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PRAYER: A “DRAWING NEAR” TO GOD
by Philip Owen

            Prayer is the believer’s lifeline to God.  It is so vital to the existence of a believer that Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17).  Prayer is such a simple and instinctive part of a believer’s life that a newborn baby Christian instantly cries “Abba, Father,” yet it is so profound that a mature saint, such as E. M. Bounds, can author seven volumes on the subject without fully plumbing the depths of its truth.  Scripture itself nowhere defines prayer, but it does explain its nature and purpose and give examples and patterns.  And in Hebrews we find a simple metaphor that offers wonderful insight on the essence of prayer.  “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).  To pray, then, is, among other things, to “draw near” to God.  Two other verses in the same epistle provide instruction regarding what it means to draw near to God.

            1.  The first essential:  salvation.  No one can pray, no one can draw near to God, no one can communicate or fellowship with Him in any way without establishing a relationship with Him through faith in the redemptive work of His Son.  The writer of Hebrews explains that “the Law made nothing perfect” (7:19a); that is, it could not save or cleanse from sin but only codify man’s depravity and separation from God.  “On the other hand,” he continues, “there is a bringing in of a better hope” (v. 19b), which refers to the High Priestly work of Christ, who offered Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins “through which we draw near to God” (v. 19c).  The initial and essential means by which we draw near to God is by grace through saving faith in the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross.  As Paul explains it, before salvation we “were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).  It would be difficult to imagine a more forlorn and hopeless situation—no salvation, no means of communication, and no ability to draw near.  We lived in a different country, spoke a different language, and lacked any channel of communication to heaven.  But when God imputed the righteousness of Christ to us, He brought us near, into His very family, and He promises that His ear is attentive to the cries of His children (II Chron. 7:15).

            2.  The second essential:  sanctification.  The psalmist understood that drawing near to God required, not only initial redeeming faith, but also a life cleansed from sin:  “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psa. 66:18).  Unconfessed, unrepented sin blocks the channels of communication with a holy God. The writer of Hebrews states this truth positively:  “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (i.e., the Word of God [Eph. 5:26] Heb. 10:22).  We draw near to God initially when we are first saved; we draw near thereafter by means of confession and repentance for sins we have committed since we have been saved.  Sin filters out any message we wish to convey to God except one of repentance. 

            The praying state, the “drawing-near” state, then is one in which sin has been dealt with in accord with God’s prescribed way.  The sinner who has been delivered to salvation and the believer walking righteously remain in a condition of drawing near to God; they maintain a prayerful spirit; the channel of communication is open to God, Who hears and answers them according to His will.  Are you truly praying?  Have you drawn near to God?            

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