Have you ever found yourself in prayer pleading a case before God when you suddenly get a sick feeling that either God is not listening or he’s not willing to hear you? What do you do when that happens? Hopefully you haven’t followed my example.
I have recently become painfully aware of a tendency of mine, when feeling inadequate to approach God, to try to bend his will through tears and contrite statements. Knowing that God will not despise a humble and contrite heart I’ve been seeking to make myself that way so that he would accept me and hear my pleas.
But there is a humbleness that does not flow from the gospel, and I frequently fall completely into its trap. It's the same humility that we see in men who flog and cut themselves and do other religious practices thinking that by these works God will finally hear their prayers. But true humility does not come through self-made regulations (Colossians 2:23).
The humility that pleases God (Psalm 51:17) isn’t an outward show, but a response of faith to Jesus’ work for us and nothing else. The place where we ought to go when we sense our unworthiness in prayer is straight to the cross where we put full trust in the righteousness of Jesus on our behalf, where he canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14) .
We can be comforted when we pray, knowing that it is not our righteousness which gains us entrance into his presence (Hebrews 4:16), but that of Jesus, whose blood washes away the sins of all those who by faith trust in him alone.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1,2)
Strangely enough, while writing this I saw that Tullian Tchividjian's recent book touches on this subject, as mentioned on the Crossway blog!