What prayer have you given up praying?
We all have deep prayers, sensitive prayers that we have prayed over and over, but that feel a little heavier with each passing week, month, and year. For physical relief or healing or strength. For a new position or opportunity in our work. For the fighting to finally stop. For purity. For the salvation of someone we desperately love.
As the years go by, miles may begin to emerge between our head and our knees — between our desire for God to move in some dramatic way and our enthusiasm to pray and ask again.
He has told us to call him “Father,” but at times it can seem like he’s too busy with more important pursuits. He’s out saving the whole world, while we’re here in our own little room, worrying about tomorrow’s little trials. He’s out covering the globe with his glory, while we’re kneeling at home asking for something smaller and less significant.
But in Christ our trials are not trivial in his eyes. Our burdens are not small or irrelevant to him. His global purposes do not draw him away from us. Our prayers are not peripheral in his priorities, because our trials and prayers are deeply and intimately connected to his greatest burden as a good Father: his own glory.
Greatest Motive to Pray
John Piper says, “The great ground of hope, the great motive to pray, is God’s awesome commitment to his name. The pleasure that he has in his fame is the pledge and passion of his readiness to forgive and save those who lift his banner and cast themselves on his promise and mercy” (Pleasures of God, 107).
We will only start believing that God doesn’t have time for our prayers when we begin to divorce our prayers from his glory — when we disconnect his moving in our lives from his being lifted up in our lives. God will not stop doing good for his children, even in the most minute and mundane details, because his name is on the line even in the most minute and mundane details. If he ignored our pleas, he would be an unreliable God and a negligent Father. He would be less glorious.
Our God and Father ties his tender mercy and loving care toward us to his fame in the world:
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11)
Good earthly fathers don’t talk like that: “For my own sake, for my own sake . . .” But our unique, extraordinarily good, heavenly Father — the first and best father — does love his children that way, and it is good news. His pleasure in his own name perfects his love for us, and inclines his ears to our prayers. The prophet Daniel knew this and prayed, “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God” (Daniel 9:19). Hear me, O Lord, for your sake — a strange and yet deeply promising and emboldening prayer.
Hallowed Be Your Name
For us to persist in prayer over months and years will mean we tune our hearts to the mysterious beauty of the first line in the Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)
The most surprising aspect is not that God is so unashamedly committed to his own glory, but that he would love us, and not just love us, but adopt us — and be our Father. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Tim Keller marvels that in Christ, “We have the most intimate and unbreakable relationship possible with the God of the universe” (Prayer, 69), and R.C. Sproul says to call God “Father” affirms “the very uniqueness of Christianity” (Prayer of the Lord, 23).
Jesus teaches us to call God “our Father.” Those two words are loaded with more hope and wonder and security than we can adequately feel. But then Jesus anchors the whole prayer in the hallowing of our Father’s name. How can God be a good father and be so focused on himself? Because the goodness of God’s fatherhood is intimately tied to his love for his own fame.
His desire for his own glory doesn’t limit how much he loves us but unleashes his love in greater depths and in even more ways.
He Wants You to Ask
God wants you to ask again — for healing, for reconciliation, for salvation — because God loves to reveal his strength and wisdom and worth again. And because he loves you. And because he loves you, he wants you to see and experience more of his glory. In prayer — in what we ask by faith — we ask to see more of him. The details of our specific prayers are real and important, but the thread through them all — the prayer of prayers — remains the same: “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18).
His glory does not distract him from our pleas — from our cries for daily bread, for forgiveness of our sins, and for protection from temptation. His glory drives him into our true needs. Because he takes pleasure in his name, he will love us with fatherly ferocity — not indifference, reluctance, or impatience.
If we picture God taking a break from more important pursuits to address our little needs and desires, we’ll soon suspect that he doesn’t have time for us, or that we’re not a priority. But if addressing our little needs and desires actually plays a part in his most important purpose, we can have confidence that he’ll never stop hearing our prayers. He wants us to ask again, not simply because he told us to pray, but because when we pray, we open another window for his glory to stream through.
One Thing Have I Asked
But is his glory good news for us? It is, if we pray like King David,
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple. (Psalms 27:4).
We can fall into ruts in which we ask for just about everything but that — for bread, forgiveness, protection, healing, guidance, reconciliation, but not for glory. When we pray, are we consistently longing and asking to see and spread the beauty of God?
If we can say that David’s one thing is our one thing, we will not begrudge God making our prayers occasions for his glory. His glory will be music to the ears of our soul. As we pray and ask again, we’ll gaze again. And we’ll want others to gaze with us. His glory in and through us will be beautiful to us, because we will want his glory more than anything. We will want his glory more than whatever else we pray for ourselves.
The next time your patience and passion flag in prayer, remember what Jesus prayed for you, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Press in and ask him again. Your Father loves to answer your prayers with his glory. And because he loves his glory, he will love you in every circumstance and trial with more of himself.