As the holidays draw near, I remember what it was like to go visit the family ranch for Christmas. We would travel for two days that seemed like an eternity to my brother and me. At the end of the second day, the sun would set and we would be driving through the huge darkness of the New Mexico prairie, singing Christmas songs and looking at the brilliant stars. Then we would turn down a dirt road and bump along over the rocks, and all of a sudden we would come over a rise and be so excited to see a light shining through the darkness, the porch light turned on bright, as our relatives waited for us to arrive. When we reached the house, the door burst open and family members ran out, joyfully enveloping us in hugs. They would usher us out of the frigid December air into a house warmed by a lively fire in the fireplace.
This is what it is like to come to God in prayer. God is ecstatic to welcome us into his presence, and His presence is a warm light filled place where we are unconditionally loved. How wonderful is it to approach the throne of grace!
- But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him Luke 15:20
- Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
But instead, what do I often feel when I approach God in prayer? I feel dull and dutiful. I come reciting my list of requests and feel weighed down by all the things that I think need to change.
Let me never pray, unless I remember the warm joyful welcome I am receiving from God as I enter His presence, the peace I have as I am bathed in His unconditional love and mercy!
I need that mercy. Another thing I feel when I enter God’s presence is guilt. This has been a tough time for me, a time when I have been face to face with mistakes I made that have hurt others, mistakes for which I must take ownership and not make excuses. Sometimes there are no places we can run to where we can hide from our mistakes.
I have been reading some of Leviticus, and it strikes me more than ever how important it was that God provided a system by which people could be forgiven of their wrongdoing. The Jews would bring a sacrifice of a sheep, goat or dove, or provide a grain offering. And then the high priest would make peace between them and God.
- “The priest shall then offer the other as a burnt offering in the prescribed way and make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.” Lev. 5:10
Today, Jesus is the high priest who makes peace between us and God. I have never been so grateful for Jesus, and his atonement for me!
- How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14
- But Jesus lives forever, so he serves as a priest forever. That is why he is always able to save those who come to God through him. He can do this because he always lives and intercedes for them. Hebrews 7:24-25
- For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14
This has got to be one of the best verses in the Bible: Therefore, brothers and sisters, 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 and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22.
We can approach the throne of mercy, enter into the Most Holy Place, come into God’s very presence, and it is a wonderful welcoming place. We can have our heart absolved of even the most stubborn stains of guilt.
I think one of the best illustrations of what the throne of mercy is like is the church. Every Sunday I walk in the door and I am hugged and warmly welcomed by others. There is joy there. There is genuine love for me there, genuine concern. What a privilege it is to be able to be in such an environment! How many people long for something like this? We have it in abundance, both in fellowship and in prayer.
In closing, I would like to share a song about approaching the throne of grace that moved me tremendously. I don’t know who wrote this song, but it is wonderful! I put the lyrics below it. To God be the glory always.
Oh Lord, here I am now
bowing humbly down
before your throne of grace
and I am in awe
of your unmerited love
in spite of my sinful ways.
Oh Lord here I am still
trembling and clinging to you
my strength and shield.
Oh Lord I feel the pain
this wretched existence of sin
writhing within my soul.
My Father, my teacher my master
the lifter of my trampled spirit
the author of all that is righteous and holy
all praise and all glory
to you my sweet savior.
In you my sweet savior
I rest, I rest I rest.