Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See the overview, sorrow, accountability, the church, radical measures, gratitude, confession, humility, spiritual disciplines, Scripture intake, and Scripture intake 2.
Prayer (Heb 4:14-16)
There is much to be said about this topic! In this post I hope to give just a brief overview of how prayer is a tool God uses to change us.
“14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 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.” (Heb 4:14-16)
What is the passage saying?
Briefly summarizing this incredible passage, we must see that because of Jesus’ work:
1. We can, and we must, persevere in our faith (14-15)
- If we do, we will enter the promised rest (ch 4)
- If we do not, we will not enter the rest (4:1) (for a complete study of these warning passages, see Schreiner, Thomas R., and Ardel B. Caneday. The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001)
2. We can, and we must, go before our caring high priest (16)
- If we do, we will receive mercy and grace to help in time of need
- This is one of God’s means for keeping us till the end
How is it connected to grace?
- Prayer is a gracious gift. From the viewpoint of our sinfulness this is not a right we have in our own self. It is an extremely valuable privilege. Viewed from our standing in Christ, we have all liberty to go before the throne of grace.
- Prayer is God’s means of bestowing gracious gifts such as: Perseverance, Mercy, Grace, Help…
How might God use prayer to bestow these gifts? God uses prayer to change me by:
- Focusing my attention on God rather than my problem
- Focusing my attention on truth rather than lies
- Focusing my attention on others rather than myself
Prayer is a way God get’s our eyes in the right place. Remember Peter and his short walk on the water (Matt 14:22-33)? What was the cause of his sudden sinking? He took his eyes off of Jesus. One application we can make from that passage is that when our eyes are on the problem in front of us, the circumstances we are in, or the fear in us, we sink. We may flounder in discouragement or depression. We may thrash about in a “works righteousness” attitude or an “I can do it on my own” mentality. Either way we are sinking, and it is because our eyes are in the wrong place. Prayer is a means God uses to change that.
What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)
Example: You have noticed the life literally drain out of your friend over the past few months. It is nothing new. It actually happens every year about this time. Her eyes grow dark, her conversations few, her temper short. When you have talked with her about it in the past she has said, “I’m just under a lot of stress right now. School, work, and family things are weighing me down. I’m sort of a perfectionist, so I just need to get these responsibilities wrapped up and I will be fine.” But she is hurting, you can tell. This time has gone farther. It seems as though depression has slipped in and locked the door. What can you do?
Steps: Obviously the answer has many facets, but one area that can change your friend’s outlook is encouraging her to go before her caring high priest. She can, and she must:
- Pray Scripture
- Pray Consistently
- Pray Specifically
What can I Do?
- Realistically, is prayer a part of your everyday life?
- What may be something that you need to replace with prayer?
- What could your mentor and accountability partners do in order to encourage you in this?
“It’s not cheating to pray Scripture” (Kevin DeYoung)
Prayer Mate (app): for a limited time this app is free for iOS and Android. Both Crystal and I have found this to be a helpful way to pray consistently and pray specifically.
DeYoung, Kevin. “How to Pray Using Scripture.” Association of Biblical Counselors.
Kerr, Tim. Take Words With You: Scripture Promises & Prayers. 4th Edition., 2013.
Whitney, Donald S. “Chapter Four: Prayer.” In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 65–84. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.
Williams, Jarvis. “Acting the Miracle in the Everyday: Word of God, the Means of Grace, and the Practical Pursuit of Gospel Maturity.” In Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, edited by John Piper and David Mathis, 89–105. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.