“This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (v. 2b).
If we were to describe the proper attitude that we must have toward God in prayer, we would likely use the word faith. Of course, as we saw yesterday, that would be an entirely appropriate way to indicate how we must approach the Lord of heaven and earth. However, we could use another term that is almost a synonym for the biblical concept of faith, and that term is dependence. This does not mean a mere feeling of dependence, as some liberal theologians have described the essence of Christianity. Instead, it is a recognition that we rely on our Creator for all things, including our salvation. Otherwise, we come before the Lord arrogantly, demanding that He hear us and answer us as we pray. The author of Hebrews does tell us to come before the throne of grace confidently, but confidence is not arrogance. The confidence of which Hebrews speaks is rooted in the awareness that we can stand before God not because we deserve to, but because Jesus has merited perfect righteousness for us (Heb. 4:14–16). It is the certain knowledge that we may stand in the presence of God unafraid because we rest and rely on Jesus and His righteousness alone. God-pleasing boldness flows from absolute dependence on Christ. We are to have an attitude of dependence in prayer because we recognize that we are unworthy in ourselves of even speaking to God, let alone of being near His majestic holiness. The Lord has a positive regard only for those who acknowledge their sin, seek forgiveness in humility, and depend on His grace alone and not anything in or from themselves. This is what God revealed to the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 66:1–2), which is why answer 117 of the Heidelberg Catechism says that the only kind of prayer that pleases the Lord is prayer from those who recognize their need and misery before God. Only if we wholeheartedly rely on God’s favor toward sinners in Christ Jesus can we pray in a manner that will delight Him. The dependence that God demands confesses that the Lord will hear and answer prayer according to His will, not because of something good in us but because we are in Christ and because Christ promises to intercede for us and with us by His Spirit (Rom. 8:26–27). Depending on Jesus and no other, we have a firm foundation on which to stand when we offer our concerns to the Lord.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Christian growth comes as we learn more and more what it means to depend absolutely on God. Our Lord, since He is a jealous God, will not put up with His people not depending fully on Him. Thus, He will remove the idols from our lives, proving that it is futile to rely absolutely on anyone else but Him. This can be a trying process for us, as it often involves suffering. But in our suffering, we learn what it means to rely on the Lord truly and fully.