The Chief End of Prayer
I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in
my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
That the Son may bring glory to the Father. For this reason Jesus on His throne in glory will do all we ask in His name. Every answer to prayer He gives will have this as its object: when there is no prospect of the Father being glorified, He will not answer. As with Jesus, the essential element in our petitions must be the glory of the Father—the aim, the end, the very soul and life of our prayer.
When Jesus was on earth, He said, ‘‘For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me’’ (John 6:38). In these words we have the keynote of His life. In the first words of the high-priestly prayer He expresses it as well: ‘‘Father . . . glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you’’ (John 17:1). ‘‘I have brought you glory on earth . . . glorify me in your presence’’ (John 17:4–5). The ground on which He asks to be taken into glory is twofold: He has glorified Him on earth; He will glorify Him in heaven. What He asks is only to enable Him to glorify the Father more. As we agree with Jesus on this point, and please Him by making the Father’s glory our chief object too, our prayer cannot fail to be answered.
Jesus said that nothing glorifies the Father more than His doing what we ask. He will not, therefore, let any opportunity slip by for answering these prayers. Let us make His aim ours. Let the glory of the Father be the link between our asking and His doing. Prayer like that must prevail.
This word of Jesus comes indeed as a sharp two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and is quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. Jesus in His prayers on earth, in His intercession in heaven, and in His promise of an answer to our prayers, makes this His first object—the glory of His Father. Is it so with us? Or are self-interest and self-will the strongest motives that urge us to pray? Or, if not, do we have to confess that the distinct, conscious longing for the glory of the Father is not what animates our prayers?
Not that the believer does not at times want to pray with that motive, but he grieves that he seldom does. He knows the reason for his failure: the gulf between the spirit of daily life and the spirit of prayer was too great. We begin to see that the desire for the glory of the Father is not something that we can stir up and present to our Lord only when we prepare ourselves to pray. Only when the whole life, in all its parts, is surrendered to God’s glory can we really pray to His glory. ‘‘Do it all for the glory of God’’ (1 Corinthians 10:31), and ‘‘Ask all to the glory of God’’—these twin commands are inseparable. Obedience to the former is the secret of grace for the latter. A life yielded to the glory of God is the condition for the prayers that Jesus can answer.
This demand in connection with prevailing prayer—that it should be to the glory of God—is no more than right and natural. There is none glorious but the Lord; there is no glory except His and what He gives to His creatures. Creation exists to show forth His glory. All that is not for His glory is sin and darkness and death. Only in glorifying God can creatures find glory. What the Son of Man did—give His whole life to glorify the Father—is the simple duty of everyone who is redeemed. He will also share Christ’s reward. Because Christ gave himself so entirely to the glory of the Father, the Father crowned him with glory and honor, giving the kingdom into His hands with power to ask what He will, and as Intercessor to answer our prayers. And just as we become one with Christ in this, and as our prayer is part of a life utterly surrendered to God’s glory, so will the Savior be able to glorify the Father to us by the fulfillment of the promise ‘‘I will do whatever you ask’’ (John 14:13).
A life with God’s glory as our only aim cannot be attained by any effort of our own. Only in Christ Jesus is such a life seen, but through Him it is also possible for us. Yes, blessed be God! His life is our life.
The discovery of self as usurping the place of God and the confession and denial of self-seeking and self-trusting is essential—but we cannot accomplish it in our own strength. Only Jesus can cast out the self-glorifying life and give us His own God-glorifying life and Spirit. As His presence comes in to dwell and reign in our hearts, Jesus who longs to glorify the Father by hearing our prayers will teach us to live and pray to the glory of God.
What motivation will urge our slothful hearts to yield themselves to our Lord to work this in us? Surely nothing more is needed than a vision of how gloriously worthy the Father is. Let our faith learn to bow before Him in adoring worship and ascribe to Him alone the kingdom, the power, and the glory. May we yield ourselves to dwell in His light as the ever-blessed, ever-loving One. Surely we will be moved to say, ‘‘To him be glory both now and forever’’ (2 Peter 3:18). Then we will look to our Lord Jesus with a new desire for a life that refuses to seek anything other than the glory of God.
When there is only prayer that cannot be answered, the Father is not glorified. It is our duty to live and pray so that our prayer can be answered and so glorify God. For the sake of God’s glory, let us learn how to pray.
How humbling that so often our joy or pleasure in prayer for someone or something is far stronger than our yearning for God’s glory. No wonder there are so many unanswered prayers. Here is the secret: God cannot be glorified when His glory is not our object. He who would pray the prayer of faith must live so that the Father is glorified in him in all things. This must be his aim. Without this, there can be no prayer of faith.
‘‘How can you believe,’’ Jesus asked, ‘‘if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’’ (John 5:44). Seeking our own glory with men makes faith impossible. The deep selfsacrifice that gives up its own glory and seeks the glory of God alone, and that awakens in the soul spiritual sensitivity to the divine—that is faith. Surrender to God to seek His glory and the expectation that He will display His glory in hearing us are one. He that seeks God’s glory will see it in the answer to his prayer.
But how shall we attain to it? Let us begin with confession. Has the glory of God been an all-absorbing passion? Have our lives and our prayers been filled with it? Have we lived in the likeness of the Son and in agreement with Him— for God and His glory alone?
Let us wait on God in prayer until the Holy Spirit reveals it to us and we see how we have sinned in this regard. True knowledge and confession of sin is the sure path to deliverance.
Looking to Jesus, we can see by what death we can glorify God. In death He glorified Him. Through death He was glorified with Him. By dying, being dead to self and living to God, we can glorify Him. This death to self, this life to the glory of God, is what Jesus gives and lives in each one who can trust Him for it. Let nothing less than these—the desire and decision to live only for the glory of the Father as Christ did; the acceptance of Him with His life and strength working it in us; the joyful assurance that we can live to the glory of God because Christ lives in us—let this be the spirit of our daily life. Jesus stands to support our living in this way. The Holy Spirit is given and waiting to make it our experience, if we will only trust and let Him. Let us not hold back through unbelief, but confidently take as our watchword: All to the glory of God! The Father accepts the will, and the sacrifice is pleasing to Him. Then the Holy Spirit will seal us within with the consciousness that we are living for God and His glory.
What quiet peace and power there will be in our prayers when we know ourselves, through His grace, to be in perfect harmony with Him who promises to do what we ask: ‘‘That the Son may bring glory to the Father’’ (John 14:13). With our whole being consciously yielded to the inspiration of the Word and Spirit, our desires will be no longer ours but His, with their chief end the glory of God. With increasing liberty we shall be able to pray: ‘‘Father, you know that we ask it only for your glory.’’
The condition for answers to prayer, instead of being like a mountain we cannot climb, will give us the greater confidence that we will be heard, because we have seen that prayer has no higher blessedness than that it glorifies the Father. And the precious privilege of prayer will become doubly precious because it brings us into perfect unison with the Son in the wonderful partnership He proposes: ‘‘You ask, and I do, that the Son may bring glory to the Father.’’
Blessed Lord Jesus, I come again to you. Every lesson you teach convinces me more deeply how little I know how to pray in the right way. But every lesson also inspires me with hope that you are going to teach me and that you are teaching me not only what prayer should be but also how to pray as I ought. Lord, I look with courage to you—the great Intercessor, who prays and hears prayer—only for the Father to be glorified. Teach me also to live and to pray to the glory of God.
To this end I yield myself to you again. I would be nothing. I have given self to death, as already crucified with you. Through the Spirit, self ’s workings have come to nothing. Your life and your love of the Father are taking possession of me. A new longing begins to fill my soul that every day, every hour, in every prayer, the glory of the Father may be everything to me. Lord, I am in your school to learn this. Teach me.
God of glory, the Father of glory, my God and my Father, accept the desire of a child who has seen that your glory alone is worth living for. Lord, show me your glory. Let it overshadow me. Let it fill the temple of my heart. Let me dwell in it as revealed in Christ. Fulfill in me your own good pleasure, that your child should find glory in seeking the glory of the Father. Amen.
Andrew Murray, Teach Me to Pray (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2002).