“Who is this guy? He teaches with such authority and not at all like the scribes."
There must have been something special about the way that Jesus prayed that prompted the disciples to ask him to teach them to pray. Was it that he got results and they did not? We don’t know what the reason was, but Jesus did teach them and when he did, he commanded them to pray his way.
Is it a struggle getting answers to prayer? Is it time for results? Perhaps we need to adjust our approach to prayer? Let’s look closer at the way Jesus taught them to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer
Jesus leads into this prayer by telling the disciples to be brief and to the point, and then says, “Pray this way.”
Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB unless other wise noted)
Our English translations fail to convey the imperative tenses found in the words of this prayer. An imperative is a word spoken as an order or a command, such as, “You do this!” or “Do that now!”
I have underlined the imperatives in Jesus’ prayer, but it opens with an imperative in his words “Pray, then, in this way.” Jesus is saying that it is imperative that you pray in this way, and then follows with his sample prayer:
- COME! kingdom.
- Your will BE DONE! on earth as it is in heaven.
- GIVE! us this day our daily bread.
- ABANDON! our debts, as we also have pardon our debtors.
- Do not lead us into temptation, but DELIVER! us from evil.
To better see these as commands, we would need to re-write them such that they are more obvious. I will do that later. First we need to address another concern. I suspect most of us would be uncomfortable with the thought of commanding the Father Yahweh (pronounced Ya hav’ ah) to do these things. Even though Jesus is teaching us to pray this way, there may be another way of understanding this when we understand who we are, who we struggle with, and what the kingdom of heaven is all about.
Imagine that as a property owner in a municipal community you have difficulty with one of their services. You write a letter to the mayor about the problem, and send it to City Hall. Either the mayor, or his staff, would redirect it to the department that carries responsibility for that service. There might be a number of factors that would affect the response you get from the department. In some countries you may have to bribe someone in order to get a response because of poor ethics or a basic unrighteous attitude in that department. If you wrote your concern on a scrap of paper they probably won’t take you seriously. If your letter were more formally written, you would more likely get a response. Having a lawyer write the letter on your behalf would let them know you are serious too. Imagine if your formal letter were signed with your name and then title, son of the mayor. Would that get a reaction? Would that help in your struggle to get things done? Granted, you could just write to the mayor, each time you need something done, and he might suggest you approach the department first and only contact him if there is no response. The absence of a response does not mean someone is crooked or looking for a bribe. Perhaps that person is busy with what they deem to be more important things and doesn’t want to stop to accommodate your needs or listen to your problem. Or perhaps the person is accustomed to inactivity.
Knowing our position and authority has a big impact on how quickly those in the mayor’s kingdom respond to us. By knowing I don’t mean head knowledge, rather the knowing that affects the way we think, act, and speak,—the way we carry ourselves in every sphere of life.
Is it a struggle to get a response to our prayers? Who do we struggle with or against? Is it the Mayor, Yahweh the Father, or his staff, the administrators of his kingdom with whom we struggle?
Our Struggle in Prayer
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
Paul admonishes us to pray with all perseverance. Jesus made a similar statement, “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” and followed this with the parable of the woman who was persistent toward the unrighteous judge. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, writes that it is, “with this in view” or with this in mind that we pray. He is referring to these preceding verses.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12 NIV)
This tells us that when we pray, we need to keep in mind that our real struggle is with beings in the heavenly realms. This warrants repeating. It is these beings in the heavenly realms against whom we struggle.
Although they are the devil’s schemes, our struggle is not with him, nor with other people, but against rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Are these unrighteous heavenly beings the subject of our prayers or the object against which we pray?
Jesus’ parable, which we will look into more closely later, tells us that the widow’s persistent prayer moved the unrighteous judge to act on her behalf. Is this what Paul is telling us as well? Could the unrighteous judge represent unrighteous heavenly beings? I hope to prove that it does.
The word struggle in these verses (in other versions, wrestle), is rooted in the word sway as in two wrestlers facing each other, with forearms locked in each other’s grip, as they each attempt to throw the opponent off balance and out of the way. Those we need to sway, the authorities, powers, and evil spiritual forces—the source of our struggles, are not located on earth but in heavenly realms.
I have always assumed Paul was talking about demons ruled by Satan, but because of things Jesus said, it is unlikely that demons have direct access to the heavenly realms. Perhaps Paul’s reference to the struggle could be translated: We are not wrestling with people, but against heavenly rulers, and powerful beings in those realms. This wrestling that we do is not a physical thing, but spiritual—in prayer.
While under Persian rule, Daniel struggled and fasted—persisted—in prayer for “three full weeks.” Daniel’s persistence was driven by his conviction that, through the prophet Jeremiah, Yahweh had promised to end their exile in Babylon after seventy years. An answer to his prayers finally came by way of a heavenly being, a messenger sent from Yahweh.
I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. (Daniel 10:5-6)
This messenger told Daniel that he was sent the moment he first prayed, but was delayed on route for twenty-one days by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” Finally the “chief prince Michael,” was dispatched to help.
This meddlesome Persian prince could not have withstood this angel if it had been a demon, but it could have been one of the rulers, principalities, or heavenly beings that Paul mentions. Was Daniel’s tenacity an example to us of the persistence we require in prayer? I believe it is, at least until we get the reputation of one who knows and asserts the authority we now have in Christ, as sons of Yahweh.
If our prayers, and especially the answers to these prayers, can be affected by events in the heavenly realms, it behooves us to know more about that realm.
The angels have been charged with the responsibility of caring for us and protecting us from harm.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11-12)
Angels, as ministering spirits, are Yahweh’s administrators commissioned to serve those who have received salvation.
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14 NIV)
In account after account throughout scriptures, we find the divine beings, be they angels or cherubim, administrating the will of Yahweh in the lives of man.
- The first account is the cherub with the flaming sword preventing man from doing further damage to their situation by guarding the way to the tree of life. I say guarding because if Adam and Eve in their fallen state were to eat of that tree they would place themselves beyond the reach of salvation
- Three “men” came to speak to Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah, and two men, later identified as angels, were sent to remove Lot and his family.
- Angels were seen coming to earth and returning to heaven in Jacob’s dream; Jacob later wrestled with an angel.
- The captain of the Hosts of the Lord, with sword drawn, confronted Joshua as the Israelites entered the Promised Land.
- It was an angel who confronted and warned Balaam and his donkey about not cursing Israel.
- Angels spoke with Samson’s parents, Gideon, and others delivering messages from the Lord.
- Daniel was regularly visited by angels who gave him instructions from the Lord.
- An angel shut the mouths of the lions to protect Daniel in the den.
- Angels spoke with Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and others, the angels answered questions when asked.
- Angels ministered to Jesus at the end of his desert experience and later were a significant presence in the resurrection account.
- In Acts, Peter and the others were released from prison by angels.
- John was often accompanied by an angel during the visions we know as the Book of Revelation. Here, too, the angels responded to John’s questions.
Angels acted in response to their prayers and often those visited asked things of (prayed) the angels. We’ll see later that the word pray is simply an old English word that we have made religious and how Yahweh used angels to carry out his will in the affairs of humankind, as his administrators.
Although the above examples are all positive in their outcome, we know from Daniel’s example that the angel delivering Yahweh’s message was delayed by other beings in the heavenly realm, that there are also negative examples of heavenly beings interacting with man. Paul’s mention of the struggle in that realm also indicates that not every being in the heavens are cooperative or that they favour Yahweh’s interaction with humankind. Perhaps we need to update our understanding or perception of things in the heavens /heavenly realm).
The Heavenly Realm
We seem to have a view of heaven that is all rosy, and perhaps it stems from confusion between how things are now and how things will be. As with conditions on earth, we know that now we struggle against evil, but in the end, when the new earth is formed, it will be paradise here again. Are we promised a new heaven because presently it also falls short having been affected by sin?
We know little of things in the heavens, and our only authority is the Bible. Paul tells of his experience in the “third heaven”
and uses the word paradise to describe it. Was it the present heaven or the new heaven that he visited? Only we on earth are subject to times and seasons. In Yahweh’s realm, everything is now. He sees the beginning and the end as one and the same event in time. In the early part of Revelation, John witnessed things in the present heaven and in chapters 21 and 22 he had a glimpse of the new heaven with its splendour.
Paul called it the third heaven. Logic would suggest that there must also be a first and a second heaven. Many have concluded that the first heaven represents our plane of existence and that the second heaven represents the demonic realm. This I call the vertical theory, one of elevation, dimensionally. Perhaps there is a horizontal theory, one of time, where the first heaven was heaven at creation; the second heaven being what it became when sin entered Satan’s heart, and he, along with a third of the angels, tarnished its splendour; and the third heaven is or will be recreated as the new heaven of Revelation 21. These are both a matter of deduction rather than theology and should be held loosely or figuratively. Our struggle is not only against demons, but also against heavenly beings of unrighteous intent.
The Bible does describe for us events in heaven which are an affront to what I have traditionally understood. The scriptures that follow offer a glimpse of the proceedings in heaven that, while difficult, may be an important influence or asset to our struggles in prayer.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6)
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1)
These two verses, in their context, reveal a dialogue between Yahweh and Satan, one who was among the sons of Elohim, during what seemed like a routine assembly. The subject of their discussion was the life and prosperity of Job. In reading the verses that follow, you will notice that Yahweh does not directly afflict Job, but Satan does—with the permission, and within the limitations set by Yahweh.
Here we are confronted by the fact that Satan, an unrighteous heavenly being, had direct access to Yahweh, and he was counted among those who routinely presented themselves or give an account of their activities before Yahweh. It would be my hope that, aside from Satan, there are no other unrighteous heavenly beings in that assembly, but other scriptures erode that hope.
We read another account of heavenly proceedings in 1 Kings 22:19-23:
Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' The LORD said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.' Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.”
This passage, too, is theologically difficult. Yahweh, on his throne, was residing over all the hosts of heaven, a divine assembly, and conferred with a spirit who would deceive the prophets of Ahab, a very wicked King. As in the Job account, Yahweh sent a spirit to act in the affairs of, and for the good of humankind, in this case to entice the prophets to deceive Ahab into going to war, so that Ahab would be killed. The word for entice used here literally means to be simple or perhaps make gullible.
If the concept of Yahweh using a spirit of unrighteous intent to influence the affairs of humankind is difficult, then this next passage will be even more so. This version of Psalm 82 taken from the English Standard Version:
A Psalm of Asaph.
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
"How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince."
Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! Psalm 82 ESV
In every case where we read the words God and gods in this Psalm, it is the Hebrew word elohim (plural) which is translated God, god, or gods ninety-nine percent of the time. Throughout this work, I am endeavouring to use the names of God rather than the more generic terms given to us by the King James Version. Where most versions have used the term God, it is usually the name Elohim, and where LORD was used, Yahweh, for Lord, Adoni.
Yahweh, again in a divine council, is admonishing the elohim (some versions use divine beings) for their failure to judge righteously, to rule in favour of those who need help, and for favouring the wicked. I want to say, ‘Go Yahweh! Let them have it!’ but there is that same sobering aspect in this account. These divine beings who judge perversely are part of Yahweh’s divine council and may be acting unjustly in your and my affairs. These divine beings are administrators acting or ruling in the affairs of humankind under the authority and supervision of Yahweh.
That this is a divine council negates the possibility that this is a human court with human judges, as some have suggested. They are called "sons of the Most High," an expression reserved for those directly created by Yahweh--Adam, angels, Yeshua, and those born of the Spirit.. If this were about human judges, there would be no point in announcing that they would die like men. This account shows us that Yahweh has chosen to place divine beings in charge of responding to the needs of humankind. As in the previous passages, Yahweh, here, does not directly interact in the affairs of humankind; that responsibility falls on the members of this assembly in heaven, an organization under the authority of, and answerable to, the Most High God, our Father.
Paul writes of an influence similar to that of 2 Kings 22 where in the last days God will send “a deluding influence” on those who reject the truth. Here the Greek word for influence is one used “always used of transcendent beings.”
For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
Do we find anything else in the New Testament that supports what we read of the heavenly realm from these Old Testament references?
The Kingdom of Heaven
Throughout the books of Revelation, Ezekiel, and others, we read of many different heavenly beings and of an organization among them. Some of these heavenly beings remain in Yahweh’s presence, some come and go, while others worship, sit, or stand. There are twenty-four elders, four living creatures, seven spirits of Yahweh, angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, seven angels that stand before Yahweh, strong angels, personal angels, and so on,—all heavenly beings. Since Yahweh is not prone to disorder, all of these beings are likely very organized in function, purpose, and accountability.
The accounts recorded in the Old Testament show us that not all these heavenly beings are of righteous intent. This Old Testament perspective of the affairs in heaven may shed light on Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
Here Jesus specifies that these are birds of the air. This is ironically similar to Paul’s description of those against whom we wrestle, namely, “the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Matthew 13 contains many parables telling us what the kingdom of heaven is like. The chapter opens with two parables that Jesus explains or interprets for the disciples. I believe that in the interpretation of those two parables lay the keys to interpreting the remaining parables. In other words, the meanings of the symbols from those first two parables need to be used to understand the parables that follow. The man then, who sold all he had to buy the pearl of great worth, represents the Son of Man purchasing us.
Following that premise, Jesus identifies birds as representing the evil one. So, too, in Revelations 18:2:
And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
It follows then that the evil one or ones have nested themselves in the kingdom of heaven. Where is the kingdom of heaven? Does it represent the church on earth or is this indeed a picture of things in heaven? Let’s look at the next parable before we determine this.
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)
Here we have a woman, the opposite of the symbol of the man, the opposite of the Son of Man. She hides leaven (a devious action) in the flour. Historically, leaven represented evil. Is it only here that Jesus uses the symbol of leaven to represent something positive? Is our traditional interpretation wrong?
The figurative uses of leaven in the New Testament, no less than with the rabbins, reflect the ancient view of it as “corrupt and corrupting,” in parts at least, e.g. Mt 16:6 parallel, and especially the proverbial saying twice quoted by Paul, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor 5:6 f; Gal 5:9).
As Jesus identifies birds in the earlier parable of the sower and the soil so here, too, leaven represents corruption which affects the kingdom of heaven. In these parables, Jesus tells us that evil is nesting or hidden throughout the kingdom of heaven.
The parable that precedes the mustard seed and leaven is that of the wheat and tares in the field, which represents the cosmos. Here, too, within the kingdom of heaven are good and evil growing up together until the end. At that time these will be separated and finally dealt with.
Do these parables represent a scenario of a coming kingdom, one that is to be established on earth, or does it represent a picture of one that presently exists in the heavenly realms, but is soon to extend to or allow access to some who are on earth? The kingdom of heaven did not come into existence with Jesus’ arrival on earth. When Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he did not mean that it was soon to become a reality; he meant that it is nearby, within reach, and already in existence.
I don’t mean to be flippant, but if this was meant to apply only to an earthly kingdom, namely the church, I would not have needed divine revelation via a parable to make me aware that within the organization we call church, there exists some who are unrighteousness. I believe Jesus is revealing to us the reality of proceedings in the heavens, and if this is true, why is it important for us to know these things? It is important that we know who we interact or struggle with in the heavens, since those who know the inner workings of any organization are able to get things done and avoid the snares.
Jesus, and John the baptizer, came declaring that this kingdom of heaven was now near, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the barrier that prevented us from entering was symbolically torn open, making for us a way to enter.
The reality of Jesus’ parables is that, within that kingdom, not all is righteous; there are the birds of the air, leaven, and tares to contend with, or struggle against, in prayer.
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)
Is it difficult to conceive of or accept a divine assembly, comprised of Yahweh and heavenly beings, some of which function in an unrighteous manner? Only Yahweh is completely holy. The Bible does mention “the holy angels,” in reference to those accompanying his return, and also as witnesses of Satan’s final judgment. Until that day, he sits as head of an assembly comprised of those holy and those not holy, those of righteous and those of unrighteous intent. Jesus answered the rich young ruler, “No one is good except God alone.” If that is true, then everything else is less than good to some degree, even in heaven. Sin did have its origin in heaven through the cherub or archangel whom we know as Satan, the devil. A third of the angels chose to follow Satan rather than Yahweh.
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:22a).
This verse has been used to support the trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—since it refers to ‘Us’. Although I do not want to infer that this is not about the trinity (I do believe in the Trinity), Yahweh may have been addressing the host of heaven or the sons of Yahweh, as we read in Job. He may be acknowledging that there is good and evil within the kingdom of heaven, remembering that sin had its origin in heaven.
The heavenly beings, too, have a free will in making choices. This we see in the choice that Satan made as well as one third of the angels who followed him. It would seem, from verses such as those in Job that Yahweh did not eradicate sin from heaven at that time and it, too, awaits the Judgment Day. This may be the reason for a new heaven as well as a new earth.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away… (Revelation 21:1)
This may represent the final and total cleansing of sin and those beings responsible for the origin and spread of sin and every evil. How do these beings, heavenly or divine, compare to demons, evil, or unclean spirits as they are called in the Bible?
Being Discerning of Spirits
In Exodus 20:11 we read that, “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them.” It would follow that during this time Yahweh also created the heavenly beings. It is likely, too, that they were set into an order or organization at that time. We see in Genesis that Yahweh established order and organization as he created. Each species would reproduce after its own kind and set boundaries for the seasons. Finally he placed man as head over all that was created:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
It would be reasonable to expect that he established a similar order to things in the heavenly realms. Satan’s original name or title was Helel, which is also translated shining one, morning star, or as the KJV has interpreted it, Lucifer. He was one of three cherubs or archangels who, with Gabriel and Michael, had very high standing in Yahweh’s order of things in the heavens. We know him best as Satan or the devil.
How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning [helel], son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' (Isaiah 14:12-14 emphasis is mine)
Being one of the three cherubs may account for the rebellion of a third of the angels who chose to follow Satan rather than Yahweh. The divine or celestial beings, too, were created with a free will—the freedom to choose whom they will serve.
Generally, these heavenly beings are treated with respect in scriptures. Not so of demons. Jesus showed little regard for the welfare of demons and taught the same to the disciples. He did, however, speak respectfully to the devil during his time of temptation. I do not believe that demons are capable of holding the power or authority that is attributed to rulers, powers, and principalities, since they seem to be consumed by sensual needs. It should be noted that in the KJV the word devils is an incorrect translation of the Greek word for demons. There is only one devil, and our approach to the devil needs to be different than our approach to demons. When using the KJV Bible, use another resource to help you differentiate between these two.
The Bible does not identify the origin of demons. It seems unlikely that they represent the fallen angels, who number a third of those that Yahweh created. That demons are not likely fallen angels comes out of the words of Jude who wrote:
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day (Jude 1:6).
Yahweh has kept those who left their proper abode in eternal bonds under darkness until the judgment day. On that basis, it would follow that those fallen angels who had inappropriately ‘mingled’ with humankind are not free to roam today. That is not true of Satan and this may be because he is a cherub and not just an angel. It may also be true that not all of those angels who followed Satan left their proper abode and are therefore still free to roam in and out of heaven as sons of Yahweh.
It is thought that the phrase, “who did not keep their own domain” may refer to angels not keeping to themselves or to their kind. In Genesis 6:2 we read about the sons of God mingling sexually with the daughters of man and had offspring by them called Nephilim, sometimes translated giants, but can also mean monsters or deformed babies. The sons of Anak, including Goliath, were Nephilim—mutations. The extra-biblical writings such as The Book of Enoch and Jubilee give accounts of this.
Demons are also called unclean spirits, and the word translated unclean can also mean impure as in an impure spirit, adding credence to the possibility of this tainted spirit mix. Noah, along with his family, was selected to be saved from the flood because Noah was righteous and blameless. The two terms seem almost synonymous, but a closer look at blameless finds that it can also mean complete, wholesome, without blemish, sound, unimpaired, etc. Was this a reference to his DNA in comparison to all the others? Were those others impure in their DNA, blemished, or impaired?
My position is that demons represent the disembodied spirits of an impure race resulting from the lustful interest of fallen angels for human women. It may be that this appeal for the bodies of the daughters of man still motivates or drives demons to inhabit human bodies. Without a connection to the physical senses of a human being or even an animal, Jesus tells us that they exist in a dry place, a place that leaves them restless.
Of Demons, and Heavenly Beings
But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)
There is a concern stemming from this verse as to the way we are to deal with heavenly beings. If Michael was hesitant to rail against the devil, should we not also be very careful? Being careful and respectful is always a proper approach, however, here it is not the demonic that Michael is cautious toward, but rather a heavenly being and a fellow cherub, the devil or Satan. In disputing over Moses’ body, however, it seems that Michael stood his ground, not giving in to the devil, and rather than stand there and argue the issue, Michael simply said, “If you have a problem with this, take it up with the Lord.” It was not in Michael’s position to make a railing judgment against the devil, but he did stand his ground. Again, this was a heavenly being, not a demon.
Our approach to interacting with demons is quite clear in scripture—we are to cast them out. I would strongly suggest that we spend no time communicating with them in the process.
I do not believe that demons are capable of holding the power or authority that Paul speaks about in Ephesians, being that their focus or desire is to inhabit a physical body. It is likely that they are connected with Satan’s organization as minions. When the seventy disciples came back from doing deliverance and healing in groups of two, Jesus had some important advice for them:
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)
Jesus affirmed that they had been given authority over all the power of the enemy that nothing would injure them, but most importantly, the real reason for their joy should always be that their names were recorded in heaven. Another point of note is that what they did against the demons had a direct effect on at least one heavenly being, in this case Satan, who was in heaven and has influence in the divine assembly. Satan is not omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time), he is not all knowing, nor is he all powerful. Only The Most High God, our Father, is all of those things. Satan therefore relies on an organization under him to carry out his plans. What the disciples did during that outing caused a major disruption in that organization and caused Satan to leave heaven for earth in haste. We can almost hear Jesus chuckle as he saw this happen.
Another term used is evil spirits, which is used only four times. The context suggests this term is synonymous with demons.
How should we interact with heavenly beings? I believe that we should be courageous, persistent, and respectful—but not fearful. Peter tells us that the devil roams about like a roaring lion
and many believe that that tactic, as with real lions, is designed to instil fear, to intimidate, and to gain advantage. We have not been given a Spirit of timidity, but rather one of power, love, and self-control—we should not scare easily. If when intimidated we retreat, we are no longer standing firm but have surrendered ground to them and given them an advantage over us. Knowing our authority in Christ is very important in standing firm.
Paul tells us that one day we will judge angels. Could that mean we are going to evaluate their performance or effectiveness in respect to the charge or mandate they were given, or perhaps that they will have to stand before us to explain their actions or inactions? Why would we judge them if they had no direct affect, positive or negative, upon us before that time? We have authority over them, and on that basis we will judge them.
I have been confronted by evil beings during deliverance/inner healing sessions and there have been times when I was told that I could not make them leave. With no disrespect toward them I simply said, “Jesus, this one doesn’t believe I have the authority to command it to leave. What do you say?” The only response came from the client who immediately said, “He’s gone!”
The principle of being in community is important. The principle of joining with one or two others, who are in agreement, should be a prerequisite to contending with cosmic beings—all in an attitude of humility and respect.
Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19)
That said, I also believe that in any community of believers, some have been given greater authority
than others have in the same way as the gifts differ in type and efficacy among Christians. Everyone is expected to stand firm against these rulers and principalities, not alone if you have a choice, but also not everyone is authorized to contend with them in every situation since they are not merely demons, but heavenly beings.
Jesus taught, through two parables, how persistence was effective in having our needs met. I believe that Jesus, in these parables, is referring to heavenly beings, those of the divine assembly and not Yahweh the Father in these parables. I have always been bothered by the standard interpretation of these parables. The first being about the man who pressed or pestered his friend for bread to feed guests:
Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” (Luke 11:5-8)
Belief that this parable teaches the need to be persistent in our prayers has always been a strain on my familiarity with the personality of Yahweh as revealed through Jesus. Does the reluctant friend represent Yahweh, or is there another explanation? To this parable, Jesus adds these words:
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. (v. 9, 10)
The Greek words represented here mean “ask and keep asking”, “seek and keep seeking”, “knock and keep knocking” which also teaches us that persistence is necessary for answers. Again, is this telling that we need to pester Yahweh in prayer in order to get results? I think not. Do we have “friends” in heaven that require us to be persistent? That may be the truth that Jesus is presenting to us.
In the account of Psalm 82, Elohim admonishes the elohim or heavenly beings to judge fairly on behalf of those who are weak and fatherless, because the elohim, or heavenly beings, were not doing so. This account of the unfair heavenly judges may help us understand and explain another difficult parable, that case known as “Widow vs. Unrighteous Judge.”
In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.' And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.” (Luke 18:2-8)
Jesus teaches that persistence, or pestering, is necessary and successful in motivating the unrighteous judge. But here, too, Jesus adds that Yahweh will bring about justice quickly as compared to the judge. The unrighteous judge then does not represent Yahweh. We do not need to be that persistent in prayer in order to motivate Yahweh. The unrighteous judge in this parable, and the reluctant friend in the earlier parable, seem more like the heavenly beings that are admonished by Elohim to act righteously in Psalm 82. Persistence may be necessary to motivate those members of the divine assembly, the heavenly beings who have been charged to render service to the Christians.
Do our prayers go only to Yahweh, or have these ministering spirits been given the mandate to hear and respond to them? Perhaps our traditional view of prayer is too limited.
I believe that our persistent demands in prayer, based on the promises of Yahweh, as recorded in the Bible, are the responsibility of heavenly beings to act on and fulfill. If they do not respond, an appeal to Yahweh, our Father, may be necessary. The prospect of directing our prayers to the administrators of the kingdom of heaven, or, in other words praying to these divine beings, is a difficult concept to agree to, especially with our traditional view of prayer.
What is Prayer
The word prayer has become a spooky religious term reserved for communication with Yahweh. This word comes to us from King James English. In other words, it was simply a common modern English word used to replace Greek and Hebrew words.
When I say it was their common modern English, I mean they used it in a more ordinary way then we use it today. These quotes from William Shakespeare (1564–1616) show my point:
- “Pray you now, forget and forgive.”
- “I pray thee cease thy counsel, which falls into mine ears as profitless as water in a sieve.”
- “I pray you bear me henceforth from the noise and rumour of the field, where I may think the remnant of my thoughts in peace, and part of this body and my soul with contemplation and devout desires.”
- “I wish you well and so I take my leave, I pray you know me when we meet again.”
The word prayer was a common word used around Shakespeare’s time to mean ask, plead, entreat, beseech, etc. Modern translators forgot to update that word. Now, in our time, it has come to be a religious term reserved for communication with Yahweh.
pray (v.) late 13c., "ask earnestly, beg," also "pray to a god or saint," from Old French preier (c.900), from Latin precari "ask earnestly, beg," from *prex(plural preces, genitive precis) "prayer, request, entreaty," from PIE root *prek- "to ask, request, entreat" (cf. Sanskrit prasna-, Avestanfrashna- "question;" Old Church Slavonic prositi, Lithuanian prasyti "to ask, beg;" Old High German frahen, German fragen, Old Englishfricgan "to ask" a question). Related: Prayed; praying. Parenthetical expression I pray you, "please, if you will," attested from 1510s, contracted to pray 16c. http://www.etymonline.com
In scripture the Greek root word for 'pray' is translated 'wish' or 'wished,' three out of the six times it is used. Many Hebrew and Greek words translated pray as prayer, beg, beseech, implore, and please.
(1) Techinnah, from chandra "to be gracious"; hithpael, "to entreat grace"; Greek deesis. (2) Tephillah, from hithpael of paalal, "to seek judgment"; Greek proseuchee. "Prayer," proseuchee, for obtaining blessings, implying devotion; "supplication," deesis, for averting evil.
If we were not so traditionally tied to the 17th century English, we might have used words like beg, beseech, implore or perhaps simply words like ask, petition, or request, to describe our formal communication with Yahweh. These represent our common or modern words. When I say, “I’ll pray my wife let’s me help with the dishes,” it simply means, “I’ll ask her if I can help her with the dishes.” No spookiness in that.
Coming back to The Lord’s Prayer, the opening involves a salutation. The later part is mainly imperatives. Where we know what Yahweh has decreed or promised this or that for us, we do not need to beg; we demand or command that it become a reality. Since we already know it is Yahweh’s desire that we have this or that, what prevents us from receiving it? Either of our own doing or someone other than Yahweh prevents us from receiving the answers to prayer. Having done all to remove ourselves from that equation, we are left with the possibility that there are others preventing us from receiving from Yahweh—much like Daniel’s answer to prayer being upheld for twenty-one days by unrighteous spiritual forces.
It is these forces that we, with our imperatives, are commanding to cooperate, and it is these forces that require our persistence.
Revisiting the Imperatives
“Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.' (Matthew 6:9-13)
In Luke we find the same prayer in a briefer version but containing the same imperatives:
And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4)
As pointed out at the opening, Jesus commands the disciples to pray in this way. Also mentioned there, the imperative tenses, the commands, found in the words of this prayer are not evident in our English translations. Since most of us are uncomfortable commanding the Father, might there be another way of understanding this prayer? Based on the preceding discussion, I believe there is. Note the imperatives in each section and consider my paraphrase that follows.
- “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
- Now, listen up kingdom and fulfill Yahweh’s promises here and now as though this were heaven!
This may be a transition in the prayer from salutations, addressed to the Father, to commands directed to the administrators of the kingdom. The word kingdom is “a term relating to royal administration”
—to heavenly beings, not to a place. Here we are calling Yahweh’s administrators to become attentive. Yahweh does, as noted earlier, use heavenly beings to do his work and influence on earth. They have been given charge concerning us or to serve us.
The word translated “come” is a form used only three times in the NT, two of these in the Matthew and Luke versions of this prayer, and the third in Matthew 10:13:
“If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.” (NIV, italics are mine) or “let your peace come upon it” (KJV, italics are mine)
Strong’s Concordance gives the following as the meanings of the Greek word for "come":
evlqe,tw – to come 1a) of persons 1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of persons arriving 1a2) to appear, make one's appearance, come before the public 2) metaph. 2a) to come into being, arise, come forth, show itself, find place or influence 2b) be established, become known, to come (fall) into or unto 3) to go, to follow one
Putting all this together, we could, in uttering the imperative, “Your kingdom come,” be calling the beings known as Yahweh’s royal administrators to be attentive to the imperatives that follow. This places a totally different slant on not only this prayer, but every reference to what the “kingdom of heaven” might be like. Was this more about calling the kingdom administrators to attention than calling a place? It would be helpful to know that among them is leaven or birds when we pray and call on them with our needs.
The next sentence, as well as the rest of our demands (not petitions), are directed to the kingdom’s administrators. It sets up our expectations of a quick and just response, namely that they carry out Yahweh’s will here and now.
- Give us this day our daily bread.
- I command that my daily needs be met!
This is about more than food. The term bread represents, metaphorically, our daily needs. Jesus, in the verses following the prayer, tells of God’s care for the needs of sparrows and of the lilies in the field, equating our worth as much greater. Will Yahweh not more willingly meet our needs?
- “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
- Abandon my debts as I pardon those indebted to me!
When we received Yahweh’s gift of salvation, all our sins, past, present, and future were forgiven. It is senseless to continue to ask Yahweh to forgive our sins, since they are already blotted out once for all. The experience of most is that we do still sin, in spite of our desire not to do so. While these sins, debts, or trespasses have no affect on our salvation, they may be used against us by those of unrighteous intent, affecting the quality of life we have while still on earth. This line in the prayer not only reminds us to walk in forgiveness toward others, but it also tells those kingdom administrators to keep our record clean as we actively forgive those who wrong us.
- “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
- Don’t test me! Instead, rescue me from evil!
Regarding this last point, the apostle James tells us that “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” That fact causes difficulty when this line of the prayer is perceived as being directed to Yahweh, but not when directed to his administrators. This position agrees with the account from Micaiah’s vision wherein the temptation or testing is the unsolicited work of some heavenly beings, perhaps or occasionally even for good reasons. Our prayers then can stop the activities of these heavenly beings.
Imperatives or commands are usually brief and to the point which is how Jesus directed them to pray in the verses preceding this prayer:
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
Jesus commanded us to pray with imperatives when he says, “Pray in this way.” All of these imperatives help us to understand why, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the people marvelled at the way Jesus taught—with authority. They, too, were taken back by his imperative approach:
When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
When first confronted by these imperatives I, too, was uncomfortable. However, if this prayer and all our prayers are actually directed to the administrators of the kingdom of heaven, the heavenly beings, some of which may be of unrighteous intent, then this concept of commanding becomes, not only more acceptable, but imperative, if I may use that word. It also makes sense of many other “difficulties” in scripture.
Yahweh charged the angels with the responsibility to minister and serve those who have inherited salvation.
How do the angels receive their directives to serve us? Could it be by prayer, when we acknowledge Yahweh as our Father, and follow with imperatives detailing our needs, supported by the promises of Yahweh in scripture, directed at the administrators in the kingdom of Heaven, and supported by our confidence that our prayer has been heard?
If this perspective of the affairs in heaven is too much of a stretch, then we need get over the fact that we are commanding Yahweh the Father to act—since Jesus commands us to pray this way. In either case, this takes us to a new level of understanding regarding prayer.
This too, is not about praying to angels which I believe we are not to do. This is about commanding the heavenly administrators to do for us that which the Father has promised us in scripture.
This level of influence over heavenly beings may cause a level of discomfort. If the archangel, Michael, was careful how he spoke to the devil, should we not also be careful commanding heavenly beings?
While our approach should never be flippant or disrespectful to any created being, heavenly or human, we are in Christ Jesus, seated in heavenly places, and at the right hand of Yahweh the Father.
Yahweh has put all things in subjection under Jesus’ feet and all authority has been given to Jesus. He has given us his name to use as we are to go about doing his work. We are from Yahweh. Greater is he who is in us than he who is the world, the cosmos. We can and need to be confident in these truths, knowing that at any time we can approach the throne of the Most High Yahweh, our Father.
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:5)
The Hebrew word elohim is used here when referring to man rather than God, whereas the Septuagint (quoted by the writer of Hebrews) uses the word angels rather than God in this verse. If the translators of the Septuagint had understood the mystery of salvation as it was unveiled in Jesus, would they have used the word God rather than angels? The angels are Yahweh’s agents sent to render service to Yahweh’s adopted children. I believe God or Elohim is the better translation.
According to the Lord’s Prayer, it is not in asking that we receive, but in having the confidence to issue an imperative, and particularly so when we know we are asking in accordance with Yahweh’s will or the promises in scripture.
This is the confidence we have before Him, that, if we ask [imperative] anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask [imperative], we know that we have the requests [or demands] which we have asked from Him. (1 John 5:14-15 brackets and contents are mine)
The word requests in this verse, carries a stronger meaning, that of petitions or demands. When we know his will on earth, we can demand that those responsible for carrying out his will do so as they would in Heaven! It may initially require persistence on our part, but it must be done because it is Yahweh’s will.
Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask [imperative], believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. (Mark 11:24 brackets and contents are mine)
Going back to my earlier analogy, there may be times when we, as citizens, have an issue with authorities such as officials at City Hall. The people who fill those civic positions actually work for the citizens and are often referred to as civil or public servants. It may require persistence on our part to motivate them to act on our behalf as many have forgotten who the servant is and who the public are. There may even be times when we need to take them to court in order to be heard and to receive what is rightfully ours. Their slowness or unwillingness to respond to our petitions does not of necessity make them evil or wicked—even though we might feel that way about them. They may simply feel that their agenda or routines are more important. I suspect that when they get to know us and our persistence, their reluctance or slowness in future interactions would diminish. Or, alternatively, if we approach them knowing who we are and asserting the authority we have as sons of the Most High Yahweh that should motivate them.
So, too, there may be times, when during our initial interactions with these heavenly beings, that they test our resolve and our confidence in our authority. This adds insight to Jesus’ words, “Don’t test us, but deliver us from the evil one.”
There may be occasion when, because of the unrighteous actions, judgments, or influences of these heavenly beings, we need to present our case before the divine assembly, or Heavenly court, asking the Father to intervene on our behalf. Eventually they, too, will know the authority we exercise, and rather than having us believe that we serve them, they will act more quickly on our behalf. If it took forty years to remove the slave mentality from the Israelites, how long will it take us to change our thinking? Are we confident in our position in Christ or are we “of little faith”?
Jesus did say that we are wise if we do the things he tells us to do and foolish if we do not.
When praying, use imperatives the way Jesus instructed the disciples. Include a healthy measure of persistence, placing your confidence in the truth that Jesus is Lord, that all things have been placed under his feet, that we are seated in Christ Jesus at the right hand of the Father, and that he is our advocate before the Father. Now watch things turn around in your life and community.
©2010, steven, a man.
All publishing rights reserved. Permission is granted to reprint this article for personal use; however, no commercial re-publishing of the material in this article is permitted without prior written consent.
Steven is the author of Fathered by God and with his wife Dianne, co-author of Dream Dreams and Dreams the Heal and Counsel. He has been a guest on the Miracle Channel, Trinity Television, and Crossroads Communication, and have taught internationally on various topics.