LESSON 2: THE MOTIVATION FOR PRAYER, GOD'S GLORY
Without going into the subject of God’s glory in detail, let’s try to understand it in the context of prayer.
“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good....” Genesis 1:28a (NIV).
“Good” is an abstract word. What does it mean? All the words the dictionary uses are also abstract - morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, of high quality, well-behaved etc.
In the Hebraic understanding of “good”, it meant “functional”. Everything God made was functional - in perfect working order - even man!
Now substitute “functional” for “good” in this sentence - “God is good - God is functional.”
If God is functional, what is His function? What is He supposed to do? He is supposed to put His glory on display.
God is about Himself and He always does everything for His glory. Does that sound egotistical? If God were not stuck on Himself He would not be the greatest being in the universe. There would be someone greater than He.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” Romans 11:36 (NIV).
God said that everything He had made was good, including man. That means that man was functional. What was his function? Just like the rest of creation, his purpose was to put God’s glory on display.
“...everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:7 (NIV)
God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good (functionality) and evil (dysfunctionality). He did not want them to experience dysfuntionality because it would bring dysfunctionality into the whole cosmos. To disobey was to become dysfunctional.
Question: In the context of our discussion, what does it mean to be functional and dysfunctional?
1. WHAT IS THE GLORY OF GOD?
Moses asked God to show him His glory (Exodus 33:18). He thought it would be something he could see.
“And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness (functionality) to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’” Exodus 33:19-20 (NIV).
The glory of God, in essence, is His character of mercy and compassion.
“Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed His name, the LORD. And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.’” Exodus 34:5-6 (NIV).
God’s glory is the motivation for our ordinary living
Since Jesus has reconciled us to the Father and restored us to His family as His sons and daughters, our ordinary, everyday behaviour must be functional. The Apostle Paul instructs us to do everything for God’s glory - ie to put His character on display through our behaviour and attitudes.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV).
God’s glory must be the motivation for our praying as well
If we are to be functional in everything we do, that must include prayer. Does the Bible teach us to pray so that God‘s functionality is put on display?
Yes, it does.
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask anything in my name and I will do it.” John 14:13-14. (NIV).
Prayer that is self-seeking and self-serving is not prayer “in the name of Jesus”. The name of Jesus is not a magic formula. It regulates what we pray for according to His nature and His purpose. Prayer that does not have God’s glory in view does not qualify as prayer.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3 (NIV).
God orchestrates our needs in order to test our hearts and to display His character through the answers
If we will allow Him , our needs are His opportunity to show us what He is like. Instead of whining, complaining or making demands, we have the opportunity to release our situations to Him and watch what He can do.
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commandments. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:2-4 (NIV).
God was angry with His people because of their unbelief; they murmured and complained instead of trusting Him.
“Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD.” Psalm 106:24-25. (NIV).
Question: In what ways can we put God’s glory on display?
2. HOW DID JESUS PUT GOD’S GLORY ON DISPLAY?
Jesus saw every need as an opportunity to put God’s glory on display
He directed His disciples, not to the cause of the man’s blindness but to the opportunity to put God’s glory on display.
“‘Neither this man nor His parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:3 (NIV).
He saw the sickness of Lazarus, not as ending in death but as an opportunity for God to display His glory and the glory of His Son.
“When He heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so the God’s Son may be glorified through it.”’” John 11:4 (NIV).
We put God’s glory on display by imitating the way Jesus lived, acted, spoke and treated people that mirrored the Father.
Jesus and Paul related the formation of God’s character in us to prayer
When God answers our prayers according to His word, we bear the fruit of His character (Galatians 5:22,23), which reflects His glory in us.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:7-8 (NIV).
Paul said that, with the help of God’s Spirit in prayer, He works for the good of those who love Him in every circumstance, remaking us into the image of His Son.
“In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches hour hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:26- 29 (NIV).
Question: How does God develop our character through prayer?
He teaches us such things as patience, trust, perseverance, confidence and dependence as we wait on Him to do what brings Him honour. It is the fruit of character that glorifies Him (John 15:7,8)
1. God is functional - He does everything for His own glory.
2. He created man to be a reflection of Him by putting His glory on display.
3. Everything man does, including prayer, is meant to show off God’s character.
4. God only answers prayer according to His will and for His glory.
5. God orchestrates needs so that the answers put His glory on display.
6. Jesus used every opportunity to glorify His Father through meeting people’s needs.
7. God answers our prayers in order to shape us into the likeness of Jesus.
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