Prayer and the gospel
What is the gospel?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created our first parents, Adam and Eve, and placed them in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Having been created in God’s own image, mankind was given an elevated status above the rest of creation and enjoyed perfect fellowship with God. God commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” As God’s chosen vice-regents, Adam and Eve (and their descendants) were called to live in joyful submission to God, cultivating the earth’s resources in order to maximize human flourishing, to the glory of God.
That’s the first two chapters of the Bible. The third chapter tells us that everything went wrong.
In an attempt to usurp His authority, Adam and Eve rebelled against God. The rest is history (literally). Our Creator, who is infinitely worthy of honor and trust, was given the middle finger by those He had created in His own image (see Romans 1:18–32). God, being perfectly just, is not willing to let mankind’s sin go unpunished. The greatest crime ever committed is the belittling of God’s glory — and we’re all guilty. The punishment for the crime is God’s infinite, eternal wrath. If mankind hopes to ever enjoy perfect fellowship with God again, we need salvation — that is, we need to be forgiven by God and saved from His wrath.
Adam and Eve passed down their rebellious nature to every human being that came after them — except One (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The pinnacle of history came when Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth to live as a man. He was born to a virgin, so he didn’t inherit a rebellious nature like ours. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on a Roman cross in the spring of AD 33, He died to accomplish salvation for His people. On the cross, Jesus was counted guilty of our sin and He took the punishment that we deserved. God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus so that we could be forgiven (see Romans 5:9). Jesus didn’t stay dead, but rose again three days later. His resurrection from the dead is proof that His people’s salvation is secure.
What you just read is the gospel. The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The gospel is the good news of what Jesus has done to secure salvation for His people. Everyone who hears this message and repents — forsaking their rebellion and trusting in Jesus for salvation — will enjoy perfect fellowship with God forever. This is a Christian — someone who believes the gospel and treasures Jesus more than anything else. Jesus has promised us that He will come again and that we’ll live with Him in the new heavens and new earth (see Revelation 21–22, the last two chapters of the Bible).
What does the gospel have to do with prayer?
The Bible teaches that we’re born with a rebellious nature and counted guilty of Adam’s sin (see Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:12–20). Apart from the gospel, God will not listen to your prayers. You could never be good enough for God to hear your prayers. At best, you could hope to become a good rebel — but you’d still be a rebel. You need to be forgiven by God and saved from His wrath if you ever hope to have your prayers heard by Him. You need to repent and believe the gospel.
When we repent and believe the gospel, God forgives our rebellion (the ability to believe the gospel is a gift from God, purchased by Jesus on the cross — see Ephesians 2:1–10). When we believe the gospel, we’re declared “not guilty” — that is, we’re justified in God’s sight. The Apostle Paul says that when we’re given that verdict, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Paul also tells us that God Himself adopts us into His family and gives us His Spirit to bear witness to that fact (Romans 8:15–17). Having been forgiven, justified, and adopted into God’s family — we now enjoy fellowship with God forever. This is all a gift, from start to finish!
We’re no longer rebels, we’re God’s adopted children. And because we’re His children, we’re given the privilege of praying to our Father. Jesus taught His disciples to address God as Father when they prayed (Matthew 6:9–13) and the biblical writers model this for us (Ephesians 3:14: 5:20). To pray to our Father is not a privilege that we’ve earned, it’s a gift that we’ve been given. We’re not good enough to pray, but Christ’s saving work on the cross (the gospel) is more than good enough for us. We’re saved by the gospel, we live by the gospel, we pray by the gospel. What Christ has accomplished through the gospel is the firm foundation we stand upon in prayer. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” As children, let us pray to our Father because of what Christ has accomplished on the cross.
Now that we’ve laid a solid foundation for our praying, we need to know what prayer is and what it looks like. We’ll look at these in the next post.