PRAYER SHIFT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT (Part 1)
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)
God never changes; He is the same through all the ages. God emphatically said in His Word, “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” (Mal. 3:6 NKJV).
James testifies, “Whatever is good and perfect gift comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (Jam. 1:17 NLT).
However, God’s ways of dealing with humankind are never the same throughout the ages. There are different dispensations in the Bible, and God’s dealings with humankind in each dispensation significantly differ.
A dispensation is simply a period in which God peculiarly deals with humanity. The revelation, manifestation, operation, or providence of God available to men differs from one dispensation to another.
That is why Jesus often said in His teaching, “You have heard that it was said to those of old… But I say to you…” (Matt. 5:33-34 NKJV).
We shall miss God’s best for our lives and generation if we fail to embrace God’s new revelations to us and dealings with us.
Dispensation of the law started from the giving of the law on Mount Sinai to the children of Israel through Moses until the ministry of John the Baptist.
The way God dealt with people under the law’s dispensation is different from how He is now dealing with people under the dispensation of grace.
Sadly, many New Testament saints today still expect God to be dealing with them as He dealt with the saints who lived under the Old Testament law.
The New Testament took effect from the moment Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross. From that time, God began to deal with humanity in a new way, according to faith in the finished work of Christ and not according to our works.
Hebrews 9:15-17 – NKJV
15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.
The born-again believers live under a New and Better Covenant than all the saints or prophets of God under the Old Covenant.
John the Baptist was the last and greatest of all the prophets under the Old Covenant. But according to the Lord Jesus, the least among the New Testament believers is greater than John.
Matthew 11:11 – NKJV
11 Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Unfortunately, many believers today, though now under a New and Better Covenant (the dispensation of grace), are still seeking and striving to conform to the prayer mindsets, styles, or patterns of the saints and prophets who lived under the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:7-13).
There is a paradigm shift in prayer under the New Covenant. Our prayers will not avail much or significantly impact this dynamic generation unless we embrace this paradigm shift in prayer.
The principles, perspectives, purposes, focuses, mindsets, and emphases of prayer have radically changed in the New Testament. Therefore, as a New Testament believer, if your prayer mindsets, motives, or focuses are still according to the Old Covenant, you are praying amiss or wrongly.
The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has brought vast and irreconcilable differences between the Old and the New Testament’s prayers and modes of praying. Therefore, it is unwise and unprofitable for you to despise or ignore these striking differences in your prayers or the ways you pray.
Let us consider some of these remarkable differences.
First, under the New Covenant, everybody now has direct and equal access to God’s presence:
Under the dispensation of the Old Testament law, not all men had the privilege to approach the mercy seat in the holiest of holies in God’s temple.
Only the high priest could enter the holiest of holies and stand before God’s presence once a year to make atonement for the people’s sins with great fear and trembling (Exo 30:10, Heb. 9:7).
As soon as the Lord Jesus yielded His spirit on the cross, the temple’s veil, which separated the holy place from the holiest of holies, was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51).
The rendering of the veil signified that the way to God’s presence, the throne of grace, is now opened to all.
Hebrews 10:18-22 – NKJV
18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Therefore, approaching God’s presence is no longer the privilege of few people or restricted to a limited time a year. All men now have direct, equal, and unlimited access to God’s presence through Christ.
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This is why the Scripture encourages us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16 NKJV).
Offering Himself as atonement for our sins once and for all, Jesus Christ has granted every man direct and unrestricted access to God. We can now approach God with confidence and boldness just as a child will approach his loving father to ask for whatever he wants.
Sadly, many believers today are still approaching God with fear and trembling like the men of old, not with the boldness and confidence that Christ has granted them.
Today, many ignorant believers are still reluctant to personally approach the throne of grace to present their requests before God. Instead, they are constantly seeking someone to approach or petition God on their behalf.
Christ died on the cross so that every one of us can have a personal and intimate relationship with God, direct access to God, and always enjoy a deep and personal communion with God in prayer.
Second, prayer is no longer a burdensome or rigorous religious ritual or sacrifice:
Under the dispensation of the law, worshipping or praying to God entailed elaborate, burdensome, or rigorous rituals and sacrifices.
The Old Testament’s prayer was purely a physical exercise mostly involving the offering of animals to God to plead for forgiveness, offer thanksgiving to God, or seek His blessings. Most times, the people’s hearts were far away from God though they continued to offer their sacrifices on God’s altars (Isa. 1:11-12, Jer. 6:20, Ams. 5:21-22).
But under the dispensation of grace, prayer is a spiritual exercise or offering to God. It is primarily a spiritual fellowship with God, a heart communion with God. Therefore, believers can pray at any time and anywhere.
The Old Testament saints mostly prayed at specific hours in the Temple or set their faces towards the Temple while praying. However, the New Testament believers don’t need to wait until they get to any sacred place or worship center to pray. Neither do they need to pray with their faces set in any specific direction.
Beloved, as a born-again believer, you are now under a New and Better Covenant than the saints under the Old Testament law. You now have direct and unrestricted access to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help you in times of need.
You don’t have to wait until a specific time, or until you get to a particularly holy place, or until you assume a particular posture or position before you can fellowship with God in prayer.
Under the New Covenant, prayer is no longer a physical, religious routine; instead, it is now a spiritual communion with God.
What a tremendous shift in prayer!
Discover more striking differences between the Old Testament prayer and the New Testament prayer in the second part of this piece.
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for showing me today the new shift in the New Testament prayer. I am a New Covenant believer, and so I refuse to continue to pray with the Old Covenant mindset, in Jesus’ name. Amen.