There are many wonderful things that happen by means of prayer.
The greatest effect, of course, is that God is glorified. Jesus instructed us to pray, “Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). That is the deepest goal from which every other prayer is extrapolated. God has ordained the prayers of his people to be the way through which he accomplishes “the victory of Jesus over this world” — and when we pray unto this end, with God’s glory as our goal, he literally takes up our feeble requests as the avenue through which he does amazing things. And that is enough for us.
But there are many wonderful things that happen by prayer, and another aspect is the effect prayer has on us personally. There is the content of our prayers and the work of God through them, and then there is the sheer testimony to our souls that we pray. It’s the witness to our person that, in the moment of prayer, we comprehend the paralysis of self-sufficiency. We intentionally look away from ourselves, empty as we are, to God, the one who has no needs. “Prayer is,” John Piper writes,
the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. Prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that he will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy. (Prayer: The Power of Christian Hedonism)
A Place to Start
And perhaps it’s this existential reality of prayer that most incentivizes us across the tumultuous terrain of everyday life. When the great goal of prayer feels hazy, when we can’t seem to get a sensory grip on the end for which God created the world, our desperate condition might be the place to start.
Without much introspection, we can readily admit our need. Frazzled as we might be, we can look to God as our Father who loves us, who takes pleasure in those who hope in his mercy, and who demonstrates his love and anchors our faith by the cross and resurrection of Jesus (Psalm 147:11; Romans 5:8).
This prayer could begin simply. We bow our heads over our distractions, whispering in private over all the noise: I’m not. I can’t. I won’t.
More Real Than Anything
We say this to him. We acknowledge what he knows, what he wants us to feel. We say I’m not. I can’t. I won’t — we are not God, we’re mere creatures. We can’t make our hearts alive or the sun to rise. We won’t venture out any further, not a step more, without his nearness, without him being more real to us than anything else in all the world. I’m not. I can’t. I won’t.
Which then leads us to pray, almost as naturally as we feel our need:
But you are, you can, you will.
He is God, the one from everlasting to everlasting. He does all that he pleases and no purpose of his will be thwarted. He will strengthen us and help us — uphold us by his righteous right hand.
His glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
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