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The Language of Prayer

December 26, 2017 Leave a comment

I have discovered through my web browsing sessions on the internet that Muslims pray in Arabic and many non-Arab Muslims do not even know what they are praying. This seems very similar to what has been going on with Roman Catholics in the past. They go to a Latin Mass and unless they have studied and learned to understand Latin, they really do not know what is being said during the service. (A lot of Masses nowadays are in the language spoken by the people and not Latin.) I have attended Divine Liturgy in a Greek Orthodox church before and heard half of the Liturgy in Greek and the rest in English. There needs to be some common sense here. I will talk about that now.

In the Koran, it says:

O men, you are the ones that have need of God; He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (Koran 35:15, Arberry)

God is All-sufficient. He does not need us. He does not need our prayers. God already knows what we need before we ask Him. Jesus said:

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:8, NKJV)

Prayer is really for our own spiritual benefit, not for God.

St. Paul said:

So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air… For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. (I Corinthians 14:9,14,15, NKJV)

If the religious leaders who are responsible for shepherding me require me to pray in a language that I do not understand, they are having me do something that is not spiritually beneficial to me. If I pray in Latin and do not understand Latin, I am uttering words into the air and “my understanding is unfruitful.” Whenever one prays liturgically, one must unite his heart to his mouth. This is a spiritual discipline. I cannot do that if I pray in a language that I do not understand. Therefore, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding.”

King David prayed in Hebrew. Jesus and His disciples prayed in Aramaic. First century Christians converted from among the Gentiles prayed in Greek and Latin. Muhammad prayed in Arabic and not Greek because he understood Arabic. He accepted the teachings from the New Testament that I have just cited. (Koran 29:46) To my Muslim readers I say, if you believe that it is all right to pray without understanding what you have prayed, then you are disobeying the Koran. (Koran 4:136,137)

So, pray in a language that you understand. That is better for you.

God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship for you. (Koran 2:185, Arberry)

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Why Pray?

December 24, 2017 Leave a comment

God does not need us, but we need Him. God created us to be loved by Him. He created us for Himself. He created us to glorify Him. Prayer is one of the activities that we need to engage in. Prayer, however, is for our own spiritual benefit and not for God who needs nothing at all from us. I am going to discourse on the reasons and purposes for prayer in this blog post.

In the Psalms, it says:

I will take no bullocks out of thine house, nor he-goats out of thy flocks. For all the wild beasts of the thicket are Mine, the cattle on the mountains, and oxen. I know all the birds of the sky; and the beauty of the field is Mine. If I should be hungry, I will not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fullness of it. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? (Psalm 49:9-13; Psalm 50:9-13, Hebrew)

Animal sacrifices were part of ancient Jewish worship. This passage from the Psalms in effect says that God does not need those sacrifices. God does not need worship from anyone. The Koran, in several places, says that God is All-Sufficient.

As for the unbeliever, God is All-sufficient nor needs any being. (Koran 3:97, Arberry)

Whosoever struggles, struggles only to his own gain; surely God is All-sufficient nor needs any being. (Koran 29:6, Arberry)

Indeed, We gave Lokman wisdom: ‘Give thanks to God. Whosoever gives thanks gives thanks only for his own soul’s good, and whosoever is ungrateful — surely God is All-sufficient, All-laudable.’ (Koran 31:12, Arberry)

To God belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth; surely God — He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (Koran 31:26, Arberry)

O men, you are the ones that have need of God; He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (Koran 35:15, Arberry)

God is the All-sufficient; you are the needy ones. (Koran 47:38, Arberry)

Although God does not need us, He still loves us. He created us to be loved by Him. He never created anything to be hated.

For Thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which Thou hast made: for never wouldest Thou have made any thing, if Thou hadst hated it. (Wisdom 11:24, KJV)

God created everything for Himself. (Colossians 1:16) God established everything for His glory. He created us to glorify Him.

The Lord hath not given power to the saints to declare all His marvellous works, which the Almighty Lord firmly settled, that whatsoever is might be established for His glory. (Sirach 42:17, KJV)

Even all who are called by My name: for I have prepared him for My glory, and I have formed him, and have made him. (Isaiah 43:7, LXX)

The chief goal for which we should strive in all of our actions is to glorify God.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31, NKJV)

One of the purposes for prayer, therefore, is to glorify God.

In the 49th Psalm, it says:

The sacrifice of praise will glorify Me: and that is the way wherein I will shew to him the salvation of God. (Psalm 49:23, LXX; Psalm 50:23, Hebrew)

Sincere worship glorifies God. Jesus said:

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:8, NKJV. See also Philippians 1:11.)

Fruit, in the Bible, is offspring (Psalm 126:3, LXX; Psalm 127:3, Hebrew) and new converts (John 4:34-38).  Fruit is also the qualities that God produces in us as we continue to cooperate with Him in our salvation.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22,23, NKJV)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14, NKJV)

Fruit is good works. (II Corinthians 9:10; Colossians 1:10) So, one of the purposes of prayer is to become people who glorify God by manifesting in our lives those qualities enumerated in Galatians 5:22,23. Another purpose of prayer is to obtain from God mercy to help those who do not know God or who go through life ignoring Him to come to Him in repentance. Of course, one should pray for one’s children to inherit the Kingdom of God on the Day of Judgment, that is, obtain a home in Jannah. Another reason to pray is to obtain assistance from God in doing good works.

New converts, godly children, and good works glorify God. So, does worship. In the Bible, worship is called fruit, too.

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15, NKJV)

As we go through life we are often tempted to do and say things that we should not do or say. One of the goals to be achieved in prayer is to obtain victory over temptation.

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41, NKJV)

The Koran says:

Recite that which hath been inspired in thee of the Scripture, and establish worship. Lo! worship preserveth from lewdness and iniquity, but verily remembrance of Allah is more important. And Allah knoweth what ye do. (Koran 29:45, Pickthall)

The Koran says the same thing that Jesus said but in different words.

St. Paul gives us another purpose for prayer in his First Epistle to Timothy.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (I Timothy 2:1,2, NKJV)

The lack of peace in a region of the world might caused by a lack of prayer by its inhabitants. The Koran says:

God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Koran 13:11)

So, in order to obtain peace, we should pray for everyone. That is what St. Paul was saying.

Another reason to pray is to obtain mercy from God and help in time of need.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV)

St. James, Jesus’ stepbrother, said:

Yet you do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:2, NKJV)

People do not have what they need because they never ask God. God already knows what we need before we ask Him. Jesus said:

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:8, NKJV)

So, although God already knows what we need, He still requires us to ask Him to meet our needs. Prayer is really for our own spiritual benefit.

The Koran says:

So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and during periods of the night [exalt Him] and at the ends of the day, that you may be satisfied. (Koran 20:130, Sahih International)

We all have spiritual needs. Prayer is a means of meeting those spiritual needs. Jesus said:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6, NKJV)

If you want to achieve a high level of sanctity, pray for righteousness. Pray that God will continually change you into that kind of person that He wants you to become. Finally, another reason for prayer is to remember God. King David said:

I remembered Thy name, O Lord, in the night, and kept Thy law. (Psalm 118:55, LXX; Psalm 119:55, Hebrew)

The Koran says:

Surely I am Allah, there is no god but I, therefore serve Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance. (Koran 20:14, Shakir)

Whenever we go through life ignoring our omnipresent Creator, that is not good. Praying at regular intervals helps us to remember God — the One for whom we were created.

To summarize, we were created for God to glorify Him and to be loved by Him. God does not need our prayers. He is All-Sufficient. He already knows what we need before we ask. If we do not have what we need, it is because we have not asked Him for it. He still requires us to ask. We need to pray so that we become the kind of people God wants us to be and manifest in our lives those qualities listed by St. Paul in Galatians 5:22,23. We need to pray for the conversion of those who do not walk with God in their daily lives. We need to pray so that we will live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. We need to pray for the salvation of our children, relatives, and friends. We need to pray in order to obtain victory over temptations. We need to pray so that we remember God. We need to pray because the sacrifice of praise glorifies God. That is why we are here — to glorify Him.

 

Times for Prayer

December 17, 2017 Leave a comment

There exists some differences of opinion among those who have read and studied the Koran concerning set times for prayer. Some say that the Koran does not prescribe any set times for prayer at all. Others, like the Sunnis for instance, say the number of set times for prayer in the Koran are five. Others say that there are only three times appointed for prayer in the Islamic holy book. Some Koranists hold to that view. I think that the number of times appointed for prayer during a day are eight. I have an Orthodox Christian bias toward that number because that is the number of the offices for prayer in our Church. Actually, if one were to count one’s personal prayers along with those offices of prayers, the number would be eleven. I am going to present my view based on my understanding of the Koran and the Bible.

According to Orthodox Church tradition, the liturgical day begins at sunset and goes to the next sunset. The basis for initiating the liturgical day at sunset is found in the Bible in the Book of Genesis.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night, and there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:5, LXX)

The evening is mentioned first and the morning is mentioned next indicating that the day begins at sunset and not at sunrise. The Koran, which of course confirms the Bible, teaches the same thing. In Surah 25, it says:

And He it is Who hath appointed night and day in succession, for him who desireth to remember, or desireth thankfulness. (Koran 25:62, Pickthall)

The night precedes the day. Sunset to sunset is the daily cycle, not sunrise to sunrise. In the 17th Surah, it says:

Perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn; surely the recital of dawn is witnessed. (Koran 17:78, Arberry)

I am aware that some interpret this verse to mean from the decline of the sun from its meridian, that is, from noon, to the darkening of the night and the recitation of the Koran at dawn. That is how the translators of the Sahih International version interpreted it.

Establish prayer at the decline of the sun [from its meridian] until the darkness of the night and [also] the Qur’an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed. (Koran 17:78, Sahih International)

The 17th Surah and the 25th Surah are Meccan surahs. The 25th Surah chronologically preceded the 17th Surah. If Koran 17:78 were abrogating Koran 25:62 and teaching that the liturgical day begins at noon, it would not be similar to Koran 25:62 which teaches that the day goes from night to night, or rather from sunset to sunset. Abrogations are either better than or similar to the abrogated verses. (Koran 2:106) Also, if Koran 17:78 were teaching that the liturgical day begins at noon, then the Koran would no longer be confirming the Bible. (Koran 5:48) So, I disagree with Sahih International’s interpretation.

Muhammad accepted the Scriptures of Orthodox Christians. (Koran 29:46) He told His followers to believe them. (Koran 4:136) The Psalms are part of those Scriptures that Jews and Christians have accepted as divinely inspired revelations from God. In the 118th Psalm in the Septuagint (Psalm 119 in the Hebrew), it says:

Seven times in a day have I praised Thee because of the judgments of Thy righteousness. (Psalm 118:164, LXX; Psalm 119:164, Hebrew)

From this verse, the Orthodox Church has established the existence of seven of the eight canonical hours of the Church. According to tradition, an eighth hour was established during the times of the apostles. It was based on Christ’s commandment to watch and pray at night. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 13:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) Christ prayed His high priestly prayer at this time. (John 17) This additional canonical hour is called the Midnight Office or Nocturnes.

The practice of having eight appointed times for prayer is supported by these verses in the Koran.

Allah desires to explain to you, and to guide you into the ways of those before you, and to turn to you (mercifully), and Allah is Knowing, Wise. (Koran 4:26, Shakir)

And verily We have sent down for you revelations that make plain, and the example of those who passed away before you. An admonition unto those who ward off (evil). (Koran 24:34, Pickthall)

The Koran does not teach that three of these offices of prayer have been discarded. It teaches just the opposite. By affirming the importance of believing in and accepting the Bible (Koran 4:136,137; 150-152; 29:46), it states by implication that there are eight offices of prayer and not merely three or five. The Jews had seven (Psalm 118:164, LXX) and the Christians had eight. God guided the first generation followers of Muhammad “into the ways of those before” them. (Koran 4:26)

The first hour of prayer is at sunset. It is called Vespers by Christians and Maghrib by the Muslims. The evening prayer is mentioned in the Psalms and in the Koran.

Evening, and morning, and at noon I will declare and make known my wants: and He shall hear my voice. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; Psalm 55:17, Hebrew)

Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense; the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. (Psalm 140:2, LXX; Psalm 141:2, Hebrew)

And perform the prayer at the two ends of the day and nigh of the night; surely the good deeds will drive away the evil deeds. That is a remembrance unto the mindful. (Koran 11:114, Arberry)

Perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn; surely the recital of dawn is witnessed. (Koran 17:78, Arberry)

The two ends of the day  in Koran 11:114 are dusk and dawn. “Nigh of the night” refers to the Ninth Hour or Asr.

The next appointed time of prayer is at bedtime. Support for the existence of this office of prayer is found in the Psalms and in the Koran.

Be ye angry, and sin not; feel compunction upon your beds for what ye say in your hearts. Pause. (Psalm 4:4, LXX)

The saints shall rejoice in glory; and shall exult on their beds. The high praises of God shall be in their throat, and two-edged swords in their hands. (Psalm 149:5,6, LXX)

So be thou patient under what they say, and proclaim thy Lord’s praise before the rising of the sun, and before its setting, and proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night, and at the ends of the day; haply thou wilt be well-pleasing. (Koran 20:130, Arberry)

O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you. It is no sin for them or for you at other times, when some of you go round attendant upon others (if they come into your presence without leave). Thus Allah maketh clear the revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. (Koran 24:58, Pickthall)

Koran 20:130 says to “proclaim” our Lord’s “praise in the watches of the night.” Since Compline is the bedtime prayer in the Psalms (Psalm 4:4; 149:5,6), one of the prayers prayed in the watches of the night is Compline. It is called Isha by the Muslims. “The prayer of the night” in Koran 24:58 is probably a reference to Compline or Isha.

In the 39th Surah, it says:

Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding. (Koran 39:9, Sahih International)

Here, we see that the devoutly obedient pray during periods of the night. There are at least three periods since the word is plural and not dual in the Arabic. Vespers (Maghrib), Compline (Isha), and Nocturnes (Tahajjud) are the three periods of prayer in this verse. There is no fourth period of prayer because Muhammad received no new revelations and was not an innovator among the messengers. (Koran 41:43; 46:9)

In the 50th Surah, it says:

Therefor (O Muhammad) bear with what they say, and hymn the praise of thy Lord before the rising and before the setting of the sun. And in the night-time hymn His praise, and after the (prescribed) prostrations. (Koran 50:39,40, Pickthall)

“In the night-time hymn His praise,” says this verse. So, there is prayer at night-time — Isha or Compline. The words, “after the (prescribed) prostrations,” is a mistranslation. Literally, it says, “after the prostration.” The word translated “prostrations” in this verse is singular in the Arabic. Since Muhammad is a good example (Koran 33:21), glorifying God at night is something we should do, too. The commandment given to Muhammad also applies to those who seek to follow his example.

In the 76th Surah, it says:

And remember the Name of thy Lord at dawn and in the evening and part of the night; bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night. (Koran 76:25,26, Arberry)

Remembering God “part of the night” is referring to Compline (Isha).

The Midnight Office, also called Nocturnes, is derived from Christ’s commandment to His disciples to watch and pray. (See Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40.) This time of prayer is kept in remembrance of Christ who prayed in the middle of the night before being captured by the Jews. In the Koran, it says:

The patient, the true, the obedient, those who spend [in the way of Allah], and those who seek forgiveness before dawn. (Koran 3:17, Sahih International)

This verse is describing some of the characteristics of someone who will inhabit Paradise in the afterlife. (See Koran 3:15,16.) Since the first generation Muslims obeyed the messengers of God and Jesus is one of the messengers, they most likely prayed the “Our Father” during their prayers. (See Matthew 6:9-13; Koran 2:285; 4:171.)

Praying before dawn is one of the characteristics of someone who will inhabit Paradise. Nocturnes or Tahajjud occurs before dawn.

In the 17th Surah, it says:

And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate. (Koran 17:79, Pickthall)

Praying in the middle of the night after “awaking for it” is another reference to Nocturnes or Tahajjud.

In Koran 20:130, it says to “proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night.” The word translated “watches” in this verse is plural and not dual in the Arabic. Therefore, at least three watches are indicated here: Vespers (Maghrib), Compline (Isha), and Nocturnes (Tahajjud). Muhammad received no new revelations and was not an innovator among God’s messengers. (Koran 41:43; 46:9) Therefore, only three times of prayer are indicated here.

In the 25th Surah, the servants of God are described as those “who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing.” (Koran 25:63,64)

In the 50th Surah, it says:

Therefor (O Muhammad) bear with what they say, and hymn the praise of thy Lord before the rising and before the setting of the sun. And in the night-time hymn His praise, and after the (prescribed) prostrations. (Koran 50:39,40, Pickthall)

Hymning the praise of God “before the rising of the sun” is a reference to Nocturnes (Tahajjud).

I have already mentioned Koran 39:9 as indicating the existence of three times of prayer at night: Vespers (Maghrib), Compline (Isha), and Nocturnes (Tahajjud). Further evidence for the existence of the Midnight Office in the Koran can be found in the 51st Surah.

And in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness. (Koran 51:18, Sahih International)

Also in the 52nd Surah, there is evidence for this practice.

And proclaim the praise of thy Lord in the night, and at the declining of the stars. (Koran 52:49, Arberry)

In the 73rd Surah, it says:

Lo! thy Lord knoweth how thou keepest vigil sometimes nearly two-thirds of the night, or (sometimes) half or a third thereof, as do a party of those with thee.

Later, in this same verse, it says:

And seek forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Koran 73:20, Pickthall)

The “Our Father” was most likely prayed in obedience to Jesus’ commandment in the Gospels. This was one of the prayers prayed during the Midnight Office (Tahajjud) by the first generation followers of Muhammad. Vigils are a practice of Orthodox Christians, too. Nocturnes and Matins are prayed together before the Divine Liturgy at Pascha.

In Koran 76:26 it says, “Bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night.” (Arberry)

In the 118th Psalm of the Septuagint, it says:

At midnight I arose, to give thanks to Thee for the judgments of Thy righteousness. (Psalm 118:62, LXX; Psalm 119:62, Hebrew)

So then, one of the Old Testament Messengers of God, King David, prayed at midnight, too.

The practice of praying Matins (Fajr) is found in the Psalms. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; Psalm 55:17, Hebrew; Psalm 62:1, LXX; Psalm 63:1, Hebrew; Psalm 87:13, LXX; Psalm 88:13, Hebrew)

Evening, and morning, and at noon I will declare and make known my wants: and He shall hear my voice. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; Psalm 55:17, Hebrew)

O God, my God, I cry to Thee early; my soul has thirsted for Thee: how often has my flesh longed after Thee, in a barren and trackless and dry land! (Psalm 62:1, LXX; Psalm 63:1, Hebrew)

But I cried to Thee, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent Thee. (Psalm 87:13, LXX; Psalm 88:13, Hebrew)

Psalms 62 and 87 of the Septuagint are two of the Psalms prayed during Matins by Orthodox Christians.

King David, who was one of God’s messengers, prayed in the morning. The Koran says that God guided the followers of Muhammad into the ways of those before them. (Koran 4:26) Therefore, first generation Muslims prayed the prayers of Matins (Fajr).

In Koran 11:114, it says “perform the prayer at the two ends of the day.” The two ends of the day are dusk and dawn. Matins is prayed at dawn. In Koran 20:130, it says to “proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night, and at the ends of the day.” The word, translated “ends” is plural and not dual in number. Therefore, three ends or more are implied. The three ends are dawn, noon, and dusk. Notice the night prayers are mentioned before the day prayers. The liturgical day according to the Koran begins at sunset, not at dawn. In Koran 24:58, the prayer of dawn is mentioned — another reference to Fajr or Matins. In Koran 30, it says:

So glory be to Allah when ye enter the night and when ye enter the morning. (Koran 30:17, Pickthall)

Entering the night is referring to Vespers (Maghrib). Entering the morning is referring to Matins (Fajr).

In Koran 48, it says:

That ye (mankind) may believe in Allah and His messenger, and may honour Him, and may revere Him, and may glorify Him at early dawn and at the close of day. (Koran 48:9, Pickthall)

Glorifying God at early dawn is the office of Matins (Fajr). Glorifying Him at the close of the day is Vespers (Maghrib).

In the 52nd Surah, it says:

And proclaim the praise of thy Lord in the night, and at the declining of the stars. (Koran 52:49, Arberry)

Proclaiming God’s praise “at the declining of the stars” is a reference to Matins (Fajr).

In the 76th Surah, it says:

And remember the Name of thy Lord at dawn and in the evening. (Koran 76:25, Arberry)

Remembering the Name of God at dawn refers to praying Matins (Fajr). Remembering the Name of God in the evening refers to Vespers (Maghrib).

The First Hour of Prayer is in the Psalms.

In the morning Thou shalt hear my voice: in the morning will I wait upon Thee, and will look up. (Psalm 5:3, LXX)

This is a very short series of prayers which come immediately after Matins. Psalm 5 is one of the three Psalms prayed during the First Hour in the Orthodox Church. The other two are Psalms 89 and 100 of the Septuagint. (Psalms 90 and 101 in the Hebrew)

One of the seven appointed times of prayer kept by the Jews and also by Christians is the Third Hour. In the Book of Acts, one can see that Jesus’ apostles and disciples kept this time of prayer.

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers… When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place… For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. (Acts 1:12-14; 2:1,15, NKJV)

The first generation followers of Muhammad most probably kept this time of prayer, too. (Koran 4:26; 24:34)

The Sixth Hour (Dhuhr) is mentioned in Psalm 54:17 in the Septuagint. (Psalm 55:17, Hebrew) King David prayed at this time.

It was the practice of St. Peter to pray at this time, too.

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. (Acts 10:9, NKJV)

In the Koran, it says:

Be guardians of your prayers, and of the midmost prayer, and stand up with devotion to Allah. (Koran 2:238, Pickthall)

The “midmost prayer” is probably a reference to the Sixth Hour (Dhuhr). However, many Islamic scholars think that this is a reference to the Ninth Hour (Asr).

I have already mentioned Koran 20:130 as teaching to pray at Matins, the Sixth Hour, and Vespers. It says:

Proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night, and at the ends of the day. (Koran 20:130, Arberry)

The “ends of the day” is plural, not dual in the Arabic. The three ends of the day are dawn, noon, and dusk. King David prayed at those three ends of the day. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; 55:17, Hebrew)

The apostles and the Jews kept the Ninth Hour of prayer. The Muslims call it Asr.

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. (Acts 3:1, NKJV)

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”… So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing. (Acts 10:1-3,30, NKJV)

The Koran says that we should follow the example of Jesus’ apostles. (Koran 4:26; 24:34)

In Koran 11:114, it says to “perform the prayer at the two ends of the day and nigh of the night.” “Nigh of the night” is referring to the Ninth Hour or Asr.

In Koran 20:130, we are commanded to proclaim God’s praise before the setting of the sun. This is a reference to the Ninth Hour or Asr.

In the 30th Surah, it says:

Unto Him be praise in the heavens and the earth! — and at the sun’s decline and in the noonday. (Koran 30:18, Pickthall)

Praising God at the sun’s decline is a reference to the Ninth Hour (Asr). Praising God in the noonday is, of course, the Sixth Hour (Dhuhr).

So, this is my view on the subject of the times for prayer in the Koran. I believe that the Koran confirms the Bible. It does not contradict it.

And that We have revealed to thee of the Book is the truth, confirming what is before it; God is aware of and sees His servants. (Koran 35:31, Arberry)

It, therefore, teaches us to observe the eight canonical hours of prayer. Doing this can be difficult for most people. Among us Orthodox, monks are usually the only ones who do all the prayers. We should not lose heart and fall into despair if we are unable to pray eight times a day. Jesus said:

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NKJV)

Despite all of our efforts to do well and try to obey God, we must always remember that we will never be good enough.

If Allah were to take mankind to task for their wrong-doing, he would not leave hereon a living creature, but He reprieveth them to an appointed term, and when their term cometh they cannot put (it) off an hour nor (yet) advance (it). (Koran 16:61, Pickthall)

It is in the end only by God’s mercy that we will ever obtain Paradise (Jannah). God is the most merciful of those who show mercy.

He said: Have no fear this day! May Allah forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy. (Koran 12:92, Pickthall)

So, we should do our best and hope for God’s mercy. Anyone who gets to Paradise is there, not because he earned his way there. He is there because of God’s mercy. Salvation is a paradox. We cannot earn it, but we must still work for it!

The Fourteen Epistles of St. Paul and the Koran

December 3, 2017 3 comments

So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do. (Koran 2:85, Sahih International)

I have watched Youtube videos where Muslim clerics speak disparagingly of St. Paul and they reject his fourteen epistles as rubbish. I have decided to do a blog post on the subject of St. Paul’s epistles and look at the historical evidence for their inclusion into the Christian canon of Holy Scripture.

First of all, let us look at this verse from the Koran.

And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender. (Koran 29:46, Pickthall)

The Koran is here saying that the first generation Muslims and Muhammad believed in both the Koran (“that which hath been revealed unto us”) and the Bible (that which hath been “revealed unto you.”)

So, if Muhammad and his followers believed in the Bible, did they accept the fourteen epistles of St. Paul. Muhammad was born in 569 or 570. He died in 632. If Christians living before 569 accepted those fourteen epistles of St. Paul as Holy Scripture, then Muhammad did, too.

The fourteen epistles of St. Paul are: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote some lectures that were to be used with catechumens. A catechumen is someone who is seeking to enter into full communion with the Church. St. Cyril (318-386 A.D.) lived in the fourth century.

Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles and are mischievous. The Manichæans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by yourself, as you have heard me say. Thus much of these subjects. (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IV, by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 318-386, vol. 7, pp. 27,28, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

St. Cyril listed all of the New Testament books with the exception of the Book of Revelation. The Church in the East was slow to adopt Revelation into the canon. It was, however, being used as part of the canon before Muhammad was born. That would be the subject of another blog.

St. Athanasius the Great (298-373), was Archbishop of Alexandria. He also lived in the fourth century. He wrote:

Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John. (Letter XXXIX, by St. Athanasius the Great, 298-373, vol. 4, p. 552, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

In this letter written by him, he lists all of the books in the New Testament that Christians have today in their Bibles.

The next excerpt is from a letter written by St. Jerome (345-420). He lived in the fourth century in Italy. In this letter he lists the books of the New Testament.

The New Testament I will briefly deal with. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Lord’s team of four, the true cherubim or store of knowledge. With them the whole body is full of eyes, they glitter as sparks (Ezekiel 1:7), they run and return like lightning, (Ezekiel 1:14) their feet are straight feet (Ezekiel 1:7), and lifted up, their backs also are winged, ready to fly in all directions. They hold together each by each and are interwoven one with another (Ezekiel 1:11): like wheels within wheels they roll along (Ezekiel 1:16) and go wherever the breath of the Holy Spirit wafts them. (Ezekiel 1:20) The apostle Paul writes to seven churches (for the eighth epistle — that to the Hebrews — is not generally counted in with the others). He instructs Timothy and Titus; he intercedes with Philemon for his runaway slave. Of him I think it better to say nothing than to write inadequately. The Acts of the Apostles seem to relate a mere unvarnished narrative descriptive of the infancy of the newly born church; but when once we realize that their author is Luke the physician whose praise is in the gospel, we shall see that all his words are medicine for the sick soul. The apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude, have published seven epistles at once spiritual and to the point, short and long, short that is in words but lengthy in substance so that there are few indeed who do not find themselves in the dark when they read them. The apocalypse of John has as many mysteries as words. In saying this I have said less than the book deserves. All praise of it is inadequate; manifold meanings lie hidden in its every word. (Letter LIII, by St. Jerome, 345-420, vol. 6, pp. 101-102, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

The seven churches to which St. Paul wrote are: Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. He wrote one epistle to his own people, the Hebrews. He left his name off because of the Judaizers. The Jews did not like what St. Paul said about certain commandments in the Law no longer being in effect. If he had put his name on it, fewer people would have read it. This epistle was originally written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. There is ancient testimony that this is true. (A subject for another blog.)

At the Council of Carthage that met in 419 A.D., there is this canon.

Item, that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture.

But the Canonical Scriptures are as follows:

Genesis.
Exodus.
Leviticus.
Numbers.
Deuteronomy.
Joshua the Son of Nun.
The Judges.
Ruth.
The Kings, iv. books.
The Chronicles, ij. books.
Job.
The Psalter.
The Five books of Solomon.
The Twelve Books of the Prophets.
Isaiah.
Jeremiah.
Ezechiel.
Daniel.
Tobit.
Judith.
Esther.
Ezra, ij. books.
Macchabees, ij. books.

The New Testament.
The Gospels, iv. books.
The Acts of the Apostles, j. book.
The Epistles of Paul, xiv.
The Epistles of Peter, the Apostle, ij.
The Epistles of John the Apostle, iij.
The Epistles of James the Apostle, j.
The Epistle of Jude the Apostle, j.
The Revelation of John, j. book.

Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church. (Canon XXIV, Council of Carthage, 419 A.D., vol. 14, pp. 453-454, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

All of the books of the New Testament were mentioned in this conciliar canon.

Now, I want to go further back in time to the second century. I want to demonstrate that a particular passage of New Testament Scripture was being used by Christians back then. First, let us look at this passage from Tertullian’s writings. Tertullian was born in 145 and died in 220.

On this principle, too, the sufferings of Christ will be found not to warrant faith in Him. For He suffered nothing who did not truly suffer; and a phantom could not truly suffer. God’s entire work, therefore, is subverted. Christ’s death, wherein lies the whole weight and fruit of the Christian name, is denied although the apostle asserts it so expressly as undoubtedly real, making it the very foundation of the gospel, of our salvation and of his own preaching. “I have delivered unto you before all things,” says he, “how that Christ died for our sins, and that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day.” (I Corinthians 15:3,4) Besides, if His flesh is denied, how is His death to be asserted; for death is the proper suffering of the flesh, which returns through death back to the earth out of which it was taken, according to the law of its Maker? Now, if His death be denied, because of the denial of His flesh, there will be no certainty of His resurrection. For He rose not, for the very same reason that He died not, even because He possessed not the reality of the flesh, to which as death accrues, so does resurrection likewise. Similarly, if Christ’s resurrection be nullified, ours also is destroyed. If Christ’s resurrection be not realized, neither shall that be for which Christ came. For just as they, who said that there is no resurrection of the dead, are refuted by the apostle from the resurrection of Christ, so, if the resurrection of Christ falls to the ground, the resurrection of the dead is also swept away. And so our faith is vain, and vain also is the preaching of the apostles. (Five Books Against Marcion, Book III, chapter 8, by Tertullian, 145-220, vol. 3, p. 328, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

Notice that Tertullian quoted from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. He quoted I Corinthians 15:3,4. That says that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again the third day.

Let us look at the writings of a Sub-apostolic Church Father — St. Irenaeus of Lyons (120-202). The Sub-apostolic Church Fathers were people who knew someone who had personally known one of the Twelve Apostles or St. Paul.

He was likewise preached by Paul: “For I delivered,” he says, “unto you first of all, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4) It is plain, then, that Paul knew no other Christ besides Him alone, who both suffered, and was buried, and rose gain, who was also born, and whom he speaks of as man. For after remarking, “But if Christ be preached, that He rose from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:12), he continues, rendering the reason of His incarnation, “For since by man came death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead.” And everywhere, when [referring to] the passion of our Lord, and to His human nature, and His subjection to death, he employs the name of Christ, as in that passage: “Destroy not him with your meat for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15) And again: “But now, in Christ, you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13) And again: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs upon a tree.” (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23) And again: “And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died” (1 Corinthians 8:11); indicating that the impassible Christ did not descend upon Jesus, but that He Himself, because He was Jesus Christ, suffered for us; He, who lay in the tomb, and rose again, who descended and ascended, — the Son of God having been made the Son of man, as the very name itself does declare. For in the name of Christ is implied, He that anoints, He that is anointed, and the unction itself with which He is anointed. And it is the Father who anoints, but the Son who is anointed by the Spirit, who is the unction, as the Word declares by Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me” (Isaiah 61:1), — pointing out both the anointing Father, the anointed Son, and the unction, which is the Spirit. (Against Heresies, Book III, chapter 18, by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, 120-202, vol. 1, p. 446, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons quoted from I Corinthians 15:3,4, too. He also quoted from a couple of other verses in this same epistle and he quoted from Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians.

Here is I Corinthians 15:3-8:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (I Corinthians 15:3-8, NKJV)

There are Islamic religious leaders who are rejecting “that which has been revealed” to Christians, namely, the fourteen epistles of St. Paul. They are teaching that Jesus did not die. They say that He ascended into Heaven and will come back one day and die and be resurrected. That is not what I Corinthians 15:3,4 says. I have provided excerpts from two second century documents that show that the second century Christians believed that passage of Scripture and it had not been “corrupted.”

In the Koran, it says:

O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His Scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray. Lo! those who believe, then disbelieve and then (again) believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them, nor will He guide them unto a way. (Koran 4:136,137, Pickthall)

The Scripture which God “hath revealed unto His messenger” is the Koran. The Scripture which God “hath revealed aforetime” is the Bible. The Koran says to believe in God, Muhammad, the Koran, and the Bible. Then, it says “Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His Scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray.” If you do not believe in God, God’s angels, God’s Scriptures (the Koran and the Bible), God’s messengers (notice the plural), and the Last Day (that is, the resurrection from the dead and the Last Judgment), then you have “wandered far astray.” In verse 137 it is saying that if someone believes in God, His angels, His messengers, the Koran, the Bible, and the Last Day, and then disbelieves in them, and then believes in them again, and then disbelieves in God, His angels, His messengers, the Koran, the Bible, and the Last Day, and then increases in disbelief, God “will never pardon them, nor will He guide them unto a way.”

So, now back to I Corinthians 15:3-8. If you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day and you increase in disbelief,  God will never pardon you and He will never guide you unto a way. This is what Koran 4:136,137 is teaching. Koran 29:46 says that Muhammad accepted the Scriptures used by Christians in the seventh century. Christians were using all of the books they now have in the New Testament as Holy Scripture before the birth of Muhammad. I Corinthians 15:3,4 has not been “corrupted.” Therefore, those verses must be believed by anyone who wants to obey the Koran.

Now, let us look at this passage from the 18th Surah.

Those whose effort goeth astray in the life of the world, and yet they reckon that they do good work. Those are they who disbelieve in the revelations of their Lord and in the meeting with Him. Therefor their works are vain, and on the Day of Resurrection We assign no weight to them. That is their reward: hell, because they disbelieved, and made a jest of Our revelations and Our messengers. Lo! those who believe and do good works, theirs are the Gardens of Paradise for welcome, Wherein they will abide, with no desire to be removed from thence. (Koran 18:105-109, Pickthall; 18:104-108 in other translations)

If someone is going astray because they do not believe the Bible (Koran 4:136), their works are vain and God will assign no weight to them. Their reward will be hell, because they did not believe God’s revelations (the Bible and the Koran) and made fun of God’s revelations (the Bible and the Koran) and God’s messengers (Notice the plural).

So, now, what about these verses from the Koran?

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger — they slew Him not nor crucified Him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew Him not for certain. (Koran 4:157, Pickthall)

(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering Thee and causing Thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing Thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow Thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ. (Koran 3:55, Pickthall)

I spake unto them only that which Thou commandedst Me, (saying): Worship Allah, My Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest Me Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things. (Koran 5:117, Pickthall)

The Koran claims to confirm the Bible.

And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. (Koran 5:48, Pickthall)

It does not contradict it. Maybe those English translations of those passages from the Koran are mistranslations. Maybe the Islamic religious leaders are misinterpreting them. (See Matthew 17:9; 28:7. See also Matthew 27:27-38; Luke 23:46; John 10:17,18; 19:30,33.)

You do not have to take my word for it that Koran 3:55 and 5:117 have been mistranslated and misinterpreted. Just go to this page and see for yourself: http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=wfy#(5:117:20). Look at how the Arabic verb, tawaffā, is most frequently translated in the Koran. It is a form V verb that occurs 24 times. The active participle of this verb occurs only once in the Koran — in Koran 3:55. Look at the other 23 places in the Koran and see how this verb is most frequently translated.

The religion known as Islam today has morphed into a one prophet, Bibleless religion. This is totally unkoranic. Islamic religious leaders quote the Koran. They hardly ever quote one of the Old Testament prophets. They hardly ever quote from the New Testament. The Koran is two-thirds the size of the New Testament. The Old Testament is much larger than the Koran. The Koran teaches that rejecting God’s revelations is a serious sin. (Koran 7:36; 18:104-108)

The fourteen epistles of St. Paul are part of God’s Scriptures. They were accepted as Holy Scripture before the birth of Muhammad. Muhammad accepted the Scriptures Christians used in the seventh century. (Koran 29:46) Those who reject St. Paul’s fourteen epistles are disobeying the Koran and are not on the straight path for which they pray in the Fatihah. I have already said enough about the fate of those who disbelieve.

Say: The Truth hath come, and falsehood showeth not its face and will not return. (Quran 34:49, Pickthall)