Do you passionately plead with God in prayer? Pleading is a good and necessary part of our Christian lives. We understand adoration, confession, supplication, and thanksgiving are good marks of a vibrant prayer life, but pleading is often neglected.
What is Pleading?
Pleading with God is that part of prayer (a subset of supplication) in which we argue our case with God, as Isaac Watts wonderfully says, “in a fervent yet humble manner.” It is not just petition, but petition well-reasoned. It is not just requesting, but passionately appealing. In pleading, we are making our case before God as to why He should grant our prayer request.
At first, this can seem awkward or inappropriate. Yet, we all would readily acknowledge that there is a natural impulse to plead our case. I never taught my children to do so, but they know how! It is natural to our persons and natural in our relationship with God. He doesn’t desire restrained requests. God is not looking for dispassionate, catatonic, listless disciples. And what is true of His disciples is also true of their prayers–He desires our passionate pleadings.
The Psalmist says, “Pour out your heart before him” (Psalm 62:8). He then offers these comforting words, “God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). We can pour out our hearts and need not shrink back in fear.
Pleading is biblical
The Syrophoencian woman does not hesitate to plead with Christ and she is rewarded with His merciful answer (Mark 7:24-30). Jeremiah cries out to the Lord, “Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you” (Jeremiah 12:1). Joshua pleads the case of the Israelites and the disgrace their annihilation would bring upon the name of God (Joshua 7:6-9); and God responds with His grace. Hezekiah pleads for his own life, “For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, he thanks you” (Isaiah 38:18-19); and God grants him extended life. Our Lord tells the parable of the persistent widow and ends with the question, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7). This is just a small sampling. Passionate pleading occupies a real place in our prayer lives.
But notice Watts’ helpful safeguard. Pleading in prayer is only appropriate when practiced in a humble manner. We are to be passionate and fervent in our petition, but not proud or rude. We are subjects crying out to our King, servants bringing a request to our Lord, creatures petitioning the Creator. He lovingly desires our petitions, because they inherently recognize His sovereignty. We dare not turn the petition on its head by demanding a sovereign God follow our decree. Rather, we plead with Him, passionately, but humbly. We make our case, but rest content if He chooses not to answer our request. As Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
So how do we plead? As Watts points out, the “arguments are almost infinite.” However, he would suggest that almost every argument falls under one of the following headings:
- From the Greatness of Our Wants, Our Dangers or Our Sorrows
Example: My sorrows, O Lord, over press me and endanger my dishonoring of your name and your gospel. My pains and weaknesses hinder me from your service, that I am rendered useless upon earth and a burden to the earth.
- The Many Perfections of the Nature of God
Example: For your mercies’ sake, O Lord, save me. Your lovingkindness is infinite; let this infinite lovingkindness be displayed in my salvation. You are wise, O Lord; though my enemies are crafty, you can disappoint their devices, and you know how by your wondrous counsel to turn my sorrow into joy.
- Relationships God Has With Man
Example: Lord, you are my Creator, will you not have a desire to the work of your hands? You made me and fashioned me, and will you now destroy me? You are my governor and king; to whom should I fly for protection but to you, when the enemies of your honor and my soul beset me?
- The Various and Particular Promises of the Covenant of Grace
Example: Remember your Word is written in heaven; it is recorded among the articles of your sweet covenant, that I must receive light and love, and strength and joy and happiness. Are you not a faithful God to fulfill every one of those promises? What if heaven and earth pass away? Yet your covenant stands upon two immutable pillars, your promise and your oath.
- The Name and Honor of God in the World
Example: “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?” (Joshua 7:9)
- Former Experiences of Ourselves and Others
Example: “In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” (Psalm 22:4-5)
- Name and Mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ
Example: We would willingly request nothing at your hands, but what your own Son requests beforehand for us. Look upon the Lamb, as he had been slain, in the midst of the throne; look upon his pure and perfect righteousness and that blood with which our High Priest is entered into the highest heavens, and in which forever he appears before you to make intercession. Let every blessing be bestowed upon me which that blood did purchase and which that great, that infinite, petitioner pleads for at your right hand.
As Christians, we should not shrink from pleading in prayer to God. Rather, let it occupy a routine place in our prayer lives. In all humility, let us fervently make our case before the great God of the Heavens and the Earth, while resting and content in His sovereignty.