Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 ESV
Confidence. As with many things we approach in life, including the throne of grace, having confidence is often the deciding factor between success in getting what we desire or failure. In the verse above the writer of the book of Hebrews underscores the importance of praying with confidence. This truth is stated even more emphatically later in the book, where he substitutes the word “faith” for “confidence.” “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV Emphasis added).
Since confidence is such a critical requirement when it comes to prayer, what can a person do who lacks faith or confidence? The good news is when you don’t have it, God has provided ways to get it. To begin with, it helps to identify the things that rob us of our confidence. At the top of the list are such issues as condemnation, confusion as to will of God and mischaracterizations of God. When a person lacks confidence, clear ways can be found in the Bible to address these faith robbers and increase our confidence.
With this in mind, here are three ways you can increase your confidence in prayer.
1. Apply the Blood of Jesus – Nothing erodes confidence more than condemnation. As the antithesis of confidence, condemnation is rooted in a consciousness of sin and unworthiness. Being conscious of failures and short comings locks people in a prison of guilt, and hinders the freedom and boldness with which God desires us to approach Him. On the other hand, being free from condemnation increases confidence, and the resultant probability of answered prayer. “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask” (1 John 3:21-22 NIV Emphasis added). Thankfully there is a biblical antidote for condemnation and it is the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus is God’s provision to cleanse and purify from all unrighteousness and bring those who feel far away from God near to Him (1 Peter 1:12, 1 John 1:7, Ephesians 2:13). The blood of Jesus is God’s nuclear weapon designed to obliterate every self-condemnation and enemy accusation of the devil, and make us confident overcomers (Revelation 12:10-11).
The power of the blood of Jesus as a confidence builder in entering God’s presence is best explained in the following passage from Hebrews. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience (vs. 19, 22 Emphasis added). Applying the blood of Jesus to “cleanse us from a guilty conscience” is as simple as choosing to confess our sins, and then stand upon the promise that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NIV).
This purification process by the blood of Jesus, is the only means by which we can be made righteous and acceptable in God’s sight. It alone is the sure and certain foundation of our confidence in approaching Him. Any thought, reliance, or appeal that our access to His throne room presence is based upon our own self efforts at righteousness is folly. The great hymn “Just as I am” penned by Charlotte Elliott way back in 1835, says it so eloquently.
Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bidd’st me come to thee
O Lamb of God I come, I come.
If you have been wrestling with a lack of confidence in prayer due to condemning thoughts and/or a sense of unworthiness determine right now to apply the blood of Jesus to your heart and mind. Make the following confession a declaration of victory in your life:
Through the blood of Jesus, I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil. Through the blood of Jesus, all my sins are forgiven. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, I am cleansed continually from all sin. Through the blood of Jesus, I am justified, made righteous and just-as-if-I’d never sinned. Through the blood of Jesus, I am sanctified, made holy, set apart to God. My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, redeemed, cleansed, sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Therefore, Satan has no place in me, no power over me, no unsettled claims against me, all has been settled through the blood of Jesus (Taken from “Secrets of a Prayer Warrior” by Derek Prince).
More on “3 Ways to Increase Your Confidence in Prayer” in the next blog post. To be continued – stay tuned.
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3 Reasons to Believe an Answer is Coming
“O sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10 NIV
Everybody wonders at times about unanswered prayer. It’s not uncommon to ask why it is that God never seems to answer some prayers. One could make a Biblical case that certain prayers prayed with wrong motives, lack of faith, unforgiveness, unconfessed sin, and/or not according to God’s etc. will invariably be hindered or delayed in receiving an acceptable answer. But beyond such discernable reasons there yet remains a mystery as to why some prayers are not answered. When faced with the perplexity of unexplainable causes for our prayers remaining unanswered we can easily become discouraged and disheartened in our praying.
Like many, I have prayed for situations in people’s lives that required major breakthroughs – such things as healing or relationship reconciliation, only to see my prayers go unanswered. In addition there are prayers beseeching the Lord for the salvation of loved ones that I have been praying for longer than the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness – still no answer.
There are basically three possible answers to any given prayer: “yes,” “not yet,” and “no.” With this in mind, for years I have kept a prayer journal, with two columns. In one column I write a one sentence summary of the prayer I am praying with the corresponding start date and in the other column I log the result with a date when the answer comes. I would estimate that my journal documents a 75% success rate with both columns filled to my satisfaction – i.e. I got my “yes.” That leaves approximately 25% of my prayers, whether big or small, that have been answered by God with a “not yet” or a flat out “no.” I suspect, I’m not unusual in this regard.
As I have grappled with the unanswered prayers in my life I have found hope and comfort in reminding myself of three fundamental truths. These truths have to do with the fatherly nature of God, the seed nature of prayer, and the importance of keeping an eternal perspective. Whenever I have acknowledged and chosen to meditate upon these truths, the Holy Spirit invariably begins to blow upon the embers of my discouraged heart and once again fan into the flame my passion to persist in prayer. With that great benefit in mind, I offer them here for your consideration with the expectation that they will encourage you the way they never cease to encourage me.
1. THE FATHERLY NATURE OF GOD – He is a loving Father who wants what is best for each of His children, including me and you! Throughout the Bible, and particularly in the Gospels, this portrayal of God as a loving Father is inextricably linked to prayer. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins His quintessential teaching on prayer with the instruction to direct our prayers to “Our father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9 NIV). A short time later, in the familiar “Ask, Seek, Knock” discussion on prayer, He underscores this “loving heavenly Father” aspect of God’s nature when He states “your Father in heaven gives good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11 NIV)! He says this as an encouragement to all who feel like God is not answering their prayers the way they desire; specifically for those who think they have received a stone when they’ve asked for bread, or a snake when they’ve asked for fish (Matthew 7:9). It is critical for us to take note and lay to heart what Jesus is saying in the passage. He is seeking to firmly establish in our hearts this truth: we have a heavenly Father who wants what is best for us, and having the power to grant it, intends to do so.
Practically, this means that even though it may appear He has given us a stone when we asked for bread, if we are committed to patiently holding it in faith, it will eventually turn into bread. This means that when our prayers seem to go unanswered, we must nevertheless cling to our Father’s promise that in the end, He will see to it that all things “work together for good” (Romans 8:28). When we experience God’s fatherly love for us we can be assured that there really are no unanswered prayers for a child of God. Even a “not yet” or a “no” are ultimately an acceptable answer because in essence our heavenly Father is saying “There is something better I have in mind for you!”
I invite you to join me in being encouraged by this wonderful truth. Our loving Father’s answer for our unanswered prayers is that He has something better in planned for us!
2. THE SEED NATURE OF PRAYER – Prayers are like seeds sown into the ground, there is a germination time that must be fulfilled before the answer springs forth. Germination is the process a seed goes through, given the proper soil temperature and moisture, in which it breaks forth sending a root down in the soil and a shoot up above ground. God’s timing in answering prayer, like the germination time for seeds, requires the convergence of the right circumstances and His predetermined purposes before the answer appears.
Understanding the seed nature of prayer encourages us especially in those times when we pray prayers and see absolutely nothing happening as a result. Just as we know that seeds sown are germinating and preparing to sprout out of sight, we can be assured that the prayers we sow are also generating answers out of our sight. This infuses us with hope in the “not yet” season just as a farmer waiting with expectation for his crop to come in and mature before the harvest. In both cases, confidence in the germination waiting process, sustains our belief that the day will come when we will enjoy the fruits of our labors.
So, if you see nothing happening as a result of your prayers, be encouraged as you consider the seed nature of prayer. God is secretly preparing an answer that will be released in His perfect timing.
3. THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE – We need to reckon with the fact that this life is not all there is. Some prayers will not be answered to our satisfaction in this lifetime. As Christians who believe in resurrection life, death is not the cut off period for answered prayer. Only in heaven, when we finally see Jesus face to face, will we fully comprehend God’s purposeful resolution to the unanswered prayers in our lives.
It is instructive to consider the instance of Moses pleading with the Lord for him to cross over the Jordan and see the promised land before his death. In denying Moses’ plea God’s answer seemed harsh: “That is enough . . . do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (Deuteronomy 3: 26 NIV). But even though Moses only saw it from afar and died having never set foot in the land, it was not the final answer to his prayer or the end of the story. Remarkably, it took fourteen hundred years waiting in heaven, for him to finally discover that God had something better in mind in answer to his prayer. It was not until the coming of Jesus that we see God fulfilling the desire of Moses’ heart, and that far beyond his wildest expectations. Miraculously Moses does eventually set foot in the land of promise when God sends him to take his place with Elijah, atop the Mount of Transfiguration to talk personally with Jesus (Matthew 17:3).
The case can be made that many saints, ourselves included, may have to continue to wait in eternity for the final answers to our prayers . Does that mean that there is prayer in heaven? The book of Revelation, in which the veil is drawn back for a view into the machinations of heaven, indicates there is. When the fifth seal is opened, God shows John the souls of those who have been martyred for their witness, crying out with loud voices. “O sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 6:10 NIV)? What an intriguing and insightful picture as we realize that the answer to their prayers is still germinating. “Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been (Revelation 6:11 NIV). God’s assurance of an eventual answer to their prayers, and compassionate sustaining grace for these precious saints is noteworthy. It should inspire all of us in our waiting.
Dealing with unanswered prayer can be so frustrating and perplexing. But as we’ve seen, realizing the Fatherly nature of God, the seed nature of prayer and keeping an eternal perspective can provide the encouragement we need to keep praying. These three truths convince us that just because we do not see any results, does not mean God has ceased listening or has chosen not to answer us. To the contrary, He just may be preparing an answer that in His timing will prove to exceed our expectations. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).
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When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:21-22 NIV
Years ago I was invited to a meeting with a couple of Christian leaders in our city with the purpose of exploring a cooperative ministry effort. I knew each of the men and was familiar with the intensity and dedication with which each led their well established and successful ministries. As I was making the thirty minute drive across town on the freeway I decided to take the time to pray for the meeting. Almost immediately I heard these words, whispered by the Holy Spirit “Stay in your lane!” At that moment traffic was fairly heavy on the four lane stretch of road that I was on and my first impulse was to warily check the lanes on either side of me.
Assured that everything was alright, I figured I would stay in the lane in which I was driving until I needed to exit and turned my attention to what the Lord really intended with the words “stay in your lane.” I knew it was a word of wisdom for me as it related to the meeting. The lane I was being warned to stay in was my lane and focus of ministry. God was reminding me of the importance of fixing my heart clearly on His calling and purpose for my life, and not being drawn or forced out of that lane into the lane of another. Having this quickened in my spirit brought a sense of peace with the realization that there was sure to be pressure in the meeting to change ministry lanes.
When I arrived and the meeting got underway it was readily evident that the two men already had an agreed upon agenda. They had a cooperative plan for a worthy ministry goal which they wanted me to merge into, but which clearly was in a lane beyond the purview of the ministry I represented. To have submitted to their plan would draw me out of the lane of ministry to which God had called me and forced me to function outside of my gifts and abilities. Because of the “stay in your lane” word, I had no trouble politely declining their offer while blessing them in the unique lane of ministry to which God had obviously called them.
There is an inherent danger in taking our eyes off the lane or path God has us on by comparing or compromising our life and ministry with another. God has given each of us unique gifts and grace that are matched to unique tasks and callings. Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, in reference to his comparing himself to John, is a great illustration of this point (John 21:21-22). When He says “What is that to you? You must follow me” He is in essence saying “forget the other person’s lane – just stay in your lane!”
It is akin to the realization young David had to as he prepared to fight Goliath. When King Saul attempted to dress David in his armor, it not only did not fit him, it would have hindered him and likely caused his defeat (1 Samuel 17:38-39). Being drawn into functioning like someone else is always a trap. It inevitably diminishes what we are best at while forcing us into areas we are not good at.
Peter’s temptation to compare himself to John is the same temptation we all face. It can lead to compromises we will eventually regret. This is why Paul writes “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV). Simply put, the comparison game is just not wise!
Do you know the lane God has called you to abide in as you serve Him with the unique gifts and abilities He has given you? Are you staying in your lane while finding joy and fruitfulness? Or, are you struggling outside your assigned lane in a lane God never called or equipped you to function? If you feel frustrated, oppressed, compromised, or trapped in what you are doing to serve God, you just might be in the wrong lane.
If you do sense you are in the wrong lane, maybe Paul’s question to the Galatians applies to you. “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7 NIV)? In other words, who or what forced you out of your lane? Have you been deceived through comparing yourself to someone else into trying to do something you are not equipped or called to do?
Give heed then to Jesus’ words to Peter who was more focused on John than Jesus – “What is that to you? You must follow me.”
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