Tear doubt out of your heart! Never allow doubt to hinder you from praying to God by perchance thinking to yourself, “How can I ask anything from the Lord, how can I receive anything from him since I have sinned so much against him?” Never think like this! Instead, turn to the Lord with your whole heart. Pray to him without wavering and you will come to know his great mercy. He will never desert you. He will fulfill your heart’s request because God is not like people, who harbor grudges. No, he does not remember evil, and he has compassion for what he has made.
— Shepherd of Hermas
To the soul burdened by sin, the thought of praying--let alone praying boldly--can be overwhelming. As we grow in our Christian walk, we become more and more acutely aware of our own unrighteousness, which if we're not careful, can quickly drown us in self-despair.
In one sense, we're absolutely right to wonder how we might possibly be so bold as to ask God for anything at all. After all, we are sinful and have on right to expect anything good from God. While this reasoning is sound from a human perspective, it fails precisely at the point where it suggests that we approach God on our own merits and righteousness. The Christian approaches God with nothing but empty hands, as a beggar. But into those empty hands, reaching out by faith, Christ places his own righteousness, his own holiness, his own perfection. As a result, the merit upon which we presume to approach God IS perfect for it is Christ's.
In Christ we perfectly see the mercy, grace, love, and compassion of the entire Trinity. Yes, God calls us to holiness, to righteousness, to good works of all kinds. Yes, we are right to strive toward this perfection to which we are called. Yes, we must daily wrestle with sin, reminding ourselves of our baptism where the old self was drowned and the new creation, in Christ, was put on. But we must never, ever confuse this righteousness to which we are called as the basis by which God hears our prayers, loves us, or finally saves us. No, this all of Christ, all a gift, all of grace. When our righteousness fails, when we are burdened by sin, when we fall short, we must never think we cannot (or should not) come begging to God for forgiveness and wholeness...and find him eagerly waiting to lavish his endless love upon us.
To use a human example, the love of God for us is much like human love (though wonderfully perfect!) we have for family and loved ones. We don't love others because of the things they have done. Many times, we love them in spite of themselves. We love them because we love them. So it is with God, who loves us in spite of ourselves simply because he is love. Thanks be to God for his great mercy! Let us never cower from approaching his throne as a beloved child, though beggars we will always be.