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Many Christians would say that some of their fondest experiences have been found in prayer. But why are we often uneasy about our prayer life?

The author of Hebrews seems to suggest that our reluctance to pray can emerge from its sacred nature (Heb. 4:14–16). Don’t get me wrong; Bible reading is no less solemn, but prayer makes us more immediately aware of God’s presence. As we close our eyes, the sublimity of God’s holiness can be intimidating. But are we supposed to quickly suppress this feeling of inadequacy?

We should never make less of our unworthiness or God’s majesty. The more we realize the gap covered by Christ, the more we feel the privilege of praying. And we need not make less of our sin, because of the greatness of our Mediator. Confidence in prayer grows proportionately to our understanding of Christ’s priesthood.

Sometimes we fail to appreciate the marvelous phenomenon of prayer. “In Jesus’ name” is more than a formula. It is about accessing God’s throne through our Great High Priest while He is there pleading for us. Prayer engages us in an ongoing, perfectly mediated activity. We are joining Christ as He prays for us.

The God-man is now bridging the gap between our creatureliness and the Almighty’s transcendence. He is there—the incarnated, all-tempted, law-keeping, sacrificed One—pleading beyond the heavenly veil in His resurrected and glorified body. He is there and “always lives to make intercession” (Heb. 7:25) for His own as supreme sacrifice and as Great High Priest, “the subject and the object of His priesthood,” as Dr. R.C. Sproul said.

We pray as those seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:4–6). His prayers concern us individually, and from His mouth, our names are being made known in heaven. Because our lives are hidden in Him (Col. 3:3; see also Eph. 1:3), our imperfect prayers, services, and worship become acceptable to the Father. John Calvin wrote that from the majesty “which would otherwise be terrible to us, . . . nothing appears there but grace and paternal favor.”

That Christ is seated is also, according to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, an encouraging

proof of the completion of His work of redemption, for the offering of “His own blood” to the Father was the last act, the last step, in our redemption. Then, and not till then, did He sit down at the right hand of God in Glory.

Invested with cosmic authority to plead for His people, Christ ensures that no condemnation can obstruct us from the access He has granted, which has been awarded to Him by the Father Himself (Rom. 8:33–34).

Jesus is always heard because He asks perfectly.

Christ’s intercession is not granted by our worthiness. It is granted by merit, not supplication. Its infallibility is dependent not on influence but on Christ’s satisfaction of God’s justice. When sin was imputed to Jesus, God dealt with Him according to the law. Now, when Christ intercedes for us, it is a matter of justice for God to grant us access to Himself (1 John 1:9) and a question of timely request for the bestowal of every blessing.

Yet this must not reduce prayer to apathetic claims. The Father is all the more pleased in our redemption precisely because it was accomplished by His Beloved. Christ’s dignity makes us supremely acceptable to God. His objective plea is intermingled with the subjective fragrance of “the full assemblage of all his spiritual excellencies and aspects of loveliness and love-worthiness,” as Hugh Martin wrote.

The Son’s intercession is never toward a reluctant Father. God joyfully elevates us alongside His Son and has seated us with Him in the heavenly places, and He delights to hear the prayers of His Son.

Similarly, the Son always acted out of purposeful love. According to Thomas Goodwin, nothing changed in “Christ’s heart in heaven towards sinners on earth.” Goodwin intended his book The Heart of Christ to reassure “poor souls . . . that [Christ] intercedes there with the same heart he did here below; and that he is as meek, as gentle, as easy to be entreated, as tender in his affections.”

Since we have such a High Priest, our weaknesses cannot disturb this heavenly prayer meeting. But we can still gain trust if, helped by His Spirit, we strive to join Christ by conforming our intercessions to His. Jesus is always heard because He asks perfectly.

With and like Christ, we should earnestly, continually, worshipfully, and assuredly pray for everything concerning the “uttermost” salvation of His people (Heb. 7:25): the “hold[ing] fast [to] our confession,” “mercy,” “grace,” and “help in time of need” (4:14–16). Christ’s active intercession is responsible for the sending of His Spirit; for every regeneration and justification that comes to pass; for preserving the saints through trials, temptations, and fresh forgiveness; for blessing, nourishment, purification, and embellishment of His bride; for revivals on earth and access to His glory in heaven.

Prayer is the stretching of empty hands to receive all the benefits that Christ’s merit secured and that God in His grace is willing to dispense. As long as we “draw near to God through him” (7:25), we shouldn’t refrain from the utmost enjoyment of our salvation. Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s saying is almost insuperable: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; he is praying for me.” A bolder step in grace is still possible, however: that we join Him even now.

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