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“I PERMITTED MYSELF TO BE SOUGHT”
by Philip Owen

            Presumptuous arrogance characterizes much of the professing church today.  It is demonstrated in many ways:  a focus on the meeting of human needs and the fulfillment of natural desires, a casual, even dismissive, view of sin, and an emphasis on entertainment rather than worship.  But this presumption is perhaps nowhere more glaringly expressed than in the attitude with which many approach God in prayer.  The popular belief that treats God as if He were no more than a genie in a lamp to be summoned at our convenience in order to satisfy our whims and then safely stuffed back in the lamp and corked up until the next time we need supernatural help can only be compared in egregiousness with the mistaken idea that we can and should command God. 

            The immeasurable grace of God, which He has expressed in His Word through the voluminous prayer promises and the generous invitations to pray, has been misconstrued by insensitive hearts and careless minds as suggesting an authority and power that the believer does not possess.  The fact that God condescends to serve us by inviting us to pray and by answering those prayers does not mean that we have the liberty to approach Him as anything other than supplicants and beggars.  Whether we quote Hebrews 4:16 from the KJV, which speaks of coming “boldly” to the throne of grace or the NASB, which speaks of coming “with confidence,” we must adamantly resist the notion that the liberty and authority in which we come somehow resides in our own nature.  It is “through Christ,” through the penalty that He paid to redeem us from our sins, that we may approach God, and it is “in Christ,” that is being identified with Him that we may make our petitions.  God is gracious toward us, hears and answers our prayers on account of Christ and His redemptive work alone.  Neither the greatness of our need, nor the magnitude of our desire, nor the eloquence of our words, nor the fervor of the spirit with which we express ourselves has any efficacy with God apart from Christ’s work on our behalf.

            Anyone who feels astonished by such thoughts might well direct his attention to these God-breathed words from the prophet Isaiah.  God is speaking:  “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek me.  I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name” (65:1).   God provides no “open sesame,” no magic words that automatically grant access to His throne of grace, no carte blanche guarantee that He will hear and answer a prayer.  In fact, just the opposite is the case.  “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,” Isaiah writes, “and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (59:2).

            In infinite mercy, God permits access to Himself by those blood-washed saints who come with humble and thankful hearts.  We should never fail to remember that access is a privilege afforded by grace, not a right based on perceived needs nor an authority founded in bombast and foolish self-confidence.  We should approach God with bent head and bowed knees realizing that every request God receives in effect must be sanctified by the blood of Christ and every answer we receive flows to us on that same stream.  When we understand and appreciate the truth that we can do nothing to obligate God to answer our prayers but that He has said to us, “I permitted Myself to be sought . . . I permitted Myself to be found,” then we are approaching prayer and the God Who answers prayer in a proper fashion.

            We have no more to offer God by way of inducing Him to answer our prayers today than we did when we were dead in sin, aliens and enemies of God.  It is according to His abundant mercy in Christ Jesus that He is pleased to hear and answer our prayers.   May we repent of assumption and presumption, coming to God through Christ and in meekness, humility, and great thankfulness.                     

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