Hebrews 4:16 - “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
In a recent Bible study on the subject of prayer, one of my friends asked an honest question that has an immense answer. I wasn’t able to answer it thoroughly at the time, so to organize my thoughts a little better I decided to spend some time, review it more, and then write my answer out. As I did, my love for Christ grew deeper, and I hope reading this post does the same for you.
To begin, let’s remember an incredible truth about the position of Jesus that was stated in Hebrews 4:14-16 and the resulting effect that his position has for those redeemed by his sacrifice: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Jesus has passed through the heavens and is reigning at the right hand of God!
Because of Jesus’ sinless submission through suffering, God exalted him, and he now reigns in the throne room of God.
- Acts 2:33 - “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God….”
- Acts 5:31 - “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
- Acts 7:55-56 - “[Stephen]…gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…”
- Philippians 2:9-11 - “Therefore God has highly exalted him…”
Our Savior has been exalted to the presence of God, yet he also sympathizes with our weakness!
Jesus is not an arrogant potentate reigning from on high with a sneer of contempt for his lowly subjects. Quite the opposite! Because of his humanity, Jesus understands the reality of temptation and the very real pull that it has (see an example of this in Matthew 4:1-11)!
Through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, believers have the ability to confidently approach God.
Hebrews 4:16 teaches that the practical implication of having a compassionate savior within God’s presence is that every believer who has been sanctified and justified in Christ are also in His presence and can confidently approach His throne to speak with Him.
Paul wrote the same thing to the Christians at Ephesus. “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:11-12).
This confidence does not come from within us, but because we are within Christ! In Christ we have been granted a reunion with God, and we stand justified before Him, confident in Jesus’ sufficient sacrifice.
The night Jesus was betrayed he taught his disciples that they were about to have special access to God through him, and that included their prayers!
Additionally, prior to being arrested on the night of his betrayal, Jesus repeatedly taught his disciples that they would soon petition the Father through him.
"Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14).
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you" (John 15:16).
"In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24).
Jesus had previously taught the disciples how to pray (Matthew 6:5-15). But on the eve of his crucifixion, and three days prior to his resurrection, he explained that things were changing and they would soon offer prayers through him, indicating the renewed access to God that only he would be able to provide (read John 14-16 to see this theme better).
So what is the answer?
To close a prayer by saying, “In Jesus’ name”, is an admission by believers that we are communicating with the Father because of special access that is only possible because of His son. Without him, we have do not have any confidence in approaching God’s throne. Without him, our relationship with God is still fractured by our sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Praying in his name is what he taught his first disciples to do, not to create an empty ritualistic phrase, but as a potent verbal reminder of the incredible relationship with God that is only possible through the compassionate, exalted Christ!
Comprehending Jesus' position should encourage us to pray more!
Our primary text in Hebrews 4 is not just informational, it is instructional: "Since then...let us then draw near..." When I realize that I need additional mercy or that I am searching for additional grace in a time of need, then I should confidently make use of the special access to God that Jesus has made possible and pray through him more often.
I hope thinking through these passages has increased your love for Jesus and all his sacrifice has accomplished for us!
PS Some people have led others to believe that God never hears the prayers of those outside of Christ. This is not so. God is aware of all who pray, even the nonbeliever (Acts 10:1-4). However, those in Christ have restored access, renewed confidence in approaching God’s throne, and they should be better equipped to pray in line with the will of Jesus (James 4:3).