“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
“I learned Hebrew with a Japanese accent.” Students of the late Dr. Toyozo W. Nakarai still sometimes use this humorous line. Born in Kyoto and schooled in Shintoism and Buddhism, Nakarai was a gifted scholar who, while still living in Japan, became a disciple of Jesus Christ. A master of Japanese culture, Nakarai became a world-class scholar of the Old Testament.
I met him five decades ago—he was then almost 70—and came to know him well during my years of study at Emmanuel Christian Seminary. This linguist and biblical scholar had an aura of nobility and self-discipline. Always courteous, he sought to bring out the best in his students. I certainly did not want to disappoint him.
So what do I think of first when I hear the name Nakarai? I can say it in two words: his prayers.
Among the most passionate and reverent public prayers I ever heard were those uttered by this man. His prayers in Emmanuel chapel services made lasting impressions. He clearly had given his prayers careful attention. I know, because he said so, that he usually wrote and committed his prayers to memory before offering them aloud. He used words skillfully. He did not ramble. He did not mumble. Drawing near to the throne of grace, he prayed in boldness and awe.
I never sensed that he sought recognition when he prayed or even when he published some of his prayers as a book. Whether standing in chapel or sitting at his desk, his spirit bowed before his Creator, the Father who gave his only begotten Son to save us from our sins.
How did my venerable professor pray when he was alone? I can only guess. I never asked him if he sometimes found himself searching for words. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there were times when he began a prayer with “Father” and fell silent for a time, gathering his thoughts, confident in the presence of his Lord.
I never asked this meticulously organized professor if his personal prayers sometimes got a little jumbled. Mine do, and yours do too, I suspect.
I pray at times for God to make something intelligible out of my groaning.
In moments of quiet reflection, I remember that I belong—we belong—to a community of prayer. We share sorrows and joys. We draw strength from the devotion and prayers of believers past and present. Let us give thanks for the blessing of belonging to a global community of prayer and service, a community confessing that Jesus is Lord, a community empowered and comforted by these words: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Written by Dr. Eddie Groover, Point Chancellor Emeritus