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Sun, Dec 28, 1997

02 - Prayer

by Robert Dean
This Special on Prayer was taught by Robert Dean during his candidacy for pastor of Preston City Bible Church in Preston Connecticut.
Series:Prayer (1997)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 44 secs

 

Prayer … 2

 

Only children of the Father can converse with the heavenly Father, but not all human beings are believers, only those who are saved. John 1:12 says, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." Jesus confronted the Pharisees at one time and said, "You are of your father, the devil." The unbeliever is not one of God's children. Only one of God's children has the privilege to converse with the heavenly Father. So prayer is for believers only.

 

Exodus 19:8, the response of the people. "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD." Notice the enthusiasm. God is going to speak to them, this is wonderful, and they get excited and say anything God says we will do. They would listen to God, they were full of unbounded enthusiasm before they even heard a word. Then in Exodus 19:9 we read, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD." So God is going to speak to everyone, all two to three million of them. Exodus 19:10, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes." To sanctify or consecrate them means to set them apart. They have to be prepared. This is the same word that is translated to make holy, to set apart. It is to prepare them for the worship of God. So they have to go through certain things, like washing their garments. Washing is something we will see over and over again and is usually symbolic or a reference to types of confession of sin. So this is their symbol of confession. It is ceremonial, they are to wash their garments. Verses 11-12, "And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death." Setting bounds to the people indicates that they come past a certain point in the presence of God. There are boundaries where they are excluded from the presence of God. Whoever touches the mountain will be put to death. God doesn't fool around. He is making a vital point here that people cannot come into God's presence. They are excluded from His presence because of sin. Exodus 19:16, "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled." The true fear of the Lord was put into them. The trembled. They were confronted with the very presence of God, like Isaiah falling flat on his face and crying out because he was in the presence of a holy God, and the people were afraid. There was none of that unbounded emotionalism any more. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, Exodus 19:21, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish." Notice, they can't look on God. They are excluded from the presence of God.

 

In Exodus 20:18, 19 we see what their response was after hearing the very voice of God. "And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." Notice the transition. They don't ant to hear God anymore. They realized their own sinfulness, their own uncleanness, their on lack of ability to be in the presence of God, and they don't want to have anything to do with it. When confronted with the very presence of God it strikes fear into the heart of the sinner. Notice, too, that God is not portrayed here as their buddy. He is not coming down off the mountain to put His arm around each individual. Throughout this we see that God has excluded man from His presence.

 

In Exodus 25:18 we come to the description of the tabernacle which will be the same pattern for the temple later on. "18  And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat." The tabernacle is the temporary mobile worship centre for the nation. The outside border of the tabernacle surrounded by a curtain has only one entrance to the tabernacle which foreshadows that there is only one way to God's presence, and that is through Jesus Christ. The central aspect of the tabernacle is the holy place which was divided into two sections, the outer room and then the holy of holies. Inside the holy of holies is the ark of the covenant; inside the holy place there were three articles of furniture: the table of shewbread, which speaks of Jesus Christ as the bread of life; the candlestick which speaks of Jesus Christ as the Light of the world; an altar of incense which continually burned and symbolized the continual prayers of the saints rising up to God in heaven. The holy of holies is marked off by a huge veil and was entered only once a year by the high priest. Inside was the ark of the covenant, a box of acacia wood overlaid with gold which speaks of the hypostatic union, the union of the perfect deity of Jesus Christ with the humanity of Jesus Christ. Inside the ark of the covenant were three items: Aaron's rod that budded, the pot of manna, and a copy of the ten commandments, all of which represented different sins committed by the people. There was a heavy lid, and on that lid there were two cherubim whose wings touched in the middle, and they looked down, looking at the sin of the people inside the box. Once a year when the high priest entered in he laid a bowl of blood from the sacrificial lamb on the ark of the covenant, depicting the satisfaction of God for the sin problem. God is perfect righteousness and justice. What the righteousness of God rejects the justice of God condemns, so God's righteousness and justice must be satisfied and that is the word "propitiation." They must be satisfied before God can let man into heaven. This section of the ark of the covenant was called the mercy seat. So man is excluded from the presence of God because the only person allowed into the holy of holies, the very presence of God, was the high priest who entered into holy of holies once a year on the day of atonement.

 

But what has to happen before the high priest can enter into the presence of God. First of all, there is only one entrance into the presence of God and that is the entrance gate. The first thing he meets in the outer courtyard is the brazen altar, and there there is a sacrifice, a sacrifice of a lamb without spot and without blemish which portrays the perfect Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, at the beginning of His ministry John the Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world." When John said that the Jews around knew what he was talking about, that he was talking about the sacrificial lamb which had its throat cut on that altar. This altar was the site where every morning and every night there was a lamb sacrificed for the sins of the people, so that it was covered with the blood of sacrificial bulls and goats and lambs, day after day after day. It was a very strong message of the purification of sin and what had to happen to cover sin. It is a portrayal here of salvation.

 

The interesting thing is that in the Old Testament there were three different kinds of priests. There was the patriarchal priest who was the head of the family, there was the king-priest, like Melchizedek who was the king-priest of Salem, and there was the Levitical priesthood that was established under the Mosaic covenant. To examine the Old Testament from cover to cover it will be noticed that nowhere is there requirement that any of these priests be born again. There are all sorts of physical requirements. For example, the priests had to be descended from the tribe of Levi. They could not have certain physical defects or he was excluded from coming into the presence of God. But there is no mention that the priest had to be a believer. All the requirements pictured that, of course, but he did not have to be a believer. Everything he did was simply to follow certain procedures. This portrayed salvation. The next article of furniture was the laver, a large golden washing bowl where he would wash his hands and his feet. If he did not wash his hands and his feet then he would die when he went into the presence of God in the holy of holies. The laver represents confession and forgiveness of sins. All of this portrays the fact that in order to get to the holy of holies, the very presence of God, you had to be a descendant of the tribe of Levi (specifically of Aaron) to be a high priest. Not everybody could go into the presence of God, only the high priest, and he had to follow certain ritual cleansings before he could get into the presence of God. Those cleansings portrayed his salvation, confession and forgiveness of sin, and then he would enter into the very presence of God on the basis of a sacrifice of shed blood which, of course, foreshadows the spiritual death and separation of Jesus Christ from the Father on the cross.

 

2 Samuel 6:1, 2, "Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims." Here again we are reminded that this is the throne of God, a picture of the throne of God. And who can come into the presence of God? Only the high priest, it is a function of priesthood to come into the presence of God.

 

2 Samuel 6:3, "And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart." These are priests. There were rings set along the edge of the ark, and a pole was run through these rings in order to carry the ark. They were forbidden to touch the ark, the only one who could go into the presence of God in the tabernacle was the high priest, and the punishment was death.

 

2 Samuel 6:4-6, "And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it." There are two oxen leading the cart. On the cart is the ark of the covenant. They are going down a rough road and all of a sudden they hit a bump. The cart is jostled, the ark of the covenant shakes. Uzzah is afraid it is going to fall and reaches out to stabilize it, and he is dead. God doesn't fool around. God is not understanding of our human limitations. God immediately executed Uzzah on the spot for his irreverence, for his blasphemy. And David's response?

 

2 Samuel 6:8, "And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day." David gets angry; he is out of fellowship. The point here that should be made again is the exclusion of man from God. Over and over again it is the holiness of God, the righteousness of God that is emphasized and the unrighteousness of man that is emphasized; that man cannot come into the presence of God on his own.

 

After several months David again put forth the effort to move the ark. Once again they had incredible pomp and circumstance and had a parade to bring the ark into Jerusalem. As they did that, is says in the Scripture that they sacrificed a sacrifice every few paces. All along the road there was the sacrifices of bulls and goats until the road was one bloody mess, and it was on that blood that the ark was able to be taken into Jerusalem. So once again we have the emphasis on sacrifice as the basis of getting into God's presence and resolving man's problems. Psalm 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Proverbs 15:29, "The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous." So, we might ask, if man is totally and radically excluded from the presence of God, the throne of God, and can no longer have a conversation with God, on what basis, then, can man pray? Good works, obviously aren't enough. Rituals today aren't enough. Remember the issue after the fall is the perfect righteousness of God. Man's point of contact with God is not the love of God, which is the view of the liberal theologians, it must be the righteousness and the justice of God. This is because whatever the righteousness of God rejects the justice of God condemns, and the righteousness of God must be satisfied before the justice of God can approve. That is resolved through the grace solution that God provides, and that is portrayed very graphically in Zechariah chapter three. 

 

Zechariah 3:1ff, "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD [pre-incarnate Jesus Christ], and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him [courtroom scene]. And the LORD [acting as an advocate] said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this [Joshua] a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel."

The filthy garments Joshua was clothed in represent sin. Satan is accusing Joshua of being unworthy to come as a priest before God to present his petition. Satan is basically asking how a filthy man be approved to represent sinners. Remember, Satan's role is to be an accuser of the brethren. He is our accuser in heaven and this scene takes place again and again continually. The main point to be emphasized here is the struggle over the right of Joshua the priest, or any priest, to enter God's presence. Satan is correct act this point: that man has no righteousness of his own to give him credit in God's standings. Joshua cannot come to the throne on the basis of his own works, his filthy garments. Isaiah 64:6, "…all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Man has no basis on his own to come into God's presence, but God resolved the problem, verse 4: "And he [the Lord Jesus Christ] answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." This is a picture of what happens to every believer at the moment of salvation. The clean robes is a picture of imputation. We are given the clean robes of the perfect righteousness of Christ.

 

What we see from this regarding prayer is that there is basically toward man antagonism and hostility in the throne room of God from Satan. He does not want us to pray. But we have access to God because God's righteousness and justice has solved the problem though love and grace, and if we put our faith alone in Christ alone we will have the perfect righteousness of God and eternal salvation. One thing we learn from this is that prayer is part of spiritual warfare. We see that Satan is involved in heaven in trying to prevent our prayers from getting to the throne room of heaven.

 

All of these restrictions we have seen in the Old Testament regarding entrance into God's presence. Only the priest could come into God's presence. Now in the New Testament, in the church age, we are told that instead of having a specialized priesthood based upon physical requirements we have a universal priesthood. Every single believer is a priest. That means that there is not one group that has access to God but every single believer in the New Testament has access to God. Why? Because they have been given the perfect righteousness of Christ and on that basis and because we have Jesus Christ as our high priest we can enter into the very presence of God. So throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament we see this emphasis on the exclusion of man because of his inherent sinfulness but that God in His grace provided a solution. No unbeliever can be heard by God in prayer; prayer is for believers only.

 

Having said that, not every believer gets his prayers heard because when a believer sins he is out of fellowship. Remember Psalm 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart [mind], the Lord will not hear me."  The word for "heart" in that verse is the word leb which has to do with the inner parts of the mentality of the soul. The word for "regard" in the Hebrew is the word for seeing. So if we take the time to reflect for self-examination, which is the concept in 1 Corinthians 11 for confession and examining one's self, look on the inside and see that there is iniquity/sin in our mind, then the Lord will not hear us. So the key is to confess that iniquity, that sin that you see.

 

How does the believer come into the presence of God? Some are teaching that you don't really need to confess your sins because the blood of Christ continually cleanses from all sin, 1 John 1:7. But the picture we see throughout Scripture is that not only can the unbeliever not enter into the presence of God but many believers cannot enter into the presence of God. There is something else other than salvation required before we can enter into the presence of God, and this is portrayed in the Old Testament. Exodus 30:17,ff  "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: when they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: so they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations."

 

The "tent of meeting" refers to the holy place here which is where the high priest would meet God at the throne of God, enthroned above the cherubim at the ark of the covenant. The word for "wash" is the Hebrew rachab, and it means simply to wash, to bathe, to cleanse. It is translated in the Septuagint by the word NIPTO [niptw]. This word is used in John 13:5, 6, 8, 10, 12. "That they may not die," the penalty for entering God's presence without going through the right procedures; "offering made by fire unto the Lord" is symbolic of prayer. In other words, salvation is one thing but to enter the presence of God there has to be this secondary cleansing represented by washing the hands and the feet which is a picture of confession. Two things were necessary to enter the presence of God, a blood sacrifice (depicting the future saving work of Christ on the cross) and the ritual washing of the hands and the feet. Twice in this passage the priests were warned that they must wash before entering the tent of meeting. We cannot go into the presence of God with unconfessed sin or God will not hear us. The Old Testament imagery here is very important. It is talking about cleansing. Another word that is used for cleansing in the Greek of the Septuagint is the word KATHARIZO [kaqarizw] which means to cleanse or to purify.

 

John 13 records what happens the night before Jesus goes to the cross. They are at the last supper getting ready to celebrate the Passover dinner. They are going to have fellowship together around a meal. What is the first thing that happens before they have the meal? John 13:3ff, "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash [NIPTO] my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed [salvation] needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean [kaqaroj] every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean." So the imagery that we see here is that prior to the fellowship meal, prior to sitting down and having fellowship with the Lord, cleansing takes place. They are already saved, washed, bathed completely, picturing salvation; but now their hands and their feet need to be washed. This is a portrayal of confession, the necessity of confessing one's sins, admitting or acknowledging one's sins to God the Father before having fellowship with Him. Two  points are made here. 1) Only Jesus can do the cleansing. He completely rejects Peter's offer; 2) Overall cleansing is accomplished at the cross when God the Father imputed all the sins of human history to Jesus Christ. When we come to 1 John 1:7 we are told that the blood of Christ continually cleanses us. That is the basis. More specifically, 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."; 3) Temporal cleansing, the result of the sins we confess take place daily.

 

This idea of confession before a meal is picked up again in 1 Corinthians 11:28, where we are told that before we sit down and eat the Lord's supper, a meal, we must examine ourselves. Before we have the meal of fellowship with God what has to take place? Self-examination. The same elements are found in Revelation 3:20. This is not a salvation verse. How do we know this is not talking about unbelievers? Because in verse 19 it is addressed to "those whom I love." The Greek is PHILEO [filew], not AGAPAO [a)gapaw], and PHILEO is a more intimate type of love in the Greek, and the only object of God's PHILEO love in all of the New Testament are believers. "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline: be zealous therefore and repent." Repent does not mean to be sorry for sins, it means to change your mind. So Revelation 3:20 is talking about confession.

 

1 John 1:7-9 is our basic passage on confession. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse [kaqarizw] us from all unrighteousness."

 

Conclusion

1)  There is no access to the throne of grace unless a person is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2)  Carnal believers cannot get their prayers heard, except for a prayer of confession. Psalm 66:18.

3)  In the Old Testament Levitical priests had to wash their hands and feet before they entered the holy place—a picture of confession.

4)  Every believer in the church age is a royal priest, not a Levitical priest, 1 Peter 2:5.

5)  Every royal priest must follow the same procedure as the Levitical priests in terms of confession of sin before prayer is heard.

6)  Confession is to God the Father alone. It is nobody else's business.

7)  Once there is confession then there is complete cleansing from sins, known and unknown.

8)  Because our sins are forgiven we have confidence in drawing near to God. We are friends.