John brings in another great purpose of prayer—our joy. John 16:23–24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Everything we have said so far applies here—only here Jesus says that God answers prayer “that your joy may be full.” How do the aim of prayer to glorify God and the aim of prayer to bring us joy fit together? They fit together because if we find our joy in seeing God’s glory and in the manifestation of that glory for others to see, then when he is glorified, we will be glad. And when we are glad in his glory, he is glorified all the more.
So in all of these three texts, Jesus is calling us to serious, joyful, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying prayer in 2009. So I am joining him in that call: Would you set your heart to pray more earnestly and more seriously and more joyfully and with greater discipline in 2009 as you put your faith in your Mediator, Jesus Christ, and seek to exalt God as glorious in your life?
I have three practical suggestions.
- First, set aside a set time each day, and don’t leave prayer to chance.
- Second, I suggest you combine it with reading the Bible and that you take what you find in the Bible and turn it into prayer.
- Third, I suggest that you pray in concentric circles and make the aim of each circle the glory of God. You can work from outside in, or from inside out. For example, pray for your own soul, then for your family, then for your friends and colleagues, then for your church, then for wider ministries and the global mission of Christ, and then for the political leaders of the land. And let what you ask be at least partly shaped by what you just read in the Bible.
But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.
The Duty of Prayer
And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? Do I go to pray with many of you on Tuesday at 6:30 a.m., and Wednesday at 5:45 p.m., and Friday at 6:30 a.m., and Saturday at 4:45 p.m., and Sunday at 8:15 a.m. out of duty? Is it a discipline?
You can call it that. It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey. It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.