The Shocking Boldness of Biblical Prayer

The writer of Hebrews commands Christians to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.”[1] The word confidence is an interesting word. The Greek word behind it, παρρησία (parrhesia), has several interesting meanings. Obviously, the word means to be bold and to have confidence. However, the word also means to speak plainly, to be blunt, or to be frank with someone.[2] Here are three areas in which the Bible either teaches or shows how we are to pray with confidence.

1. We pray with confidence because we know God accepts us.

In Hebrews 10:19, the author says that we can have confidence as we “enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.”[3] In context, what he means is that because of what Jesus has done for us, when we pray, we don’t have to worry about God giving us a stiff-arm. Instead, we know that if we come in the name of Jesus, we will always find an audience with God.

This idea is important for anyone who feels like God is distant when they pray. Unfortunately, our culture assumes that emotions are accurate guides to truth. The Bible never said that we would feel a tingle in our spines when we pray. Thankfully, the Bible grounds prayer in something much stronger than emotions: The Bible grounds prayer in the blood of Christ. Because of what Christ has done, we can have confidence that God hears our prayers regardless of our emotional state.

2. We pray with confidence because we know Christ empathizes with us.

The incarnation of Christ is one of the most shocking claims in all of scripture. The unlimited, atemporal, immutable God limited himself, stepped into time, and underwent the daily changes of earthly life. As a result, he was affected by sin for us. Though Christ did not sin, he faced the effects of sin on earth. Christ aged, got sick, and experienced all the heartaches associated with human existence.

Consequently, the writer of Hebrews argued that “we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.”[4] In short, Jesus understands what it’s like to fight temptation, face family problems, and experience grief. For this reason, the author of Hebrews says that we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.”[5]

When we bring an issue to God, he is not aloof and unconcerned. Instead, he knows exactly what we’re facing. Christ himself has faced these issues long before we have. As a result, he can empathize with us.

3. We can be frank with our prayers.

Moses’s prayers have always intrigued me. Take this prayer for an example: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.’”[6] This prayer is just a single example of a broader pattern in Moses’s prayer life. Over and over, Moses is extremely blunt with God. In short, Moses usually prays something along these lines: “God you said you would do x; however, I don’t see that happening.”

What’s shocking about this blunt style of prayer is that God responds to Moses in amazing ways. Furthermore, this type of prayer is consistent with what Hebrews teaches on prayer. We are to go boldly before God and be frank with him. Instead, of holding back our pains, issues, and disappointments, we should lay all of it bare before him. We should not try to put our best foot forward or to keep dark areas of our lives from God; instead, we should be brutally honest with God.

While being so bold with God may surprise us, it stems from a hearty trust in God. Moses knew God’s character. He knew that God was honest, upright, and always kept his promises. Thus, he knew that God would come through on his word. Further, Moses knew that God’s will was what was best. Consequently, he was okay with begging God to accomplish his will for his people. May we learn to trust God enough to beg him to accomplish his will in our lives. May we rely on his promises to such an extent that we’re willing to go to him and prayer with ultimate confidence that he will not abrogate his responsibilities.

Notes & Sources

[1] Hebrews 4:16, all scripture quotations are taken from the NIV.

[2] “παρρησία” in James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001).

[3] Hebrews 10:19.

[4] Hebrews 4:15.

[5] Hebrews 4:16.

[6] Exodus 33:12-13.

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