- From the Editor -
by Dr. Dennis Corle
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Hebrews 4:16 is a wonderful promise. It’s also a challenge to you and to me. The Bible says, “Let us therefore come boldly...” I want to talk to you about those two words -- come boldly. I am instructed to come boldly to the throne of grace. God has given me an invitation to come to Him in prayer, and He told me at the throne of grace I can obtain the mercy and grace that I need to help in time of need.
I believe most of the prayer passages in the Bible deal with me getting what I need in order to help somebody else. Certainly God encourages me and tells me that it’s right to come to Him and ask Him to meet my daily needs. I’m supposed to pray for daily bread. I’m supposed to pray for daily forgiveness. I’m supposed to pray for daily provision and protection.
There’s not anything wrong with me praying for my own needs, but when He talks in Hebrews 4:16 about me obtaining mercy and finding grace to help in time of need, I believe God is simply saying that there are needs out there that I’m not equipped to meet in the flesh. There are needs I cannot meet unless I get something from God. I don’t have what it takes to meet that need, but if come to the throne of grace, God has what they need, and God will impart to me what they need and use me as a means of getting it to them. But it will only happen when I come to the throne of grace. I’ve got to have an intercessory prayer life and come boldly.
That word boldly means two things. First, it means ‘open faced or unashamed.’ Literally what He’s talking about is me not being embarrassed and ashamed to come to God. So when He said come boldly, I am to come unashamed, not backward or timid or ashamed to ask.
The second thing that it means is for me to come confidently, to come with anticipation of an answer, to actually be expecting God to do something in answer to my prayer. There are several things that make it possible for me to come boldly, unashamed, and confidently to God.
The first thing I have to do if I’m going to come boldly is to pray according to the will of God. It tickles me how we pray sometimes. The first thing we do in many cases is inform God of what we think He does not know. Then we tell Him what the solution is and what He needs to do. I’ve got news for you. God knew the problem before you were aware of it. So prayer does not inform God of anything, and I do not need to instruct God concerning what needs to be done.
I need to pray for the will of God, and pray according to the will of God. If I do that, then I have a promise from God and I’m going to get answers. The Bible says, “And this is the confidence...” What was this thing of coming boldly? One of the things it meant was to come with confidence or come confidently to God, come with expectation of an answer. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” (I John 5:14) He’s talking about praying, isn’t He?
Dr. John Rice popularized this statement: “Prayer is asking and receiving.” This verse said, “...if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” Now, folks, that doesn’t mean He’s just aware of what we said. God not only knows what you say, He knows the very thoughts and intents of your heart. When the Bible said, ‘We know that He heareth us,’ it doesn’t just mean that God’s aware of what we said, but that He hears with the intent to answer. What is the condition of him hearing with an intention to respond? If we pray according to the will of God. Instead of me trying to exert my will upon God, I need to find out what His will is and pray for that. I need to get in line with His will and pray according to the will of God, and pray for the will of God. If I’m praying for what I know God wants, then I can pray with confidence. The Bible said, “...if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” He hears with the intent to answer.
You remember the text in Romans 10:17 where it said, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” It doesn’t just mean everybody that hears a verse has faith, but if I hear with the intent to obey, it will produce faith. Similarly, when it says we know He hears us, it doesn’t just mean we know He’s aware of what we said, but we know that God has heard and received our prayer with the intent to answer. That’s what He’s saying.
The key is praying according to the will of God. Instead of trying to get God to do my will, I need to find out what His will and His program is, and get in on it and pray for what I know He wants. If I’m asking God to do what He wants to do, I’m going to get an answer. Instead of me trying to get God to do what I want Him to do, I’m going to ask Him to do what He already has determined to do.
In verse 15 it says, “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” Did you notice two or three times He used the word know? That sounds pretty confident to me, like he’s expecting something to happen when he prays. So if I’m going to come boldly unto the throne of grace, first I must pray according to the will of God, and also pray for the glory of God.
The Bible says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,...” Do most of it to the glory of God, right? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,...” Do all of it to get people saved. Is that what He said? No, the Bible says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,...” (Unless I’m praying) “...do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) Folks, He did not put an exception in there. That means when I pray, I’m supposed to pray to the glory of God, too. I’m not supposed to pray just to meet the need, but pray for God to do His will and meet the need to His glory. My motive in prayer is not only to see a need met; it’s to see God glorified in the process. We need to get our sights set on glorifying God.
So to pray boldly, with confidence and unashamed, first I must find out what the will of God is and pray for that, praying from a heart that really yearns to glorify God in the answer. Pray confidently; pray for the will of God, according to the will of God; pray with a motive of glorifying Him.
There is a second thing I must do in order to come to God confidently and unashamed. I’m going to have to pray with a clear conscience. “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (I John 3:20-22) Folks, there’s a difference between just keeping the commandments and then doing those things that are pleasing in His sight. I must find out what pleases God and do it, whether it’s a command or not.
People weary me when they say, “I don’t have to do that to be saved.” The truth is, if my heart is right about the thing, I’ll want to do more to please God, not as little as possible, like so many folks seem to be doing. Notice that if our heart condemns us, we don’t have any confidence. “...if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” He didn’t say if our peers condemn us or if our actions condemn us. He’s not talking about what’s visible to the public, but what is hidden in my heart. I could hide some sin that you couldn’t see, and you wouldn’t condemn me, but my heart would still condemn me. Because my heart is speaking to me, I don’t have any confidence that God will answer. I don’t have enough confidence to even come to Him. I’m ashamed because I don’t have a clear conscience, hanging my head, at least inwardly. He said that if our heart condemn us, we’ve got problems.
God is greater than our heart. He knows if my heart is condemning me. God certainly knows what’s wrong. I cannot hide it from Him. “...if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” Here we come to prayer again, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments,...” I’m going to keep a clear conscience if I keep his commandments. “...and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” That will give me a clear conscience. It’s not just avoiding the wrong; it’s doing what’s right.
Now it goes without saying that if I keep His commandments, I’m not disobeying Him. But keeping His commandments is not just the negative. It’s not just that I don’t do this and I don’t do that. I’m keeping the ones that say, “Thou shalt not,” and also keeping the ones that say, “Thou shalt.” Many folks are not keeping His commandments. They have the “Thou shalt nots” okay, but still not doing what they’re supposed to do. They are still not doing those things that are pleasing in His sight. They stop in the realm of duty. Whatever is commanded they’ll do, but not a bit more. So obedience gives me a clear conscience. A clear conscience gives me confidence toward God. Confidence toward God gives me boldness in prayer, to come with expectation that God’s going to do something.
Jesus said in John chapter 11, when He stood at the tomb of Lazarus, “...Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always:...” What did we say about that? If He always hears Him, it means He always gets His prayers answered. Jesus did always get His prayers answered. I’m glad that’s Who’s interceding for me. “I know that thou hearest me always.” That sounds to me like complete confidence, but this is the same Jesus of which the Bible says ‘He did always those things that please the Father.’ So His complete obedience, or complete surrender, resulted in total confidence.
Then in Acts 27 we find Paul in the midst of the storm, Euroclydon. While there in the midst of that raging storm the Bible said that they were troubled and had cast the food overboard, and given up all hope that they should be saved. They had come to a state of hopelessness. In the morning after a night of prayer, Paul came on board and said, “Be of good cheer. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be defeated. I serve God. I’m His. His angel stood beside me this night, and declared unto me that there shall not be the loss of any man’s life. Sirs, I believe God, that it shall be even as He said.” It sounds to me like he had confidence. He had spent a night communing with God and crying out for deliverance. He had spent a night in prayer. He had peace with God and peace in his heart, and confidence that the answer was going to come.
This is the same fella that we read about on the day of his conversion said, “...Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?...” I’m telling you that Paul wasn’t as surrendered and perfect as Jesus was, but as far as flesh and blood, he was as surrendered as a person can be. Total surrender produces complete confidence. When I’m obedient, I’m confident in prayer. When I have an obedient heart that does not condemn me, I come to God with confidence, unashamed, in total expectation that God’s going to answer and meet a need.
Disobedience and confidence do not go together. It will cause you to pray like this. “Oh, God, save so and so, if it be thy will.” Let me help you with that. According to II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not ... willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” He’s not going to force anybody to Heaven, but I don’t have to wonder if it’s His will to save somebody. It definitely is His will. Now they have to cooperate of their own choosing, but I know it’s the will of God for them to be saved.
I don’t have to wonder if it’s the will of God for some backslider to be restored. The reason you say, “If it be thy will” when you know it’s His will is because you don’t have any confidence. You’re trying to cover yourself because you’re not expecting anything to happen. Prayer is nothing more to you than a routine exercise. You’re going through the motions, but not really expecting God to answer because you know how your heart is. Your heart condemns you, so you pray superficially, but you pray without confidence and ashamed as you come to God. It causes you to be timid and insecure and vague. “God bless all the missionaries and save all the sinners.” The reason you pray in generalities is because you don’t have any confidence. You’re going to pray for everything and everybody in one big lump, so if anything good happens you can claim it as an answer. You don’t have enough confidence in your prayer life to pray for specific things and specific people, for God to meet specific needs. You pray, “If it be thy will,” when you already know it’s His will. What’s that a sign of? Maybe a heart that condemns you, maybe a heart that has no confidence, maybe somebody who doesn’t really expect anything to happen.
When I was living at home, if I had been disobedient to my dad, I was still his son. My sonship was not in question. But if I was disobedient and we were not on good terms, I didn’t bother to ask for any extra allowance. I didn’t bother to ask him if I could use the car or have any special privileges. Do you know why? It was no use wasting my breath. I don’t have any confidence I’m going to get this. I’m pretty sure I’m NOT going to get what I’m asking for. That’s why some of you don’t have a prayer life. ‘I know God can, but God’s not going to do that for me.’ So I don’t have enough confidence to even talk to God about it, just like I wouldn’t come to my dad and ask special favors. He was still my dad. He still loved me. He’d still feed me and put a roof over my head. But I did not ask him for any special favors or privileges when I had been disobedient and we were estranged. I had no confidence. It was a waste of my breath.
It’s a tragedy when the people of God view prayer as a waste of their breath because of the condition they’re in spiritually. They have no confidence. They won’t even talk to God about it because they’re ashamed of themselves. They say, “It’s no use anyway. I have no confidence that I’d get an answer.”
Years ago in North Carolina my wife and I were in a laundromat. She was doing clothes, and I was sitting there reading my Bible. This hippie looking guy came walking in the door, wearing a shirt that had a cross and a question mark. On the back it said, “Guess Who?” which was a rock band that was popular at that time. After a few minutes I said, “Hey, buddy, I see you got that cross on there. It’s got a question mark on it. It looks like you’ve got some questions. Maybe I can help you.” I started talking to him salvation.
He said, “That religion, that Christianity is just a crutch.” I made it a habit for years to keep a prayer list. When God answers my prayers, Joe Boyd taught me to use the little mark TUG -- Thank You, God. This hippie said, “That’s just a crutch. There is nothing to Christianity.”
I said, “Okay, I want to ask you a question.” He thought it was going to be some scientific question, and he had been educated beyond his intelligence. That’s why he was walking around looking like a hobo. That’s about what ‘education’ is accomplishing today, making a bunch of dodos out of people.
I said, “Look, I just want you to answer one question for me. If there’s no God and there’s no Heaven, and Christianity is just a crutch, I need you to explain something. I want you to explain to me how I got 70 definite answers to prayer in the last 90 days.”
“Oh,” he said, “Coincidence.”
I said, “How many coincidences have you had in the last 90 days?” I said, “I’ll tell you what. You sit down right there and write a list of ten things that you want. Tell everybody you know. Call people. Write people. Do everything you can in the next 30 days to get that list filled. I’ll give you a list of ten things and I won’t tell anybody but God. In 30 days we’ll get back together and see who fills their list.”
He said, “I’ve got to go.” Wouldn’t you be afraid to do that? No, not at all. God would fill my list to show an infidel that there is a God in Heaven. God would answer my prayer to confound the wisdom of the world and show that it’s foolishness. I’ve got confidence to ask God for specific things. That very week God had given me a car exactly like I prayed for to tow behind my motorhome, and gave me the tow mechanism. I didn’t tell anybody I was praying for a car. The preacher came to me and said, “How do you like this little car?”
I said, “It’s nice.”
He said, “You could use one like this, couldn’t you?”
I said, “Yes, I probably could.”
He said, “My wife and I have been praying about it, and we believe God wants us to give it to you if you’ll take it.”
You say, “What did you do?”
I said, “Well, praise the Lord.” That was an answer to prayer, but nobody knew but God. Hey, God answers prayer, folks. I have confidence I’m going to pray and get an answer. So I need to pray according to the will of God, and I need to pray with a clear conscience because I’ve been obedient to God and I’m doing those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Then there are a few other things that you and I need to grasp out of this verse that will help us come boldly. Do you realize that I’ve been invited? The fact that we have an invitation should give us confidence and boldness. When I come to God in prayer, I’m not imposing upon Him. I’m not an intruder. I have a written invitation in the Word of God. He said He wants me to be there at the throne of grace. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee,...” That sounds kind of personal to me. “...and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” He invited me to call upon Him. In our text He said we’re to come boldly unto the throne of grace. That’s an invitation, folks. I can come boldly to the throne of grace because I’m invited. I have a written invitation.
If I was going to a church and I had not been invited there, I wouldn’t go with any expectation of preaching. If I got to preach, it would be bonus. Some time ago a fella invited me for a meeting and then wouldn’t let me preach on Sunday morning. Now when he booked the meeting, he booked me to come for that Sunday all day, so when I got there, I was expecting to preach. Why? Because I had been invited. I didn’t fuss with him about it, but it was an odd situation. God won’t treat you that way. God invites me to the throne of grace and when God gives me a written invitation, I don’t have to feel bad about coming to Him. You say, “I don’t want to bother Him with that stuff.” God is not bothered by it. He invited you to come and talk to Him about it. “Well, I just don’t want to be an intruder.” You’re not an intruder. You have an invitation. If I’m invited to some kind of a meeting or fellowship, I don’t feel intimidated about showing up. I had an invitation. I already know that I’m welcome there.
I can come to God confidently, boldly, unashamed, if I come and pray according to the will of God for the glory of God. Number two, if I pray with a clear conscience. Number three, if I remind myself that I’m supposed to come boldly. I’m invited. He said in Hebrews 10:22, “Draw near.” I’m not an intruder.
When I look at this passage of Scripture I think about how Esther put her life on the line, when she came into the court of the king. She was coming in behalf of her people. She could have remained silent. Nobody would have ever known. But she was there begging the king for mercy and grace for her people. Do you realize that when she came, if he had not held his scepter out, she could have lost her life for coming? She was an intruder in that situation. But child of God, His scepter is always extended to you and to me. I’m never in jeopardy for coming boldly to His throne. I’m never viewed as an intruder. I’m never imposing upon God to come to Him with my needs and the needs of others in prayer. I’ve been invited.
Here is another encouraging thought. He said I’m coming to the throne of grace. This is not the throne of justice where you get what you deserve. This is not the throne of reward where you get what you’ve earned. This is the throne of grace or unmerited favor. You say, “I just don’t feel worthy.” Welcome to the club. This is not the throne of worthiness, the throne of justice, the throne of reward. This is the throne of grace, and grace is me receiving the goodness of God that I don’t deserve.
So I can have confidence to come to the throne of grace and expect an answer, because I’m not going to get what I deserve. I’m not going to get what I’ve earned. I’m going to get, by the grace of God, an answer better than I deserve. I have confidence because I was there one other time, when I got saved. I came to that same throne as a poor, old, lost sinner, that had no case to plead. I had nothing to offer, no defense at all. I came as a sinner condemned to Hell, and pled for the mercy and grace of God, and got it freely. Now if I could come get it for myself back then, I reckon maybe God would give me some for somebody else if I’d come back to that throne of grace again. Folks, this is the throne of grace. That ought to give me confidence and expectation. Even though I’m unworthy I come to God for mercy and grace, and grace is something that’s unmerited, undeserved.
God promised me an answer. He said that I’m to come to the throne of grace that I might obtain mercy. I can find grace. You’re going to get what you need there. You’re going to obtain what you’re after. You’re going to find what you’re looking for. I can obtain and find. God has promised me that what I need is there waiting for me.
Dr. John R. Rice told the story how one night he dreamed that he had died and gone to Heaven. When he got there, an angel of God took him and walked him through huge warehouses with everything imaginable in them, one after another after another. Dr. Rice said after going through several warehouses filled with all the wonderful things he could ever want, he stopped and said, “What are all these things?”
The angel said, “Those are the things you could have had if you just prayed and asked God for them. They are here in store for you. They could have been yours, at your disposal. They could have been given to you to get the work of God done, if you had just prayed.” I’m not big on dreams, but Dr. Rice said after that dream, he determined that he’d have a consistent, faithful, fervent prayer life. He said that incident changed his prayer habit. His prayer habit changed his life.
I have promises. I’m not trying to talk God into something. He invited me and promised me that what I was after was there. He said, “You’re going to obtain what you need and find what you’re looking for. It’s here. I want you to have it. I promise if you’ll come, I’ll go ahead and give it to you.” It’s a promise. Second Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”
Then let me remind you that my primary purpose for coming to this throne of grace is in behalf of somebody else. It’s not wrong to pray for my own needs, and there will be times when I need mercy and grace myself. God will give it to me for me. But the primary thought in Hebrews 4:16 is that I am coming to obtain mercy and find grace to help, so I can help somebody else in their time of need, so I’m equipped to meet their need. You know if I’m coming to God for something, if I’m praying in someone else’s behalf, I don’t have to feel intimidated or selfish. God told me to pray for my own needs, too. I don’t have to feel bad about that, but sometimes folks do. But especially when I’m coming to obtain mercy and find grace to help somebody else, I ought to be able to come with great confidence, great expectation, trusting God to do great things.
God commanded me. “...come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” If I’m going to come boldly and obey that, I have to come to Him praying for the will of God, and praying to the glory of God. I’m going to have to come with a clear conscience because I’m obeying His commandments and doing those things that are pleasing in His sight. I’m going to have to come with a realization that I’m not an intruder, and I need not be intimidated. I’m responding to an invitation. If you invite me, I don’t feel bad about showing up, because it was your idea. I need to understand this is the throne of grace, not the throne of justice or reward. I didn’t earn the answer, don’t have to deserve the answer. I’m going to get an answer by grace just like I did when I got saved.
In Daniel chapter three, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a holy boldness in prayer. The king told them, “If you don’t bow down, you’re going to be cast into the burning fiery furnace, and who is that God that shall deliver you then.”
They said, “Oh, king, we’re not going to be slow to answer you on this matter. Our God, whom we serve...” Do you have one of them? A God whom you serve? “Our God, whom we serve is able to deliver us, and He will deliver us, but if not... If it’s the will of God for us to die here in the fire, we still won’t bow. We’re still not going to change our convictions. We still won’t worship an image of gold.” They said, “Our God, whom we serve is able.” Then they said, “And He will deliver us.” Their boldness went beyond believing God was able. Their boldness went to the point of believing, not only that God was able, but that God would. It sounds pretty confident to me. They said, “Now if it’s not God’s will for us to live, if it’s time for us to go home, we’re going to go home obedient, but God can and we believe God will.”
Full expectation that God was going to meet the need. By the way, He did. The king’s most valiant men were killed because he heated the furnace seven times hotter, and as they threw those three Hebrew children into the fire, the men that threw them in were slain by the heat, and they were in there walking around loose. Not only were they protected, but there was a fourth one in there like unto the Son of God, walking about in the fire with them. It sounds to me like they might have gotten an answer. They had confidence. Why was that? They had confidence because they were praying according to the will of God, and they were praying for the glory of God, and they were praying with a clear conscience, and they knew they had an invitation from God, and they were coming to the throne of grace. They had a promise of an answer.
On one occasion A.T. Pearson went to hear the great man of prayer, George Mueller. George Mueller cited 100,000 definite answers to prayer in his lifetime. Pearson went to hear George Mueller speak. As he spoke, he talked about answers to prayer and how God had met needs in answer to prayer. At the close of the meeting, Pearson asked Mueller if he had ever petitioned God for anything that was not granted. Mueller’s response was this. “Sixty-two years, three months, five days, and two hours have passed since I began to pray for two men. I prayed daily for them ever since, and as yet neither shows any signs of turning to God.”
Pearson said, “Do you expect God to save them?”
He said, “Certainly, certainly, do you think God would lay on his child such a burden for over 60 years if He had no purpose in converting their souls?” Do you realize that George Mueller died with neither of those men getting saved? At his funeral the first one got saved. After his death the second one got saved. The Bible says, “...and their works do follow them.”
Prayer is an eternal work. You may not even live to see the answer to your prayer, but your prayers can affect things far beyond your life span. Many a godly mother has seen her children saved after her death because of the prayers she prayed while she was alive. She secured their souls in prayer as she cried out to God when she had the breath to do it. When the breath was gone and the life had escaped her, years after her body lay cold and stiff, her children came to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in answer to the prayers she prayed when she could.
God invites me and says, “Come boldly unto the throne of grace. Come unashamed, open faced. Come confidently with expectation.” “Preacher, I’d like to. How do you do that?” Come praying for the will of God and to the glory of God. Not only that, but come with a clear conscience because you’ve been obedient to God, doing those things that you’re commanded, and those things that please Him. Then remind yourself every now and then ‘I’m not intruding,’ even though the devil will try to make you feel like an intruder. The devil will try to make you feel like what you’re asking for is a menial thing and God doesn’t want bothered with it. That’s a lie. You’re invited. God wants you to come. Remind yourself that this not the throne of justice or reward, because the devil is going to say, “You’re not worthy.” The throne of grace is where unworthy people get answers. I’m glad there is such a place. I’ve got plenty of answers when I was unworthy and undeserving because I knew what kind of throne it was. I got grace to help.
Then if all the promises of God in Him are yea and amen, I ought to come confidently because God not only invited me and it’s the throne of grace, but He promised me that what I’m looking for is there. I’m going to find it. I’m going to obtain it. That’s the whole purpose of the prayer, to obtain something that someone needs to the glory of God. You find what you’re looking for to the glory of God. God has invited you. Come boldly unto the throne of grace.
Get your heart right and have a clear conscience. Get your head right and start praying according to the will of God instead of according to your will, for the glory of God instead of just to see the need met. If you get those things in order, you can come boldly, confidently, unashamed, with great expectation and anticipation and see God do marvelous things in answer to your prayers.
Everybody has somebody that desperately needs you to get an answer on their behalf. Everybody has somebody that you’d like to help, but you can’t help them with your own resources and your own strength and your own wisdom. You don’t have what it takes to meet their need. You need to find the mercy and obtain the grace from God in answer to prayer to help and meet the need. You’ve got some lost soul you’re burdened about, or some family member that’s backslidden. You’ve got a friend or loved one whose life is hanging in the balances physically.
Come boldly. It’s an invitation. What you do about it is up to you. Are you going to put yourself in a position where you can and will come boldly and obtain the mercy and find the grace you need? Are you going to fail those people who are depending on your prayers with an excuse like, “I just didn’t have what it took.” God did. If God has what they need, it’s available to you through prayer, so that you can find grace to help in time of need. You have the promise. You have the invitation. You have the conditions. Come boldly.