When it comes to prayer, I have to admit that I find it hard to ask with confidence. I don’t mean that I lack confidence in prayer. I know full well that I can boldly approach the Father because of what Jesus has done for me. But I can’t quite wrap my head around Jesus’ words in John 14:14: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Really? Anything? Yes, Jesus did qualify his statement with the phrase “in my name”, meaning that we should only ask for things that will bring honour and glory to his name, but even with this qualification, there remain numerous things we can ask for in his name. Yet, I always feel the need to qualify my prayers: “Please do this and this, if it’s in accordance with your will.”
But Paul the apostle doesn’t pray like this. For example, in Romans 1:9, we find him “asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” The will of God is not preceded by an if. Paul is asking that God will order things in such a way that he can come to the Romans. I confess I do not pray with the same degree of boldness.
What lies behind my lack of boldness? Why do I find it difficult to say with David, “the Lord hears when I call to him.” (v.3) I think at some root level, I do not fully trust in the goodness of God. David knows otherwise. He knows that God is merciful, and hears us in spite of the imperfection of our prayers. So when he was in distress, he prayed boldly for relief. He doesn’t hedge his prayers with “let me suffer more if that is your will.”
Yet there was one who prayed such a prayer: “Father, remove this cup from me. Yet not my will but your will be done.” And the Father’s will was that Jesus would drink the cup of his wrath till it was empty. Because Jesus was obedient until death, he secured for us an infinite bounty of goodness. Our bold prayers for our good are bought with the blood of Jesus. God will not turn a deaf ear to such valuable prayers. This brings a new dimension to the last few lines of the Psalm:
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” (v.6)
Having seen Jesus, there can no longer be any doubt about God’s goodness to us. The request that the Lord lift up the light of his face upon his people has been answered in full. It is none other than Jesus Christ himself (see 2 Corinthians 4:6). He not only shows us some good; more than that, nothing but goodness comes to us from his hand. Even the evils and sufferings we face are but a momentary affliction working for us an eternal weight of glory and goodness.
Do we perceive the goodness of God towards us? More often than not, we dwell bitterly on the things that God denies us for our good, thinking that we know better what we need. But we are not as wise as God, nor do we love ourselves as much as God loves us. Left to our own devices, we would soon destroy ourselves. But thanks to the goodness of God, we can say with the Psalmist:
You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
This is the ground of praying boldly. Because of Jesus, God is working all things for our good. In him we can find an inexhaustible supply of goodness dedicated to our joy and peace. That God would show such goodness to undeserving sinners like us is unthinkable but undeniably true. O the depth of the love of God!