Praying for the Glory of God
Too often our prayers are intended to inform God of what we believe He needs to do to structure the universe in compliance with our desires for a happy and comfortable life. Because most of us have been taught that the primary purpose of prayer is to ask God to meet our temporal needs, we continue in this routine without the thought of something greater and more powerful. Yet, there is a purpose in prayer that is much more profound. There is a goal that can shape the ambition of all godly prayers. It is the glory of God.
Purpose and Prayer
The purpose of all things is the glory of God (Romans 11:36). Your life, my life, and every life was created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). Because our prayers are so instinctive, intimate, and unedited, they can often be the key indicator of our aim for God’s glory – or something else.
Puritan Thomas Manton wrote, “O how little do we aim at the glory of God and regard it in our prayers. We should seek it not only above the profits and pleasure of this life, but even above life itself. But alas, since the fall, we are corrupt and wholly poisoned with self love, that we prefer every base interest and trifle before God… The best of us when we come to pray, what a deep sense we have of our own needs, and not desire of the glory of God. How necessary it is that the Lord should have His glory.” [i]
Yet, We Struggle
Still, even in reading this, our flesh can wince. We are tempted to think secretly, “But what about me? I have needs. I deserve some recognition.” We are so used to thinking about, talking about, tweeting about, and praying about ourselves. It is hard to break free from this instinctive concern that is so embedded in our fleshly life.
This struggle of my flesh is pictured in Psalm 115:1, where it says, “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name give glory.” I am struck by the fact that “not unto us” has to be repeated twice. We all have a willingness to give God glory. Our struggle is to be compelled and content to refuse self-glory. That is the battle in this life – and in our prayers.
The great mistake of our early history was the compulsion of the people of Babel who declared, “Let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). King Nebuchadnezzar boasted in all he had done to build a kingdom for the glory of his own majesty (Daniel 4:30). In these cases, and others, the results were disastrous. While our prayers may not openly declare a longing for our own glory, sometimes they are intended for that end. Oh, how we need grace to confront, confess, and correct our tendencies.
The good news is that we can have confident trust in our good, caring, attentive, and sovereign God. He cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. He knows all about and cares for our needs (Matthew 6:25-34). Yet, even this reassurance is to serve as motivation to seek first “His kingdom and righteousness,” knowing all these things will be added to us (6:33).
In proper context, we are instructed to trust Him for our daily bread, grace for our relationships, and power to live in spiritual victory. Even these concerns (given in the second half of the model prayer – Matthew 6:9-13) must always follow after the supreme concern of our hearts for His glory as we declare, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray in keeping with this pattern, as commanded by Jesus, we also conclude by declaring, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” God’s glory is the beginning and the end of real prayer. Our concerns are sandwiched between this great purpose as we humbly and confidently trust in Him for all we need, and all He has promised.
My Body – His Glory!
So much of our praying typically centers in concerns about our physical well-being. This is natural as “the outer man” is indeed perishing (2 Corinthians 4:16). Physical pain is hard. Suffering is a struggle. Threats to our physical life are troubling.
Even in this we can embrace a lesson from Paul as he wrote from prison, encountering persecutions and uncertainty about his earthly life. He wrote, “…according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). I am so thankful that our Savior can give us grace to desire and pray for His glory even when our bodies are failing or we are facing death.
My Journey – His Glory!
The road of this life is often marked with uncertainty and serious tests to our faith. Again, in this we can take inspiration from God’s word. Romans 4:16-22 tells of Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of a son, even though he and his wife Sarah were very old. It says of Abraham, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” Again, it would seem that our goal in prayer, even in times of trial, is a faith that is centered in the glory of God.
Thomas Manton, the Puritan writer, summarized it well: “When we come to pray, we should distinctly remember whose name is to be gloried, so that God may be at the end of every request.”[ii] Lord, teach us to pray – for Your glory.
For more inspiration about the transforming power of prayer for God’s glory, check out our book, Transforming Prayer – How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face (Chapter 8 – Go for the Glory!), available in many online outlets, on Kindle, or at www.strategicrenewal.com.
Copyright © 2014 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
[i] Richard Rushing (editor), Voices from the Past – Puritan Devotional Reading, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 2009. P. 18
[ii] Ibid. p. 19