For author Brenda Stanford Southerland, honoring the Father through prayer is more valuable than gold or silver, and it truly yields precious rewards. In Honoring the Father through Prayer, she presents a guided study of the book of Isaiah to show how prayers can greatly impact the lives of Christians.
The book of Isaiah, often referred to as the mini-Bible with its sixty-six chapters, demonstrates the importance of prayer and studying Isaiah yields rich fruit. With emphasis on biblical examples, Brenda helps Christians by delivering a model for prayer. Her model:
• teaches about Isaiah the man, a prophet of God
• provides a perspective on Israel's historical background-national and international
• discusses the prophecy of Babylonian exile
• explores God's grace through divine deliverance and restoration
• delivers a true perspective on prayer as it relates to honoring God, focusing on God as the Father, and
• describes the prayer guidelines that are divine instructions to create a practical method of daily prayer.
In Honoring the Father through Prayer, Brenda helps Christians focus on God and facilitates a more meaningful prayer life to change lives and deepen relationships with God.
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Honoring the Father through PrayerAn Overview of the Book of Isaiah
By Brenda Stanford Southerland
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Brenda Stanford Southerland
All right reserved.
God made His first covenant for everlasting life with Adam and Eve, requiring their perfect and perpetual obedience. When Adam and Eve sinned, God, being a merciful God, did not destroy them, because He is "the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3b). Instead, God made a second covenant, commonly called the "covenant of grace," offering sinners life and salvation through Jesus Christ: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
God required mankind to have faith in Him. This is one of the major themes in the book of Isaiah: to "trust in Yahweh—the Lord of Hosts, the Holy One of Israel." New Testament Scripture tells us, "Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). He rewards us with eternal life. He also promises to impart His own Spirit—the Holy Spirit—to be our enabler. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16).
The covenant of grace includes both the period of Mosaic law as well as the gospel, but it was administered differently under the law versus the gospel. Under the law, the covenant was types and shadows (patterns or examples) of that which was to come—the Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ. It was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of Israel. All types and shadows foretold Christ to come, who would give full remission of sins and eternal salvation. This is known as the Old Testament or Hebrew Scripture. Under the gospel, God's people administer the covenant by preaching the Word and receiving the sacraments of baptism and being partakers of the Lord's Supper, according to 1 Corinthians 11:24-25:
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
This covenant is available and offered to all nations, both to Jews and Gentiles, as expressed in Isaiah 55:1-6 and is termed "The Messiah's Invitation to the World":
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.
This is the New Covenant—New Testament (gospel; good news) that Isaiah prophesied about seven hundred years before the Messiah was born. Isaiah foretold that salvation would be offered to all mankind. Paul bears witness of this in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
There are not two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same covenant under different dispensations. In order to really appreciate this covenant of grace, one needs to understand the gospel and the law, for the gospel, the Good News, is not just in the New Testament, but is found in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) as well. What is the gospel? It is simply the good news of what God has done for mankind. God expressed His grace—unmerited favor and unconditional love—an absolute love (agape) to man when He gave His only begotten Son to die for the world in order to redeem us according to John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
The law is the expression of God's will for mankind, and the gospel represents His grace and love for man. Both the gospel and the law belong together. They are like two sides of a coin, and one can't exist without the other. It is only after one has experienced God's goodness, grace, and love that one can be empowered to fulfill the law. That said, without the law, the meaning of the gospel would be lost. This is because the gospel without the law would turn into a free-wheeling, superficial emotionalism—a life without character and integrity.
One ceases to be a good steward over that which was given—grace and love. However, many Christians seem to think that they are above the law, and they do not adhere to the principle of obedience, which is God's plan to reward our lives. Obedience is a righteousness-building principle, for obedience puts one in right standing with God. Yes, we have been made "the righteousness" of God by the shed blood of Jesus. But as children of God, we need to learn how to act righteously. God's Word tells us in 1 Peter 1:16, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."
The balance between gospel and law is vital, and we can neglect neither without falling into fatal error. Gospel is not just in the New Testament, but is found in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) as well. Before the law was given, God showed His mercy to the Israelites by delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh. Exodus 20:2 says, "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Was this not gospel—Good News? Therefore, the gospel preceded the law, which was given to Moses at Sinai/Horeb.
The concept and institutional framework in which the reality of gospel and law were articulated and celebrated was the covenant. There is no concept or biblical truth that is more central to the understanding of the Old Testament and New Testament than the covenant. There are five aspects of the Sinai/Horeb covenant that carry great significance for us today for it draws a parallel to the new covenant and helps inspire our love and obedience for God and His Messiah (Newman, Jr., 17-71). They are:
1. Israel's Exodus Event (Epoch)
2. Israel's Agreement to the Covenant
3. Israel's Relationship to Yahweh (God)
4. Israel's Acknowledgment of One God
5. Israel's Establishment of a Society
Israel's Exodus Event (Epoch)
The Sinai/Horeb covenant marked the historic beginning of a unique relationship between the people of Israel and their God, which was radically different from other ancient Eastern people and their gods. This marked a particular period of history. It is noteworthy and remarkable, therefore, that it is referred to as an "epoch" (a notable event that marks the beginning of such a period). It was through the covenant that Israel responded to and understood the meaning of its liberation from Egyptian bondage. It is this epoch that forms the basis of the covenant (Exodus 19:3-6; 20:2).
And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.... I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
If the people of Israel had remained indifferent to the Exodus event, they would never have fully understood its significance, and it would undoubtedly have been lost to the world, recalled in history as simply a dramatic escape. Today the Jewish community remembers this Exodus event through the celebration of the Passover every year. By entering into a covenant with God, Israel was able to preserve, correctly interpret, and give witness to this event. Just as marriage is to love, so the covenant is to the deliverance from Egypt.
Israel's Agreement to the Covenant
Yahweh initiated the covenant, and the Israelites entered into this relationship with God consciously, deliberately, and knowingly. In the contemporary world in which Israel lived, it was common for the people to have a natural relationship with god(s), a relationship that was thought to have existed from the beginning of time and would continue to exist regardless of the behavior of the people. However, the relationship between Yahweh and Israel was not natural. It began at a very definite moment in history. This relationship demanded a conscious decision: God did not violate Israel's freedom when He invited the people to enter into covenant. God did not threaten the people of Israel with evil consequences if they chose not become His covenant people. Just like God does not force us to become His children, He offers salvation to us, but we must choose.
This covenant demonstrated Israel's response to God's deliverance of His people from Egyptian bondage, making the covenant a mutual agreement. God said to Moses and the people in Exodus 19:5: "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine."
It was not until the conditions of the covenant, the Ten Commandments, and the covenant code had been proclaimed and the people had assented to them that the covenant was sealed (Exodus 24: 3, 7). But the blessings of the covenant did not come automatically; the relationship was contingent. When Israel did not fulfill its obligations to the covenant, the people were subject to God's judgment, as we see in Isaiah chapter one.
Israel's Relationship to Yahweh (God)
The covenant created an intimate bond of communion between Yahweh and Israel and a remarkable community of solidarity within Israel. The relationship between Yahweh and Israel that the covenant established was not like a legal contract, but like the relationship between parents and children, a king and his prime minister, a husband and wife. The metaphor of marriage is particularly used to express the depth and intimacy of the covenant relationship demonstrated in the book of Hosea when the prophet Hosea married Gomer, who was adulterous. It is in this relationship that we get a glimpse and are able to understand the concepts of God's jealousy and sin as harlotry.
The covenant's bond of communion between God and Israel had a horizontal as well as a vertical dimension. In other words, the Israelites were to love God with all their strength, mind, soul, and might. And love their neighbor as they loved themselves—thus fostering a horizontal relationship with God and vertical relationship among the people.
To enter into the covenant was to share in a common history of God's grace and goodness and to share in a common loyalty to God. This common experience and this common loyalty made it possible to overcome petty differences and to relate to one another as brothers and sisters and to share in the common identity of a redeemed and witnessing community. Evidence of community solidarity lives in the cultural pride and loyalty that persist in the Jewish community against great adversity throughout history.
As members of the New Covenant, Christians are called to similar bonds of communion with God and with one another (i.e., the image of the church as the bride of Christ and Jesus's words in Matthew 12:50: "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." We, the church, are to be the conscience of our community. Jesus said the world would know us by our love one for another.
Israel's Acknowledgment of One God
The covenant sparked a radical change in the mentality of ancient Israel. The religions of the ancient world were based in nature. Nature was thought to be divine, controlled by myriads of divine forces, often in conflict with one another. The function of religion was to achieve harmony and stability among the competing and warring forces of nature and to secure fertility. Thus religion tended to support the status quo and to be the means of manipulating the gods.
The covenant at Sinai/Horeb changed this kind of thinking. Israel discerned that God's action was based on one's obedience toward God because God looks on the human heart, and that the chief problem of life is not manipulating the forces of nature, but coming to terms with the will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The Israelites introduced to the world the one and only true living God, Yahweh, who created this vast universe including planet Earth. Psalm 24:1-2 declares:
The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
Israel's Establishment of a Society
The covenant created a society that was to be in the world, but not of the world. Before Israel was a nation, it was the congregation, the assembly of God. Before Israel had an earthly king, it was united in allegiance to Yahweh, its heavenly King. This covenant created a loyalty to God and the community at large. Because Israel was cognizant of its allegiance to God and solidarity to each other, prophets like Nathan could confront kings as described in 2 Samuel 12:9-13:
Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
Israel could survive the fall of the state because the Israelites knew that God, Yahweh, had made a covenant with them. And that covenant would stand through time—generations of many kings.
As believers, we have a covenant with the Lord which has five significant aspects like the Sinai/Horeb covenant.
1. Believer's Epoch
2. Believer's Agreement to New Covenant
3. Believer's Relationship/Fellowship with the Father
4. Believer's Acknowledgment of Jesus
5. Believer's Establishment of Society by the Aid of the Holy Spirit
Our covenant begins the moment we accept the provision God made for us by sending His Son, Jesus, into the world and confessing with our mouths and believing in our hearts according to John and Romans:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
Once we have declared Romans 10:9-10, that moment in time becomes our Epoch—deliverance from bondage. We are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and enter into the kingdom of God, just like the Israelites were delivered from Egypt out of bondage.
Excerpted from Honoring the Father through Prayer by Brenda Stanford Southerland Copyright © 2012 by Brenda Stanford Southerland. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Covenant....................1
Chapter 2 The Prophet, Isaiah the Man....................14
Chapter 3 Historical Background....................28
Prophecy of Babylonian Exile....................43
Chapter 4 Divine Deliverance and Restoration....................47
Jesus: The Suffering Servant, The Messiah....................50
Chapter 5 Prayer Guidelines....................59
Praying with Purpose Introduction....................60
Devotional Prayer (Sunday)....................65
Prayers for Family/Families (Monday)....................66
Prayers for Church/Churches (Tuesday)....................71
Prayers for Family/Families (Wednesday)....................77
Prayers for Country/Government/School System (Thursday)....................82
Prayers for Family/Families (Friday)....................84
Personal Prayer (Saturday)....................89