Esther before Ahasuerus, Anonymous, 17th Century

Esther before Ahasuerus, Anonymous, 17th Century

Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way,  yet without sin.  So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Hebrews 4:14-16) 

Last evening, as I walked our dog around the neighborhood, I took the opportunity to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I was praying that wonderful prayer of intercession for the situations of several friends and family members for whom I have been very concerned. The Chaplet is prayed using Rosary beads. On the Our Father beads you pray, “Eternal Father, I offer you the body, blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” On the Hail Mary beads you pray, “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” The Chaplet, I find, is a wonderful way to do exactly what the writer of Hebrews here encourages us all to do: rely on Jesus as our high priest (and the sacrifice itself) through whom we gain access to heaven and approach  “the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (or “grace to help in time of need” RSV)

But even as I walked and prayed last evening, and as I meditated on today’s passage, I realized something was amiss. What was wrong is captured in the word “confidently” – as in “So let us confidently approach the throne.” My approach to the throne was anything but confident. It was anxious, fearful, and pleading- afraid that God would not be moved.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not think that my lack of confidence had any effect at all on God’s willingness to answer. And I certainly do not think that my confident approach would be the cause of God’s action. There is no room for “Name it and Claim it” in authentic Christian prayer. No, I am sure that God will answer despite my fear, anxiety, and worry. And, honestly, that is the reason I should have gone to him confidently in the first place: I can be sure of God.

That is exactly the point the writer of Hebrews is making: God has sent his own Son to serve as our access to his throne: to stand with us, to be one of us, and to die for us that we might live through him. In his coming to us we know he cares, in his solidarity with us we know he understands, in his death for us we know that there is nothing he won’t do for us. Paul states it eloquently, “He who did not spare his only son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him.” (Romans 8:32)

Our confidence does not change God at all, but it does change everything for us. From fear we turn to assurance, from worry we turn to trust. We may not know how God will answer, but that he will (and even that his answer will be informed by his love) is never in doubt. The writer of Hebrews originally wrote so that those in his day who were struggling with a difficult time, growing weary and on the brink of giving up might find the strength not only to endure but to conquer. He asked them to take their eyes off of their difficulties and put them on Jesus. They were to  become as confident as Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us?!” And they were to be absolutely certain that God was for them because he had so clearly demonstrated it through Jesus and his work on the Cross.

A second time, much later in the book, the writer of Hebrews, urges us again to a life of faith and confident approach to God. It is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture, particularly because of the very last phrase, which is the sure foundation of all our confidence and hope:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near in a true heart with full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19- 23)

The very last prayer that I offered last night at the end of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy seems a most appropriate way to end today’s meditation. It is the expression of the confidence that we all should have as we live and as we pray. For me, sometimes it is the expression of the confidence I hope to have but have not yet attained. That is, “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” Nevertheless, it is the clear expression of the sure and certain source of our confidence:

“Blood and water, which flowed from the side of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you.
Blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you.
Blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you.
Jesus, I trust in you,

 

Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.