Powerful Prayer Part 1: A Holy Boldness

Exodus 33:12-17
       And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.
       And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
       And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
       And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Never was there a mightier prophet than Moses, and never one more intensely earnest in intercessory prayer.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): There are certain elements that always come out in all the great biblical prayers, and the first characteristic of Moses’ prayer is its boldness, its confidence. There is no hesitation here. There is a quiet confidence. Oh, let me use the term, there is a holy boldness. This is the great characteristic of all prayers that have ever prevailed.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): There is an unseemly familiarity in some men’s prayers, which I cannot praise. But there is such a thing as a holy boldness, which is exceedingly to be desired. I mean such boldness as that of Moses, when he pleads with God not to destroy Israel: “Wherefore,” says he, “should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains? Turn from Thy fierce anger,” Exodus 32:12. I mean such boldness as that of Joshua, when the children of Israel were defeated before Ai: “What,” says he, “wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?” Joshua 7:9.

C. H. SPURGEON: Take Abraham, the father of the faithful…When Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom, Genesis 18:23-32, the Lord patiently listened to his renewed pleading. How instructive is that story of the Patriarch’s pleading for Sodom! How humbly he speaks!—“I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, even I that am but dust and ashes.” Yet how boldly he pleads! He ventures to say, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”…If we were pleading for London, we would naturally appeal to God’s mercy, but Abraham takes the bolder course of pleading Divine Justice. In fact, his plea is not only for Sodom, but for God Himself—“That be far from You to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from You.” As much as if he were more earnest to prevent the name of God from being dishonored by what might look like an injustice, than he was, even, for the saving of the guilty people! This was a bold stroke.

GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): The great point is, that we ask only for that which it would be for the glory of God to give to us…But it is not enough that the thing for which we ask God be for His honour and glory, be we must secondly ask it in the name of the Lord Jesus [and] expect it only on the ground of His merits and worthiness.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Now this is absolutely vital to prayer. Do you know the way into the holiest of all? There is only one way—Hebrews 4:14 puts it so perfectly—“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” Then the writer goes on to describe Him as a High Priest who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. Then, he comes to the prayer, “Let us therefore,” he says, “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” You notice his “therefore”— “Therefore, let us come boldly.” It refers to the truth about the great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God…That is the only way to be bold in the presence of God.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): An apprehension of God’s goodwill to us, notwithstanding our offences, gives us boldness of access to Him, and opens the lips in prayer which were closed with the sense of guilt and dread of wrath.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: If, when you get down on your knees, you are reminded of your sins, and are wondering what you can do about them, if you have to spend all your time praying for forgiveness and pardon, wondering whether God is listening or not, how can you pray? How can you intercede, as Moses did here? If I look at myself I cannot be bold, I become speechless. With Job, I put my hand upon my mouth—I cannot speak. But I must speak if I am to intercede. How can I do so with confidence and assurance? There is only one answer—it is to know that my great High Priest is Jesus, the Son of God, and that by His blood I have a right of entry into the holiest of all, and can go there with boldness. Notice the confidence and the assurance with which Moses prayed. And, if you read some of the prayers of the saints of the centuries, you will find this self-same thing.

J. C. RYLE: This is the boldness for which Luther was remarkable. One who heard him praying said, “What a spirit—what a confidence was in his very expressions! With such a reverence he sued, as one begging of God, and yet with such hope and assurance, as if he spake with a loving father or friend.” This is the boldness which distinguished Bruce, a great Scottish divine of the 17th century. His prayers were said to be “like bolts shot up into heaven.” Here also I fear we sadly come short. We do not sufficiently realize the believer’s privileges.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: How can you intercede, as Moses did here?

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): We may be bold to ask for all God has engaged to give. As Matthew Henry said, “It is by turning God’s promises into petitions that they are turned into performances.”

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Pray then, with an humble boldness.

G. S. BOWES (circa 1820’s-1880’s): A holy boldness, a chastened familiarity, is the true spirit of right prayer.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Now, Moses was face to face with God, he was assured, he was bold with a holy boldness…May God grant us this assurance, this holy boldness in prayer, so that whatever our condition, we may take it to the Lord in prayer and do so confidently.


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