The Privilege of Prayer (Part 1)

We welcome Rev Martin Pakula to the HBC Blog. Martin has recently been called to be the Interim Paster of Hills Bible Church and will be a regular contributor to this blog. Martin’s first post is part one of a four-part series on the privilege of prayer. To learn more about Martin, click here.

Martin encourages readers to comment, so please – don’t be shy.

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Day of Atonment

Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-1879), Polish-Jewish painter.

What do prayer and Leviticus have in common? Many things perhaps, but one that comes to mind is that both are difficult! And yet Leviticus 16, a chapter about the Day of Atonement, has much to teach us about prayer.

As a pastor, Christians often confide in me their difficulties in praying. If only there was a ‘tip’ or ‘trick’ to prayer that could be learned! What is a technique or piece of advice I can give them to help them with their prayers? What’s the thing, the trick, that will help them? Leviticus 16, I think, offers us a great key in understanding prayer.

Stay tuned as we consider Leviticus 16. We’ll get to prayer in the end!

The book of Leviticus as a whole teaches us that God is holy. We are called to be holy as God is holy (Lev 11:45). However we are not holy. We are sinful and unholy. Sinful and unholy people cannot approach a holy God and live. Moses was told that no one could see God’s face and live (Ex 33:20). The penalty for sin is death, and those who approach God in their sins bear their guilt and die.

I think many folk who aren’t Christian must assume that they can rock up before God whenever they like. Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, when asked about God, said: “Me and God, we’re mates!” It reminds me also of an advertisement that used to be on television that said: “When you get to heaven whaddya think you’ll say? I think I’ll say, ‘G’day’!” We Aussies are so laid back, you see, that our God is too. He’s my mate, and I can rock up before him and say “G’day”! It’s a comforting thought, but a false one. In the Bible when people ‘rock up’ before God, they fall down before him as if dead. Isaiah lamented that he had come face to face with God in his sin: Isaiah 6:5 “And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ”

The first high priest of Israel, Moses’ brother Aaron, had four sons. They were priests together with their father. In Leviticus 10:1-2 two of Aaron’s four sons approached God. They went behind the curtain in the Temple into the Most Holy Place, where God dwells. They ‘rocked up’ before God. And they died. Sinful and unholy people cannot approach a holy God and live. Not even if you were a priest in Israel.

God therefore set up a special system by which he could be with his people. God does want to be with us and be in relationship with us. But if we approach God in our sin we will die. Therefore God put up a screen, a curtain, a barrier, that separated him from us so that we would not see him and die. In the Tabernacle, God is present with his people, but behind the barrier of the screen. That was for the protection of the Israelites. The curtain reminds us graphically that we can’t just approach God whenever we like, or we would die in our sin.

The Day of Atonement is the solution to this problem – the problem of how a holy God can remain dwelling with his unholy people.

Rev Martin Pakula, Pastor of Hills Bible Church, writes a four-part post on the
“Privilege of  Prayer”.
In his next post he writes, “The Day of Atonement, in a nutshell, is a spring cleaning ceremony!”
Read Martin’s upcoming post to see what Martin means by this.

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5 responses to “The Privilege of Prayer (Part 1)

  1. Thanks Martin. I like where you’re headed here. I have always felt uncomfortable when people open their prayers with “Hey God!” and the like. We’re too confortable. Sure – Christ has made a way (or should I say the way) for us to come before our Father, without fearing.

    However, maybe this situation is along the lines of what Paul addresses in Romans 5 and 6 (esp. Romans 6:1), where people were abusing the grace of God. We abuse his generosity and grace when we approach him with casual words and attitudes. I wonder, also, whether our approach to heavenly authority reflects our culture’s approach to earthly authority. We’re inclined to feel chummy with our superiors at work and in our family, and so we feel likewise with our heavenly Father.

    • Thanks Simon. I very much agree with your comments. I guess I was thinking more about how your average pagan approaches God. However surely you’re right that we are too comfortable and casual with God in prayer. He is our friend, but he is also fearsome, holy and lives in unapproachable light. The OT reminds us of the awesomeness (in the true sense of that word) of God.

  2. Thanks for the reminder Martin. It’s intriguing and challenging to find that balance between having confidence in coming to God through Christ, whilst doing it out of reverent fear and respect for who God is. God is gracious and wants us to be honest and ‘real’ with him as we struggle to be conformed into His image whilst battling our sinful nature and this world.

    However, in praying to Him, in communing with Him, we must not forget He is not just our friend, but our Lord, our sovereign, holy and mighty God. We dare not approach Him with a flippant attitude that doesn’t treat sin seriously. We always need to approach God with a humble and repentant heart that relies on God’s grace through what Christ has done for us.

    What a blessing it is to enjoy God and commune with Him in Bible study and prayer!!!

  3. Amen brother! Couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

  4. Pingback: The Privilege of Prayer (Part 4) (via HILLS BIBLE CHURCH BLOG) | The Christian Gazette

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