I received a very good message on prayer this weekend. Pastor A’s messages always seem to challenge me to reassess some theological point or two that I previously took for granted; and this Sunday morning was no different. While I understood his description of the loving Father -child relationship between God and His human creations, and God’s desire to communicate with us constantly, I wasn’t sure that I completely agreed with Pastor A’s over-simplified perception of this relationship. Upon returning home I was led to re-read an 1871 sermon given by Charles Spurgeon, that I still consider the best message on prayer that I’ve ever come across (even given the old-English verbiage.) It’s entitled “The Throne of Grace,” and is taken from the verse in Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
In the introduction, Reverend Spurgeon succinctly describes prayer as follows: “True prayer is not a mere mental exercise, nor a vocal performance, but it is deeper far than that—it is spiritual commerce with the Creator of heaven and earth. God is a Spirit unseen of mortal eye, and only to be perceived by the inner man. Our spirit within us, begotten by the Holy Ghost at our regeneration, discerns the Great Spirit, communes with Him, prefers to Him its requests, and receives from Him answers of peace. It is a spiritual business from beginning to end; and its aim and object end not with man, but reach to God himself.” The rest of the sermon takes us step-by-step, first to God’s throne, then to His grace, then grace on the throne and finally His sovereignty manifesting itself and resplendent in grace.
When asked by His disciples to teach them how to pray, Jesus began with the words, “Our Father.” Many times in our zealousness to convince believers that God actually wants to have the relationship of a father to His children, we tend to humanize God – forgetting the rest of Jesus’ characterization of His Father: “Our Father, Who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name.” God is not just an ordinary father. He’s Our Father, Who art in heaven.
If we forget this, we will tend to downplay the use of the term “God on His Throne,” just because we think it was only used because people of ancient civilizations understood kings; that, if written today the Bible would use the term President or Prime Minister. I don’t believe that for one minute. In the “Lord’s prayer” and elsewhere throughout the Bible we can clearly deduce that God intended Sovereign Rule for the government of His creation. Who better than the Absolute Moral Authority of our natural and spiritual universe to establish the principles and rules by which all spirit beings must relate to Himself and to each other. Unfortunately, people in present day Western culture know very little about kingdoms. Most nations in the West are constitutional democracies or republics. Of the few nations that retained their monarchies, most have limited their roles primarily to things ceremonial in nature, with governmental duties administered tripartite, by an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary. Because our understanding of earthly kingdoms has been limited to what we’ve read and studied in grammar and high school history books, or what we’ve seen at the cinema, our society seems to have developed a universal distaste for and a distrust of kingdoms. These feelings toward earthly monarchies shouldn’t surprise anyone – since earthly kings have the same weaknesses and frailties of character as the rest of mankind.
Charles Spurgeon was British and understood monarchies – both their good and their bad aspects. In his words, “Emperors are but the shadows of God’s imperial power.” It’s imperative that we acknowledge God on His throne when we pray. We’re told to come both boldly and in a spirit of lowly reverence. God sees us as a part of the royal family, so there’s no need to fear Him; still we’re entering “holy ground.” Using Rev Spurgeon’s terms: we must approach with devout joyfulness, with complete submission, with enlarged expectations, in a spirit of unstaggering confidence, and with the deepest sincerity.
Followers of Christ are not called to the throne of law or to the throne of ultimate justice. We’re called to “come boldly unto the throne of grace.” We don’t have to worry about the words that we use in our prayers as not being perfect – for the faults of my prayer will be overlooked. The Lord Jesus Christ takes care to alter and amend every prayer before He presents it, and He makes the prayer perfect with His perfection, and prevalent with His own merits. Also, we don’t have to be concerned about our own faults (now forgiven) – for they shall not prevent the success of the petitioner’s prayer. And if we forget to include something that’s on our heart, the Holy Spirit will interpret our desires: “all of our needs will be supplied,… all of our miseries will be compassionated.”
On God’s throne is grace personified, Jesus Christ, Who presents our petitions to the Father. He sits on the throne because He won it by His obedience and victory over sin. His Name is above all names. He sits on the throne by right, because He’s both just and the Justifier. He sits on the throne in power, i.e.: unlimited might – made available to all who knock, ask and seek, in His Name. And He sits on the throne in glory, in demonstrations of the exercise of His authority and power as delegated to His followers.
Sovereignty resplendent in glory,—the glory of grace
Though grace is on the throne, it’s still a throne. As I said earlier, that’s one of the hardest truths for many believers to understand. God’s sovereignty is much different that the sovereignty seen in governments throughout the world – especially in dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. As Rev Spurgeon describes, “The sovereignty of God to a believer, to a pleader, to one who comes to God in Christ, is always exercised in pure grace…. Sovereignty has placed itself under the bonds of love…. God will do as He wills; but, on the mercy seat, He is under bonds – bonds of His own making, for He has entered into covenant with Christ…. God is bound to us by His promises…. Every covenant promise has been endorsed and sealed with blood.”