Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Prayer Priority (Part 4)

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory…” – Psalm 115:1

            This post is the second to final devotional installment on prayer. I can never get deep enough into prayer, especially as I get older and more tired. And the more I ponder and commune with the Lord, prayer becomes joyfully serious fellowship, worship, and relationship. I cannot separate prayer with God from fellowship with God. Pondering afresh on the prayer Jesus taught as Luke records it, Jesus entire opening sentences of the prayer is a straight-forward exclamation of worship: “Father, hallowed be Your name” (Luke 11:2). That is, it is an expression of praise, and it reflects God’s own priority: “I am the LORD, that is My name, I will not give My glory to another” Isaiah 42:8. Jesus established the truth that prayer is worship by beginning His model prayer that way.

            To worship God is to “Sing the glory of His name” (Psalm 66:2). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name” (1Chronicles 16:29; Psalms 29:2; 96:8). “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). Such expressions capture the true spirit of a worshiping heart.

            What this first sentence does to any petition, as we have discussed in Part 2 and 3, is it qualifies every other petition in the prayer. It rules out asking for things “with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). It eliminates every petition that is not in accord with the perfect will of God. In the words of Arthur Pink:

“How clearly, then is the fundamental duty in prayer here set forth: self and all its needs must be given a secondary place and the Lord freely accorded the preeminence in our thoughts, desires and supplications. This petition must take the precedence, for the glory of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things; every other request must not only be subordinated to this one, but be in harmony with and in pursuance of it. We cannot pray aright unless the honor of God be dominant in our hearts. If we cherish a desire for the honoring of God’s name we must not ask for anything which it would be against the Divine holiness to bestow.”

            As we dig deeper into the expression, “Hallowed be Your name,” let us consider for a devotional moment, “What does that expression mean?” We still use the expression “my name” in that sense at times. If we say someone has ruined their good name, we mean that person has disgraced himself or herself, and thus spoiled their reputation. They have diminished others’ perception of who they are. And if I give you power of attorney, I have authorized you to act “in my name.” You thereby become my legal proxy, and any legal covenants you enter into are as binding on me as if I signed them myself.
            That is precisely what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray in His name: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). He was delegating His authority to us to act as if we were His emissaries when we let our requests be made to known to God.

            This is a built-in safeguard against the misuse of His name for our own self-aggrandizing purposes. Note in John 14:15, that immediately after Jesus delegated His authority of His name to His disciples, He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (v. 15). He then restates the principle with all the necessary qualifications just one chapter later in John 16:7: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (emphasis added). Therefore I must be careful to not be so flippant with God’s name, throwing it around wistfully, cheaply and an over-familiarity. He is our loving Father, yes, but I also remember that His name is holy. The fatherhood of God in no way diminishes His glory, and I believe that when we find ourselves thinking that way, we think and believe correctly: “Father, hallowed be Your name.”

            By teaching us to begin all our prayers with a concern for the name of God to be hallowed, He was teaching us to pray for God’s will over and above our own. Antagonistic to the prosperity gospel, were not created to enjoy prosperity in a fallen world. We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We ought to be more concerned for the glory of god than we are for our own prosperity, our own comfort, our own agenda, or any other self-centered desire. I believe, based on this examination, that’s why Jesus taught us to think of prayer as an act of worship rather than merely a way to ask God for things we want.

Source: Pulpit Magazine, Premier Issue. Oct 2012. Vol. 1 No. 1. Ipad version.

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