This thought occurred to me the other day. I don’t mean to offend and I apologize up front if I do. I simply want us all to consider something. I also don’t think I’m making too fine a point by asking.
Are we still praying to intermediaries?
When I became an evangelical Christian in 1978, after growing up Catholic, I took pride in that I didn’t pray to Mary or the saints anymore.
In my youthful zeal and ignorance, I would chastise my devout Catholic mom for praying to Mary or the venerated saints. I would say things like…
“Stop praying to Mary! You can go straight to Jesus now.”
The argument was that we don’t pray to intermediaries, like Mary or the saints, to get on God’s good side. We have Jesus. So far so good.
But years later, I’m thinking, “Am I not treating Jesus like an intermediary?”
After all, Catholics pray to the Father (“Our Father” prayer).
Consider what Jesus said to His disciples about this (bold-type added):
“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you…” (John 16:23)
“In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” (John 16:26-27)
Jesus is essentially saying that because we have believed in Him we can go right to the Father when we pray. No more intermediaries.
Am I splitting hairs here? Maybe so, but I do believe we should think this through, for it may reveal something very dark lurking deep down in our souls that causes us to keep our distance from our heavenly Father, even though we know in our heads that we can go directly to Him anytime.
For instance, you might see the Father through the popular “Sinners in the hands of angry God” theological lens. Basically, He’s only tolerating you because of Jesus. Naturally, then, you would rather pray to Jesus (just to be safe!) After all, who wants to go to someone who likes dangling people “like a spider over a fire.”
This view is like the scene in Dickens’ “Scrooge” where young Ebenezer’s sister, Fan, acts as the intermediary between him and his harsh, disciplinarian father.
“Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven. He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you.” (Source)
It’s like asking your mom because you don’t want to risk having your angry dad blow up again.
No one wants to be on intimate terms with a father who had to slaughter His own kid so he can forgive.
Do you see how truly sad this is, that some of us actually believe these things about our heavenly Father? This only adds to our natural reticence about going directly to Him.
Having intimate conversations with our heavenly Father (called prayer) seemed pretty important to Jesus. Consider His following statements (bold-text added):
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matt.6:6)
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” (Matt.6:9)
What I’m trying to do is get us to see that the very purpose of Jesus’ incarnation was not so much about getting us to a place called heaven but so that we could have intimate fellowship with the Father.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus also said that He was the door (John 10:9). We should ask, the door to what…or more precisely, the door to Whom? I’m reminded of what my friend, Jonathan Claussen, said about this…
“The Church today has been dancing at the door, but Jesus is standing there saying, ‘Come in!’ We need to go through the Door because that’s where the Father’s kingdom is.”
I wrote more about that here.
Have we evangelicals simply gone one step further than our Catholic brethren in our mindset about prayer? Are we all still “dancing at the door?” Did we simply go from asking Mary for favors to asking Jesus for them?
Jesus was an intermediary (on the cross) so that, now, you and I would have the same relationship with the Father that He has. We don’t need intermediaries anymore. Not even Jesus. We’re not slaves or orphans anymore; we are sons and daughters! (John 14:18; Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6-7).
Let’s not pray our orphan prayers (outside-looking-in) anymore. Let’s open our hearts and go through the open door to our heavenly Father. Yes, Jesus—God, the eternal Son—is there too. We will rightfully worship Him because He died and rose again, for us and as us, placing us within Himself and putting us where the Father dwells. They have made their home in us (John 14:23).
It’s Jesus Himself who invited us into this sweet fellowship that He’s had with His Father from before time began. Just take it one step further and go through the Door. Your heavenly Papa wants to talk with you and love on you. He truly is a good, good Father.
“and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:3b, 4)