Watch and Pray:Being Hebraic
By Clifford Denton


We are in the fallen world, limited by time and space. Our Father is in Heaven, in His perfect eternal existence, outside of time and space. Intercessory prayer bridges earth and Heaven. When God responds to our needs He reaches down to us, willing to walk with us through our earthbound existence. Prayer is our privilege within the partnership offered to us by our Heavenly Father.

We are able to reach out in fellowship with our Heavenly Father for one profound reason: it is because we abide in our Saviour, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), the Supreme Intercessor, through whom all our personal intercessions are made. It was He who came to earth so that we, through faith, will one day be with Him in Heaven. We experience a foretaste of this through prayer.

Sometimes, when we are deep in prayer we find ourselves so joined to our Father by His Spirit that we are temporarily free of our earthbound limitations, experiencing something of what it means to be seated with the Lord in Heavenly places. Intercessory prayer brings an experience of both earth and Heaven. We, for a short while, experience the eternal. This is not an "out of body" experience but it is a Spiritual reality.

If we, through faith, reach out to our Father in Heaven we achieve new perspectives. We enter into God's activity which is governed by Heavenly, not earthly, logic. The more we experience this, the more we will mature as intercessors.

This difference in perspective may be illustrated through a consideration of Hebraic thought.

The Hebrew language is verb orientated. It is a language that belongs to a people who are doers rather than philosophical thinkers. In addition, Hebrew verb structures are both simpler than and different from other languages. Hebrew verbs have just three tenses. When we translate from Hebrew to another language we consider these tenses as past, present and future, because we need translations that conform to our own languages. However, this is not strictly true to the Hebrew. Hebrew verbs concern actions that are either completed or ongoing, yet to be completed. Weingreen's Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew puts it thus (page 56):

In Hebrew thinking, an action is regarded as being either completed or incompleted. Hebrew, therefore, knows of no past, present, or future tenses, but has instead a Perfect and an Imperfect (which in context, lend themselves to a variety of shades of meaning).

Hebrew is the language of the Bible so we should consider this carefully. It helps to explain our experience that comes from prayer, and shows us that we can be confident of the spiritual experience when we are deep in prayer. The Hebraic mindset perceives the certainty of God's purposes. In Heavenly terms they are as certain as if they are already completed. For us the completion is when God's promises are fulfilled in our space and time, but His perspective of what He is doing is not limited by space and time. This is how our perceptions should be influenced by Hebraic thought. From God's perspective He is simply continuing to be what He is and complete what He has started. Hebraic thought patterns help us to relate to God outside of our time limitations while still living here in our physical bodies.

Our lives are influenced by times and seasons, locked into concepts of a past we have experienced, a present reality and the future that is before us, with a mixture of faith and hope. Outside of faith, we are locked into a time oriented world which treats the future as yet to be determined, rather than viewing it from the certainty of Heavenly perspectives. This will, as a consequence, be reflected in our prayers. Sometimes we even make our plans for the future and seek God's blessing on them. Perhaps, while we are trapped in this body and in the reality of our universe, this is inevitable to a degree, but let us consider this a little more and try to consider a heavenly perspective so that we can walk a little closer with our Father.

If Almighty God communicated to His people in the Hebrew language we can assume that the origin of the communication was perfectly Hebraic. Thus when Heaven reached down to earth it was from a perfect existence to a fallen world. In God's perfect existence He does not deal with time as we do. Time on this earth is related to the days and seasons regulated by a rotating earth moving around the sun, in a world that measures change in terms of light and dark, and life and death. While God's communications to us have application within our time-frame they originate from a domain where time as we know it is not the prime consideration. God communicates to us about what He has completed, what is His present action or what is ongoing in His purposes but yet to be completed. His actions are according to Covenant promises sent to us through the Prophets, and are absolutely certain. Thus when we draw near to God in prayer we are entering into both His present activity and the certainty of promises that will be completed according to the Lord's own initiative. If we are deep in prayer then there is a sense of timelessness and certainty which brings our prayers in accord with God's own actions and initiatives.

In a book entitled Future Tense by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who was until recently the Chief Rabbi of Britain, there is a useful insight. His book considers God's ongoing purposes for the Jews, and it is in this context that he draws reference to the fact that our English translations of the Bible have an error. We read in Exodus 3:13-15 that Moses asked God His Name (Exodus 3:13-15). In our English translations we read that:

God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM." ..say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Jonathan Sacks points out (on page 232 of his book) that we have a mistranslation which anyone who knows Hebrew might notice. God gave His Name as Ehyeh asher ehyeh. He points out that the Hebrew is not in the present tense I AM WHO I AM, but the future or imperfect tense, I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. This conveys the idea that the Egyptians and the Israelites would witness what God would do, thereby understanding something of His character. They would watch and wait and God's purposes would come to pass in accordance with His character. His Name is linked to His nature of causing His people to watch for His deeds to be accomplished. He does not have a logical Name that we can define Him in the present, but a Name that implies that His actions are ongoing and we will know Him by His actions in what we know as the future. God is still causing His people to walk with Him a day at a time and share with Him in the outworking of His purposes. Walking into the future is how we consider it in our down-to-earth thinking, but really we are entering into certain promises as seen from a Heavenly perspective. We must learn to pray in the light of this as we watch what He is doing and as we also watch the events on this earth unfolding as we watch and pray.

In fact Jonathon Sacks's correction only takes us halfway. I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE is in the English future tense. That is how we perceive the actions of God coming to pass in a time-orientated way. The Hebrew imperfect, however, is more like I CONTINUE TO BE WHAT I AM AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN. God is not asleep and does not occasionally wake up to do something when an emergency occurs. It may seem that way when His action is only evident to us from time to time, but that is just how we see it, not how it really is.

When we are brought into relationship with our Father in Heaven through the atonement offered to us through Yeshua's sacrifice, then the details of our lives are drawn into His Covenant purposes. For us Heaven's purposes are brought into our lives and change takes place. Then we enter into Covenant relationship which not only helps us in our daily life but also turns us into intercessors, bridging earth and Heaven.

On the one hand our earthly trials prompt prayers for help. On the other hand we find a certainty as God's actions in our lives conform to the purposes which are still being worked out. The certainty of His Covenant purposes incorporates our daily needs, because we are now His children. It is not so much that we need to ask God to help us, as if He is not aware of our needs, but that through relationship with Him we gain higher perspectives of our needs. This is faith coming to fruition. Yeshua taught much about this in the Sermon on the Mount. His teaching makes more sense if we understand it through Hebraic thought. This does not deny us our freedom of choice but is concerned with allowing God to guide our choices in harmony with His certain purposes.

God is inviting His people into a deeper relationship for the days ahead and will transform our prayer life through this relationship. As an old hymn accurately states, "God is working His purpose out as year succeeds to year." "Fear not", He would say to us, "Trust Me and walk with Me through these coming days of perplexity on this earth. Watch what I am doing as you also join with Me in prayer."

This has been the call of God from the time He made Covenants with His people, first with Noah and then with Abraham, still later with Moses, then finally through Yeshua in fulfillment of His promises to Jeremiah.

Among Yeshua's commands were that we should watch and pray. How we pray influences how we stand at our watch, and how we stand at our watch influences how we pray. These things are impossible to understand without spiritual discernment. We are in a physical world and God can seem distant, so sometimes we resort to earthly logic of a kind that comes from cultures that are far from Hebraic. This influences our ability to stand in faith. We must draw closer to Him so that what we experience on this earth is put into the eternal perspectives of the Covenant purposes of God. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to be a child of our Heavenly Father at this time on earth.