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.
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.
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.