by Mike Ratliff
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14 ESV)
Prayer is a mystery my brethren. Anyone who claims to be a master of it is someone who has been deceived or is a deceiver. We do not know exactly how prayer works, but we do know that God uses it. Does some outcome depend upon you or I praying for it? No, it depends upon the sovereignty of God. However, God still uses prayer. Our role in this is to obey Him and pray knowing full well that God is sovereign and that He will be glorified in and through the circumstance and love for His children. On the other hand, there are so many in our time who twist wonderful passages like Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” bending its meaning to say, “I can do anything I want because Christ gives me the strength.” However, context of that passage is about contentment through the fires of tribulation as Paul was given the strength to do what God commanded of him. Others turn to this and other passages like it to prove their “self-image” teaching and their “Christian success-motivation” philosophies. These are polar opposite from the true meaning of these passages. They are nothing but examples of humanistic arrogance with a Christian label pasted on it. Our trust and confidence must never lie in “self,” but only in Christ.
1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles–
2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,
3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.
4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,
5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.
8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,
10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:1-21 ESV)
Carefully read this entire passage my brethren. We will focus on vv12-13 in this study, but I wanted you to see the context of what Paul was sharing with the Ephesians. He is actually giving them an example of the proper attitude we must have as we approach the throne of grace in prayer. In this short study, we will look at three contrasts. Paul will give us the right attitude and I will contrast that with what is prevalent in the visible church in our time.
Here are vv12-13 from the Greek: 12εν ω εχομεν την παρρησιαν και προσαγωγην εν πεποιθησει δια της πιστεως αυτου 13διο αιτουμαι μη εγκακειν εν ταις θλιψεσιν μου υπερ υμων ητις εστιν δοξα υμων
Here is my translation, “in whom we have the boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him. Therefore, I ask you not to give up over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”
The first necessary attitude with which we must approach prayer is “boldness,” which translates παρρησιαν or parrhēsia, which means, “freedom or frankness in speaking; freely saying all that one thinks, all the he pleases; confidence or boldness, particularly in speaking. This word denotes the unwavering, fearless, and unhesitating confidence of faith in communion with God. Παρρησιαν removes the fear and anxiety that characterizes man’s relation to God. It comes as the result of the ground of guilt being set aside and manifests itself in undoubting confidence in prayer.” In other words, when given the gift of faith and the clear conscience of one who knows he or she is truly forgiven the believer can come before the Father with total freedom of speech, pour out their hearts, and tell Him everything. What a blessed privilege God has granted His children!
On the other hand, the παρρησιαν Paul is talking about is not insolence. In our day, there is a growing disrespect for God in various teachings on prayer. While we must be bold, we must still never forget that God is God and we are not. He is not our buddy or our pal. It is blasphemous to bring God down to our level. God must be respected and worshiped as God. He is the Lord God Almighty! He has allowed us to come boldly to the throne of grace but we must do so in reverence, respect, and worship.
The second basic attitude with which we must approach prayer is “access,” which translates προσαγωγην or prosagōgē, which means “to open a way of access.” Προσαγωγην appears in the New Testament only in this passage and in two other places, Ephesians 2:18 and Romans 5:2. A similar word was used in ancient times to describe a person who gave someone else admittance to see the king. The person who wanted to see the king had no right to do so; rather someone else had to give him admittance, had to make the introduction. While Christians have no right to come before God, we have been granted the privilege of doing so. That is the essence of what Paul’s usage of this word here is telling us. Look at the Greek text again. Notice that prior to παρρησιαν and προσαγωγην is the definite article την, which is translated as “the.” This applies to both παρρησιαν and προσαγωγην so Paul is saying, “In whom we have the boldness and the access…” Only true Christians have the distinct privilege to come before God. Other religions may claim to have access to God, but no one does except those who come through Christ alone can truly do so (John 14:6).
Just as boldness does not mean insolence, access does not mean impetuosity. That means that we must not be impulsive, doing thing hurriedly, or rushing about in prayer. We rush into God’s presence and rush out, demanding what we want thinking we do this as some “right.” No, this is not the access Paul is talking about. We do not have the right to come before God, but rather we have the privilege granted to us by the introduction of our Saviour. Let us get our priorities right and cease this disrespect of impetuosity before God.
The third basic attitude of prayer is “confidence,” which translates πεποιθησει the Dative, Singular form of πεποίθησις or pepoithēsis, “trust, confidence, and total persuasion.” Remember about what we are totally persuaded. In what are we to place our trust and confidence? We are totally persuaded that we can come to the Father; trust Him to do His will, and be confident of the result. As we mature in Christ we learn that God’s will is always right while ours is not. Therefore, we learn to accept His and let go of ours. This is why we must learn to pray correctly.
Boldness does not mean insolence. Access does not mean impetuosity. Confidence does not mean arrogance. Prayer that is arrogant is self-focused or man-focused and views God as just some sort of element in the Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism equation that most people seem to believe in these days. No, arrogant prayer is not real prayer any more than insolent or impetuous prayer is. Examine yourselves my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!