Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The Proper Mindset of Approaching God In Prayer, Part 1
Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. Jeremiah 32:17NKJV
This morning we look again at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 189, which asks, “What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?” It gives the answer, “The preface of the Lord’s prayer (contained in these words, Our Father, which art in heaven,) teacheth us, when we pray, to draw near to God with confidence of his fatherly goodness, and our interest therein; with reverence, and all other child-like dispositions, heavenly affections, and due apprehensions of his sovereign power, majesty, and gracious condescension: as also, to pray with and for others.”
Having considered heavenly affections, we now look at on what our apprehensions should be focused when we pray. When we hear the word “apprehension” we probably think of being nervous or fearful about something: “I am apprehensive about Pittsburgh’s chances against New England in the playoffs.” For just about any season thus far in the 2000s, that sentence captures the sorrowful mindset of many Steeler fans. Here apprehension refers to being in a state of anxiety, worry, or uneasy doubt because you are recognizing and coming to grips with the reality, proven by regular past performance that the Steelers cannot seem to beat the Patriots when it counts. Such is the ordinary use of the word apprehension today. That was not the case in the mid-1600s when the Westminster documents were being written. Then the primary meaning of apprehension referred to grasping a concept cognitively. To apprehend meant to comprehend or to understand the meaning or significance of something. Accordingly, when we consider what should be our apprehensions when coming to God in prayer we are considering how should we be thinking about God when we approach Him in prayer? The prior two sections of the answer looked primarily at the emotions and attitudes proper to prayer, here we look at the thinking and understanding of the mind as we pray.
We notice that the first thing the Catechism mentions that we should apprehend about God when we approach Him in prayer is a conscious perception of God’s sovereign power. Here sovereignty means to be absolutely in charge of and ruling over. If we ask, over what should we understand God to be sovereign, the answer is simply everything. Everything that exists now, ever has or ever will exist, apart from God Himself in His three persons, was fully and entirely brought into existence by Him, and is and will be wholly dependent on God’s will for its continued existence forever. This means that God alone is independent and everything else is fully dependent. All creatures are one hundred percent dependent upon God for every aspect of their being. As Scripture affirms, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:15-16).
Accordingly we must understand that God does and can do everything we could possibly need Him to do in order for us to glorify Him and enjoy Him in every thought, word, and deed. God can stop every enemy, right every wrong, heal every disease, save and protect all of His elect. God can do whatever He wants. No power can stop Him, for in fact every power that exists in any creature is entirely born of and sustained by God. God is the ultimate power, and before creation He was the only Power. In creation God exercised His power by causing things and living creatures to come into existence, and to have a certain amount of power by which each one lives and moves and has its being. And so God’s sovereign power is over all because all that exists does so by the power and will of God. Job learned this lesson, though he knew it well enough beforehand from his correct understanding of God, yet when God appeared to him he saw God in all of His power and majesty and he immediately cried out, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted… I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2, 5-6). We must strive to affirm and embrace God’s sovereign power when we approach Him in prayer. So that we rightly understand, honor, and hope in the one to whom we speak.