This begins my series on the cross of Christ and prayer.
Prayer is more than asking God for things; it’s praising God, for who he is and what he’s done for us. God, the universal creator & ruler of the universe, deserves to be thanked and praised (Ps 24:1-6; Ps 100; 148; 149; 150; Rev 4:8-11).
Sin is, in part, refusing to honour and praise God in this way. This shows itself in two ways. Self-reliance makes us prayer-less; we depend on ourselves and praise ourselves for our achievements, instead of God (Gen 11:4; Dan 4:30; Rev 18). Or, in our desire for a safe, tameable, controllable god, we create idols, and pray to them instead of the one, true, powerful, creator God (Rom 1:18-23).
Rejecting God means he rejects us. If we ignore God, he will ignore us. Most people assume God will look after them because he’s a ‘loving’ God – by which they mean he’s an amoral source of goodies, who’ll give them whatever they want, whenever they want it. That’s not God – that’s Santa Claus. If we live our lives merrily ignoring God and relying on our own resources, then, when our resources fail us, we run to God as a last resort, crying out “oh God, help me!” – why should he? Is 1:11-15a; Jer 7:9-11, 16; 11:9-11, 13-14; 14:10-12.
Yes, God is a loving God, and he doesn’t hold our sin against us. But we must let him demonstrate his love his own way – not in a way we find comfortable. The cross of Christ is God’s love dealing with his own holiness and wrath against our rejection of him.
Because of the cross, we can be confident God is not angry with us, but is pleased with us. If we trust Jesus, we can talk to God, any time, any place, and know that he is glad to hear us. The cross of Christ gives us confidence to pray to God (Heb 4:15-16; 10:19-22; 1 John 3:19-24).
Prayer is a deeply Triune event. The Holy Spirit draws us to trust Jesus (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 12:3; 1 Pet 1:2). Jesus makes us right with the Father and gives us access to him (Matt 11:27; John 14:6). When we trust Jesus through the Spirit, God adopts us as his sons – we have the status of Sons of God and the right to address God as Father (Matt 6:9; 7:9-11; Rom 8:14-15; Gal 3:26-27; 4:6). Prayer is a normal and natural outworking of our new relationship with God – as normal and natural as having a chat with our folks.