Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jesus' Purpose of Prayer

So far, we have observed the fact that Jesus went off by Himself to pray - not just occasionally, but to
the extent that it became a defining quality of His life. So, why did He pray? Well, there are certainly many reasons Jesus prayed, and many reasons why we should pray. We will explore many of them in the future. But is it possible to boil prayer down to a primary purpose? I would be willing to go out on a limb and answer with a yes. While I can support this with several Scriptures, I will focus on three for the moment.

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He encases the prayer pattern with matching bookends:
"Father, hallowed be Your name..." (Matthew 6:9)
Some manuscripts have this as the ending bookmark:
"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever." (Matthew 6:13)

What do these two bookends reveal about prayer? That a chief purpose of prayer is the glory of God.

Not convinced? Jesus makes this same point when He teaches about prayer in John 14:13, "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

Or, we could add this as the over-arching umbrella, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) Notice how Paul starts by addressing what is lawful for a Christ follower to eat, but ends by saying that everything we do is to be for the glory of God. That includes...everything, even prayer.

While that sounds great (and deeply spiritual), what does it mean to glorify God? The Greek word for glory in the New Testament is doxa. Basically, it means increasing His worth. Do you increase His actual worth? No. It means we increase His worth in our view of Him. It is like a diamond. The worth of the diamond is in the diamond itself. However, we can increase our understanding of its value by shining a light on it and placing it against a velvet cloth so we can more accurately see its beauty.

How does this relate to prayer? There are some specifics that we will get into later, but for now we will keep it general - every time we pray, we increase our understanding of the beauty and majesty of God.

Let me give one application of how this changes prayer. We typically think of prayer as boring, and rightly so. I mean, who hasn't sat through a painfully boring Wednesday night prayer meeting? Why are they so boring? Simple - they are not about the glory of God. What do I mean by that? Our prayers are typically about increasing our own comfort, or the comfort of those around us. "God, bless my grandma." "God, Joe needs a job." God, grant Marcie safe travels as she goes on vacation." "God, comfort my aunt as she is near death." Are these bad prayers? No. Can God be glorified in them? Yes. The problem is not in the prayers or in God's ability or willingness to answer. The problem is us. Are we asking them for the sake of our own comfort, or do we ask in order to better see the greatness of God? Our reflex response is to say the glory of God. However, if a typical church service sees ten prayer requests shared, how many testimonies do we hear of answered prayer?

The picture above is one I took waiting to pick my son up from a soccer scrimmage. The sunset was so beautiful I wanted a picture to share with others so they could see how amazing it was. If we pray for our comfort, we will tend to be ho-hum when God answers. If we pray for His glory, our instinct will be to want to share this glimpse of God's beauty so others can experience it as well.

Jesus prayed. Jesus prayed A LOT. Jesus prayed that the Father would be glorified. The next step in our journey will take us to some more specifics such as - when did Jesus pray and what did Jesus specifically pray about? We will also see some of the other things Jesus teaches us about prayer.

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