How Prayer Glorifies God

How Prayer Glorifies God

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)

This verse took on a powerful new meaning for me in my early twenties when I was discovering new dimensions of the greatness of God. This discovery was coming in the form of teaching that God could not be served, but that he shows his power by serving us.

This was mindboggling to me. I had always taken for granted that the greatness of God consisted in his right to demand service. And, of course, in one sense, that’s true. After all, didn’t Paul call himself a “servant of the Lord” over and over?

But what about Acts 17:25? “God is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” And what about Mark 10:45? “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

These verses clobbered me.

The Son does not want to be served, but to serve? God does not want to be served, but to give all people everything? Then there were verses like 2 Chronicles 16:9. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” God is searching for people for whom he can show his strength.

And then Isaiah 64:4: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.” The old Revised Standard Version, in which I originally memorized it, said, “…who works for those who wait for him.” Yes. Amazing. God never hangs out a “Help Wanted” sign. His sign is always: “Strong Help Available.”

It all began to make sense. God aims to glorify himself in everything he does. And the glory of his self-sufficient power and wisdom shines most brightly not when he looks like he depends on the work of others, but when he makes plain that he himself does the work. He has the broad shoulders.

And what makes this so amazing for prayer is that he virtually invites us to load him down with our burdens: “Do not be anxious about anything, but . . . let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). “Cast all your anxieties on him . . . .” (1 Peter 5:7). This invitation takes on tremendous power when we see God’s glory is at stake.

If we come to him thinking he needs our help, we make him look needy. But if we remember that his strength is shown in working for us, then we are motivated to come with new confidence. Okay, Lord, here is my impossible situation. Please show yourself strong. Help me.

Waiting for the Lord means turning to him for help rather than turning first to man. Then, patiently, we trust him to act in his time. Those who do so are those for whom he promises to work. “The Lord works for those who wait for him.”

I need thee, O I need thee;
Every hour I need thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to thee.


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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.