Summary: Third in a prayer series dealing with who can pray or prerequisites for prayer
I. PERSPECTIVE ON PRAYER -- What is prayer?
II. PURPOSE OF PRAYER – Why Pray?
A. PRAYER FACILITATES INTIMACY WITH GOD
B. PRAYER FOSTERS HUMBLE DEPENDENCE
C. PRAYER FURTHERS GOD'S WORK
D. PRAYER FORTIFIES THE SOUL AGAINST TEMPTATION
E. PRAYER FACILITATES PEACE IN THE HEART AND MIND
III. PREREQUISITES FOR PRAYER – Who can pray?
Acquiring an audience with the President of the United States would require several steps.
1. We would need an invitation.
2. We would need access – and appointment
3. We would need standing.
4. We would need some sort of connection or relationship - Kinship
Given the vast separation between an absolutely holy God and an absolutely sinful man, it is unimaginable any meaningful relationship could be established. What gives us the audacity to approach such an awesome God?
What makes us think we can dialogue with God and survive? The Old Testament paints a frightening picture of relationship with God. The writer of Hebrews summarizes the sentiment of the Israelites.
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling." Hebrews 12:18-21
Smoke, fear, trembling, fire, earthquakes, ground opening up, lightening, struck with leprosy, death, distance, barriers, blazing light, flaming swords. The people feared the prospect of talking with God face to face. The law required elaborate rituals of purity and sacrifice to approach God. The thick veil in the temple that separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the time of Jesus graphically symbolized the unapproachability of God.
The general feeling concerning relationship with God was fear and distance. Only a privileged few enjoyed close relationship with God i.e. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, the prophets, David.
Jesus changed all that. He demonstrated a side of God not readily understood; the love, mercy and grace of God who desires intimate relationship with His creatures. That change is what the Gospel is all about. I am here to tell that we have more than a friend in Jesus that assures us of God’s ear. Meaningful dialogue with God comes through Christ’s work, our walk and the Father’s will. This message addresses the factors related to the WORK of Christ in securing meaningful dialogue with God. Next week we will address the prayer factors related to the WALK of the Christian.
A. Factors related to the WORK and PERSON OF CHRIST
Jesus fulfilled four important requirements for dialogue with God. I.A.S K.
1. Invitation – by God’s initiative
The first thing necessary for an audience with the president would be a special invitation. No one gets into the Oval Office without a personal invitation. The Bible records plenty of invitations to come to God. God encourages us to continually come.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:27-28
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
God wants intimate connection with His creatures on HIS terms.
2. Access – through the blood of Christ
We need an invitation but we also need access to the throne room. Few people enjoy close proximity to the president. God’s holiness bars access to those without proper clearance. Who are we to address the Almighty?
What makes us think a sinful rebellions creature has any right to approach a holy and righteous God? We need validation of our identity. Without a fundamental internal change, we have no chance to approach God. In fact, attempting contact without the proper procedure and verification would be hazardous to our health.
Hebrews reminds us that our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:29) All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All of us have criminal records. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that addresses this critical issue. He cleans our record as if none of it ever took place.