Prayer

A Christian is not without contact with God.  Prayer in its various forms is the normal contact with the transcendent reality, whatever name we place on it.  The ceremony of all religions is the point of contact with the divine.  Prayer can and should be both personal and public.  Thus, the Christian never forgets the admonition to pray always.  He or she remembers the great prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.”  The importance of prayer is like good communication.  Take time to pray.  Develop a personal prayer life.  Faith without prayer is impossible.  Request, give honor, praise, thank, listen, and share verbal and non-verbal prayer.  Prayer is the breath of the Christian spiritual life.  If we stop praying, it is like as if we stop breathing.  Your spiritual life will die without prayer.

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The development of the gospel biblical texts

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers expected him to return at any moment, certainly within their own lifetime.  There was little motivation to write anything down for future generations.  However, as the various eyewitnesses began to die, there was more concern.  The missionary needs of the church grew, so that there was a demand for written versions of the founder’s life and teachings.  The stages of this process included this first oral tradition stage.  Then the stories and sayings of Jesus were passed on largely as separate self-contained units, but not in any order.  There were some written collections of miracle stories, parables, and sayings, with the oral tradition continuing alongside these.  Finally, there were the written proto-gospels that served as the sources for the canonical gospels.  The final gospels were formed by combining proto-gospels, written collections and still-current oral tradition.  All four gospels use the Hebrew Jewish scriptures, by quoting or referencing passages.  They interpreted texts or alluded to various biblical themes.  Their source was the Greek version of the scriptures, called the Septuagint, since they did not seem familiar with the original Hebrew.

Zechariah was impatient (Zech 11:8-11:9)

“In one month,

I disposed

Of the three shepherds.

I had become impatient

With them,

They also detested me.

Thus,

I said.

‘I will not be your shepherd.

What is to die,

Let it die!

What is to be destroyed,

Let it be destroyed.

Let those that are left

Devour the flesh

Of one another.’”

Zechariah disposed of 3 shepherds in one month.  Who were these shepherds?  They may have been local Israelite officials.  Apparently, Zechariah was not pleased with them, while they detested him, not a good working relationship.  Zechariah was not going to be their shepherd any longer.  If they were in trouble about to die, let them die.  If they were about to be destroyed, let them be destroyed.  Anyone left would probably devour each other.  Everyone for themselves.

Against the commercial traders (Zeph 1:10-1:11)

“Says Yahweh.

‘On that day,

A cry will be heard

From the Fish Gate.

A wail will be heard

From the Second Quarter.

A loud crash will be heard

From the hills.

The inhabitants

Of the Mortar

Wail.

All the traders

Have perished.

All who weigh out

Silver

Are cut off.’”

Yahweh was clear about the consequences on the Day of Yahweh.  A cry would come from the north Fish Gate and the Second Quarter of Jerusalem, probably the entrance and the market place of business near this gate.  The Jerusalem traders may have sold fish there.  The northern hills around Jerusalem would also cry out, as would the wailing people of Mortal, those in the valley.  They would all wail and cry because of the lack of commerce.  All the traders would die.  Anyone involved with the weighing of silver would be wiped out.

The destruction of the lions’ den of Assyria (Nah 2:11-2:13)

“What became

Of the lions’ den?

What became

Of the cave

Of the young lions?

There the lion goes.

There his cubs were,

With none to disturb them.

The lion has torn enough

For his whelps.

He strangled prey

For his lionesses.

He has filled his caves

With prey.

He has filled his dens

With torn flesh.

‘See!

I am against you!’

Says Yahweh of hosts!

‘I will burn

Your chariots

In smoke.

The sword shall devour

Your young lions.

I will cut off

Your prey

From the earth.

The voice

Of your messengers

Shall be heard no more.’”

Assyria was considered a lion or a destroyer.  Nahum wanted to know what had happened to this proud lion’s den or his cave.  There his young cubs would be undisturbed.  He had gathered enough prey for these lionesses, as well as their cubs.  This lion of Assyria had filled his caves and dens with torn flesh.  All this would be gone.  Yahweh has issued an oracle against Assyria.  Yahweh would burn their chariots as they would go up in smoke.  Their young lions would die by the sword.  They would lose all their prey.  The voice of their messengers would not be heard anymore.  The end of Nineveh and Assyria was near.

Yahweh responds to Jonah (Jon 4:9-4:11)

“But God

Said to Jonah.

‘Is it right

For you

To be angry

About the bush?’

Jonah said.

‘Yes,

Angry enough to die.’

Yahweh said.

‘You are concerned

About the bush

For which you did not labor.

You did not grow it.

It came into being

In a night.

It perished

In a night.

Should I not be concerned

About Nineveh,

That great city,

In which there are more

Than a hundred

And twenty thousand persons,

Who do not know

Their right hand

From their left hand.

There are also many animals.”

Thus, the story of Jonah ends with a reprimand for Jonah.  Jonah continued to argue that he had the right to be mad.  At times, he sounded like Job and his complaints.  God, not Yahweh, asked him if he had a right to be angry.  Jonah insisted that he was so angry that he was willing to die.  Then Yahweh asked him about the bush.  It appeared one day and was gone the next day.  Jonah did nothing to make it grow, so why was he so angry about the dead bush.  On the other hand, Yahweh was concerned about the great city of Nineveh with 120,000 people and lots of animals.  Yet, there was a parting shot at the people of Nineveh.  Apparently, they were so dumb that they could not tell their right hand from their left hand.

The great fast proclamation (Jon 3:7-3:9)

“The king had a proclamation

Made in Nineveh.

‘By the decree

Of the king

With his nobles.

No human being,

No animal,

No herd,

No flock,

Shall taste anything.

They shall not feed them.

They shall not drink water.

Human beings,

With animals,

Shall be covered

With sackcloth.

They shall cry mightily

To God.

All shall turn

From their evil ways.

They shall turn

From the violence

That is in their hands.

Who knows?

God may yet relent.

God may change

His mind.

He may turn

From his fierce anger.

Thus,

We may not perish.’”

This king of Nineveh sent out a proclamation from the capital city.  No humans or animals should eat or drink anything, a total fast.  Both the humans and animals should be covered in sackcloth.  They all should cry out to God.  They were to turn from their evil violent ways.  His thought was that maybe God would change his mind about the future destruction of Nineveh.  Perhaps God would not be angry with them.  Thus, they would not die.