Thursday, January 1, 2009

Rami: Response to Mike's 12/30 Post

Happy New Year, Mike, and happy New Year to all our readers. I am so excited about taking on the Lord’s Prayer. It is perhaps the most Jewish piece of liturgy in the entire Bible. But, as you said, it is wise for use to deal with more general issues first.

I agree that Jesus, along with the vast majority of his co-religionists, believed that God desires prayer and is ever-ready to listen if not act. I pray daily, but I have to admit that I am not so sure about the assumptions behind the act of prayer.

I speak to God as if God were other, as if God were, as you say, “both distant and very near”. For me God is the Source and Substance of all reality; God embraces and transcends the material world just as a word embraces and transcends the letters that comprise it. There is a level of meaning in the whole that the parts as parts lack.

For example, the letters “O,” “E,” “L,” and “V” in and of themselves are meaningless, but the word “Love” is profoundly meaningful. When we look at the universe as a collection of discrete parts we cannot find meaning in them, but when we see them as a wild yet integrated whole we do find meaning.

Of course there is no word without the letters, so I am not discounting them. Indeed I see them as manifestations of God. So when I pray it is God speaking to God in order to shift perspective from the part to the whole.

This leads me to explore your position carefully. Does God desire prayer? Does God want to listen to us?

Given my definition of God as Reality, I have no doubt as to God’s existence. But does God have desires? Does God desire to listen to my prayers? Certainly to the extent that I am God and I have desires we can say that God has desires. But this is on the microcosmic level. What about the God as the whole and not simply the part? Does God as the Source (and not just the Substance) of Reality have desires?

I would say “yes” only in this sense: God does not have free will. God has no choice but to be God, and cannot be other than God. Being God means that God manifests infinite possibility in such a way that some of that possibility becomes actualized and some of that actualized possibility discovers the capacity to realize that all is God. Since all of this is in the very nature of reality as God, and taking prayer to be a means for realizing the God-in-all-as-all nature of Nature, I would say that God desires prayer the way an acorn “desires” to become an oak tree: God desires to manifest parts capable of realizing the perspective of the whole.
Could God desire otherwise? No more than an acorn could desire to be a fig tree.

Does God listen to my prayer? In my daily prayer walks I talk with God. Not simply to God or at God, but with God. I hear God’s response. But I take this to be a lower spiritual experience filtered through my egoic consciousness. The way we humans meet is face to face, so the way God and I meet is Face to face. But this is a limitation of my ego not an accurate picture of the Divine-human relationship.

There are moments in my walking when the “distance” between God and myself vanishes. God is no longer “Other” but All. I sense God in me, as me. I feel God in and as all things around me. There is no talking at this point. God isn’t listening to me, but rather I am listening—or more accurately sensing since all my senses seem to be engaged in this experience— to the universe and sensing not a voice but a presence felt as love. These are brief moments of ecstasy that often leave me twirling, dancing, hugging trees, laughing, singing, and engaged in other bizarre and thankfully unobserved behavior.

In this way I absolutely agree with you that “prayer helps form us, freeing us from the illusion of false needs and teaching us to see clearly what we really need.” And what we really need is to realize God in all as all, and to allow that realization to transform us into vehicles for compassion and justice in the world.

I suspect you are saying something similar the notion of “rule” troubles me. When you say “we long for God's rule to become fully effective in us and the broader life of the world” I cannot help but think of those who claim to know what God’s rule is and who seek to impose it upon others. This Taliban-like quality exists in all three Abrahamic religions, and is often the greatest source of evil perpetrated in their names.

In any case I look forward to unpacking the Lord’s Prayer line by line, and happily await your getting us into this.


thanksgiving1st said...

The question that was raised by Rami is 'Does God desire prayer? Does God want to listen to us? Does God have desires?"

Isaiah 55: 11 tells us that God says,
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper whereto I sent it."
Which indicates that it is the desire of the Lord to do, to accomplish, to purpose, and to plan and make happen. This is a great statement of the Lord's own that reflects that indeed The LORD GOD has desires that need addressed and purposed and fulfilled.

Does GOD desire to listen to your prayers and the prayers of many? God desires to be obeyed...and some would use his name in vain and some would mock without understanding and some would cry out in hatred...but is that prayer? What is prayer then? Prayer is supposed to be a humble approach to communicate with GOD who made all things...but without a specific direction about how to pray or to understand what GOD would expect us to ask of Him...then we can only speak to Him as we would to a friend we can see. Therefore a provision was given to mankind in how to access GOD in prayer by coming to the Christ, His Son, as the way and the truth, and the door of entry...therefore if one could receive Christ as the way...then God has shown the interest in keeping the New Covenant thru His Son. Can someone pray to God though who does not come thru His Son...let's see what the New Testament tells us because we surely know that people prayed to God in the Old Testament and some of their prayers were heard. Acts chapter 10, in verse 2, Cornelius is mentioned as "A devout, and one that feared GOD with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always" Now here we have a man that was of the Italian descent (not a Jew) and in verse 4 we learn that this man had a vision and reports that God speaks with him and says, "thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before GOD". Surely Cornelius had not even mentioned Christ and yet GOD has recognized his situation. Yet what does GOD do but send forth Peter to introduce GOD's very best for Cornelius and his family to receive the greatest blessing...and upon that we can assume that from that point on Cornelius recognized Christ and gave worship to GOD thru Christ as they proceeded into even receiving a water baptism in His honor after receiving the spiritual baptism of God's spirit (v. 44 - 48).

Concerning the Lord's specified prayer...Christ gave the original disciples an outline and very based on their specific needs and situation at that time as He had yet to die on the cross and be raised up as High Eternal Priest and King over Heaven and earth. When the events did happen as Daniel had seen in the coronation vision...then indeed the prayer for 'thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven' began! We on earth that have received the good news of an eternal priesthood and temple built by GOd and not man...can now rejoice in freely worshipping God in our own private lives and not be obligated to attend and furnish an earthly temple in Jerusalem. Remember that Christ prophecied of the Temple's destruction in Matthew 24 and also he informed the Samaritan woman at the well that worship would change and no longer be in Jerusalem (concerning the Temple) nor in their high mountain (as described in the writings of Josephus). The Lord's prayer was an early manifestation of the need for GOD's spoken word and intentions to be fully carried out for the new worhip and praise to come into the New Covenant that Christ sealed by His blood sacrifice.

I look forward to speaking with you all. I discovered that I could not edit after posting so if I have made any typos on any of my previous postings pls forgive me.

Thanksgiving First said...

I am looking forward to hearing from you Rami...since this is your blog that you started and I am thankful that I discovered it. Hope you will post something soon so I know that you know I have greeted you in peace and I will know that I am sharing with you also.

I was very discouraged at reading your post of what a Christian pastor said about Jesus still many of both Jews and Christians have so many varied opinions. That is why it is only by the Holy Spirit that we can learn truth and witness truth because we cannot fully put our trust in mankind's understanding. But surely we can admonish those of mankind that the Holy Spirit is teaching when they present themselves as honorable servants of the Lord Most High.

Cornelius was admonished as being a devout believer in GOD (Acts chapter 10) and surely a preacher's preaching that GOD only hears prayers in the name of Jesus is not validated when one reads Cornelius's story. Yet it was because of the humble teacheable attitude of Cornelius and his family that they did indeed receive the knowledge of God's Son. They came to the calling and the Spirit of the Lord was sent to reveal Jesus (YESHUA) as the Son of man (Messiah prophecied by Daniel in Daniel 7: 13, 14).

And those that have really came teachable will recognize when the Spirit of the Lord has shown up...and if they don't recognize Him then they still need to wait patiently for He has an enemy that doesn't like to let go of his prisoner. As it was revealed to Paul, "To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Acts 26:18)..the very purpose Christ paid the price to set the captives free. An invisible captivity though so it was very difficult for some to understand that Christ wasn't necessarily referring to the Romans occupying Israel at that time.

We have the hope that Paul expressed, 'that Christ has led captivity captive: and thereby the process of overcoming the darkness (the ignorance of what exists in another realm here on earth) can be attained as we place our trust in the same GOD of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Joseph, of Jacob, is the same GOD that gave us His son to rule over us.

If I asked any of you if you have ever seen a 'dustmite'...most of you would say no...but most likely you have seen a picture of one. That picture came about because of the technological tool to enable one to see a realm that seemed unseen....also mankind can now observe solar systems because of such it is when we approach knowing about the unseen realm of the light and darkness spoken of in the Bible...we must be equipped to do such....and thereby it is only by the Holy Spirit of Truth that we can be so equipped to know of any battles in powers over mankind. Even Christ spoke of the battle that was raging in heaven until the days of John the Baptizer...the evil hosts were in war against GOD and his rule. (Matthew 11: 12 - 15....Jesus said that Elijah had come in John the Baptizer fulfilling Malachi 4: 5).

..and hopefully someone out there has been waiting for the Holy Spirit to be there will be messages pointed out in text if there is a battle to get the knowledge to some. Remember the LORD used a donkey to speak with Balaam..,.so it wouldn't be so unreal for Him to use some humans also to speak out to another.

Mike Smith and Rami Shapiro said...

This is Rami. I appreciate the detailed response to my post from Thanksgiving1st. The first one seems directed to Mount and Mountain, the second I think was meant for my personal blog called Toto at In any case I will respond to both briefly.

I certainly know that the Bible presents us with a God who desires. God in the Hebrew Bible has all the traits of a human: he gets angry, jealous, etc. And the bulk of the Hebrew Bible leaves us with the sense that God needs to be praised and obeyed.

Since I understand the Bible as a human document, I assume that it tells much about its authors views of God and next to nothing about God in and of God's own self. In other words, the fact that a biblical author says God has desires and listens to prayer doesn't mean this is so, only that the author believes it is so.

Given my approach, then, quoting Bible texts at me proves nothing.

As far as praying in Jesus' name, again regardless of what the Bible says, I am not moved. First of all we have to decide which Bible is THE Bible. As a Jew I do not accept the New Testament as the Word of God (of course I don't accept the Hebrew Bible that way either, but I am simply making a point). Secondly, I value the New Testament, as I do the Hebrew Bible, as yet another, sometime brilliant, attempt of Jews to articulate their understanding of God and godliness. It is the humanness of the Bible rather than its supposed divine origin that makes the book all the more important to me.

Given all of this, I don't know how to engage in a conversation about this. We are coming from two very different places. I do, however, really appreciate your passion for you position.

Mike Smith and Rami Shapiro said...

This is Rami, again. I am assuming that "thanksgiving1st" and "Thanksgiving First" are the same person, but I could be wrong, and I apologize if that is the case. But let me respond to the comment raised about my blog post on Toto.

I am always intrigued by the idea that the wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit is accurate. The assumption seems to be that when someone agrees with you (I don't mean you in particular, but with one who relies on the Holy Spirit) that person must be listening to the Holy Spirit, and when someone disagrees with you he or she must not be listening to or relying on the Holy Spirit.

This seems very convenient and self-serving. My experience is that the Holy Spirit seems to say different things to different people, because I hear very different arguments from people all of whom claim to be speaking for the Holy Spirit.

Your example of the dust mite is a good one. The problem is that all pictures of dust mites look the same. That is how we know what a dust mite is. If someone showed you a picture of a dog and said, "This is a dust mite" you would challenge the claim right away because we all agree as to what dust mites look like.

We cannot say the same about the message coming from the Holy Spirit. Jews have an intimate knowledge of the Holy Spirit (we call it Ruach haKodesh in Hebrew) and outside the New Testament no Jew has been shown Jesus to be Christ by the Holy Spirit. Within Christianity the Holy Spirit is claimed as the source for many conflicting understandings of Scripture and Christ. The man you claimed Christ is still suffering was moved to say this by the Holy Spirit, so your claim that he is wrong and that you have the true Holy Spirit teaching just leaves us with a "s/he said s/he said" scenario.

This is why I trust most those who are humble in their claims to wisdom, unless, of course, we are talking about dust mites.

Thanksgiving First said...

thanks Rami. Thanksgiving1st and First are the same.

Interesting that you see the Bible as a human is...don't know who else could have written it but humans. Yet the question it divinely inspired? Therein is the 'faith' part and I must say that I have discovered some discrepencies in the Bible and statements that are contrary to the gist of who God is stated as being or how His personality is...and even sometimes the writer is in complete contradiction to the sayings of Jesus. And of course I am reading an English Bible as I do not know how to read or interpret Hebrew/and Greek. So if someone asks me ...did GOD write the Bible? I can only say that there are Bible books/texts that I believe were 'inspired' by the Holy Spirit for certain men to write as the Spirit of the Lord gave them the unction and ability and in some of the texts 'line for line'. (if anyone wants to know the discrepancy or the contradiction then mention that you do and reasonably I will show you) The only way I can recognize the difference is by studying and comparing....and of course receiving divine guidance that can only be discerned by myself being directed by the Holy Spirit as I believe the Lord's Spirit is my Teacher. I speak in regards to my own knowledge in being taught as each that comes toa relationship with GOD must be taught by GOD Himself. I couldn't get to know you without communicating with you.

Sometimes I have been at churches and the pastor would have the assembly hold the Bible up in their hand and ask the people to repeat after him....'this is my Bible and I will do as it says" and of course as a new believer who had not read the entire Bible yet ...I just repeated to be one of the people the pastor was asking us to repeat after him. But now I have read the text...and I cannot say that I will do everything it no 'parrot' here anymore.

Now with that all in mind...I can agree that the Bible was written by humans (that's what they were indeed!)...but I cannot agree that God had nothing to do with most all of the text or in the assembling of the books and in the fact that it is the oldest book there is that is still widely read.

I beleive that mankind did not make themselves and that all things began as a 'seed'. (one of those questions such as ..which came first the chicken or the egg?...don't know but I know who does and He hasn't told me the answer and I am not quite sure that it would do me any good to know)(in fact I would still like to know why He made would some dogs also! hehe). But I do know that if I pick up an acorn seed and dissect it that I couldn't guess its program or read its chip info...yet it is a seed with a program/plan and well done I might say in honor to its Maker! I know that the acorn seed has been pre-programmed to be an oak tree...the question is everything else programmed to make sure that the oak seed will grow to a mature oak? What about if a squirrel eats it? Is there a divine plan to overcome the squirrel getting its food...or will God use the squirrel to plant the oak tree seed?

Like a chess game (interesting game) there are possibilities and choices but a good player knows all the moves that can be made with one chess piece and also knows all the moves that his/her opponent can do also. Choices...resulting in paths. Are they 'free choices' or are they like in chess with a finite number of moves that one can make with whatever consequences that are already planned?

So when I decided that I did not make myself...and over the years it sure has been evident that when I needed GOD I cried out and somehow (by luck some would think) my problem was resolved. So one day in a humbling part of my life I decided to ask if GOD was real and I asked Him to reveal Jesus.....and to my surprise He answered me. Scared me....I tell you it scared me. ('the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom'). I was in my 40's and was not at all a church goer. The next part then was recognizing that He (as an unseen Spirit) is far more greater and I decided it was best to submit to Him though I couldn't see Him. Later I learned that Jesus said, "blessed are those who believe that have not seen" . So it all started without reading the entire text first...surely I found out that He is able to converse without using a Bible (and they didn't really have a Bible for many in the first few centuries). It is that it was easier to learn and communicate with the Bible but that took years..and that is when I discovered that the Bible wasn't perfect. (hopefully I haven't lost any readers with that statement..but the Bible is not perfect). Yet that is why a Living Spirit was necessary (the Holy Spirit ...Ruach Ha Kodesh) to teach and make a believer become a trust in the Living Word rather than just trying to interpret what was written. The author of Life decided to send His Spirit unto those of mankind that were/are interested to find out. ("seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things will be added").

So if you don't want text verses to make a point then it would be difficult to answer some things that you could validate by reading the text. Yet I don't just use the Bible...I use historical writings of Josephus and other early writings to validate more of what I read in the Bible. If you cannot believe any written text anywhere then it would be difficult for you to accept that the earth has any history and if it can be proven. I read scientific writings and archeological finds and I am convinced that the Bible has much merit to being truthful about certain times and their historical truths. I am not convinced that the writers of the different books were all talking about what today's readers think they were talking about. I do admonish the stories of the men and women of the Bible who proceeded in their choices and paths by asking GOD to help them. I see that as an example of what GOD wants us to do...such as when the prophet directed Naaman to the river that he didn't want to use for cleansing....and he didn't want to listen to the servant but was demanding of the prophet to speak with him. Sometimes I think that is why some can not hear GOD cause they want to call the shots...and GOD is not interested in following them...for HE is GOD.
Yet we can only expect to find out that He is real if we come to Him in an approacheable teachable attitude.

By calling yourself a 'rabbi' doesn't that mean that you have a relationship with the Torah writings or am I mistaken about that? Then wouldn't you know the old text (scriptures) already? I am in hopes that we can converse and even use text. I look forward to speaking with you again. I enjoyed your last posting as I appreciate honesty..and that is why it can be effective to say it like it is and then seek the best to converse. I looked at the clip on your website of the movie...looks very interesting...I did enjoy the audio sound of the clip and the presentation of each person.

The next time you stand over some ants...consider if one of them could look up and converse with you...would you look at that ant differently then the ones that could/would not recognize you? Perhaps even show 'grace' and not step on that one ant. Maybe that is why the Psalmist (i think it was in psalms) said, "consider the ants" then if we being an inferior being to our Maker and He has really given us some kind of plan to follow then we of our own could not figure it out as we are just like ants unto Him until we call upon Him and inquire of who He is and who are we in regards to His abilities. The stubborness of some of mankind to beleive that all this here on earth and in the skies above just 'evolved' as in plopped up on its own is absurd! Even these computers didn't make their own programs or hardware. Yes, there is a Master Maker of Heavens and earth and He is still making life everywhere beyond our expectations and our understanding. And GOD is not alone...for He has a Heavenly Host of beings that serve Him and each have its own position/work.

Some scientists today believe that the universes/solar systems are still growing and continue to evolve into more and therefore they cannot number the stars in a finite number.