Apologetics

Three Levels of Prayer, the Shadow of Death, and Being an Ambassador for Christ

O.S. Hawkins, author of The Joshua Code, is the president and chief executive officer of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was on a recent episode of Hank Unplugged. The following is a snapshot of Hank and O. S.’s conversation on the three levels of prayer, the shadow of death, and being an ambassador for Christ.

Hank Hanegraaff: There is so much in The Joshua Code. You talk about three levels of prayer. This caught my eye when I read the book — the presenting of a petition, the pressing of a petition, and the persisting in a petition. Cash that out.

O.S. Hawkins: Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).* These are three levels of prayer. When you know the will of God, you ask, and you receive. You know that God is not willing that we perish (1 Timothy 2:4). We ask Christ to save us, and we come in faith to Him. He will answer that prayer. If we know the will of God, we ask and we receive.

The second level of prayer is “seek and you will find.” If you do not know the will of God, you keep seeking in His Word, and you will find it. He does not want to veil His will to you.

Thirdly, if you do know the will of God but the door is closed, the verb tense says to keep on knocking; do not stop, just be persistent, keep on knocking and it will be open unto you. Most of us never get past that first level of just presenting a petition, but we need to move on to pressing it, and persisting in it.

Hank: Talk to me like you would talk to someone you are pastoring. I have an incurable disease from the human standpoint — it is mantel cell lymphoma. You can go into remission for long periods of time, but it is an incurable disease. There are lots of breakthroughs with the disease and so forth, so maybe that will change in the future, but right now, it is an incurable disease. Every single day, I do that, I persist in the petition. I ask the Lord to heal me in accordance with His will. Not my will but Thy will be done. But, every single day, I ask the Lord to heal me. It is as though I can picture myself touching the hem of His garment, and feel the healing virtue of Christ flow into my body. It is not as though, Pastor, — and I will call you Pastor because that is what you are in many ways to me and so many others — it is not that I fear death, or I feel like I have to grasp at life but I feel that there is so much more that I could be doing, and that urgency is continually pressed upon me. I pray this every single day. Give me some guidance.

O.S.: OK, Hank. I would pray exactly the same thing, understanding that even Paul prayed that. He talks about that physical infirmity that he had. Whether it was epilepsy or eye problems, what it was we do not know, but he had a thorn in his flesh. I believe it was a physical infirmity. He asked the Lord three times to take it from him, he kept persisting, asking God to heal him, but God did not do it. God came out on the other end and said that His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:1–10). It always is.

The Bible uses a word, as you know, Hank, mysterion; it is a mystery. It is a sacred secret. Paul left Trophimus at Meletus sick, the Bible says (2 Timothy 4:20). Why did not Paul heal him? This is all wrapped up in the mystery of God.

As it relates to death, I have a devotional in The Believer’s Code: 365 Devotions to Unlock the Blessings of God’s Word (Thomas Nelson, 2017). The unique thing about The Believer’s Code, a 365-day devotional, is that every day has a code word that we live by. For example, in one of the devotions on Psalm 23, the code word is shadow. We all know what a shadow is. We have all seen them. Well, this Psalmist said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4). No believer ever walks through the valley of death. Christ did, three days and three nights, and He came out victorious on the other end of the grave. He resurrected, and He held up some keys, John the Revelator says, and Jesus said, “I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). The believer does not walk through the valley of death; rather, he only walks through the valley of the shadow of death.

A shadow might frighten you. You come home at night, put your key in the front door, the porch light casts a shadow, and you jump back. The shadow might frighten you, but it cannot hurt you. You can walk right through it. That is what the psalmist says we do with the shadow of death. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Death is just a shadow. We use that code word shadow to think about during the day, to be reminded that the believer has no fear of death, that death has lost its sting, as Paul says for the believer in 1 Corinthians 15:55–57 because death is only a shadow.

Hank: Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

O.S.: Amen!

Hank: Talk about being an ambassador for Jesus Christ. This is something that has really been pressing on my heart as well, because we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, though most of us are secret agents who have never blown our cover before the unregenerate world. We are called to be ambassadors. If we are not ambassadors, the culture is continually going to corrupt and corrode. I oftentimes think that people put the focus on the pagan world and say, “Look what the pagan world’s doing!” And I think there is a place for that, but oftentimes I think they fail to recognize that pagans are going to do what pagans do. The real problem is Christians are not doing what they are supposed to do, and as a result of that, the salt has lost its savor.

O.S.: Exactly. You know Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (v. 20). We hear a lot about ambassadors being appointed today to Israel. We just appointed another one to Germany. To begin with the ambassadors, you have to look at their citizenship. It is obvious that an ambassador for the United States to a foreign nation has to be a citizen of America. No alien can ever represent our nation. A true ambassador of Christ is one, as Paul says in Philippians, whose “citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

An ambassador has to be someone with character. Should an ambassador of the King of kings and Lord of lords be anyone else? A representative of Christ ought to have the highest moral standards, qualities, and values. A reputation that is spotless. Good conduct. Consistency. You know a good ambassador has to communicate. What good would it be to have an ambassador to another country that could not communicate and speak their language. The effective ambassadors for Christ need to have constant daily contact with headquarters — the Lord Jesus Christ. There is so much that is wrapped up in this, so many analogies and parallels to what Paul talked about being ambassadors for Christ.

To listen to the full interview, click here.

To order a copy of The Joshua Code, click here.

* New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) used throughout.

Apologetics

Quote of the day from

[The Lord’s Prayer] is a model prayer and, as such, commends itself to the most superficial glance — approves itself at once to the conscience of man. It is beautiful and symmetrical, like the most finished work of art. The words are plain and unadorned, yet majestic; and so transparent and appropriate that, once fixed in the memory, no other expressions ever mix themselves up with them; the thought of substituting other words never enters the mind. Grave and solemn are the petitions, yet the serenity and tranquil confidence, the peace and joy which they breathe, prove attractive to every heart.

The Prayer is short, that it may be quickly learned, easily remembered, and frequently used; but it contains all things pertaining to life and godliness. In its simplicity it seems adapted purposely for the weakness of the inexperienced and ignorant, and yet none can say that he is familiar with the heights and depths which it reveals, and with the treasures of wisdom it contains. It is calm, and suited to the even tenor of our daily life, and yet in times of trouble and conflict the church has felt its value and power more especially, has discovered anew that it anticipates every difficulty and danger, that it solves every problem, and comforts the disciples of Christ in every tribulation of the world.

It is the beloved and revered friend of our childhood, and it grows with our growth, a never-failing counselor and companion amid all the changing scenes of life. And as in our lifetime we must confess ourselves, with Luther, to be only learning the high and deep lessons of those petitions, so it will take eternity to give them their answer.

— Dr. Adolph Saphir

Apologetics

Who do we address in prayer Yahweh, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?

It’s important to recognize the model prayer—the prayer of Jesus, the prayer that Jesus taught his followers to pray—does start: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name” (Matt. 6:9). And I think that the recognition here is that, first and foremost, our desire, what we really care about, is that God’s Name be made holy. Our daily lives should radiate a Prayer3Sfar greater commitment to God’s nature and His holiness than to our own needs.

So to pray, “hallowed be Your Name,” is to pray that God be given the unique reverence that His holiness demands, that God’s Word be preached without corruption, that our churches be led by faithful pastors and preserved from false prophets, that we’d be kept from language that profanes the name of God, and that our thought lives remain holy, that we cease from seeking honor for ourselves but ask instead that God’s Name be magnified.

In saying this there’s nothing wrong with using the names of God as opposed to the titles for God. There’s nothing wrong with addressing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thanking Him for His sacrificial death on our behalf. There’s nothing wrong with thanking the Holy Spirit for empowering us as we pray, as we witness, as we provide for our families. So the standard is we pray to the Father, in the Name of the Son (or through the Son), by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus Himself invites us to pray to Him in John 14:14.

So there is no set formula. We pray to one God revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

What Are Some Secrets to Effective Prayer? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Prayer of Jabez or the Prayer of Jesus (Hank Hanegraaff

Prayer of Jesus: A Discussion Between Hank Hanegraaff and Lee Strobel

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

[Answer taken from: “How Should Christians Start Their Prayers? Can We Pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit?”]