"I have learned by experience that God hath blessed me for thy sake" (Genesis 30:27).
Every prayer answered by God for His trusting children is for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, and because of His atoning and redeeming work on our behalf. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you" (John 16:23).
Most believers will readily agree with this as a doctrinal truth of Scripture. Do we know, however, the wonder of "I have learned by experience that God hath blessed me for Thy sake?" One way to find out is to measure our confidence concerning prayer. This is a key spiritual issue because our spiritual enemies continually seek to direct our attention toward our unworthiness and lack of faithfulness in prayer. They tempt us to base our access to God on our own works and consistency in walking with Him in faith and obedience. As mentioned in yesterday's devotional, there is a measure of truth in this. But only a measure, because the far greater truth is that relating to God results primarily from who Christ is and what He is done, as opposed to our own person and work. Indeed, never are we so faithful to our Heavenly Father that we can come in any way other than the Lord Jesus. And never are we so unfaithful that we cannot come as long as we make our approach in faith, repentance, and confidence in our Savior's mediatorial role for us.
Many Christians do not pray because of prayerlessness. This may seem redundant, but we simply mean that our spiritual enemies will tempt us to believe that if we have not prayed consistently of late, there is little reason to pray in the present. We may feel so insincere and unfaithful that we hold little hope for successful approach to our Heavenly Father. Careful analysis of this notion reveals that we are basing our access to God on our own performance rather than on the person, merit, and work of the Lord Jesus. We are forgetting that He is always the way unto the the throne of grace. "I am the way" He declared (John 14:6). We ourselves are not the way, and our previous performance in prayer is not the basis upon which we may pray in this moment. We are to have "boldness to enter into the holiest, through the blood of Jesus" (Hebrews 10:19). Of course, our Lord may convict us of the sin of prayerlessness as we commune with Him, and if so, we deal with the matter through faith, repentance, and confession. However, we do not fail to pray in the present because of prayerlessness in the past.
On the cross of Calvary, the Lord Jesus was smitten and abandoned by His Father for our sakes. He cried out in loneliness and agony, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). There is no record of any answer from the Father to this prayer despite the Lord's affirmation at a previous time to the Father, "Thou hearest Me always" (John 11:42). The reason for this is that on the cross, our Savior was made to be sin for us, and was thus utterly forsaken by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 5:21). No answer to His prayer was possible because He had become a curse rather than the blessing He had eternally been. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is he that hangeth on a tree" (Galatians 3:13). This is the most solemn of all Biblical truths, and our privilege and responsibility of prayer must be viewed in its holy light.
The heart of the matter is that to the degree the Lord Jesus was forsaken on the cross of Calvary, born again believers are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). Our prayers are answered because of His suffering, forsakenness and death for us. Our Lord's faithfulness to God's purposes and to our benefit is placed on our account as a free gift of grace beyond all comprehension and description. Thus, we may approach God always so long as we come by the bloody way He has made for us. We are blessed with the privilege of prayer for Christ's sake. His death is accounted as sufficient for the forgiveness of our sins, and His life and ongoing intercession for us are accounted as more than adequate to maintain our relationship with God.
This truth, rightly understood and embraced, will lift the shroud of discouragement and sense of alienation that paralyzes many believers in their relationship with God. Too many feel unworthy to pray, and because they do not adequately understand that the worthiness of the Lord Jesus is their access, they simply give up in believing that a life of consistent communion with God is possible. Instead of obeying the command to "consider Him" in order to be strengthened in their walk with the Lord, they consider themselves. Thus they are "wearied and faint" because their spiritual focus is misdirected (Hebrews 12:3). Conversely, when we realize that vibrant prayer is the fruit of the faith that affirms the faithfulness of Christ as our access to the Father, we will find ourselves praying far more. We will also pray far better because we will have aligned ourselves with the truth of God's Word, and the working of God's Spirit to exalt the Lord Jesus.
Upon this basis, we learn "by experience" that God blesses us for Christ's sake. Our love for Him grows as we commune with Him in confidence, and the manifested fruit of the Holy Spirit is far more revealed in our lives. We will consider this growth in grace in tomorrow's consideration, and the glory to Him that results from realizing that we are blessed for His sake.
"For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth."