God-Centered, Self-Centered Prayer
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)
Prayer is the very heart of Christian Hedonism. God gets the glory precisely because He shows Himself full and strong to deliver us into joy. And we attain fullness of joy precisely because He is the all-glorious source and goal of life.
We do not glorify God by providing His needs, but by praying that He would provide ours- and trusting Him to answer. Some may say that this is self-centered. But what does self-centered mean? If it means I passionately desire to be happy, then yes, prayer is self-centered. But is this a bad thing, if what I cry for is that God’s name be hallowed in my life? If my cry is for His reign to hold sway in my heart? If my cry for His will to be done in my life as it is done by the angels in heaven? If I crave the happiness of seeing and experiencing these things in my life, is that bad?
How is the will of God done in heaven? Sadly? Burdensomely? Begrudgingly? No! It is done gladly! If I then pray, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, how can I not be motivated by a desire to be glad? It is a contradiction to pray for the will of God to be done in my life the way it is in heaven, and then to say that I am indifferent to whether I am glad or not. When the earth rejoices to do His will and dies it perfectly, His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The pursuit of happiness in prayer is radically God-centered. In my craving to be happy, I acknowledge that at the center of my life there is a gaping hole of emptiness without God. This hole constitutes my need and my rebellion at the same time. I want it filled, but I rebel at God’s filling it with Himself. By grace I awake to the folly of my rebellion and see that if it is filled with God, my joy will be full.
When we think about all that God created, we must ask ourselves, “For what purpose did He create all that He has created.” Did He do so without reason and for no one.
The Bible says that God created everything for His glory.
For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him.
But God didn’t create all that He created to enjoy by Himself. Genesis tells us that once God finished creation, He chose to create man in His image and gave to that man all that He had created.
Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” So God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to all the animals on the earth and to every bird of the air and to everything that moves on the ground—to everything in which there is the breath of life— I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so [because He commanded it].
So we might say in the plan of God is the underlying desire of God is to bless and provide for and give an abundant life to His creation.
Having said this, when we come to God in prayer asking Him to help us, meet our needs or bless us, it is not that we are imposing on Him. Instead we are honoring Him and glorifying Him. When Jesus healed the blind man, He declared He did so in order for God to be glorified. Every time Christ met a need while He was on earth He brought honor to the Father.
It sounds upside down for us as humans, but every time we go to God in prayer and trust Him to answer, we are bringing glory and honor to Him especially when we testify how He has brought us through.
There are those who would have us to believe that God is so busy with all the big problems in the world, that we ought not bother Him with our little needs. But this does not glorify God. Rather it belittles Him as though He cannot take on the big problems of the world and at the same time also hear our cry as one of 7.9 billion people on the planet and meet our insignificant need also.
Every father knows the thrill of being viewed as the hero in the eyes of his children. There’s no feeling like that when you hear your child tell their friends that their dad can do anything. There can never be an award or honor bestowed upon a dad that this honor from his very own children. When the children of God look upon Him with that awestruck gaze of wonder as they experience His power and pleasure of answering their prayers. The strategy of the devil is to attempt to make God appear unable or unwilling to bless His children and unfortunately religious people often fall into that very trap. To not ask God to help us in our need or to give us strength and help is to some degree rebellion. It is like the child who attempts to through off the love and protection of their parents so they can be independent only to find in the end they really need that love and protection. It’s literally the story of the prodigal son. In the end he realized that he needed his father and especially his father’s love.
So let me encourage us to honor and glorify God by asking Him for all our needs and desires.
Delight yourself in the Lord, And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.
32 Do not be afraid and anxious, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
So let us become that little child who implicitly trusts God to answer our prayers and meet our needs with delight and joy. Let us honor and glorify God with our asking and our seeking. What a beautiful thing it is when that childlike awe meets the overwhelming love and care of the Father.
Dr. John Thompson