Entering His Presence: The Holiness of Prayer
I will bring these people to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer (Is. 56:7).
In the court of King Xerxes, entering the king’s presence without permission carried a penalty of death for the offender. This law was not lightly taken by the people of Persia. But, in order to save her people, Queen Esther collected her courage and approached the throne. The king accepted her without rebuke, granted her request, and a nation survived.
It’s a beautiful story of boldness spurred by devotion. And, though King Xerxes wasn’t too bad (as biblical rulers go), aren’t you glad our heavenly king rules his throne room differently?
Aren’t you glad God is more accessible than Xerxes? What if we could go to God in prayer only when he called us? What if we needed an official guard to announce our presence?
Suppose only certain people could pray. Suppose only specified topics could be discussed.
Doesn’t sound like the throne room of our heavenly King, does it? Instead of limited accessibility, our King is always available, eternally ready to hear his people, and continually waiting for us to approach.
In fact, no moment brings greater delight to the King than when his children enter his presence.
Glimpsing the Throne Room
You walk through the halls of a magnificent royal court. As you reach the entrance of the throne room, you peer through the doorway and see the king on his spectacular throne. Royal guards are posted along the wall and sentries stand at the door. But they do not stop you as you walk. They ask for no credentials or letters of introduction. You need not register with the king’s aide. There is no protocol that must be observed. For, as you enter the throne room, you say the word which brings the king rushing to you.
He is your father.
Just as Jesus prayed “Our father who is in heaven. . .“ (Mt. 6:9) so do we address the heavenly king as father. When Jesus used the term abba, he changed forever the relationship between man and God. The concept of addressing God as “Abba, father” was revolutionary, because of the intimacy implied by the word itself. In the days of Christ, abba was a term of endearment used by children, much like “daddy” in our culture. Though God is described as a father in the Old Testament, the use of the more familiar term doesn’t appear until Jesus uses it himself. Scholar Joachim Jeremias explains the impact of its unusual change in usage:
“Abba” was an everyday word. No Jew would have dared to address God in this manner; yet Jesus did it always in all his prayers which are handed down to us, with one single exception: the cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus authorizes his disciples to repeat the word ‘abba’ after him. He gives them a share in his sonship. He empowers them as his disciples to speak with their heavenly father in just such a familiar and trusting way.
Why do we have instant access to the throne of God? Because the throne is occupied by our father. The Father loves us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are his children (I John 3:1).
God is the ideal father. Though some may view fathers through the lens of pain or detachment, this earthly pain need not cloud our image of God as father. He represents the perfect picture of what a father should be: he offers his children protection, provision, concern. He is never too distant to receive you, never too busy to listen to you. You cannot approach him too often. He is but a thought away from you.
Imagine. A perfect, holy God who receives sinners into his presence. How, you ask, how can this be? How can we in our imperfection, dare approach a holy God? We have the right to enter his presence because we have been clothed in Christ. Apart from Christ, God is inaccessible. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the father is through me” (John 14:6).
Christ covers us with his goodness. He wraps us in his sinlessness and dresses us in his holiness.
Recently, I had an experience that brought home this point. I was invited to attend the Masters golf tournament. Now, for you non-golfers out there, let me explain that the Masters is no ordinary tournament. No ticket is more difficult to obtain than a ticket to this premier event. No sports event is harder to enter than the Masters. And getting into the locker room requires the cunning of a Mission Impossible team. The term “off limits” was created by the folks at the Masters: no one goes in except players and caddies and VIPs.
I should know because I tried to get in. I wanted to walk the floors which had felt the footsteps of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Ben Hogan. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the credentials. I could only gaze from a distance.
But then I got my coveralls.
You see, on the day before the tournament, the pros play in a par-three round. The golfer gives his caddy the afternoon off and invites a friend to take his place. My friend, golf pro Scott Simpson, invited me to be his caddy. I’ve never been more honored to lug a bag in my life. I went to the caddy shack and picked up my official caddy hat and put on the required white coveralls. Then, after the round I carried the bag up to the locker room, right past the doorway where earlier I had been denied entrance.
I entered the locker room and walked around like I was born to be there. I looked in the mirrors where the pros look. I sat in front of the lockers where the great ones have sat. I roamed at leisure, for now I was wearing the clothes of a caddy. Like the non-pro wearing caddy clothes when we come to Christ, we change clothing. For through faith you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus. Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ as a garment (Gal. 3:27).
We are wrapped up in Christ, completely reclothed and covered. We can enter the presence of God without question. Remember the words of Isaiah:
The Lord makes me very happy. All that I am rejoices in my God. He has covered me with the clothes of salvation and wrapped me with a coat of goodness, like a bridegroom, dressed for his wedding, like a bride dressed in jewels (Is. 61:10-11).
Entering God’s presence. When the children of the king come into the throne room, a holy moment takes place. Entering his presence through prayer is not a rare event on a holy calendar. It’s not a singular ceremony reserved for some special group. Nor is it a spectacular episode for the history books. Instead, it is moment by moment access to a Holy God.
And, though lofty in privilege, it’s common in availability. It is the lifelong chance of a lifetime.
ntering His Presence:The Holiness of Prayer
Published by UpWords Ministries
©2002 by Max Lucado
Edited by Karen Hill