There is a difference between having a prayer life and living a praying life. Many of the biblical saints and many of the saints throughout the history of the church have lived such a praying life. Those who find praying a necessity for living are the ones who live a praying life. They’re not always the most spiritual, but they do recognize their own weakness and needs. And in reaching out to God in desperation they discover his strength and, often much to their surprise, they discover a sweet fellowship that keeps them coming back.This is the place where prayer becomes a conversation with the Almighty.
There are many kinds of prayer, but the basic mode of prayer is that of asking God for needs. The classic text for this fundamental prayer impulse is Hebrews 4:16. “Let us then draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” To explore the deep riches of prayer we will consider five dimensions of this divine promise.
The context of this call to prayer is that of a discussion the writer of the book of Hebrews is having on the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. It begins here but carries on for several chapters. Jesus is the high priest of the new covenant. He intercedes with God for us with his own blood rather than the blood of animals. His blood is the only efficient payment for our sins.
In the previous verse we are told that we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses because he has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Because Jesus understands our struggles and loves us enough to give his life for us, he is ready and willing to hear our prayers. It is a function of his high priesthood to compassionately hear and answer our honest prayers in the face of our burdens.
Because Jesus is our high priest who is eager to hears our prayers, we are encouraged to draw near to him. If we had a small glimpse, as Isaiah did, of God’s awesome glory and holiness, we would be fearful to approach him in any way. But the wonderful and beautiful thing is that we are urged by him to come near. Nearness to God is the place of blessing for those whom he calls to himself.
But not only are we called to draw near, we are to come near with confidence. Who would dare to approach God with confidence? Only those who are redeemed and justified by the blood of Christ can rightly have such confidence. They know they are forgiven and adopted into the family of God. They come not in their own names, but in the name of Jesus.
The Throne of Grace
We are summonsed into the presence of God and present our prayers at the throne of Grace. The throne of God is the place of his power and authority. God is sovereign over all the universe, yet he gives us his ear. In Isaiah’s vision of Isaiah chapter six he saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah received a vision of God’s awesome majesty. The Lord had something significant to communicate to Isaiah, but first he impressed on him the glory of the one in whose presence Isaiah stood. In prayer we stand in the presence of God.
But we needn’t fear to enter the presence of God because his throne is a throne of grace. God extends his gracious love to us in Christ so that we may enter his presence with our prayers. Grace is the undeserved favor of God to us through Christ. His grace heals our broken lives and makes us fit for his presence. His grace is an expression of his amazing love.
Mercy and Grace
When we enter the presence of God at his throne of grace with our prayers we experience his mercy and grace. The Bible says here that we receive his mercy. We receive the gift of God’s mercy. Mercy is a gift. Mercy is not something we earn. In fact, the need of mercy reveals our weakness and sin. In mercy God holds back what we rightly deserve. When we come to God with our prayers he looks on us with mercy. He is moved by our brokenness.
As we receive the gift of mercy we discover grace. God’s hand of judgment is held back and mercy is given. In the gift of mercy we discover the blessing of grace. Grace gives above and beyond what we might expect. Grace is extravagant. It flows in abundance.
Help in Need
We human beings are a bundle of needs. We are needy. Many people don’t like to hear that, but its true. We have all kinds of needs in which we must have help or the need will only grow. God comes to give help as we pray. When we humbly seek his help to meet our need, he will respond according his good plan.
We can take our prayer to God for our own needs and for the needs of others. He hears them all. We find we have five kinds of need in which we seek God’s blessing. We might use the acronym, BLESS to direct our prayer toward these five needs we all have. I discovered this acronym several decades ago in a small pamphlet on prayer. The “B” stand for body or health needs. Health needs are a big struggle for so many. The “L” stands for labor, which are needs we have in our jobs or finances. The “E” stands for emotional needs. Anyone can struggle with four main negative emotions: anger, depression, anxiety and shame. The first “S” stands for social or relational needs. We all struggle in relationships. The second “S” stands for spiritual needs. This is the greatest area of need we have, but is often the least prayed for. We may not know the needs others have, but we know they have needs. We can pray for these five kinds of need knowing we have touched on some need they have even though we may not know the exact need.
Intercessory prayer is a great ministry. You can be confident that God hears and answers your prayers. We have the promise of Hebrews 4:16. It takes commitment to stick with this prayer ministry and faith to trust that God will answer our prayer though we may never see the answer. Prayer is indeed a sweet gift from God. He has given it to us to use. If you use this great gift you will be blessed in you prayers and those you pray for will be blessed in the help they receive from God.