Pay to Pray
In the recent election season, much was said about government officials engaging in a practice known as "pay to play," in which politicians grant access to important government people and programs in exchange for large campaign contributions. The practice is, of course, highly unethical (and often illegal), but it does give some indication as to what people will pay to have direct access to the halls of power. The bribes are almost always enormous.
The book of Acts tells the story of a recovering sorcerer by the name of Simon, who, shortly after his baptism, saw people receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when the disciples prayed for them. Accustomed to performing tricks for money, Simon begged the disciples to share their secret. Offering them what one can only assume was a considerable sum of money, he said, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." (Acts 8:19)
It would seem that "pay to play" is a very ancient practice indeed.
Peter, of course, rebuked him, explaining that the gift of God cannot be purchased with money. The kingdom of God operates in a mode completely foreign to the ways of fallen human beings. You cannot buy access to God; you could not possibly produce a sum large enough to secure admission to the throne room. The depth of our sin is simply too profound.
Fortunately, however, there is a way. This is the season when the world remembers, however briefly, that God assumed human flesh and lived as one of us. More importantly, He died for us. The author of Hebrews explains that now through the blood of Christ, there is a "new and living way" to enter into the Most Holy Place, right into the presence of God. Our path through the veil is Christ’s "flesh," the fact that He is not only God, but also fully human and utterly sinless. And we don't have to slink in quietly and cower in the corner: we can approach the throne with "boldness" and in "full assurance of faith."
In this world, people pay for favors. In the kingdom of God, Jesus showers you with favor and pays a steep price to give you incredible access to the most powerful Being in the universe. Instead of "pay to play," Jesus paid so you can pray—and have your words fall on the ears of God Himself.
Who wouldn't want to take advantage of that?
All the best during the holiday season.