Recently I was reading some Christian prayers that were written back in the 1600s, and even earlier. As I read these prayers I could barely recognise a faith that resembles my own. These formal prayers seemed to be directed to distant deity, far too lofty to personally relate to. And the words were presented in a pleading manner, with little warmth or affection, and with little assurance or joy.
As I read the New Testament letters to the Ephesians and to the Hebrews, however, I get a very different impression of our relationship to God. God wants us to approach him with confidence. And God, who is rich in mercy, wants to freely bestow his rich blessings on his children. We do not need to grovel. Nor do we need to use formal or fancy words when communicating with him.
Easy and Confident Access into God’s Presence
The gospel is about how Jesus has made access to God easy for repentant, believing people. In Ephesians 3:12, Paul says that in the Lord Jesus Christ “we have boldness and access with confidence.” The writer to the Hebrews says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings . . . .” (Heb. 10:19-22)
The Greek word used for “boldness” (Eph. 3:12) and confidence (Heb. 10:19) is parrēsia. It has the connotations of freedom, frankness, and openness. God does not want us to hold back and be timid. He does not want us to hide from his presence because of fear or shame, or feelings of unworthiness (Gen. 3:8-10). God wants us to come to him openly and honestly, assured of our salvation and confident in our relationship with him.
Glory and Transformation in God’s Presence
The Israelites were afraid to look at Moses’ face, when it shone temporarily with glory, after he had spent time in God’s Presence. So Moses had to cover his face with a veil (Exod. 34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3:7). In 2 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul spoke about the lasting glory of “the New Covenant of the Spirit”. Paul wrote that, because of the hope of this lasting glory, we are very bold (parrēsia) (2 Cor 3:12 NIV).
As New Covenant people, the glory of God is not something to fear. We have the freedom and boldness to contemplate the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces, as we are “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV). We need to draw near to God with openness and confidence if we are to be powerfully transformed by his Holy Spirit.
Gratitude and Humility in God’s Presence
While God wants us to be free and confident in the way we approach him, we should never be presumptive or arrogant in the way we relate to him. Paul’s response to our easy access to God was not brashness or arrogance. In Ephesians 3:14 he wrote, “For this reason I bow my knee to the Father . . .” Paul’s response was one of overwhelming gratitude and humility. And in this attitude he prayed for blessings according to God’s “riches in glory” (Eph. 3:16ff).
Our access to God’s presence and glory is solely based of Jesus’ righteousness and his redemptive sacrifice, and not because of any goodness of our own (John 14:6 cf. Eph. 2:8-9). There is no room for human pride in God’s Kingdom. Our paltry pride cannot stand before God’s holiness, majesty, and glory: “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5b).
Because of God’s favour and grace we are adopted as his children, and made coheirs with Jesus Christ of an incomprehensibly glorious future (Eph. 1:18). Plus, we become the recipients of all kinds of rich, spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). But we must be humble towards God and we must be humble towards others if we are to fully receive God’s favour.
Blessing and Joy in God’s Presence
We do not need to plead to a distant deity to receive God’s favour and blessing. God is not distant; he draws near and lovingly welcomes us into his presence, through Jesus. We can enter into his presence with assurance and confidence – freely and openly, and with deep gratitude and humility. Moreover, we should enter with joy!
The Psalmist knew this joy and wrote: “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11 cf. Psalm 21:6).
As redeemed and beloved children of God, God is always with us, and within us, by his Holy Spirit. His presence richly comforts us, guides us, and empowers us. We need to confidently and gratefully accept these rich blessings.
We also need to rediscover greater depths of these riches. Many churches in the western world seem to be going through a “dry” period, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is barely perceptible rather than glorious. How can we become more aware of God’s presence, glory and riches in the life of the church? How can you become more aware of his presence, glory and riches in your own life?
 The Greek word parrēsia means boldness, confidence, assurance, frankness and openness, etc. It is often, but not always, used in the New Testament with the context of bold and confident speech.
Image: “I bow my knee … ” © Andrew Penner (iStockphoto)
© 10th of February 2012, Margaret Mowczko
Revised and reposted 29th of June 2013