There are many instances in the Bible where Jesus or another writer encourages us to pray more boldly whenever we come to God. However, it’s sounds simpler than it is in practice.
Do you struggle with this?
How can we pray more boldly with greater authority and intention?
Read on below.
>> First, if you want to hear a more detailed version of this post, or simply prefer to listen instead, check out my talk here. I give some other examples or stories that I don’t go into in this post.
3 BIBLICAL STEPS TO HELP US PRAY MORE BOLDLY WHEN WE TALK TO GOD
1. To pray more boldly we must be persistent in our prayers
When we pray, we can be tempted to give up when God doesn’t seem to answer us straight away.
In Luke 11:5-8, Jesus tells his disciples a parable to encourage them to keep persisting in prayer.
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[a] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
Normally shamelessness represents something negative. However, it also depends on the context. If your cause is good, then shamelessness can also be a good thing. It can help us to take action and not be afraid of rejection.
Jesus goes on to say
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (vv. 9, 10).
R Kent-Hughes explains in his commentary, Luke: That You May Know The Truth, that when Jesus uses these verbs, “ask,” “seek,” “knock”, there is an increasing intensity in what happens.
“Ask” implies requesting assistance for a conscious need. We realise our lack and thus ask for help. The word also suggests humility in asking. It’s commonly used when requesting help from a superior.
“Seek” denotes asking but adds action. The idea here is that we’re not only expressing our need. Instead, we need to actively get up and look around for help. It involves effort.
“Knock” includes asking plus acting plus persevering—like someone who keeps pounding on a closed door.
The text actually reads: “Keep on asking, and it will be given to you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.”
Jesus also spoke about the persistent widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8.
In that passage, a widow continues to bother a judge to grant her justice, even though he keeps dismissing her time and time again.
Jesus encourages persistence with God like that widow. We must pray more boldly and persistently.
Yet, He also says that God isn’t like that unjust judge who has to be worn down. On the contrary, Jesus says
“Will God not judge in favour of His people who cry to him day and night for help? Will God be slow to help them? I tell you, he will judge in their favour and do it quickly.”
We need to keep knocking on the door with that childlike faith and persistence.
2. When we pray more boldly we must be humble and not entitled in our prayers
It’s true that we need to be persistent and shameless in our prayers like children. However, although children can be shameless, they can also become demanding and entitled.
In the same way, when the answer to our prayers is not forthcoming, we can begin to feel entitled, as if God owes us something. We start to demand that God acts on our behalf, and then pass this off as bold prayer.
I remember praying this way on more than one occasion. This begins to cross the line and border on challenging God to prove that He really cares by answering my prayers. I begin seeking the gifts rather than the giver.
Let’s have a look at someone whose prayer to Jesus didn’t seem to answer immediately.
In Matthew 15:21-28, a Syro-Phoenician woman comes to Jesus for help. Her daughter is demon possessed and she wants Jesus to deliver her from this affliction.
Unfortunately, Jesus seemingly ignores this woman’s cry for help. But He doesn’t only remain silent. On top of that, He appears to insult her.
“First let the children eat all they want – for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs”
The “children” Jesus is referring to here is the Jews. But He goes on to use a metaphor relating to dogs. Was Jesus insulting her with that phrase and calling her a dog?
This type of dog that Jesus refers to is more like a pet dog than a wild, stray mongrel. However, Jesus was not actually ignoring or insulting her. Instead, he was trying to discern what was in her heart and how she would respond.
It’s important to note that the woman is of a Greek background and worships foreign Canaanite gods. Jesus was trying to determine whether she was simply viewing him like many of her other pagan deities or magicians. Was she simply turning to different sources of help, with Jesus being one of many?
Was she merely treating Him like a genie who could simply grant her wishes? Jesus wanted to see how much she believed that He was the only one who could help her.
It would be easy for the woman to become discouraged and go away empty-handed. But instead, she persists. Perhaps she is so desperate because she does indeed realise that Jesus is her only hope. There is no other way.
Perhaps she had heard about Jesus’ miracles. She could easily have said “Lord, you cast out a Legion of demons into a herd of pigs from the demoniac at Genesserat or the men in the synagogue, or from the boy who was often thrown into the fire. Now I demand that you do the same for me and treat everyone equally. You have to heal my daughter!
However, the Syro-Phoenician woman woman doesn’t become demanding or entitled. Instead, she responds with humility, saying: “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”
In effect, she’s admitting that even if it is the case that she is little more than a dog or that her foreign worship practices or my past prevents her from being acceptable in Jesus’ sight, she still believes that a small crumb would be enough to help her daughter.
It is a similar prayer to the centurion’s prayer of “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
The woman knew that Jesus answering was not going to be based on who she was but on who He was.
We often act as if we are entitled. It’s easy for us to forget that it’s only by grace that we’re deserving of any favour from God.
When we want to pray more boldly or shamelessly, that doesn’t mean that we pray without respect or reverence. We don’t want to becoming demanding, as if we call the shots and God is simply our servant at our beck and call.
This woman’s prayer was bold, yet her language and attitude was one of humility. This is something we to imitate.
3. To pray more boldly we must be confident in our prayers
Now although we need to be humble in our requests, we need to balance that with confidence in the way we pray.
Unfortunately, in this culture of cold callers, we’re often afraid to bother other people.
Think back to every time you phone someone up or send them an email. We’ll typically say something like “Oh, I’m sorry to bother you at this time, but I just wondered if you could help me.” Or “I’m just calling or writing to find out if you’ve managed to follow up on that thing.”
We are very polite and don’t want to intrude, and even attempt to justify the reasons for us doing things, so that it won’t seem quite as bold.
The problem is that we can often take that same attitude with us when praying to God. Many Christians frequently insert the word “just” into their prayers all the time.
However, when we say “Lord, we just ask that you would just help us in this situation,” we’re being too apologetic in the way we speak to God. We are effectively saying “Lord, sorry to bother you and approach you like this. If you don’t mind, could you possibly grant us this little request, if it’s not too much to ask?”
1 John 5:14 tells us:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
We don’t have to be timid and uncertain when approaching God. Instead, we need to be confident in our prayers to God. Although “just” can be a filler word that has become a bad habit for us, our words have an effect on our faith and our attitude.
Romans 10:17 tells us that
“faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (NIV)
When we speak out positive words of faith, we are making them into speech acts. We are agreeing with them and reinforcing them in our own lives and thoughts.
>> You can read more about speech acts here.
By contrast, when we use certain words in our prayers like “just”, the effect of it is that it weakens our prayers. It unconsciously makes us try to mitigate all of our requests to God instead of presenting them boldly.
When we pray boldly such as “I pray” rather than “I just pray”, or “I ask” rather than “I just ask”, we are taking a more active and bolder stance both in our words and in our attitudes.
When we speak out those words in faith, rather than in hesitation, this has the effect of increasing our faith and our confidence.
>> I’ve written in more detail about avoiding praying “just” prayers here.
To summarise, we want to learn to pray more boldly when we come to God. We can do that by being more persistent when we pray. However, our attitude should be one of humility and not entitlement when we pray. But we want to balance that out with being more confident in the words we use whenever we pray. That means eliminating words like “just” from our prayers.
I’ve created a cheat sheet of 6 practical steps you can take to help you be more aware and reduce this from your prayer vocabulary.
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Finally, do you find it easy to pray boldly whenever you come to God? Do you struggle with persistence or confidence in the way you speak to Him? Or do you ever become demanding and entitled when your prayers go unanswered?
Leave me a comment below with your thoughts, and share if you found this article useful.
Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.
This Post Has 11 Comments
Diane@worthbeyondrubies7 Nov 2018
This was amazing and I love that you included the audio!! It was nice to hear you speak! I really do hope you do a podcast at some point soon!! Great post…really enjoyed it!!
Diane7 Nov 2018
This was so amazing and it was so nice to hear you on audio! I think that was a great addition to your post! You definitely should do a podcast!! Thank you for sharing this!! Praying boldly is something I sometimes struggle with because I always fear being too much so…but this gives me that confidence! Thank you!
Robert Sang7 Nov 2018
Thanks very much Diane. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I have been thinking about podcasts recently. I guess I am wondering if I’d be able to keep it up on a regular basis as things can get quite busy. It certainly couldn’t be a daily podcast anyway, but maybe more like weekly or even bi-weekly. I have to look into it more. I do still struggle with praying boldly as well even having both written this and given a talk on it.
E. Anne Morelli7 Nov 2018
Robert, I enjoyed hearing your podcast too! It was nice to hear you speaking! As always, I appreciate your thoughtful post. I particularly appreciated your comment around shamelessness and how we think it “represents something negative. However, it also depends on the context. If your cause is good, then shamelessness can also be a good thing. It can help us to take action and not be afraid of rejection.” I think you hit on something regarding the humble posture we must take and how we are to become vulnerable when praying and approaching Jesus. He humbled himself for us, enduring persecution, rejection, disgrace, punishment, and even death on a cross. So our fear of bearing humiliated or being shamed reflects a self-orientated and self-protective stance rather than Jesus-orientated posture. Great reminder Robert! Thanks for the insightful post.
Robert Sang8 Nov 2018
Thanks for checking it out Anne, particularly the audio. I’m glad you enjoyed it and found it insightful. That’s very true about our sense of fear of being humiliated or feeling ashamed coming from a self-protective place rather than trusting in what Jesus has done. Thanks for adding additional insight.
Andrew @ TheRoadToEmmaus.ca7 Nov 2018
Thanks for this post. As always, superb advice! I love the scripture in Titus that you shared 🙂 God bless you!
Robert Sang8 Nov 2018
Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you found it interesting. I’m not sure which Titus scripture you’re referring to in your comment. I don’t think I mentioned that one.
Shaneen30 Dec 2018
I finally had a chance to listen! Great talk! I found the bit about the Greek – KEEP asking, seeking, knocking – so interesting. Just the tiniest change in the words can have a significant effect on the meaning.
I also loved how you spoke on the need for balance between confidence and humility. I think humility would not often be considered a necessary step to bold prayers, but it is.
Robert Sang14 Feb 2019
Thanks very much for listening Shaneen. I’m glad you enjoyed it and found the Greek interesting. Humility definitely is something I’ve had to learn and not be demanding that God does my bidding.
Shauna Smith Duty18 May 2019
Robert, I found your blog because you commented on mine. Thank you. This particular post of yours is timely for me. I have a prayer board in a closet, and it’s helped me realize answered prayers and be persistent with unanswered petitions. In regards to persistence, I tend to recall Paul asking God just three times to remove his affliction. Was this his own personal obedience to God, to stop asking after three times? Or is there a lesson there for us?
I struggle with health issues that doctors cannot definitively diagnose. I have prayed for three years to have the affliction(s) lifted, and others have prayed for me. I’ve held myself up to a mirror and asked God to reveal sin in my life, and I’ve repented and turned from all the things that He brought to my atttention.
I am not asking why God hasn’t answered my prayer. He will in due time — or not, if it’s not in His plan for me. I am asking for your thoughts on Pauls three-times-and-out experience. It seems like it wouldn’t be important enough for him to put into the Bible unless it held a lesson for us.
What do you think?
Robert Sang28 May 2019
Hi Shauna. Thanks for your comment and your question. Sorry it’s taken a while to get back to you. I didn’t realise you had commented because I didn’t receive a notification for it. As for your question, it’s difficult to say exactly why Paul stopped after 3 times. It may be something specific to his situation. I don’t know if the 3 times that Paul prayed is necessarily the significant part, or whether it’s verse 9 of 2 Corinthians 12 that is the more important bit – that God’s grace is sufficient for him and His strength is made perfect in weakness.
In contrast to this, in 2 Kings 13:18-19, Elisha instructs Joash, the king of Israel, to strike the ground with his arrows. Joash stops only after 3 times, upon which Elisha becomes angry, saying he should’ve struck it 5 or 6 times so that he would’ve had complete victory. Sometimes we can give up too early when we’re faced with difficulties and unanswered prayers, or because we aren’t persistent enough in both our efforts and our prayers.