Written Word

What Encouragement Does the Bible Offer Regarding Prayer?

What would you say to someone who said that they are unable to pray because they feel spiritually empty?

Encouragement for the Discouraged to Pray

Who said that prayer is only for the spiritually vibrant? Who said help is only for those who are trying and doing better than the average? Who said that the discouraged are cut off from divine help? It certainly wasn’t God. He forbids any of his children to think like this. The following two Scriptures have been a rich fountain from which I have drunk on many occasions:

Because he [Jesus] himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18. Emphasis added).

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. 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 4:15-16. Emphasis added).

Let’s analyse these Scriptures. When we pray, we petition a God who knows about temptation, for he was tempted in every way we are tempted. Satan tempted him at the beginning of his ministry and then left him for a short time. But he was to return at different times during our Lord’s ministry with temptations to sin. Because Jesus experienced and triumphed over temptation, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being tempted. No matter what temptation we face there is help available. For we have a God who is willing to come to our aid.

Furthermore, as our high priest he is sympathetic to our weaknesses. The words weak and weakness appear almost seventy times in Scripture and never once is weakness condemned. It’s not a sin to be weak. Those who are weak are not prevented access to God. Irrespective of how weak we are, how often we fail, how guilt-ridden we feel, we can come into the presence of our Father, as the Scripture says, ‘with confidence.’ This is not self-confidence, but confidence in God to do all that he has said.

For those who come to the Father come to receive ‘mercy and grace in their time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:15-16) This is not the description of those who are spiritually strong, giants among the people of God. The notion that we cannot approach God because we have failed and are weakened by sin must be dispelled. That’s like saying I cannot go to the doctor because I’m sick. The invitation to enter the presence of God is extended to those who need mercy, and mercy is extended only to the guilty. The invitation is also for those who need grace, and grace is extended only to those in need. It is the guilty, the weak, the needy who are invited to come into God’s presence – with confidence. The focus of attention needs to be taken off ourselves and directed to the gracious provision the Lord has made for each of us. That will help us to come in confidence to him.

The discouraged need to be assured that the avenue of prayer remains open to them. Furthermore, they need to know that their prayers do not have to be filled with praise and adoration. There will be times when prayer is a cry of despair, anger and discouragement. But it is prayer. And he hears us! (Have your read the psalms recently?) Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, it is possible for us whose lives are a catalogue of failures and broken promises to come into the very presence of God.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

In the past, the presence of God resided in the Most Holy Place in the temple. Only the high priest could enter there. He did this on the Day of Atonement taking with him the sacrificial blood of an animal. He could never appear before God without blood. Now, however, all the people of God, the weak, the struggler, the discouraged, the doubter, can enter the presence of God with confidence, because the blood of God’s Lamb has opened for us a new and living way. The confidence with which we enter the presence of God has nothing to do with whether we feel we have been good or bad. What the Lamb of God has accomplished makes possible our entering God’s presence.

The invitation to come into God’s presence come from the One who opened a new and living way for us to come to God. It’s an invitation we should consistently accept.