Responding to the resurrection: praying with confidence
H ow do we respond to the risen Jesus? The book of Hebrews tells us: Since Jesus has risen into heaven as our great high priest, then we can have confidence to enter God’s presence, and because of that, we should enter his presence (Hebrews 10:19-22). “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.... 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” (Hebrews 4:14-16). In other words, since Jesus has risen from the dead, we should pray, and we should do it with confidence. The risen Jesus makes a difference in our lives through prayer. Because he is now in heaven, we have the guarantee that our prayers will be heard. We pray “in Jesus’ name” — as if putting his signature at the end of our letter. He intercedes for us, prays for us! God listens to us just as well as he listens to Jesus himself.
Prayer: a cry for help
Some people make prayer sound like a duty, as a work that faithful Christians must perform. Some make it sound like we ought to pray seven times a day, or three times a day, or all night long, or rise before dawn, or spend at least two hours every day, following the example of this or that famous person. I think Christians should pray not as a duty, but out of need. After all, prayers are requests. There are no biblical commands for us to pray at certain times or in certain ways. We are not told to follow Jesus’ example in praying all night, or Daniel’s example of facing Jerusalem. But Scripture everywhere assumes that God’s people do pray. We are not told to pray for specific amounts of time, but all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). We are not told to kneel or stand or lie on the floor when we pray. Rather, we are told to do everything while praying (Philippians 4:6).
Why so much prayer?
Prayer is, in its simplest sense, a request. The most common Hebrew and Greek words for prayer mean “ask.” Whenever we ask God for anything, we are praying—and it is right that we ask. Paul told the Philippians to ask for whatever they wanted (Philippians 4:6). That is why we should pray: We are to ask God for the things we need. The better we know ourselves, the more we will know that we are incredibly needy people. Of ourselves, we can do nothing. If we want to accomplish anything worthwhile, we must seek God’s help. We must depend on him. Prayer is a cry for help. And since our needs never end, our prayers should never cease.
Rely on God
Self-reliance is sin. It is arrogant for us tiny creatures to think that we can do whatever we want, that we can control our own destinies, that we can decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Humans have neither the wisdom nor the power. The universe exists only because Christ is upholding it by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). We exist only because our Creator supplies our needs (Acts 14:17). Yet (I speak from experience) even believers sometimes forget about our minute-by-minute need for God, and we may go through the day with scarcely a thought, scarcely a thanks for what God is doing for us. He is upholding us even as we ignore him. Even when we face problems, we sometimes struggle on and on, trying to solve the problems with our own strength, with our own strategies, instead of realizing that needs and desires should be shared with God in prayer (Philippians 4:6). We act as if everything depends on us, when everything actually depends on God. He knows our needs, and he wants us to trust him. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, especially when we are too unthinking to ask for ourselves (Romans 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit stands in the gap and helps us in ways that we do not know. So when