Praying with Jesus: The Purpose of Prayer

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“God’s ultimate goal will only come through prayer.” So concludes John Piper after briefly surveying the prayers of the New Testament. And what is that “ultimate goal”? When his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, Jesus began by showing that they should pray, before anything else, for God’s glory to be known throughout the earth.

Luke 11 and Matthew 6 offer slightly different renditions of the Lord’s Prayer, possibly because they were given on different occasions. In Luke 11:2, responding to their plea to teach them to pray, Jesus said to his disciples, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come’” (Luke 11:2). Matthew includes an additional clause: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10).

Whichever account you look at, the purpose of prayer, according to Jesus, is to glorify God’s name and to ask for divine help to accomplish this goal on earth.

Too often, our prayers betray a consumeristic approach to the Christian life. We bring our wants and needs before the Lord, which is not wrong in itself, but we do so while neglecting to pray about God’s kingdom purposes. The result is fervency in prayer when there is a pressing burden but neglect of prayer when our immediate needs are met. Only when we properly embrace God’s kingdom purpose will we pray properly, passionately, purposefully, and productively.

Jesus stated the purpose of prayer like this: “Father, hallowed be your name” (Luke 11:2). This is more than a simple accreditation of praise to God. In praying these words, we do not merely praise God because he is holy. Instead, we ask that his name will be regarded as holy throughout the world.

But how will God’s name be so hallowed? Jesus adds, ”Your kingdom come.” The kingdom of God has been defined as God’s rule in man’s heart. When Jesus returns physically to earth one day, it will not be to commence his rule but to consummate it. He rules presently in and through his people. His kingdom increasingly comes as his church makes disciples. This is therefore a Great Commission prayer. It is a prayer that people will recognise and bow to God’s authority in Christ. As people do that, God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. That is, in the same way that all heaven unchallengingly submits to God’s authority, so submission to his authority is the hallmark of his kingdom coming to earth.

Obviously, this will only happen as the gospel reaches the lost. If God will reign in the hearts of men and women, we must take the message of the kingdom to them.

God’s priority is to be glorified. As Piper says, “The most passionate heart for the glory of God is God’s heart. God’s ultimate goal is to uphold and display the glory of his name.” Our prayers should reflect his purpose.

What dominates your prayer requests? When people ask how they can pray for you, how do you reply? When the church asks for prayer requests, what do you submit? Your brothers and sisters in Christ are thrilled to pray for health, studies, job applications, and relationship goals, but they would equally love to pray for your evangelistic and discipling endeavours.

Does the glory of God in the nations dominate your prayers? The church exists on earth to make disciples of Jesus Christ in all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). Our passion for God’s purpose is manifest in our commitment to pray for this purpose.

All Christians should share this Great Commission purpose. Our prayers must be fused with it. We are a part of something great. God has afforded us opportunity to be involved in hallowing his name and seeing his will done in earth as it is in heaven. Is that your all-consuming passion? Will you allow it to inform your prayers?