Prayer is God’s children calling on their Father to fulfil his promises. We can come and pray because we do so in Christ – his righteousness as ours, his acceptance credited to us. But prayer is hard, it is part of the spiritual battle we are engaged in as followers of Jesus. And we struggle with prayer because of our sin. Guilt stops us praying. Or paralysis because we worry about praying the wrong thing or in the wrong way.
Turn to Hebrews 4v14-16. Prayer isn’t like walking through a minefield where one wrong step, one wrong ask, or misspeak and we’re doomed. Sometimes we picture prayer like that. Or maybe you picture it like the course the Top Gear presenters had to drive through in a previous series, where if you touched the side you were given an electric shock. But prayer flows out of a grace bought relationship with God, and that grace doesn’t stop when we pray. Let’s read God’s word.
Hebrews 4v14-16. v14 encourages the Hebrew church to endure faithfully, to cling tightly, holding on firmly to their faith. And v16 encourages them to confidently approach God’s throne of grace knowing that they will receive mercy and find grace to help them in times of need. And nestled in between those two exhortations is the power to do those two things. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we have, yet he did not sin.”
How does Jesus feel about our struggle to pray? About the times we pray for our comfort and ease? When we’re consumed with fear and anxiety as we pray? He isn’t repelled, he doesn’t turn away in disgust he feels sympathy for us. Not pity, but sympathy, he feels, he remembers what that struggle is like. He knows that temptation, that battle, and though he never sinned, he’s moved with love towards us.
Jesus knows we find prayer hard. But he meets us in our struggle and even our failure with his grace and mercy. He is moved towards us in love not away from us in disappointment. And he stands before his Father praying for us, his heart connecting our heart to the Father’s heart.
And that’s not all, amazing as that is! At Pentecost Jesus poured out his Spirit – the consequences for our discipleship which we’ll look at a bit more next week. But part of the Spirit’s role is to help us pray, to intercede for us when we don’t exactly know what to pray.
Do you see the wonderful nature of prayer? Will we pray with our eyes open. We aren’t left alone to pray! The Spirit is at work in us as disciples to help us pray. And Jesus intercedes for us before the Father as we pray. He makes us and our prayers acceptable. God longs to hear from us and he won’t give us what is not for our good even if we ask for it. But he also longs to shape our hearts so we pray for kingdom concerns. So that everything we pray for is reshaped in light of his kingdom and trust in his purposes and promises.
And we pray with the church. I wonder how you’ve heard all this on prayer? It’s not a call just to individual prayer. We need to pray on our own but we shouldn’t only prayer alone. Prayer is a family activity. We need to pray together.
Jesus opens up the way to the Father for us. He makes sinful rebels saved sons. He models prayer for us, and teaches us how to pray and gives us worked examples to fuel our prayers. And risen and ascended he pours out his Spirit to help us pray and he stands before the Father, full of sympathetic love and mercy, interceding on our behalf. He moves towards us in love even when we fail. All to enable and encourage and invite us to pray, to speak to our Father, to call on our Father to fulfil his promises.
Disciples pray. Do you hear the invitation of Father, Son and Spirit this morning inviting you to pray? Will we accept it?