PRAYER’S ULTIMATE PURPOSE
A Meditation on Psalm 79:9 and other Selected Scriptures
It was not simply for the sake of pious rhetoric that Paul frequently added to the end of his prayers phrases like “to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11; Eph. 3:2-21). Paul’s heart burned with zeal for the furtherance of God’s glory, and uppermost in his thinking as he ministered and prayed was a desire that God be glorified in it all.
The true heart of prayer is a burning passion for the glory of God to be displayed in every aspect of our lives. This is also the heart of all theology. C. H. Spurgeon described his theology as that which “places the eternal God at the head of all things. I look at everything through its relation to the glory of God. I see God first and man far down the list. Brethren, if we live in sympathy with God, we delight to hear him say, ‘I am God and there is no other.’” The glory of God should be the driving force behind all we do, including our praying.
D.A. Carson asks believers this probing question: “Has God become so central to our thought and pursuits, and thus to our praying, that we cannot easily imagine asking for anything without consciously longing that the answer bring glory to God?” (D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, p. 203).
If we are not motivated to pray by a zeal for the glory of God, our motives are short-sighted. Self-centered prayers have little hope of receiving a favorable answer from God (James 4:3). This is not to say that we shouldn’t pray for ourselves and others. God encourages us to pray for those things which concern us, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. However, in all our petitions we should not (indeed, we must not), seek answers only for our own selfish gain, without hoping and longing that such answers will ultimately further the glory of God. Our prayers may seek many different immediate purposes, such as a loved one becoming a Christian or success in business or greater intimacy in marriage, etc., but the ultimate purpose remains constant—furtherance of the glory of God. Our prayers for God to work in our marriages, families, jobs, etc., must not be seen as an end in themselves. That’s how pagans “pray.” Rather, we should follow in the footsteps of the psalmist who prayed on one occasion: “Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake” (Ps. 79:9).
How tragic that such a spiritual and potentially God-glorifying activity like prayer can actually be perverted into a selfish act. But we all need to confess that sometimes, this is regrettably the case. When we consciously ask for God to be glorified in our prayers, it has a way of purifying wrong motives, while adding faith, confidence and boldness to our prayers. Zeal for God’s glory naturally ignites bold praying. Our hearts should be bursting with a desire for God’s glory to be displayed in our marriages, families, churches, cities, nation and world. Inevitably this intense, internal craving will find expression in big, bold requests. This was true for Martin Luther.
In 1540, Luther’s good friend and assistant Friedrich Myconius became sick and was expected to die within a short period of time. He wrote a tender farewell letter to Luther from his sickbed. When Luther received the message, he immediately sent back a reply: “I command you in the name of God to live because I still need your help in the work of reforming the church—the Lord will never let me hear that you are dead, but will permit you to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.”
Those words seem harsh and insensitive to modern ears, but God apparently honored the prayer. Although Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther‘s reply came, he soon recovered. Myconius lived six more years and died two months after Luther.
When God’s glory becomes our burning passion, we will naturally begin to pray as Luther did, and God will answer our prayers to His glory, which will invariably result in our joy. If your greatest desire is to see God’s glory displayed, your greatest joy will result when that happens. In other words, nothing should make us happier, than to see God glorified. This is why, while our church’s mission statement (We exist for the zealous furtherance of the glory of God for the joy of all people through Jesus Christ) appears to have two objectives (namely, God’s glory and our joy), it really has only one—God’s glory—which is our joy. The Christian never has the dilemma of waking up in the morning and deciding whether he will pursue God’s glory or his joy. They are one and the same pursuit in Christ. “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!” (Isa. 66:5).
~Pastor Wayne Christensen