In this advent before Thanksgiving, when we have been called as a nation to give thanks to our Creator, I have sought to move us back to an older view of prayer. So far in this short series we have looked at What is Prayer, The Prescription of Prayer, and the Posture of Prayer. In this post, I would like us to examine the purpose of prayer. To some of you, this may seem obvious, but I would ask you to re-examine that presupposition and maybe your presuppositions about God’s nature, and consider this.
If I could define the purpose of prayer, I would default to the purpose of pretty much everything, God’s glory. It is first in the Shorter Catechism, the chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. If that is true, then to glorify God is the chief purpose of prayer.
Although God has no need of our adoration, He is glorified thru it in our prayers for these reasons, among others:
- Prayer is evidence of dependence upon His power
- Dependence upon His sovereignty
- Dependence upon His mercy
- To allow us to approach him through his grace
Believers do not pray, with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of expecting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray, in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things.- Calvin
Another purpose of prayer is that prayer is a means that He uses to accomplish His will. God’s sovereignty allows for the willing use of men to carry out His will. He is not a puppet master, but he does sovereignly use prayer to influence men to accomplish his divine purposes. It is important by now, to begin to see the insignificance of our purposes when we pray. Our purposes, although still important to God, should be secondary to our intent to accomplish God’s purposes, and prayer is a means to do that primarily.
A request becomes a “vain repetition” if it is only a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and do God’s will. –Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Mt 6:5). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
One thing we may need to be reminded of is that we do not pray to change God’s mind or to remind of something we would have him do or be to us. God is immutable. He never changes. In that sense, he does not change his mind about something he previously thought. If he did, then his initial thought would have been incorrect, by definition. God is never wrong. Furthermore, God does not forget or is ever in need of our reminders. He may appreciate our reminding him of his promises for the purpose of our relationship with him, but that is not to say that he has forgotten them and needs us to restate them. The purpose of prayer is not so that we can change God into our image, but so that he can change us into his. Our pleas to him about situations we experience are not surprises to him. He knew the situation existed before it happened and knew you would pray about it before you did. That is not to say that we should not pray about those things, but that we need to have this in mind about God as we do.
God needs no reminders as if He does not know or requires a jog in His memory. Verse 9 (Mat 6) is clear about that: He knows what any need is before a person presents the matter. He basically has a word to give so that those who pray can pray in line with it—His will, already planned—rather than their giving Him new ideas to maneuver Him their way.- Rosscup, J. E. (2008). An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible: Igniting the Fuel to Flame Our Communication with God (1468).
Prayer brings our will into subjection to His, therefore sanctifies us. It is primarily a western view of worship that leads us to believe that the primary purpose of prayer is so that our lives can be filled with stuff and made void of trouble. Over and over, we have entered into the throne of grace only to expose our poor motives of selfishness and dishonor God by twisting his arm to give us our wants. Oh, I know, God is interested in our desires, but don’t you think that his main interest is to make our desires reflect his? In fact, if that’s true, and it is, we ought to make it our purpose before we pray, to give him the freedom to change us into agents of his will, instead of praying for those things we make greater than his will (success, wealth, happiness, pleasure, etc.).
Let those who approach Him be separated to His own way, not coming to manage Him into line with their ideas.- Rosscup, J. E. (2008). An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible: Igniting the Fuel to Flame Our Communication with God (1468).
The purpose of prayer is to glorify God’s name, and to ask for help to accomplish His will on earth. This prayer begins with God’s interests, not ours: God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. Robert Law has said, “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in heaven, but for getting God’s will done in earth.-”Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Mt 6:5). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Some other purposes of prayer begin with God’s forgiveness. We have forgiveness because prayer is a means which He communicates it to us. Prayer restores us to right fellowship .1 John 1:9 tells us that.
God’s provision of grace comes from prayer. God hears our pleas and loves us.
He provides us with grace in times of need 6 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. 8:27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will.
He also works His compassion to us.
4:14 Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.
God’s delivers us. How many times has He left us in our circumstances but given us strength to deal with them or has given us peace in the midst of them?
4:6 Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. 4:7 And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Through prayer God has given us wisdom. How many times has He removed our suffering, shown us His strength, replaced enemies with friends, drawn us closer to Him?
I hope this does nothing but give you a more full and rich view of your prayer life and God’s purpose in it. I remember when I began to study prayer. I quickly realized that prayer is something we take for granted in our lives and neglect in our teaching. It changed me forever, to understand prayer better. If it doesn’t change you in that way, I do hope this causes you to at least be more thankful for prayer and hopefully, not continue to take prayer for granted, as I did.
This Thanksgiving, pray like never before.