We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6: 19-20
Gerald Hughes writes in his book, God of Surprises: “God alone can teach us to pray. We must not allow particular methods to get in the way. God really is our teacher and he alone can teach us to pray, or rather, he alone prays in us.” Keeping our eyes on the “Who” of prayer rather than the “how” can open new and exciting vistas for us. We see in the New Testament that the “Who” of the life of faith is Christ. Listen to Paul: “For to me, living is Christ” (Philippians 1: 21); “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2: 20). Or, listen to Jesus: “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14: 20); and, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15: 5).
Seeing Christ as the “Who” of prayer means seeing Him as our High Priest, representing us before God and representing God to us. At this very moment Jesus stands before God for you and me. Jesus’ ministry on our behalf, as our High Priest, is powerfully symbolized in the Old Testament’s typology of the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. On that most high and holy day the high priest symbolically gathered all the sacrifices and prayers of the people and carried them into the Holy of Holies, presenting them to God. There in the presence of God the high priest acted as the representative of all the people, in solidarity with them. His representation of them was symbolized in the names of the twelve tribes emblazoned on his breastplate. When he entered the Holy of Holies God was symbolically receiving all of the people in the high priest.
The New Testament looks at the high priest’s actions on the Day of Atonement as fulfilled in Christ as our High Priest. Christ offered not a sheep or goat as a sacrifice, but He offered up Himself. On our behalf He presented His life of perfect obedience, perfect prayer, and perfect worship. In His ascension He carried us with Him into heaven’s Holy of Holies. Thus, today’s Scripture reveals Christ as “a forerunner on our behalf”, standing before God for us. John Calvin rejoices in Christ as the “Who” acting for us:
For the high priest entered the holy of holies, not in his own name only, but also in that of the people, inasmuch as he bare in a manner the twelve tribes on his breast and on his shoulders… so that in the person of one man all entered into the sanctuary together. Rightly then does the Apostle speak, when he reminds them that our high priest entered into heaven; for he has not only entered for himself, but also for us. (Hebrews, emphasis added)
Christ acted on your behalf, in your place, in your name, offering to God perfect obedience and perfect prayer. He is your “forerunner” who stands before God in His righteousness and holiness. He authorizes you to pray in His name, because He has first prayed in your name before the Father. “It is the Christ at prayer who lives in us, and we are conduits of the Eternal Intercession.” (P.T. Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer)
If Christ is the “Who” of our praying, then what is the “how”? The same book of Hebrews tells us the “how”: “Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2). The “how” of prayer is keeping our eyes on Jesus, the “Who” of prayer!
- Record in your prayer journal what has been called the “ACTS” of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
- Now reflect on how Jesus offers to the Father your Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
- At the conclusion of your prayer thank Jesus for standing before God as your High Priest, empowering you to pray in His name.
“We can only pray ‘in the name of Christ’ because Christ has already, in our name, offered up our desires to God and continues to offer them. In our name, he lived a life agreeable to the will of God, in our name vicariously confessed our sins and submitted to the verdict of guilty for us, and in our name gave thanks to God.”
James Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune Grace of God