At some point in our life, we had to memorize The Lord's Prayer, but just in case you need a refresher, here's the first half again: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9-10)
As historic as these words have been for the church, I'm afraid that they have simultaneously become some of the most clichéd words in the Christian faith. In this case, I think we have memorized one of God's most important commands without actually understanding what he's telling us to do.
Remember, Jesus says to his disciples, "Pray then like this" before delivering these lines. So what is Jesus telling us to do? Change the way we pray, and pray for God to glorify himself.
I know for myself - and I know I'm not alone - that so much of my prayer has nothing to do with the glory of God. Regrettably, in much of our prayer, we're actually asking God to endorse our pursuit of self-focused little glories. But we phrase it in a way to make it sound not so selfish:
- "God, give me wisdom at work ... (so I can make more money and acquire more power)"
- "God, alleviate my financial woes ... (so I have more money to spend on the pleasure and possessions that will make me happy)"
- "God, help my child to be more respectful ... (so that my evenings will be more peaceful so I can get the things done that I want to get done)"
- "God, work in the heart of my spouse ... (so I can finally experience the marriage of my dreams)"
- "God, give me a better relationship with my neighbor ... (so he will like me enough to make his dog quit trampling on my flower beds)"
- "God, please heal my body ... (so that I can do the physical things I love to do)"
We need to change the way we pray. The first thing we should do in prayer is to ask God to glorify himself, or love himself, more than anything else. But doesn't that seem selfish and narcissistic of God? I thought he was generous, selfless, and loved the world so much. These are all very good questions, and worthy of answers.
First, don't evaluate the character of God as you would a human being. God is not a man and cannot be judged by the same standards he has set for human beings. For a human to be obsessed by his own glory would be a horrendous spirit of pride and self-aggrandizement. But not so with God. God is a being of a different kind, in a position unparalleled in the universe.
Second, if God were to deny his own glory, he would cease to be God. To be God, he must be above and beyond every created thing. Willingness to subjugate himself to anything other than himself would cause him to no longer be Lord over all.
Third, God's zeal for himself is the hope of the universe. If God would forsake his glory (and therefore, his glorious purposes), all of his promises would have less value than the paper on which they were printed, and the hopes for the salvation of every sinner would be dashed.
Finally, by calling us to pray for God to glorify himself, Jesus frees us from our self-destructive addiction to self-glory and the endless catalog of false glories that comes with it. God's unshakable commitment to his own glory is the most loving thing he could ever do for us. It's what redeems us from us and breaks our bondage to all the things in life that we wrongly think will give us life but lead only to emptiness and ultimately death.
I hope this helps you to change the way you pray!
Paul David Tripp
- How much of your prayer is dominated by own pursuit of glory? Review your recent prayer requests.
- How can pray for God to glorify himself right here, right now? Come up with three specific things to pray for this week.