Several years ago, I attended a weekend conference on prayer led by an author who had recently written a book on the subject. I learned all sorts of helpful tips that weekend, but my biggest takeaway could be summed up as: Get in the game. Don’t just talk about prayer or think about prayer or wait until you have just the right system or motivation to pray, but actually begin praying in any and every situation you can. Don’t hold back. Pray often, pray honestly, pray imperfectly (which you will), but pray. Get in the game.
Children can lead the way here. Think about it: they ask for what they want, unconcerned with their motives or having just the right words or whether or not it’s a good time to be asking. They make their requests known, fully expecting their parents to be able to give them what they need or want. It’s no wonder Jesus said, “Don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus is not turned off by need and desire, but moves toward it.
Hebrews 4:14 describes Jesus as our “great high priest.” In the Old Testament, a priest served as a mediator between God and the people of God. This priest was human, of course, and so was weak and sinful, just like us. He knew what it felt like to desperately need God’s mercy and grace. As a fellow sinner, the offerings he made to God on behalf of the people were also made to cover his own sins. While he was called by God to represent the people, he was not above the people.
Jesus was also called by God to serve as our high priest. “He did not exalt himself” to that role (Hebrews 5:5). Because He lived a sinless life, His sacrifice was a sufficient and permanent offering to God. And yet His sinlessness does not mean He is unable to sympathize with us. He was “tempted in every way as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). And “during his earthly life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus knows what it feels like to be human. He is our Great High Priest, but He has been in low places. He is not an unapproachable Savior.
And so Hebrews 4:16 offers this exhortation and invitation: “Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” In light of who Jesus is (great, and sympathetic to our needs) and in light of what He has done (provided a permanent sacrifice for sin) we can and must approach God with unashamed boldness, fully expecting Him to give us the mercy and grace we need. He delights to do so, for He is a merciful and gracious God.
Written by Matt Erickson