Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Privilege of Prayer

We have a problem.

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. – John 9:31
We want to talk to God, commune with him, find favor in his eyes, for in him is life and peace, apart from him is death and eternal pain. It is important to know God, because Jesus tells us, this is eternal life. The requirements for knowing him are strict.
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. – Psalm 34:15-16
If we’re not righteous, then we have no audience with God, indeed, he considers our prayers to be sin. (Proverbs 28:9) It was to this effect that George Washington wrote,
I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of my sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers are become my sin, and they stand in need of pardon. I have sinned against heaven and before Thee in thought, word, and deed.
Jeremiah records that God does not listen to the prayers of the ungodly, but that he has wrapped himself in a cloud so that prayers cannot pass through. (Lamentations 3:43-45) There is something to that old adage, “My prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling.” When God doesn’t respond to prayers, is it because he is unable to respond or that he missed the request? Of course not, and Isaiah finishes the thought,
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. – Isaiah 59:1-2
We have a problem. Our sin has made a separation between us and God, he has promised to neither respond to, nor even hear, our prayers. If we pray to God as sinners, he doesn’t hear us.

In our dilemma, God knew that we would all go astray, that we would be unable to approach his Throne of Grace, so he made provision for us to be righteous. He sent his perfect sinless Son to be made sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) The reception for this, some think is through the sinner’s prayer, but we’ve discovered that God is not listening to our prayers, so for a sinner to pray for salvation is foolishness beyond foolishness. If we will repent towards God and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, then defeated death, and lives today, then we will be reconciled to God through his death, and made alive through his life.

But we’re not out of the woods yet. If you sin while in front of the Throne of God, you will die instantly. Check out Exodus 28:31-35, if Aaron sinned and hence died while in the presence of God, the priests outside of the Holy of Holies would know because his bells would stop jingling. Some have thought that a rope would be tied to his ankle to get him out, but beloved, if your high priest died in the presence of God because of sin, you’d have bigger problems than getting his body out.

I’m guessing that none of my readers have ever died while praying; yet being in the presence of God, who describes himself as a Consuming Fire, should be a tremendously dangerous place to be. I was praying once in a group out of doors when a cat attacked me. I screamed, then laughed, in the middle of the prayer. Even worse yet, Ergun Caner tells the story of hearing a prayer, “Father, we worship and adore you; Jesus, we thank you for dying for our sins; Holy Spirit, we ask you to work in our midst; and Satan, stay out of our meeting.” Several in attendance looked up, all thinking the same thing, “That dude just prayed to the devil.” Yet we don’t die when we sin in our prayers…why not?

Because the prayers we pray and the prayers that are delivered to God are radically different from one another. Our permanent Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, is there to make intercession for us.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:23-25
He purchased us on Calvary’s cross, he defeated death and lives forever, making intercession for his saints. His prayers and ministry keep us alive despite our sin. At the same time, the Holy Spirit is fixing our prayers enroute.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27
So we ourselves are made righteous in the death and resurrection of the Son of God, our prayers are infused with his righteousness as they are presented at the Throne of Grace, and the Holy Spirit rewords them to ask God the Father for what it was that we really meant to pray, that is, if we knew what we needed.

We had a problem, but God has provided the solution. This is a privilege purchased at so great a cost on Calvary’s cross, so then what should we do?

Pray unceasingly. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) How should we pray? There are five kinds of prayer, and I suggest praying all of them regularly, even unceasingly. They are:

Petitioning – Asking God to do something for you
Intercession – Asking God to do something for someone else
Supplication – Asking God to do something through someone else
Thanksgiving – Acknowledging God for what he is doing and has done
Imprecation – Asking God to put an end to evil through violence

And should we shoot these prayers up meekly, assuming that our High Priest who, being God himself, is not able to sympathize with us? By no means! We are able to approach boldly to the Throne of Grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need, for our High Priest was tempted in every way we’ve been tempted, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Likewise, we should pray with expectation. If our prayers are in line with the will of God, and we know that the Holy Spirit has aligned them, then we will receive an answer. Be assured that the answer is one that will grow us in holiness, driving us towards purity, making us able to discern the will of God in our lives, what is good, acceptable, and perfect; all of which lead to our sanctification. (cf. Hebrews 12:14, Romans 12:2, 1 John 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Acts 4:31, 1 Peter 1:16)

We had a problem; we have a solution. So let us pray.
We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. – John 9:31

1 comments:

Barbara said...

Because the prayers we pray and the prayers that are delivered to God are radically different from one another. Our permanent Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, is there to make intercession for us.

Thank you! For some reason that particular detail of that concept has completely escaped me until now. Thank you! That really helps!