“I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore”. Psalm 86:12
From the very beginning, we approach prayer with a grave misconception. Our selfishness knows no bounds. We look upon Him as another means of gaining our own ends. We have a carnal nature, and when it can gain some advantage or be delivered from some great suffering or misfortune, it has no objections whatever to praying. On the contrary, then it, too, manifests a desire to pray which is nothing short of wonderful [astonishing]!
We should note well that the temptation to misuse prayer is native to us and comes, therefore, automatically to every believer. The sons of Zebedee came with their mother to Jesus one day and asked for the highest places of honor in the earthly kingdom, which was about to be established, as they thought. Their prayer was no doubt offered in all innocence and good faith. They were cousins of Jesus and had, together with Peter, already been given positions of preference in the intimate circle of Jesus’ friends. When the other apostles heard what the two had done, they became indignant.
But Jesus reacted in an entirely different way. He took very kindly and understandingly to the whole affair. He advised them of their fault and explained everything to them. Such a tender and fervent tone runs through the whole admonition and warms our very souls. It tells us what Jesus’ attitude is toward us when we come by families into His presence and ask Him to favour us in every possible way and avert from us all danger and all unpleasantness. He does not become angry with us as we might expect. He understands us, advises us of our mistakes, and tells us how we should pray.
This is what the Spirit of prayer undertakes to do every time we misuse prayer and ask for things for ourselves, for our own enjoyment. Lovingly and kindly, but firmly, He reminds us that this is not in accordance with the true meaning of prayer. He shows us that this is to pray amiss and points out our mistakes.
The purpose of prayer is to glorify the name of God. Prayer life has its own laws, as all the rest of life has. The fundamental law in prayer is this: Prayer is given and ordained for the purpose of glorifying God. Prayer is the appointed way of giving Jesus an opportunity to exercise His supernatural powers of salvation. And in so doing, He desires to make use of us. Through prayer we should give Jesus the opportunity of gaining access to our souls, our bodies, our homes, our neighbourhood’s, our countries, to the whole world, to the fellowship of believers, and to the unsaved. If we will make use of prayer, not to wrest from God advantages for ourselves or our dear ones, or to escape from tribulations and difficulties, but to call down upon ourselves and others those things which will glorify the name of God, then we shall see the strongest and boldest promises of the Bible about prayer fulfilled in our weak, little prayer life. Then we shall see such answers to prayer as we had never thought were possible.
It is written, “And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we ask of him.” The apostle establishes the fact from his own prayer experience as well as that of his readers, that if we pray for anything according to the will of God, we already have what we pray for the moment we ask it. It is immediately sent from heaven on its way to us. We do not know exactly when it will arrive while we are asking for it, but those who have learned to know God through the Spirit of God have learned to leave this in His hands, and to live just as happily whether the answer arrives immediately or later.
By this time no doubt some of my sincere praying readers are feeling depressed. After what has been said so far, you are beginning to suspect that you have misunderstood and misused the sacred privilege of prayer altogether. You have in your daily prayer life been speaking with God about everything, greater as well as lesser things. You have even asked Him for most insignificant things. You are afraid that this is a misuse of prayer and that you should therefore cease at once.
No, my friend, you should by no means cease. On the contrary, you should pray God for still greater simplicity of mind in your daily conversation with Him. Pray that you may become so confidential with Him that you can speak with Him about everything in your daily life. That is what He desires. “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
God knows that it is in our daily lives that we most easily become anxious. He knows that our daily lives are made up of little things, not great things. Therefore, whether you pray for big things or little, say to God, “If it will glorify Thy name, then grant my prayer and help me. But if it will not glorify Thy name, then let me remain in my predicament, and give me power to glorify Thy name in the situation in which I find myself.” Only by praying in this way will we succeed in opening our hearts to Jesus. This will give Him the opportunity to exercise His power on our behalf, not only as He wills but also when He wills. – O. Hallesby