Power to CHANGE your world

"…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-9

In the year 2013, the Lord is calling the family of TSH to a deeper place of prayer…to a place of compassion, commitment and change in Christ!

Prayer will change your private and public world…For example when Moses prayed for God to forgive the Israelites; God forgave them because God forgives (Exodus 32:11-14). But when he prayed that he, Moses, be allowed to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land, God did not grant him his request. He told him to stop praying. It was not going to happen however hard or long Moses prayed (Numbers 20:1-13; Deut 3:21-29). So prayer does not change God’s mind in any simple sense. Prayer changes the world because it changes us.

The Hebrew word for "to pray" islehitpallel ," which means "to judge yourself." That is what we do when we pray. We pray not simply for God to fulfill our desires but in order to know what to desire. All animals act to satisfy their personal desires. Only human beings are capable of standing back and really judging their desires. There are some desires we should not satisfy. Junk food is bad for us….So is smoking….So are many drugs…So is wealth illicitly obtained…So is ambition achieved by betraying others….And so on. To be humanly and spiritually mature is to know what to desire!

Prayer through the Word of God and Spirit of the Lord results in the education of our human desires. Take the weekday Hebrew Prayer "Amidah" as an example…this is the model of prayer which Jewish believers like Daniel (Dan 6) prayed THREE times a day (morning, afternoon and evening). The weekday Amidah contains nineteen blessings. Each blessing ends with the signature "Blessed are you, O Lord..." and the opening blessing begins with "Blessed are you, O Lord..." as well. The first three blessings as a section are known as the shevach ("praise"), and serve to inspire the worshipper and invoke God's mercy. The middle thirteen blessings compose thebakashah ("request"), with six personal requests, six communal requests, and a final request that God accept the prayers. The final three blessings, known as the hoda'ah ("gratitude"), thank God for the opportunity to serve the Lord. This was the model of prayer that the Apostle Paul was encouraging us to follow when he said in Philippians 4:6-9: "…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Amidah Philippians 4:6-9), teaches us to seek knowledge, wisdom and understanding from our Lord – not just a new car, an exotic holiday or expensive clothes. It teaches us to want to return to God when, as it happens so often in our lives when we drift in the winds of time, blown this way and that by the pressures of today. It teaches us to seek spiritual healing as well as physical health. It teaches us to seek the best not just for ourselves but also for our people and ultimately for all humanity…This is what happened to Paul when he prayed three times.

Paul prayed thrice for his ``thorn in his flesh'' to be removed. Yet God did something different for Paul. The Lord replied: `My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness'' (2 Corinthians 12:9). When the Lord says, "NO," it is NOT rejection but it is re-direction! The Lord redirects our desires toward a new direction in life that changes our private and public world! True for Moses, true for the Apostle Paul, and true for you and me… To be humanly and spiritually mature is to be taught by the Word of God and the Spirit of God to know what to desire!

In Philippians 4:6-9, the Apostle Paul was encouraging us to pray based on the "spirit" of his Hebrew prayer model." In the Hebrew Birkot ha-shachar, the Dawn Blessings, prayer opens our eyes to the wonders of the physical world. It trains us to give thanks for the sheer gift of being alive. In the Hebrew Pesukei de-zimra, the Verses of Praise, we learn to see the Creator through creation. We sense the song of the earth in the wind that moves the trees, the clouds that dapple the sky, the sun that melts the snow. We hear God’s praise in the breath of all that lives. In the Hebrew Shema (Deut.6:4-9), the believer covers their eyes to move inward to the world of sound, to listen to the voice of God that we can only hear in the silence of the soul. And the word we hear is love – our love for God, His love for us. Then in the Amidah the believer stands in God’s presence, take three steps forward and bows. Lehavdil – This means people bowing down in the presence of a king or queen. You know you are in the presence of majesty when the Spirit of the Lord is present! Finally, Prayer teaches us to give thanks. That’s what the Apostle Paul experienced – for that matter any believer, any day is supposed to experience– when he or she begins the "Christ-centered Prayer of Philippians 4:6-10."

There’s a famous and fascinating piece of medical research known as theNuns’ Study. A group of nuns in America gave permission for their way of life to be studied in the interests of medical science. What the researchers found, comparing the nuns now with the brief autobiographies they had written sixty years before entering the order, is that those who at the age of twenty expressed the most gratitude lived longer and suffered fewer illnesses than their less thankful counterparts. Giving thanks – in Hebrew, Modim anachnu lakh – generates spiritual happiness which in turn helps physical health. Above all, prayer tells us we are not alone in the world.

When Natan (then Anatoly) Sharansky was imprisoned in the Soviet Union by the KGB, his wife Avital gave him a little Hebrew book of Psalms. The KGB sensed it would give him strength, so they confiscated it. He fought a three-year campaign to have it returned, and eventually it was returned to Sharansky. Natan Sharansky’s knowledge of Hebrew was very limited, but he was a brilliant mathematician, so he acted as if the book was written in a mathematical code he had to decipher. Slowly he decoded it, word by word, until he came to a complete sentence that came to him as a revelation, as if it had been spoken specifically to him there in the Russian prison. It was a line from Psalm 23: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me." Many years later he took one of these phrases as the title of his autobiography: Fear no evil.

To pray is to know that "HE is with me." It is to know we are not alone. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom tells us that without a vessel to contain a blessing, there can be no blessing. If we have no receptacle to catch the rain, the rain may fall, but we will have none to drink. If we have no radio receiver, the sound waves will flow, but we will be unable to convert them into sound. God’s blessings flow continuously, but unless we make ourselves into a vessel for them, they will flow elsewhere. Prayer is the act of turning ourselves into a vehicle for the Divine. Prayer is to the soul what exercise is to the body. You can live without exercise but it will not be a healthy life. You can live without prayer, but whole areas of human experience will be closed to you. Prayer changes the world because it changes us, opening our eyes to the radiance of God’s world, our ears to the still small voice of God’s word.

Dear TSH family, in 2013 "PRAY WITHOUT CEASING" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)…it will change your world!



  • Jonathan Sacks (2011-09-19). Letters to the Next Generation 2: Reflections on Jewish Life (Kindle Locations 487-490). Office of the Chief Rabbi