The Right Attitudes Concerning Prayer

by Mike Ratliff

12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so 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 (NASB) 

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, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3 (NASB) 

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:

12 ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. 13 διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν. Ephesians 3:12-13 (NA28)

Here is my translation:

12 in whom we have the boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him. 13 Therefore, I ask you not to give up over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. Ephesians 3:12-13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The first necessary attitude with which we must approach prayer is “boldness,” which translates παρρησίαν (parrēsian) the accusative, singular case of παρρησία (parrēsia), 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. Parrēsia 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 parrēsia 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 (prosagōgēn) the accusative singular case of προσαγωγή (prosagōgē), which means “to open a way of access.” Prosagōgē 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 parrēsia and prosagōgē is the definite article την, which is translated as “the.” This applies to both parrēsia and prosagōgē so Paul is saying, “In whom we have the boldness and the confident 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 “confident” access, which translates πεποιθησει (pepoithēsei) the Dative, Singular form of πεποίθησις (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!

One thought on “The Right Attitudes Concerning Prayer

  1. Reblogged this on Rainbow Trout and commented:
    Timely article. Mike is right there is a mystery in this. And so easy to mishandle. You would think we could just follow Jesus’ teach us how to pray examples. But so many abuse it within Prosperity Gospel realm, Word of Faith and NAR movements, to the Contemplative Prayer guru’s and Lectio Divina, literally meaning “divine reading,” is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures.….right up to the classic Roman Catholic doctrines of praying to/through Mary and the Saints.

    Like many things in faith perhaps there truly is a narrow way.

    Mat 7:13  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
    Mat 7:14  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

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