This morning as I sat on the patio enjoying a cup of coffee and the warm light from the sun beaming from the east with no clouds to hide it, I prepared to read from 1 Timothy. I had Shane & Shane – Before The Throne Of God Above (written by Charitie Lees Smith in 1863) playing in the background as I prayed to ask God to bless the reading of his word and to give me the grace to understand and the desire to obey what I read. In the middle of my prayer, I burst out in song as this verse began:
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Yes, right in the middle of my prayer I lifted my voice in praise of my sinless Savior. Without Jesus satisfying the wrath of God, it would still remain on me (John 3:36). The truth of the gospel and the work of Jesus in it caused me to ponder the joy of prayer. I realized that I can only make this plea to God because my sinless Savior took my punishment, took my shame, took my guilt, so that I may be free to cry in the Spirit, “Abba Father” (Rom. 8:15)!
I stand before the throne of God guiltless, blameless, and free
Because of Christ, the Lamb, who died for me
I wish to expound on the joy of prayer briefly by taking a look at Hebrews 4:14-16.
14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:14-16
This passage shows us the importance of Christ’s sinlessness and his temptation as well as the basis for our confidence to approach the throne of God in prayer.
Jesus Christ was fully tempted. There are many reasons why this is important, but pertinent to our discussion here, his temptation is vital so he can sympathize with us. In other words, the intervention and pleading that Jesus does on our behalf is personal. It is not a general grace, but a personal grace. Our pleas are not only heard, but felt. This goes to the heart of the nature of the God we serve and love and have. He is set apart from all other gods as a transcendent and personal God! This means that prayer is not a super-spiritual rite or performance in order to obtain righteousness. Prayer is instead a means of grace through which we fellowship and commune with an eternal God who not only comforts us in our weaknesses, but can fully identify with them.
Jesus was not only fully tempted, but he was also entirely sinless through all temptation to sin. It is great that Christ can identify with us to a certain level and I am eternally glad and grateful for this. But if we could fully identify with us in sin, this would be detrimental and the end of the Christian faith. We identify with Adam in the sense that we are tempted as he was and we sin as he did (see Genesis 3). However, Christ is the second Adam, the new Man, who was tempted as we are, and as Adam was, but did not sin. Jesus obeyed where Adam did not and where we did not. Adam’s only hope and ours as well is in the perfect righteousness of Christ, which he accomplished through much temptation to sin. As a result of this perfect righteousness, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, a lamb without blemish, to be condemned in our place. Jesus’ sinlessness means that he is able to take our sin upon himself and by offering himself as this perfect sacrifice, he becomes our great High Priest through whom we approach the throne of God.
Draw Near with Confidence
This passage does not mean that when you pray to God for something to happen, that it automatically will. Paul prayed three times for the thorn in his side to be removed (see 1 Cor. 12:7-9). He prayed through the same Christ and approached the same throne of God with the same confidence that we do, yet the thorn in his flesh remained. His request was denied. Sometimes God may want to demonstrate the power of his grace through your endurance through suffering. He may want to teach you that his grace is sufficient.
However, what is certain is the way for us to receive grace and mercy for our souls and in our lives is to approach God’s throne. We can do so confidently only on the basis of what Christ has done on our behalf. On our own merit, we do not have the right to approach God, for if we did, we would surely die. But with Christ Jesus as our substitute and our great High Priest, we can with full confidence ask God to bless us and to give us grace and mercy in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). The prospect of being turned down by God is not the basis of our confidence. A child does not base his confidence in asking his dad or mom for a gift on the guarantee they will say yes. He is confident in asking his parents for a gift because of the relationship he has with them. So it is with prayer. We should be confident to ask of God anything on the basis of our relationship with him. In short, we can be confident because Christ has restored us to God! We can be confident in prayer because the gospel demands it.
The Nature of Prayer Because of Christ
The significance of Hebrews 4:14-16 is massive. I wish to leave you with three aspects of prayer that I hope will encourage you to pray more and to discover the blood-bought joy of prayer. Prayer is now personal, powerful, and pleasing because of the work of Christ.
1. Prayer is personal because of the Christ through whom we pray who identifies with our temptation and sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). Through him, we personally commune with God our Father.
2. Prayer is powerful because our pleas are heard by an omnipotent God. It is the God who gives sight to the blind and life to the dead who sits on the throne of glory we approach in prayer. But prayer itself from our perspective takes power in the work of Christ in his intervention and pleading on our behalf. It is in Jesus’ name we pray.
3. Prayer is pleasing both to God and us because God desires to give his children good gifts and we desire to be in fellowship with God. We have peace with God because of our justification before him in Christ. And this peace is pregnant with pleasure. So, prayer goes from being a meaningless rite, to a glorious joy-producing means of grace.
Pray in Christ. Pray for joy. God is glorified when you pray this way.