretary’s room in the royal palace, where all the officials were sitting: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Akbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the other officials. 13 After Micaiah told them everything he had heard Baruch read to the people from the scroll, 14 all the officials sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Bring the scroll from which you have read to the people and come.” So Baruch son of Neriah went to them with the scroll in his hand. 15 They said to him, “Sit down, please, and read it to us.”

So Baruch read it to them. 16 When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear and said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?”

18 “Yes,” Baruch replied, “he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll.”

19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “You and Jeremiah, go and hide. Don’t let anyone know where you are.”

20 After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him. 21 The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him. 22 It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. 23 Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 25 Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord had hidden them.

27 After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up. 29 Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You burned that scroll and said, “Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?” 30 Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened. ’”

32 So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.

Jeremiah in Prison

37Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. 2 Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.

3 King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehukal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.”

4 Now Jeremiah was free to come and go among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. 5 Pharaoh’s army had marched out of Egypt, and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

6 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet: 7 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of me, ‘Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt. 8 Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’

9 “This is what the Lord says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! 10 Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”

11 After the Babylonian army had withdrawn from Jerusalem because of Pharaoh’s army, 12 Jeremiah started to leave the city to go to the territory of Benjamin to get his share of the property among the people there. 13 But when he reached the Benjamin Gate, the captain of the guard, whose name was Irijah son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah, arrested him and said, “You are deserting to the Babylonians!”

14 “That’s not true!” Jeremiah said. “I am not deserting to the Babylonians.” But Irijah would not listen to him; instead, he arrested Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. 15 They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison.

16 Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time. 17 Then King Zedekiah sent for him and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the Lord?”

“Yes,” Jeremiah replied, “you will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.”

18 Then Jeremiah said to King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you or your attendants or this people, that you have put me in prison? 19 Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, ‘The king of Babylon will not attack you or this land’? 20 But now, my lord the king, please listen. Let me bring my petition before you: Do not send me back to the house of Jonathan the secretary, or I will die there.”

21 King Zedekiah then gave orders for Jeremiah to be placed in the courtyard of the guard and given a loaf of bread from the street of the bakers each day until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

Commentary

Listening to God and praying for others

Do you ever get discouraged by the fact that many people do not seem to be interested in listening to God’s words and obeying them?

God spoke to Jeremiah. Jeremiah said that God, ‘began speaking to [him] in the reign of Josiah’ (36:2). Jeremiah dictated to Baruch, ‘all the words the Lord had spoken to him’ (v.4).

Over and over again ‘the word came to Jeremiah from the Lord’ (for example, in today’s passage 35:1,12; 36:1,27; 37:6). Presumably, Jeremiah heard the word of the Lord as he was praying.

Jeremiah urged the people to listen to God. God had spoken ‘again and again’ (35:14). He said, ‘Listen!... I spoke to them and they did not listen’ (v.17).

In spite of the fact that the Lord was speaking through his prophet Jeremiah, King Jehoiakim refused to listen to his advisers’ warnings (36:25). Jeremiah had had the words of God painstakingly written on a scroll with quill and ink. But Jehoiakim, who was sitting in front of a charcoal fire warming himself, cut up the entire scroll and burned it piece by piece (v.23).

Jeremiah must have been devastated to hear what the king had done with all his hard work. God tells Jeremiah to ‘do it all over again’ (v.28, MSG). He was not put off by personal rejection. Like Jeremiah, we must be willing to keep going even if our message is rejected: ‘do it all over again.’

Disaster came, ‘Because they have not listened’ (v.31). When Zedekiah was made king, ‘Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet’ (37:2). They ill-treated Jeremiah and rejected his word. Yet, despite this refusal to listen, the authorities recognised the power of Jeremiah’s prayers. King Zedekiah sent a message to Jeremiah the prophet: ‘Please pray to the Lord our God for us’ (v.3).

Later he was arrested, beaten and imprisoned (vv.14–15). He ‘was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time’ (v.16). Yet when he was taken from his high-security cell in a dungeon to see the king and was asked, ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’ (v.17), he had the courage to speak out again. He was at the king’s mercy and yet he was completely fearless.

Prayer

Lord, help me in my prayers to listen attentively to your words and to have the courage to speak them regardless of the consequences.

Pippa adds

Jeremiah 37:15

‘They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison.’

Jeremiah didn’t have an easy job – he was called to warn the Jewish nation of the coming destruction. It was not popular.

It is not easy to go against the tide. Jeremiah is an example and an encouragement to us to keep going even when things are tough.

Verse of the Day

1 Timothy 2:1, MSG

‘The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Alexander Whyte (ed), Lancelot Andrewes and His Private Devotions (Apocryphile Press, 2008)

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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