What is Your Attitude in Prayer?

Albrecht Durer, 1508
Albrecht Durer, 1508

“And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Lord’s Prayer radically changed the disciples’ attitudes about prayer.

To understand how much attitudes had to change, think about how a first century Jew would view Jesus’ prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer, we, metaphorically, enter the city of Jerusalem; go through ritual purification to the outer courts of the temple, step into the Holy place, and pull back the veil of the Holy of Holies. Then, at the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, we put on the ephod [1] of the high priest and begin to pray, not to YHWH, but to Daddy! Talk about radical!

If this metaphor for prayer seems far-fetched, consider Paul’s last trip to Jerusalem. Paul arrived in the city in the company of fellow believers (gentiles), probably Greeks from Corinth (1 Cor 16:3). When he entered the temple a riot broke out as Jews who had seen him in the city accused Paul of bringing a gentile into the temple. Paul escaped with his life from this riot only because the Roman guards rescued him (Acts 21:26-32). This story underscores the point that it was unthinkable, to a Jew, that anyone could enter God’s presence—especially in the Temple—without proper cleansing, preparation, and authority.

What is your attitude in prayer? Are you reverent or cavalier in approaching God? Although the temple veil was torn when Christ died on the cross [2], God is still holy and we can approach the mercy seat only by the invitation of Christ. Respecting God’s boundaries is an important step in approaching prayer. “Be holy because I am holy” (Lev 11:44) says the Lord God.

[1] A ceremonial garment worn by the high priest described in Exod 28.

[2] The splitting of the temple veil is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38; and Luke 23:45). Roman armies destroyed the temple during a Jewish uprising in AD 70.

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