Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Praying That God Would Accept Us!
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1NKJV
This morning we continue to study Westminster Larger Catechism Question 194, which asks, “What do we pray for in the fifth petition?” Let us look at the fifth part of the answer, which is the italicized portion of the following: “In the fifth petition (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,)… we pray for ourselves and others that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in his Beloved; continue his favor and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness.” Last time we saw how Christ alone can deliver us from the guilt and punishment due to us on account of our sin. Today we consider what Christ has delivered us to: not just from the negative consequences of our sins, but to all of the positive ramifications of being made fully acceptable to God.
Have you ever been exhorted to pray to accept Jesus Christ? Sometimes such an exhortation can accompany an Arminian presentation of salvation—that it depends upon the sinner to exercise his free will to accept Christ before he can be born again, which is to say regenerated. However, if we acknowledge that regeneration precedes faith, and that any prayer to accept Jesus must itself be produced by the grace of God, there is nothing wrong with exhorting someone to pray to accept or to receive Jesus Christ. Calvinists do believe that the saving grace of God will result in the believing response of the elect, and that there must be a first time for the converted person to profess Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior, wherein he says “Yes” to the gospel’s offer of salvation and thereby “accepts” or “receives” Jesus. So we can pray or encourage others to pray to accept Jesus. However, have you ever thought about praying for God to accept you? Clearly our fathers in the Reformed Faith, the Westminster divines, taught that it is the Christian’s duty to continually pray (for ourselves and others) “that God of His free grace would… accept us in his Beloved.” Christian, it is your duty and privilege to ask God to accept you! And not only to accept you but to “continue his favor and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy.” It is the Christian’s duty to regularly pray for all these things.
Now the person who does not understand that God’s grace comes through divinely appointed means, and that our prayers are part of those divinely appointed means, will never understand these kinds of prayers. Today’s “Grace Movement” has so distorted grace that many wrongly believe there is no place left for the believer to work out the salvation that God has worked into him (Phi. 2:12-13), and especially that such working out is a necessary part of that salvation! The Westminster divines were under no such erroneous delusion. Thus, they point out our duty to pray that God would accept us in Christ and would continue to give His grace and favor to us. This is nothing more than affirming that the God who monergistically elects, regenerates, and gives fruit- bearing faith and repentance, requires us to continually exercise that faith and repentance and bear that fruit. Salvation is not equivalent to regeneration, or even to regeneration plus dead-faith justification! Salvation includes sanctification. Sanctification is necessary to salvation. Sanctification includes our works. And in our works we pray for the God who graciously accepted us to continue to accept us and to continue to give His grace to us!
In this way God makes our works a real part of our sanctification. We really do get to work out that salvation that God has and is working in us! This final point speaks to the last clause of today’s portion where it is our duty to pray that God would “fill us with peace and joy in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness.” Assurance of salvation is not static, but something that can and should grow. It grows as God gives it to us, and He gives it to us as we ask Him for it. What an incredible privilege prayer is! Not only does God promise to hear us and to answer us, but He even makes our prayers a vital part of His continuing His saving grace to us! May our gracious God stir up in you the desire, conviction, and the faith to regularly pray to Him to accept you and to continue to give His grace to you!