The Proper Mindset of Approaching God in Prayer, Part 2
Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar. Psalm 138:6NKJV
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.”
Last time we looked at how we should have a keen awareness of God’s all-surpassing and encompassing power when we approach Him in prayer. That our God is sovereign in His power, which is to say, that He absolutely rules over every existing thing, having brought all things into existence, and sustaining them in that existence (Col. 1:16-17). We should be aware that the one to whom we draw near keeps our hearts pumping and our lungs breathing; indeed He keeps the molecules of our bodies and the substance of our souls from blinking out of existence! Now we add to this omnipotence and full sovereignty the consideration of God’s majesty.
Our culture has little use for the word majesty. You will rarely hear it spoken in ordinary conversation so that we probably have only a vague sense of its meaning. We know it has something to do with monarchies: that a person speaking to His king will address Him as “Your majesty.” Perhaps the closest we come to this situation is in a courtroom where the judge is supposed to be addressed as “Your honor.” Compounding our understanding of the term is the fact that words can change their meaning over time and the Westminster Standards are nearly 400 years old. The original dictionary of Noah Webster in 1828 defined majesty as “Greatness of appearance; dignity; grandeur; dignity of aspect or manner; the quality or state of a person or thing which inspires awe or reverence in the beholder; applied with peculiar propriety to God and his works. Jehovah reigneth; he is clothed with majesty Ps. 93. The voice of Jehovah is full of majesty Ps. 29.”
Thus, the Divines are exhorting us not only to “due apprehensions” of God’s sovereign power, but also of His majesty. In other words when we approach God the Father in prayer we should be keenly aware of the full grandeur, royal dignity, and profound greatness of His person and manifested appearance. Rightly apprehending God’s majesty should inspire awe and reverence in the one who is about to pray and especially as He is praying. Here we see how considering who God is helps us to have the child-like disposition of reverence called for earlier in today’s Catechism answer. Accordingly, the word appears most often in the Psalms as David is singing or praying to God. Scripture ascribes majesty to God’s person, presence, voice, clothes, works, sword, throne, name, and glory. David Meditates on God’s majesty (Ps. 145) and blesses His name for it (Ps. 104). But the wicked flee from the glory of God’s majesty when He draws near in judgment (Isa. 2:19- 21).
Now a due consideration of God in all of His sovereign power and majesty might seem to be more likely cause us to shrink back from Him rather than to draw near to Him in prayer. Yet in the Psalms we find David doing exactly the opposite, how can this be so? Because the God who is sovereignly powerful and majestic in all that He is and does is also one who graciously condescends to those who fear Him. Here we notice the final aspect of God we are to duly apprehend if we are going to come rightly into His presence in prayer, and that is, His gracious condescension. As the Scripture verse at the head of this article so beautifully reveals, though God is infinitely above us, yet He regards the lowly. How much more can we on this side of the cross appreciate God’s gracious condescension than David could have? Seeing that our Savior became one of us and bore our sins so that we could come into God’s presence guiltless and even righteous! Thus, we see how considering all of God’s attributes; not just His grace but also His power and majesty; works together to draw us to Him in prayer. As we humble ourselves and become lowly before His awesome throne, we are assured that He regards us and accepts us.