I remember the first time I prayed aloud in a group. Pious it was not. There was a girl in the youth group, I was in high school. Nothing is sexier to 16-year-olds than piety? Lucky for this poor girl I grew up in church so I knew exactly how to pray:
Dear God, Lord, I just, Lord, ummm… You are so awesome, Lord, I just ummm… not my will but, Lord, I just ummm… want to, Lord, bless us. Lord, we need your blessing, Lord. I just ummm… want to thank you, Lord. … Lord, I pray for all those who are hurting. Ummm… Help my mom pass law school. Thanks? In Jesus name we pray, (aggressively squeezed the hand of the student next to me because Thank-God-that’s-over-I-hope-she-noticed-and-it’s-your-turn).
Lord, the only honest prayer was for my mom. She graduated top of her class. Correlation does not imply causation but… The girl and I were never more than just umm friends.
There’s an awkwardness to prayer. To an outside observer I can imagine the whole thing is kind of crazy looking. Just some goofy goofs talking to their imaginary sky friend. Even to the initiated prayer is – to put it lightly – audacious. What do any of us have to say to the King of the Universe? Creator of Every Thing, Counter of Every Atom, Igniter of Every Star, Spinner of Every Galaxy – I have some thoughts. Here, I’ll just list them off for you. It’ll be easier that way. Oh, and bless me. Thanks in advance, bro.
What is man that God is mindful of us? Is it no wonder his followers ask Jesus how to pray? It’s not really the kind of thing you want to get wrong LEST YOU BE DESTROYED!
The ancient person, and any modern person who has ever asked a friend to pray for them, recognizes that we’re not really qualified to talk to divinity. We feel a certain priestly need. We sense that we need someone more qualified than ourselves to talk to God. Lest we be destroyed and all that.
So the agnostic asks her faithful friend to talk to the Big Guy Upstairs in their time of need and the temple priest sacrifices a virgin to the Volcano monster so it doesn’t spit its lava saliva on the village below.
Forgive me but I’ve watched the Pixar short film Lava with Atticus more than once, I know how this works. We need somebody more confident than we dare be. We need a priest.
A priest has two jobs. They talk to the gods for the people and in turn talks to the people for the gods. Lest they – you know – be destroyed! A holy buffer of sorts. Or, like the friend in middle school who passes back and forth notes with the person you’re to scared to ask to the Spring Formal. Future generations are going to have awful metaphors.
But the problem with most priests is that they’re only human. Regardless of their qualifications most priests are just as jacked up as the rest of us. And most of them eventually die.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Those who profess faith in Jesus have a better priest than the ones we resort to. Jesus is the great high priest we long for. Jesus isn’t only human. Jesus isn’t as jacked up as us but he totally gets it. He knows just how frail and dumb we are and loves us anyway. He is both like us in that he has been tempted in every way. And Jesus is nothing like us in that he’s not succumbed to the temptation. And like no other priest death couldn’t keep Jesus down.
Jesus sits right next to God and prays for us. We can approach the throne of God without being destroyed so let us approach with confidence that we may receive mercy in our times of need.
When we don’t know what to say let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we ask for the wrong things let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we’re not worthy let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we stumble and fall let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we don’t know how to pray let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy.
Every embarrassing and mumbled Lord just umm…, every selfish request, every loss of words is turned to grace in the prayers of Jesus. In Jesus name we pray means we pray with and through Jesus. Jesus says for us what we could never say, our best and worst words are heard by God in the voice of Jesus.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
This weekend we sang the following songs:
- Manifesto by The City Harmonic
- Good, Good Father by House Fires (arr. Zealand Worship)
- Your Love is Strong by Jon Foreman
- How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend
- Father, You Are All We Need by Citizens & Saints
- Grace Alone by The Modern Post (arr. Kings Kaleidoscope)
Now go buy these songs.