Prayer: We Get the Help, He Gets the Glory

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One of the unique things about God is that he displays his glory by helping rather than demanding help. “No eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4). “He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything” (Acts 17:25). “He exalts himself to show mercy” (Isaiah 30:18).

This changes the way we pray.

When we ask him for help, we know that he will give it for his name’s sake, not because we deserve it. His helping us highlights his riches. “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Jesus died to obtain all the help we need. So not just our praises, but also our petitions, become ways of glorifying God. They draw attention to his riches, not our rights.

The principle is this: We get the help; he gets the glory.

Attention to His Riches, Not Our Rights

For example, the psalmist prays,

Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name's sake! (Psalm 79:9)

We get help and deliverance and atonement; he gets an exalted name. So it is again and again in the Old Testament:

For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great. (Psalm 25:11)

For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! (Psalm 143:11)

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive.
O Lord, pay attention and act.
Delay not, for your own sake. (Daniel 9:19)

Giving Help, Not Demanding It

Similarly, when Jesus comes, the first thing he tells us to pray for is the glory of God’s name: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).

And when Paul prays, all his petitions are to this same end:

It is my prayer that you be . . . filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9–11).

We always pray for you, that our God may . . . fulfill every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12).

This is wonderful. God exalts his grace and power by giving help rather than demanding it. He designs the Christian life so that we get the joy as he gets the glory.

But this does require that we be born again.

Happy for God to Be God

Before the new birth, we are allergic to such humility. We didn’t just want to be happy, we wanted to be happy by being somebody. We did not like the idea that God gets all the glory while all we get is help from him and joy in him.

But when we are born again, we are happy for God to be God. We are content for God to get all the glory, while we remain cheerful supplicants of mercy. So pray without ceasing and put God’s glory on display.

You are coming to your King,

Large petitions with you bring;

For his grace and power are such

None can ever ask too much. (John Newton)