Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

Will we pray in heaven? It’s a really great question from a listener named Grant. “Pastor John, today in church we sang the old classic hymn ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’ In the fourth verse is a line that says, ‘Soon in glory bright, unclouded, there will be no need for prayer,’ referring to when we are in heaven. I don’t know if I’ve ever sang that fourth verse before, so the line jumped out at me. It’s jarring to hear the words ‘there is no need for prayer.’ So is prayer just an earthly thing? Is there a role for prayer in heaven? Does the Bible give us any indication of how we will commune with God in eternity?”

Well first, let’s say a word about the song and then about the question of prayer in heaven from Scripture. I’m virtually certain that what Joseph Scriven meant in that line — which Grant quoted from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” — was that there will be no more aching cry to help us in our troubles in heaven because there will be no more troubles. We won’t be crying out for help in our troubles because we won’t have any troubles.

Tears No More

Now, the reason I think that’s all he meant is because, when I reread the whole song, that’s the way virtually every verse was defining prayer. Let me just read it for you.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge —
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, thou hast promised,
Thou wilt all our burdens bear.
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer —
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

“We won’t be crying out for help in our troubles because we won’t have any troubles.”

Now, I take “no need for prayer” to mean that we have no need to ask God for help to bear our burdens, to bear our troubles, to bear our sorrows, to bear our griefs, to bear our pain, to bear our temptations. That’s what he’s talking about. Praise and worship clearly imply communication. Praise and worship will be our portion, and all of that is prayer. So he did believe there would be prayer in heaven, but he was defining prayer as the cry for help in the midst of our afflictions, and there won’t be any affliction, so there won’t be any more of that in heaven.

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

Okay, that’s Scriven. What about Scripture? First, there are the visions in Revelation. Here are just two of them. We see prayer in heaven in Revelation 5:13: “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” And Revelation 7:9–10: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out” — praying — “with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God.’” We’re saying that to the Lamb and to the Father.

And then consider Romans 8:26–27. This is really interesting. It’s a puzzling and provocative text about God giving us the Holy Spirit now to help us pray when we don’t know how to pray, because God is so jealous that, even in those moments when all we can do is groan for him to help us pray as we ought, he sends his Holy Spirit to do the praying in us and for us.

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” I think those are our groanings. The Spirit is moving us even without words to groan. “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” It seems to me that if God makes extra effort to keep us praying when we are weak in this world, how much more will he delight in hearing us when we have no perplexities about it at all.

Feast with the Bridegroom

And then consider that the church is pictured as the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5:25–30, being prepared for eternal marriage with her husband, Christ, in spotless beauty, in a perfect relationship, likened to the best possible marriage. Are we to think that there is no communication in this marriage? What kind of marriage is that?

“We will be shown ever fresh glories from the immeasurable riches of his kindness.”

To be more specific, several times Jesus pictures coming back to earth as coming to share a feast table with his disciples. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28–30). Or another text: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). You just can’t conceive of Jesus inviting guests to a feast, feeding them well, giving them drink, and nobody’s saying a word around this table. That’s not the way feasts work.

Praise Never Runs Out

And finally, there’s this climactic command to the whole earth in Psalm 66:3. This is a command: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.’” So we’re commanded to say this to God, and I think that’s designed as a command for the climax of the ages — not just along the way here, and then we don’t ever say that to God anymore.

So yes, we will pray in heaven in the age to come. We will communicate our hearts to God forever and ever, and we will hear his heart for ours. We will be shown ever fresh glories from the immeasurable riches of his kindness (Ephesians 2:7).

And I think it says that so that we will see that our response, with ever fresh words of our own, corresponds to a communication that can never be boring, because the riches of God’s glory are endless and immeasurable. So there’s a correspondence between our capacity to respond with words to the ever fresh revelations of his beauty with ever fresh communications of our own, so that we don’t have to think, “I’m going to run out of language.” No, you won’t. Here you do. You do; you run out of language here. But there, you will not run out of language. And like C.S. Lewis says, the very expression of your joy in praise will not just be tacked on to the joy — it will be the joy in God in consummation.