December 18, 2016

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This is a familiar Scripture to many Christians, yet far too many act like they don’t really believe it. This doesn’t encourage being presumptuous or flippant in prayer, but it says clearly that we should be bold. Verse 14 talks about Jesus’ transcendence, which should give us reverence before Him, but verse 15 talks about how he’s been through what we are experiencing, yet without sin. That lays the groundwork for this verse. If He is divine and thus omnipotent, and yet understands us by His own experience, then why wouldn’t we pray to Him? The biggest mistake people make about prayer is simply not praying. Japanese in particular seem to think they need to be “skillful” before they can pray. Even if that were true, which it isn’t, how are you going to become skillful if you don’t practice? There’s a hymn that expresses how we are to come to God: Just as I Am. It has been somewhat overused in some circles in evangelistic meetings, but the truth it expresses is very real. If we try to wait until we are cleaned up before we come to God, in prayer or otherwise, no one would ever approach Him, apart from incredible conceit. None of us are worthy to approach Him on our own, but as the Bible makes so very clear, He loves us so much that He gave His Son to open the way for us to come to Him. If we know that is the case, it is the worst ingratitude to fail to come to Him.

As a pastor, this is a constant issue for the people in my care. I have no hesitation myself to pray, but few people grew up in the kind of home I did, where prayer was as natural as breathing. They seem to have great difficulty believing He would really listen to them, either because they humbly recognize their own unworthiness or because they have only prayed ignorant, self-centered prayers they don’t feel were answered. They don’t understand that He may tell us yes, no, or later. That’s where spiritual growth comes in. Tolerance for delayed gratification is a prime marker of emotional and spiritual maturity. I need to help people understand that God really is listening to them, even if they don’t get the answer they want when they want it. I also need to help them understand that the major purpose for prayer isn’t to change God (as though we could) but to change us. God does often do the things we ask for in prayer, but He knows we need them even before we ask. (Matthew 6:8) Prayer teaches who He is and who we are, and over time, makes us more like Jesus. You will hardly ever find a person who is both devoted to prayer and is rude or defiant or any of a number of undesirable things. I need to help people understand, however, that you don’t have to be like that before you can pray; prayer makes you like that.

Father, thank You for the intensive training You’ve been giving us in prayer, especially over the past month. Thank You that I’m not the same person I was a month ago. Thank You that today we’ll be signing the paperwork for the loan to enable us to purchase the land next door. There are more steps involved, particularly involving the current landowner and government bureaucracy, but I have peace and assurance that You will take us through them. Help me give You the thanks and praise You deserve, for this and for all things, so that all who know us may be drawn to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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