Why Pray? 1: Because we can

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

What would it be like to have the ear of the US President? How great would it feel to be picked out for such a privilege even if you had absolutely no political experience? How awesome would it be just to sit regularly in the presence of such power and influence? To see the inner workings of the White House, spend time in the Oval Office and have access to everything and everyone there? What would you do with that opportunity? With an open invitation to drop by whenever it suited you how often would you visit?

I can scarcely imagine how excited I would be. First, receiving word of the opportunity, what it would involve. The awe of being let through all the security checkpoints because the President had personally vouched for me. The excitement each and every time I opened the door to the Oval Office, knowing that today would be something different, that if I had my wits about me I would experience things that would stay with me forever.

The writer of Hebrews has just made the point (10:12, 14, 17-18) that Christ’s sacrifice is a once and for all deal; a fact the Holy Spirit attests to and which means our sin is paid for in full and removed from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). It is because of this outrageous and unwarranted set of circumstances that we have “confidence to enter the Most Holy Place”.

In the Old Testament only the High Priest was allowed to do this, and he was only allowed to do it once a year – to make a sacrifice in the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the temple. This was therefore a shocking and revolutionary thing to say to Hebrew people, on a level of significance infinitely beyond the open invite to the Oval Office. And it is no less revolutionary for us to think of entering the immediate presence of the creator of all things, the eternal God sitting on his “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).

It is Christ’s blood gives us that confident access to God’s presence. That was the price paid by God to give us this relationship with God. The opportunity to communicate with him at any time we wish and have him listen to and respond to everything we have to say to him. We have the option any time we want to learn, to go straight to him. No priest to act as mediator because we have Christ. No aloofness on God’s part, no business or busyness that would keep him from us, no hesitance in ushering us in. No sense that perhaps we are not relevant to his grand processes and plans. After all it is our own personal high priest who is in charge of God’s house.

How often prayer feels to us like filling out a tax return – a necessary but unfulfilling task. Like a pile of thank you notes to be written or a shopping list to fill out. We don’t deny it ought to be done but we don’t leap at the chance because we have completely lost touch with what it really is. God is no tax collector, rich uncle or supermarket but would anybody be able to tell if they hear us pray?

We have been granted reason and confidence to approach God directly and boldly, through Christ’s sacrifice wiping out the sin separating us from Him. ‘Obligation’, ‘ought’ and ‘should’ don’t belong in the same sentence as prayer. They don’t even belong on the same page.

Let’s do it, let’s “draw near to God”…just because we can.

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