Have you ever practiced something for 24 years before realizing you’re still not very good at it? If it were golf, I would have sold the clubs in a garage sale for $15 years ago. If it were guitar, I would have long since burned my Takamine in a men’s retreat campfire. Yet I’ve been practicing prayer for more than two decades, and I’m amazed at how little I still know of this discipline.
We can think of this kind of practicing from another perspective. Can you imagine being a coach of someone for 24 years who remains woefully ineffective at your craft? Suppose you were the golf or guitar instructor—how many years could you endure with a student who could never seem to get it right?
Prayer is God’s kind of craft, because prayer only happens when God is involved. Speaking to the air is not prayer if the speaking is not directed the God who listens for the prayers of His people. Listening to the silence is not prayer if the listening is not tuned to hear the voice of a God who speaks in the quiet places.
So while my slice is still in place, and my bar chords are still not strong, and my prayer life still lacks discipline, our God has been gracious to teach me the baby steps of prayer with the patience and care of a doting father and a devoted coach. Another lesson came this morning through Hebrews 4.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “draw near [with confidence] to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Here are 7 observations to encourage us to persevere in our practice of prayer.
- Drawing near means actively coming before God. If we were to enter the throne room of a king, we would have to deliberately and physically bring our bodies before the king because we had a request to make of him. I can’t say how many times I lament my ineffective prayer life without failing to see how many times I fail to physically bring my body before God in prayer.
- Drawing near with confidence is no small matter. For subjects of the kings of old, to approach the throne without being summoned was to invite certain death. You may recall Queen Esther’s boldness: “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Of course, Esther’s confidence came from her trust in the sovereignty of God over life and death, and our confidence comes because we rest in the advocacy of a great High Priest who is perfect and is sovereign over life and death.
- Drawing near with confidence to the throne means drawing near a throne. Where God is seated. God. Who created and upholds all things by the power of His word. And we are approaching His throne to stand in the immediacy of His glory-filled presence, and all of His attention is on our lips to hear a request He already knows. This is stunning.
- Drawing near with confidence to the throne of grace means this throne is unlike any other kind of throne. Many kings have been vicious tyrants; some others have been benefactors. But there is no throne upon which a mortal king has sat that can be called a throne of grace. Our God is so bent towards grace that He seats Himself upon it and surrounds Himself by it. His throne alone is a throne of grace.
- Drawing near with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy may seem a paradox. A guilty man coming before a king to beg for mercy does not come with confidence; he comes with wobbly knees and a trembling voice. But the promise we have in drawing near the throne of grace with the advocacy of our perfect High Priest allows us the freedom to expect mercy when we come.
- Drawing near with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace means the God who seats himself upon a throne of grace offers grace to us as well. He is the source of this grace but does not hoard it. He means not only to give us grace but for us to find it as well. When we seek at the throne of grace, we find what we are seeking.
- Drawing near with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need means the grace we find when we approach the throne of God, with confidence, finding mercy, is the kind of grace that is meant to help us. His grace not only forgives; it enables. It not only absolves sin; it sustains. And this kind of grace is the kind of grace that addresses all kinds of needs because it is a grace from a God who is sovereign over all things.
Praise be to God for the instruction of his word and the patience with which He teaches us! And let us continue to practice prayer, with steadfastness and perseverance, because we serve a great Coach and a mighty King who invites us to enter His throne room with confidence wrought by faith in the God-man who perfected prayer: Jesus.
Question: What has God taught you about the practice of prayer?