Prayer begins when we approach Him with boldness—reflecting the fact that we feel welcome to approach Him. This frank approach does not imply irreverence toward God, however. Because we are in relationship with God, we have the right to make a logical assumption that God already knows us and we already know Him. Soformality and putting on airs in prayer is totally inappropriate. Prayer invites you to approach God the way you would a close, albeit all-powerful friend, who is comfortable with your direct speech and attitude.
On one occasion when Jesus boldly prayed at the graveside of Lazarus, His confidence in God’s attentiveness to His prayers preceded His requests: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me” (John 11:41–42). We too are urged to cultivate this level of confidence in God before we pray. The writer of Hebrews said, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, emphasis added).
Effective prayer comes from having confidence in approaching God. John wrote, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15). Where does such confidence come from? This level of certainty requires your total vulnerability before God. You must willingly allow Him to search your life and guide you toward the right moral, ethical, and logistical track. You must also give Him the freedom to shepherd you the way He deems appropriate. And you must wholeheartedly embrace His guidance, correction, and love.
Our confidence in approaching God also comes from knowing that His throne is one of mercy and grace. Mercy conveys a sympathetic understanding of the frailty of humankind. This is why Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” God understands humanity’s need for help even though Christ—God in flesh—never sinned. The confidence we have in approaching God originates from understanding that He will never condemn us. We can approach Him boldly because He understands how and why we need His help.
Grace communicates God’s willingness to empower us with the ability to both do and to be whatever He has assigned for us. Grace extends power through the Holy Spirit to see that God’s intention is carried out in us. This generous reality about God’s throne makes appearing before Him with confidence inviting. God’s sole intention is to improve and strengthen our lives. And even when we sin, His motive is not to hurt or get even with us. Instead God extends His grace to help us achieve satisfying lives. The eminent Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest said this about grace:
The word “grace” is one of the most precious words in Scripture. Archbishop Trench in his Synonyms of the New Testament says of this word in the Greek language, “It is hardly too much to say that the Greek mind has in no word uttered itself and all that was in its heart more distinctly than in this.” The Greeks were lovers of beauty, in nature, in their architecture, their statuary, their poetry, their drama. Anything which called out the heart wonder, admiration, pleasure, or joy, was designated by this word. The word came to signify the doing of a favor graciously, spontaneously, a favor done without expectation of return but arising only out of the generosity of the giver.
Given this beautiful description of grace, confidence in prayer is easy. Any anxiety you may have had regarding approaching God can be dispelled because His grace welcomes you with open arms.
This article is an excerpt from Dr. Ireland’s book, “The Kneeling Warrior” available now.
Dr. David Ireland is founder and senior pastor of Christ Church, a 9,000-member multisite congregation in North Jersey representing over 70 nationalities. Former diversity consultant to the National Basketball Association, Dr. Ireland has led chapel services for the New York Giants, New York Jets, and at the U.S. Pentagon. Ireland has traveled to more than 75 nations and built a reputation of teaching culturally relevant messages that inspire and empower his global audiences. He is a well-respected columnist contributing to such media outlets like Fox News, Huffington Post, and Patheos. Dr. Ireland is the author of over 20 books including Raising a Child Who Prays. Ireland has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows including The Dr. Phil Show, The CBS Evening News, The 700 Club, and Focus on the Family. Through his community development corporation, he offers a home for victims of domestic violence.
The Rev. Ireland holds an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering (Fairleigh Dickinson University), a graduate degree in civil engineering (Stevens Institute of Technology), a master’s degree in theology (Alliance Theological Seminary). He has an earned Ph.D. in organizational leadership (Regent University) and completed post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a candidate for a graduate degree in social innovation from the University of Cambridge in England. Dr. Ireland was recently appointed as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Faith-Based Initiatives. He serves on the boards of Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Dr. Marlinda Ireland, have been married since 1984 and have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.