“What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in Prayer!”
The word “privilege” has taken a beating lately. A privilege used to be considered a good thing. Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a right or immunity granted as a particular benefit, advantage, or favor.” A privilege is granted–given as the prerogative of someone in power or authority– to someone else. It may be given as a reward, or granted for a limited time and under certain conditions. But a true privilege is a gift–you can’t make your own privilege, and you cannot own or control a privilege– the terms are set by the giver, not the receiver.
In the past generation, the word “privilege” has become charged with political and societal connotations. Those connotations, and the issues surrounding them, are worthy of discussion and could fill volumes, but I want to talk about a privilege that should be free of undertones and dubious meanings.
Prayer is a pursuit, and a practice. It is personal, practical, and powerful. But it is also a privilege. Often one that we take for granted.
In pursuing prayer, we are not just developing a personal routine or discipline. We are not just approaching a powerful supernatural entity. We are fallen creation entering the presence of a Holy Creator; we are rebels entering the throne room of the King of Kings.
We have the right to approach God; to talk to, converse with, ask favors of, plead with, confess to, and expect answers from the One who creates galaxies with a single spoken word, and designs every unique flake of snow. This same God grants us the right to draw breath, to experience both beauty and wonder, to question and to create.
Prayer in ancient times was almost universally accompanied by sacrifices, and surrounded with ritual– incense, bowing and prostrating oneself, covering or uncovering the head–in recognition of the horrible chasm, the great separation between God and mankind. Many traditions still use ritual for prayer, and there is nothing wrong in this reminder of God’s Holiness and Sovereignty. Yet God talks of prayer in intimate terms. He didn’t impose ritual and sacrifice for his benefit, but for ours. Several times throughout the Bible, he makes clear that he does not require the blood of bulls and goats–what he wants most is a humble and pure heart. At the moment Jesus died, the great veil in the Temple was ripped in half from top to bottom–the most holy place laid open to all who might come into God’s presence. Christ’s death and resurrection were not just means of saving us from Hell, but the means of bringing restoration of the intimacy God designed from the beginning. God– Almighty, Omnipotent, and completely Holy–wants to give us the privilege to enter his presence and pour out our thoughts, feelings, burdens, and triumphs; to share intimacy with HIM. We are not just objects of his care (or his wrath), not just creatures in whom he has a certain fond but distant interest. We are recipients of lavish love and priceless privileges– forgiveness, power over sin, power to become more Christlike, restoration and renewal, and yes, the pursuit of prayer.