I didn’t know you prayed

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Protected from the Bible

“I didn’t know you prayed,” Kyle said.
“Normally, I don’t. This time I’m making an exception.” 1)from “Curse (Blur Trilogy Book 3)” by Steven James

This seems like a conversation that would really happen – someone praying that doesn’t normally pray, or maybe even for the first time.

So – I had to look up this scenario, to find something on official “church” doctrine for when people pray for either the first time or maybe only rarely.   

I was disappointed.  Even surprised.  Very disappointed.

For instance –

In the Bible prayer is worship that includes all the attitudes of the human spirit in its approach to God. The Christian worships God when he adores, confesses, praises and supplicates him in prayer. This highest activity of which the human spirit is capable may also be thought of as communion with God, so long as due emphasis is laid upon divine initiative. A man prays because God has already touched his spirit. Prayer in the Bible is not a ‘natural response’ (see Jn. 4:24). ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ Consequently, the Lord does not ‘hear’ every prayer (Is. 1:15; 29:13). The biblical doctrine of prayer emphasizes the character of God, the necessity of a man’s being in saving or covenant relation with him, and his entering fully into all the privileges and obligations of that relation with God.  2)Thomson, J. G. S. S. (1996). Prayer. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 947–948). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

The first part is a bunch of “churchy” words, most of which will mean pretty much nothing to someone who isn’t already familiar with them.  

Then we get to these words – Consequently, the Lord does not ‘hear’ every prayer.  Seriously.  A God who is everywhere, knows everything, Etc. – doesn’t even hear some prayers?  To me, that’s not logical.  God may not answer every prayer – but how can He possibly know everything when He chooses to not even hear some thing?  (Yes, I know there are quotes around the word “hear” – and I realize what they mean – but honestly, someone who is looking into this for the first time won’t know that at all.)

The first example used in the book is from Isaiah is this –

Isa 1:15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
Isa 1:16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
Isa 1:17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

My problem with this example, especially since they took only one verse, is that this was a very specific instance where God’s chosen people – who already knew exactly what He wanted and chose to turn away from Him – are the ones being addressed here.  This case may or may not be relevant to the person who never or rarely prayed.  I dare say, most often – it’s a different scenario.  

Even so, let’s continue.  The example says God doesn’t always hear every prayer.  The Hebrew word in the Old Testament portrays a different concept –

8085 שָׁמַע, שֶׁמַע [shamaʿ /shaw·mah/] v n m. A primitive root; TWOT 2412, 2412a; GK 9048 and 9049; 1159 occurrences; AV translates as “hear” 785 times, “hearken” 196 times, “obey” 81 times, “publish” 17 times, “understand” nine times, “obedient” eight times, “diligently” eight times, “shew” six times, “sound” three times, “declare” three times, “discern” twice, “noise” twice, “perceive” twice, “tell” twice, “reported” twice, and translated miscellaneously 33 times. 1 to hear, listen to, obey. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to hear (perceive by ear). 1A2 to hear of or concerning. 1A3 to hear (have power to hear). 1A4 to hear with attention or interest, listen to. 1A5 to understand (language). 1A6 to hear (of judicial cases). 1A7 to listen, give heed. 1A7A to consent, agree. 1A7B to grant request. 1A8 to listen to, yield to. 1A9 to obey, be obedient. 1B (Niphal). 1B1 to be heard (of voice or sound). 1B2 to be heard of. 1B3 to be regarded, be obeyed. 1C (Piel) to cause to hear, call to hear, summon. 1D (Hiphil). 1D1 to cause to hear, tell, proclaim, utter a sound. 1D2 to sound aloud (musical term). 1D3 to make proclamation, summon. 1D4 to cause to be heard. 2 sound.  3)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Yes – it could be as simple as “hear”.  However, as pointed out above, that simple translation is just that – too simple.  If we keep looking at other ways the Hebrew word is translated, we see things like concern, attention, interest, Etc.  That points more to something like since God’s people in Isaiah chose to ignore God, He is, in turn, choosing to ignore them until they turn back to Him, 

And then there’s The biblical doctrine of prayer emphasizes the character of God, the necessity of a man’s being in saving or covenant relation with him,

This is a bit of a problem as well.  One has to be in a special relationship with God before they can pray?  How then does someone get into that relationship with God in the first place?  Many (most?) people would say through a prayer.  And yet this definition appears to rule out that possibility.

Things are not looking good for our first time / rarely praying person.  According to this – prayer for that person seems pointless.  It would appear that God’s just not going to hear the prayer.

And then there’s this one –

PRAYER. The object of this article will be to touch briefly on—

1. The doctrine of Scripture as to the nature and efficacy of prayer; 2. Its directions as to time, place, and manner of prayer; 3. Its types and examples of prayer.  4)Smith, W. (1986). In Smith’s Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

1. Scripture does not give any theoretical explanation of the mystery which attaches to prayer. The difficulty of understanding its real efficacy arises chiefly from two sources: from the belief that man lives under general laws, which in all cases must be fulfilled unalterably; and the opposing belief that he is master of his own destiny, and need pray for no external blessing. Now, Scripture, while, by the doctrine of spiritual influence, it entirely disposes of the latter difficulty, does not so entirely solve that part of the mystery which depends on the nature of God. It places it clearly before us, and emphasizes most strongly those doctrines on which the difficulty turns. Yet, while this is so, on the other hand the instinct of prayer is solemnly sanctioned and enforced on every page. Not only is its subjective effect asserted, but its real objective efficacy, as a means appointed by God for obtaining blessing, is both implied and expressed in the plainest terms. Thus, as usual in the case of such mysteries, the two apparently opposite truths are emphasized, because they are needful to man’s conception of his relation to God; their reconcilement is not, perhaps cannot be, fully revealed. For, in fact, it is involved in that inscrutable mystery which attends on the conception of any free action of man as necessary for the working out of the general laws of God’s unchangeable will. At the same time it is clearly implied that such a reconcilement exists, and that all the apparently-isolated and independent exertions of man’s spirit in prayer are in some way perfectly subordinated to the one supreme will of God, so as to form a part of his scheme of providence. It is also implied that the key to the mystery lies in the fact of man’s spiritual unity with God in Christ, and of the consequent gift of the Holy Spirit. So also is it said of the spiritual influence of the Holy Ghost on each individual mind that while “we know not what to pray for,” the indwelling “Spirit makes intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.” Rom. 8:26, 27. Here, as probably in all other cases, the action of the Holy Spirit on the soul is to free agents what the laws of nature are to things inanimate, and is the power which harmonizes free individual action with the universal will of God.   5)Smith, W. (1986). In Smith’s Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Did you notice this phrase?  … is both implied and expressed in the plainest terms.  I have to say, this paragraph is anything but in the plainest terms.

And yet, it must be clear, because shortly later we read –  At the same time it is clearly implied that such a reconcilement exists, and that all the apparently-isolated and independent exertions of man’s spirit in prayer are in some way perfectly subordinated to the one supreme will of God, so as to form a part of his scheme of providence. One thing that’s clear – if our first time prayer person happened to check this out – they’d have to go back to school just to understand what’s clear and simple.

I’m not even going to comment on the rest, other than to say that unless you study this stuff on a regular basis, it won’t mean mush of anything,

2. There are no directions as to prayer given in the Mosaic law: the duty is rather taken for granted, as an adjunct to sacrifice, than enforced or elaborated. It is hardly conceivable that, even from the beginning, public prayer did not follow every public sacrifice. Such a practice is alluded to in Luke 1:10 as common; and in one instance, at the offering of the first-fruits, it was ordained in a striking form. Deut. 26:12–15. In later times it certainly grew into a regular service both in the temple and in the synagogue. But, besides this public prayer, it was the custom of all at Jerusalem to go up to the temple, at regular hours if possible, for private prayer, see Luke 18:10; Acts 3:1; and those who were absent were wont to “open their windows toward Jerusalem,” and pray “toward” the place of God’s presence. 1 Kings 8:46–49; Ps. 5:7; 28:2; 138:2; Dan. 6:10. The regular hours of prayer seem to have been three (see Ps. 55:17; Dan. 6:10): “the evening,” that is, the ninth hour, Acts 3:1; 10:3, the hour of the evening sacrifice, Dan. 9:21; the “morning,” that is, the third hour, Acts 2:15, that of the morning sacrifice; and the sixth hour, or “noonday.” Grace before meat would seem to have been a common practice. See Matt. 15:36; Acts 27:35. The posture of prayer among the Jews seems to have been most often standing, 1 Sam. 1:26; Matt. 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11; unless the prayer were offered with especial solemnity and humiliation, which was naturally expressed by kneeling, 1 Kings 8:54; comp. 2 Chron. 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Ps. 95:6; Dan. 6:10, or prostration. Josh. 7:6; 1 Kings 18:42; Neh. 8:6.   6)Smith, W. (1986). In Smith’s Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


3. The only form of prayer given for perpetual use in the Old Testament is the one in Deut. 26:5–15, connected with the offering of tithes and first-fruits, and containing in simple form the important elements of prayer, acknowledgment of God’s mercy, self-dedication, and prayer for future blessing. To this may perhaps be added the threefold blessing of Num. 6:24–26, couched as it is in a precatory form, and the short prayer of Moses, Num. 10:35, 36, at the moving and resting of the cloud, the former of which was the germ of the 68th Psalm. But of the prayers recorded in the Old Testament the two most remarkable are those of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, 1 Kings 8:23–53, and of Joshua the high priest, and his colleagues, after the captivity. Neh. 9:5–38. It appears from the question of the disciples in Luke 11:1, and from Jewish tradition, that the chief teachers of the day gave special forms of prayer to their disciples, as the badge of their discipleship and the best fruits of their learning. All Christian prayer is, of course, based on the Lord’s Prayer; but its spirit is also guided by that of his prayer in Gethsemane and of the prayer recorded by St. John, John 17, the beginning of Christ’s great work of intercession. The influence of these prayers is more distinctly traced in the prayers contained in the epistles, see Rom. 16:25–27; Eph. 3:14–21; Phil. 1:3–11; Col. 1:9–15; Heb. 13:20, 21; 1 Pet. 5:10, 11, etc., than in those recorded in the Acts. The public prayer probably in the first instance took much of its form and style from the prayers of the synagogues. In the record of prayers accepted and granted by God, we observe, as always, a special adaptation to the period of his dispensation to which they belong. In the patriarchal period, they have the simple and childlike tone of domestic supplication for the ordinary and apparently trivial incidents of domestic life. In the Mosaic period they assume a more solemn tone and a national bearing, chiefly that of direct intercession for the chosen people. More rarely are they for individuals. A special class are those which precede and refer to the exercise of miraculous power. In the New Testament they have a more directly spiritual bearing. It would seem the intention of Holy Scripture to encourage all prayer, more especially intercession, in all relations and for all righteous objects.   7)Smith, W. (1986). In Smith’s Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Since it’s supposed to be clear, obvious, and stuff like that – let’s just go to the source.

To me, probably the best place to go to learn how to pray is Psalms.  I’m not normally a big fan of some of the simplest translations, but in this case – simple is what we’re after.  These are from the Easy To Read Version.  So, here’s one from David from after He screwed up –

Ps 3:1 Lord, I have so many enemies.
    So many people have turned against me.
Ps 3:2 They say to themselves, “God will not rescue him!” Selah

Ps 3:3 But you, Lord, protect me.
    You bring me honor;
    you give me hope.

This is pretty simple.

Or how about this –

Ps 5:1 Lord, listen to me
    and understand what I am trying to say.
Ps 5:2 My God and King,
    listen to my prayer.

Also pretty simple.

And finally, here’s one directly to Jesus –

Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you begin ruling as king!”

Luke 23:43 Then Jesus said to him, “I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

So – if you’re thinking of praying for the first time – or maybe the second or third – or it’s been a while –
my advice – skip what the “professionals” say above – you don’t need to learn all that – you just need to believe, like the man in Luke 23:42, that Jesus is the Son of God – and He will hear you.

I am not saying that anyone involved in any of the references above are people that Jesus was talking about, however, when I look for something simple for someone trying to get their very first information on prayer and come across things like this – I can’t help but be reminded of this –

Mt 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

Some of what I write is more advanced.
Some of it is rather simple.
Most is probably somewhere in between.


Because there are all sorts of people out there looking for something.

Also, because I once promised myself that I’d never forget the days when I knew nothing about a subject (regardless of what it was) and how difficult it can be to even start to learn.

If you’re looking for an introduction to prayer – I hope this helps.  Helps you to not be concerned when people may use the big / churchy words that you don’t understand.  Helps you to realize that something as simple as “Lord, help me!” is a good start.  To tell the truth, some of my prayers have been nothing but crying.  Now that’s simple.



The quote and details on the book are available at amazon.com –> http://amzn.to/2ap8Xih

Series Navigation<< Only the good die young (Really?)Protected from the Bible – The Problem of Free Will >>

References   [ + ]

1. from “Curse (Blur Trilogy Book 3)” by Steven James
2. Thomson, J. G. S. S. (1996). Prayer. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 947–948). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
3. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
4, 5, 6, 7. Smith, W. (1986). In Smith’s Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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