When John the Baptist said, “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29–30), he wasn’t talking about his inner life. He was talking about his ministry calling as a prophet and his public influence. He delighted that Jesus’s influence was eclipsing his own.
But he could only delight in his public diminishment because in his private life, in his heart, Christ had become supreme. And since the Bible shows that it is never easy for a sinful person to come to such a place of joyful submission, it is safe to assume that John’s public joy was likely the result of much wrestling with God and hard fighting against sin in the private place.
A mark of our increasing maturity as disciples is an increasing experience of joy in Jesus’s influence eclipsing our own, both internally and externally. And God delights in such humble joy, which is one reason Jesus said that no one born of women was greater than John the Baptist (Luke 7:28). So we should not only desire this increasing joy, but also specifically ask God for it and be willing to endure whatever it takes to produce it.
14 Prayers for Christ’s Increase
At the risk of appearing more impressive than I really am, I’ll share with you the list I’ve compiled over the years of things that I regularly ask God for so that Christ will increase and I will decrease. Perhaps you will find it helpful, or it will encourage you to compile your own list.
All the requests begin with “D” to help me remember. And I’ve ordered them not so much in sequence of priority but to roughly move from heart to action. And since there are fourteen, I’ve grouped them so that I can pray for two similar or related requests per day each day of the week.
Please know that these are prayers of aspiration, not achievement. I am very far from having arrived.
But I can say that I have seen God answering these prayers over twenty plus years, some more than others. And I can also say that I have never once regretted praying “whatever it takes,” even though many answers have come through pain or adversity. Increased joy and hope in Christ’s increase, whether in us or around us, is worth far more than whatever it costs.
Delight: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my delight in you as the greatest treasure of my heart.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Desires: Whatever it takes, Lord, increasingly align the desires of my heart with yours.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9–10)
“I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30)
“Not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Dependence: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my awareness of my dependence on you in everything so that I will live continually by faith.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Desperation: Whatever it takes, Lord, decrease my proneness to wander from you by keeping me desperate for you.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
Discipline: Whatever it takes, Lord, discipline me for my good that I may increasingly share your holiness and bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10–11)
Discernment: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my ability to discern good from evil through the rigorous exercise of constant practice.
“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
Diligence: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my resolve to do your will with all diligence.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16)
Drive: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my zeal to do your will and my urgency to make the best use of my time during these evil days.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12:11)
Distraction: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my resolve to pursue only what you call me to do and deliver me from the fragmenting effect of fruitless distraction.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42)
Distress: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my distress for perishing unbelievers, the persecuted church, and destitute poor and my resolve to do what I can to bring them the deliverance and relief of the whole gospel of Christ.
“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” (Romans 9:2)
“Remember those in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)
“Remember the poor.” (Galatians 2:10)
Declare: Whatever it takes, Lord, decrease the hold that unbelieving fear has over me and increase my boldness to declare the gospel to everyone you send me to or bring to me.
“Grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:29)
“He . . . welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness.” (Acts 28:30–31)
Dynamis (Greek for “power”): Whatever it takes, Lord, fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit and any gifting you might be pleased to give me that I may be an increasingly fruitful witness to the reality and gospel of Jesus Christ.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
Decrease: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my love for your supremacy and trust in your wise purposes so that when it’s time for me to step out of a role to which you had appointed me for a season, I will receive the decrease in personal influence with joyful faith.
“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29–30)
Death: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my faith and joy in the truth that death is gain for me so that I can “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.” Do not let the fear of death cause me to resist your will for me and enable me to die in a way that declares that Christ is gain.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory.” (John 17:24)
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
“So we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)