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1st edition - July 1994

2nd edition - April 2000

Permission is granted to copy this article for personal sharing but not for sale or other commercial purposes.



FHC is an Ohio based ministry providing information, encouragement and fellowship to Christian families, natural and spiritual.




Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture quotations are from the

New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1988,

The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.



Additional copies of this booklet may be ordered from FHC by writing to the above address. The price is on the back cover of this booklet. Please add $1.50 for shipping regardless of the number of copies. A full listing of other books and booklets on related topics is also available from FHC at the above address.

To Pray or Not to Pray

A Method of Family Prayer



Ephesians 5:15
15. Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise,
16. making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
17. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
18. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
19. speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
20. always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
21. and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Many of you have asked us how we order our day. The above passage is one of our family goals. Have we arrived? Not yet, but we are on the way!!! Rather than give you a schedule of our activities and lessons that describe a typical Rodd day, we decided to give you the "key" to how we begin our day with the faith that it will remain in God's hands rather than our own. Whenever we try to control our own days, they always end up full of trouble! Our goal is submission to God, to one another and controlled by the Spirit.

What we are sharing is the result of a series of progressive steps of faith and obedience that we have taken together in our 21 years of marriage. As God shows us something about prayer, we incorporate it into our daily schedule. We do not believe we have arrived, and we are open to the Lord to increase our understanding and show us more methods of prayer in the future as He so desires. However, for now we are practicing one kind of prayer in our family gatherings that can include toddlers to grandparents. We trust that the following information will help you to obey the Lord's command contained in these verses,

Matthew 6:33
33. "... seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
34. "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. {Each} day has enough trouble of its own.

We begin our day with Bible reading. All the members of the family who can read take turns reading the passage for the day. Earl begins the reading and tells us how many verses to read individually; which verses we read together etc. He then prays for us as a family and anyone else who wishes to pray may do so. He often has to dash off to work, so Diane is left to train the children by reading to them (biographies, devotionals, history, etc.) and by teaching them to pray.

There are over 130 references in the New Testament concerning prayer! This study will not go into all those references. If you wish to see them in a systematic outline, they are in a pamphlet entitled "A Prayer Reference to New Testament Prayers" which may be ordered from FHC.

Peter tells us,

I Peter 4:7
7. The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober {spirit} for the purpose of prayer.
8. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Our family has discovered that the way to "keep fervent" in our love for family, friends, neighbors, governing authorities, enemies, etc. is to pray for them earnestly and daily. There is sin among our own family members that we must confront daily as well as being aware of sin around us on all levels of society. If we aren't careful, we can fall into a "cave" mentality that seeks separation to be safe and/or fall into criticism of others rather than offering effective intercession.

James 5:16
16. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
17. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
18. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
19. My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back,
20. let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.

Prayer offered to God keeps us prepared to "act" when God calls us to obey Him in a specific situation. Prayer offered in intercession keeps our hearts soft toward God and toward others.

Jesus warned us,

Matthew 24:9
9. "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.
10. "And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another.
11. "And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.
12. "And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.
13. "But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.
14. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.

These are serious warnings, and we are seeking ways to learn how to remain loyal to God and His people in our generation so that we are free from lawlessness, hatred, disloyalty, deception and false prophets. We want to be fervent in our prayers so that millions will be translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the glorious kingdom of light which is obedience to King Jesus. We need to be fervent in prayer so our lives are an example to others, and we are prepared to preach the gospel whenever and wherever God calls upon us to do so for Him.

James tells us,

James 1:25
25. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the {law} of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
26. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his {own} heart, this man's religion is worthless.
27. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of {our} God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, {and} to keep oneself unstained by the world.

These verses from James promise blessing to the one who obeys the law of liberty, but they also warn us that we can deceive ourselves if we don't have control of our own tongue. A worthless religion has the following characteristics:

  1. an uncontrolled tongue that leads to self-deception.
  2. callousness towards the widow and orphan.
  3. defilement by the culture (ways, practices, entertainments, philosophy, etc.) of the world.
Prayer together as a family is a prime training center for learning how to use our mouths correctly. If we win the battle in prayer, then when we are with other people, no matter what the circumstances, hopefully God can use our mouths to speak His message for Him. Mother Teresa is an excellent example of one whose deeds and words match. She does not have a "worthless religion". She cares for widows and orphans; she is not stained by the world because she has forsaken the ways of the world; and her tongue is used by the Lord when she stands before heads of nations and organizations. Home educators need to take the example of Mother Teresa very seriously. We believe the way to be able to move into service to others is to establish a prayer life that prepares the way ahead of us. When the Lord has control of the tongue, then He can entrust us with service to others and show us how to keeps ourselves unstained by the defiling spirit of the world.

James reminds us

James 3:2
2. For we all stumble in many {ways.} If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

If our tongue is under control, then our body or deeds fall into line. Service to others will be the deeds our body engages in, and the world will not tempt our body or mind to engage in any of its evil practices.

Prayer is the beginning of learning how to control our tongue. Jesus taught his disciples,

Matthew 26:41
41. "Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Corporate family prayer is the place where we learn accountability to God (the Fear of the Lord) and accountability to each other (confession and forgiveness of sin). It is impossible to be in God's presence if we are out of sorts with our family members. A family that doesn't pray together can have unresolved conflict, unconfessed sin, guilt and condemnation robbing the family of the peace and joy that the Lord wishes to bestow upon all the members.

This all sounds so wonderful, but we have discovered one major problem. Our prayer time gets very lopsided if every member of the family isn't involved in the process of prayer. How can we hold the attention of the little ones if we are praying for each person or every concern every day? There aren't enough hours in the day to pray for everyone. Many families see the task as so big that they don't pray at all or they only pray when there is a crisis.

We are very thankful for the following scripture which reminds us that prayer is an internal work of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26
26. And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for {us} with groanings too deep for words;
27. and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to {the will of} God.
28. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.
29. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined {to become} conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

Even though this internal work of prayer goes on day and night within a believer, the scripture makes it very clear that prayers, thanksgivings, petitions, requests, intercessions, etc. are to be openly spoken into the air on this earth with an attitude of faith if we desire God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Mark 11:22
22. And Jesus *answered saying to them, "Have faith in God.
23. "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be {granted} him.
24. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be {granted} you.
25. "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.

How do we help the smaller children learn to open their mouths in faith as they pray for each other and concerns of family, friends, neighbors and nations? How do we remove doubt from our hearts? As we have sought the Lord for His solution, He has shown us a way to obey Him.

THE LOT

The use of the "lot" in the Old Testament is very interesting. It is first mentioned in Leviticus as the method Aaron used to choose which goat was to be sacrificed and which goat was to be the scapegoat on the day of atonement. Jesus Christ became our sacrifice and our scapegoat, and the "lot" is mentioned concerning the day of His atonement for mankind.

Mark 15:24
24. And they *crucified Him, and *divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them, {to decide} what each should take.

The "lot" is mentioned in Numbers as God's method of apportioning inheritance to the different tribes when they arrived in the promised land.

The book of Joshua has the most references to the word "lot". However, Joshua's first use of the lot was not to divide the inheritance but was used to judge sin within the Israelite nation. Soon after the victory of Jericho the Israelites were defeated by a few men who defended the small city of Ai. This defeat puts Joshua and his elders on their faces before the Lord, and God reveals to them that disobedience to God's commands within the Israelite camp was the cause of the defeat. The Lord could have told Joshua the disobedient one was Achan, but the Lord directed the use of the lot instead to allow the people to be part of the process.

Joshua 7:14
14. 'In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the \Lord\ takes {by lot} shall come near by families, and the family which the \Lord\ takes shall come near by households, and the household which the \Lord\ takes shall come near man by man.
15. 'And it shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the \Lord,\ and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.' "
16. So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken.
17. And he brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken.
18. And he brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken.

The drama and intensity of this incident is overwhelming. Those who cast the lot and those who were watching the procedure had utmost confidence (faith) that

  1. the Lord God controlled the lot.
  2. the guilty person would be chosen and punished.
  3. victory would be theirs.
The lot placed the guilty one in the position to confess his sin and suffer the consequences. The lot convinced all of Israel of the truth of the situation and the gravity of disobedience.

Joshua used the lot many times to divide the land between the tribes just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Years later when Israel rejected God (and Samuel) as their rulers, God used the lot to show His sovereign choice to His people. Even though God has revealed His choice to Samuel, God didn't rely on Samuel's words to convince the people of His choice. God wanted the people to be part of the process.

I Samuel 10:19
19. "But you today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, 'No, but set a king over us!' Now therefore, present yourselves before the \Lord\ by your tribes and by your clans."
20. Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot.
21. Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found.

Saul had been chosen twice by God's sovereignty, once through Samuel and once by the lot, and he still ran from the job!

In this instance, the choice of the lot isn't embraced by everyone.

I Samuel 10:26
26. And Saul also went to his house at Gibeah; and the valiant {men} whose hearts God had touched went with him.
27. But certain worthless men said, "How can this one deliver us?" And they despised him and did not bring him any present. But he kept silent.

This attitude can be true of us as well if we aren't careful. The lot bears good fruit if it is seen as one of God's methods to reveal His choice and if it is approached with faith and expectancy. Romans 14 :23 tells us that "whatever is not from faith is sin" so we must be sure that all we do is based on faith in God's character and His word.

In I Chronicles 6 :54ff, the lots were cast to select the land where the Levites would dwell within the designated land of the other twelve tribes. The Levites had no land of their own.

In I Chronicles 15 :16ff when David appointed the singers for ministry unto the Lord in celebration, thankfulness and in praise, the "lot" is not mentioned. However, the designated families and their responsibilities are mentioned.

The "lot" was cast to decide which family within the tribe of Levi and in which order they were to come to the temple to perform their responsibilities. We see this carried out in the New Testament with Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.

Luke 1:8
8. Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the {appointed} order of his division,
9. according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

Later in I Chronicles the "lot" is used again to designate the responsibilities and posts of the gate keepers. Gate keepers are also referred to as "watchmen", and this is where we get our family strategy for prayer. By using the "lot" we can help our children learn to pray according to the Word of God until they learn how to depend completely upon the Holy Spirit.

The book of Proverbs has two verses which explain God's view of the "lot" and also reveals our purpose in using it.

Proverbs 16:33
33. The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the \Lord.\

This verse reveals to us that the "lot" can be used in faith to determine the Lord's choice concerning a decision that has to be made.

The book of Jonah gives an excellent example of how God has control of the lot and also shows the faith that must operate to make the lot valid. Jonah was running from God and refusing to obey God's command to him to cry against the wickedness of Nineveh. He chose instead to flee to Tarshish on a ship and was able to sleep soundly in the midst of a great wind and a great storm that threatened to destroy the ship. The sailors' prayers to their gods and their removal of the ship's cargo didn't stabilize the ship. They aroused Jonah so he could pray to his god concerning the storm, but Jonah wasn't helpful. The lot is cast to see whose sin is causing the great calamity.

Jonah 1:7
7. And each man said to his mate, "Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity {has struck} us." So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

These men who decided to cast the lots had faith that the lot would be true, and it was. Even though they did not wish to throw Jonah in the sea when the lot designated him as the man who was responsible for the storm, they eventually did so, but not until they had prayed to the One True God.

Jonah 1:14
14. Then they called on the \Lord\ and said, "We earnestly pray, O \Lord,\ do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for Thou, O \Lord,\ hast done as Thou hast pleased."
15. So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.
16. Then the men feared the \Lord\ greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the \Lord\ and made vows.

In this example we see:

  1. God controlled the lot.
  2. Those who cast the lot had faith that God would control the lot.
  3. Those who cast the lot were able to pray to the Living God.
  4. Those who cast the lot had a reverential fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 18:18
18. The lot puts an end to contentions, And decides between the mighty.

This verse tells us that the "lot" can be used to make a decision between people. In the Old Testament we see this method being used to prevent contention between the tribes over the ownership of land and responsibilities in the tabernacle. God used the "lot" to decide between the mighty.

In the New Testament we see the "lot" being used in this same way. Judas had forfeited his apostleship and his life by betraying Jesus. Peter interpreted Psalm 109 :8 as a directive to the eleven apostles to replace Judas' apostleship with another eye witness of the resurrection of Jesus. Some Biblical scholars feel this was a premature act on the part of Peter because the Holy Spirit had not yet come, and the New Testament never mentions again the man who was chosen by this method. These scholars feel Paul, not Matthias, was the Lord's choice to fill Judas' position. Because the "lot" was an Old Testament custom and it never appears again in the New Testament, some believe the "lot" is a work of the flesh and not a work of the Holy Spirit. The following verses contain this episode.

Acts 1:20
20. "For it is written in the book of Psalms, #'\Let his homestead be made desolate\, \And let no man dwell in it\'; and, '\His office let another man take.\'#
21. "It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us--
22. beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us-- one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.
23. And they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.
24. And they prayed, and said, "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen
25. to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. "
26. And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

We feel the important attitude in the whole process is revealed in their words. Their prayer submitted the choice of the "lot" to the Lord rather than their own choice.

Acts 1:24
24. And they prayed, and said, "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen
25. to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. "

Your family will have to decide if this is a method that fits your understanding of the New Covenant or if it is to be discarded as being obsolete. We have seen our family members get upset, agitated, embarrassed, afraid, timid, shy, and even angry. because they were asked to pray and didn't know what to say or do. When adults force their own reasoning about such matters on others, we may be opening the door to the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit, and our children aren't really being trained to pray as the Lord would have them be trained.

As we have pondered on the truth contained in the Proverbs, we have decided that the "lot" can serve as a useful method in our home prayer gatherings as long as we approach it with faith in the Lord who knows the hearts of all men. He knows whom we should pray for each day, and we can trust in His sovereignty. We have discovered that the Holy Spirit is not left out of the process when we choose a name by "lot". We have discovered just the opposite. All of us have been amazed at the Lord's choice especially when we see a pattern emerging between the Lord's choice and circumstances that unfold later. Some may say the "lot" is a crutch. We can understand that criticism, but we would rather have our family learn to pray in faith rather than feel the pressure that the adults try to put on them by just asking them to pray. We have learned that the "lot" can be used to teach our family to pray according to the word of God rather than out of our own minds. The method of the "lot" is something we are all able to accept with trust and faith that God, not man, controls who is to receive prayer during our daily corporate prayer time.

The following procedure outlines simply what our family does. We trust that this information may stimulate your family to find a way to pray daily as the Lord commands. Whether the "lot" is used or not is not our concern. Our objective is to see families give prayer the same priority in our lives as we see in the life of Jesus, Paul, David, Peter, and other saints down through church history. We long to see prayer have more priority in families than the evening news, the reading of the newspaper, watching a video or TV or playing Nintendo.

PRAYER BY LOTS

  1. We have one set of papers on which verses are copied from the Bible which tell us what to pray and how to pray. Any person who can read can choose one (casting the lot) and read it as a prayer in the family prayer time. This often serves as a spring board for others to pray.
  2. We have one group of the names of family and friends written on small pieces of paper. Any child who cannot read can pick out a name and give it to someone to read for him and that child can then pray for that person. Sometimes we have cousins whom the children do not know. We use this as an opportunity to share with them the history of our family. Other names are more familiar to them, so it is easier to pray for those. Some people with younger children may want to use photographs rather than names.
  3. We have another set of papers which records the names and offices of our national, state and local governing authorities. A child who cannot read can pick out the name and give it to someone to read for him and that child can learn to pray for that person in that office. We often use this time to explain the role this office has over us as a family and to explain how the office is to correctly function. Misuse of an office gets ample attention as well.
  4. We have another group of papers which contains the names of people whom FHC has touched at sometime since its inception. This helps us pray effectively for home education in a more personal way. As with relatives there are some names that have more meaning to us than others, but when the "lot" is cast, we know for certain (faith) this is the Lord's choice for prayer that day, and we are able to pray for that family in faith.
After we have read the selected prayer and prayed for each person who has been chosen by the Lord, we put the name back with the whole group of names. We have been amazed to see the Lord sometimes chooses the same people in the same week. He knows if they are having a difficult time and need extra prayer. This exercise doesn't negate praying throughout the day as the Lord brings others to our minds, but it does help the family build a habit of praying consistently, specifically and biblically. By using prayers from the Bible, the family learns to pray according to the word of God rather than according to our own opinions. This is very important to remember as there are times when we really do not wish to pray for certain people who have betrayed us, lied to us or hurt us in some way. It may be very hard to deny our own feelings of betrayal and outrage to pray according to the written word of God in an attitude of forgiveness, but it is very good practice to do so because we learn to love others as God loves when we obey His commands to pray for them. We can enter into Jesus' ministry of forgiveness and intercession.

When we begin our day in this kind of prayer, we are reminded of the sovereignty of God, the plan of salvation, the need for repentance, and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit as He has the opportunity to work within us to pray according to the will of God. We have been obedient by putting prayer first as the following scripture commands us to do.

I Timothy 2:1
1. First of all, then, I urge that entreaties {and} prayers, petitions {and} thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
2. for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
3. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
4. who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5. For there is one God, {and} one mediator also between God and men, {the} man Christ Jesus,
6. who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony {borne} at the proper time.

Reference

See the FHC Booklet, "A Prayer Reference to New Testament Prayers" for a helpful catalog of prayers.

Further Steps

When you family has "outgrown" this method, see the FHC guide, "Devotions - Examples for Christian Home Educators."

Copyright by Earl & Diane Rodd