The True Purpose of Prayer

It's time to praise the Lord!

 

This is to my Father’s glory… — John 15:8

When I was growing up, my family spent two weeks every summer at a Christian camp that catered to families and singles of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It didn’t matter what denomination you came from, or whether you liked traditional or contemporary worship; we were united by a love of Scripture, a belief in the power of the Holy Spirit, and a desire to draw closer to Jesus.

I remember the older woman who came every year from someplace in New Jersey. If you asked her what time it was, she never looked at her watch. Instead, her face would light up and she’d say, “It’s time to praise the Lord!”

At the time, I thought she was a little bit crazy. I mean, I usually did want to know what time it was so I wouldn’t be late for lunch, arts and crafts, or the goofy worship-slash-exercise class held outside on the lawn, called Devotion in Motion. Sometimes, though, I didn’t really care what time it was. Sometimes I just wanted to hear her say it:

It’s time to praise the Lord!

The phrase seemed funny then, coming at random intervals and when there didn’t seem to be any reason for praise. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve begun to realize that old gal was onto something. It’s always a good time to praise God — particularly when you may otherwise feel discouraged, anxious, or weak.

Which happens, right? There are plenty of times when we may not feel like giving God praise, times when grief, disappointment, worry, or even just plain old fatigue fills the radar screen of our emotions. But as my friend Sara Hagerty says, that’s actually the best time to adore. “Adoration,” she writes, “never requires us to shut down our emotions. On the contrary, it invites us to bring them — all of them — to God. God does not want our polished pretenses… He wants us to come honestly. So He invites us to wrestle.”1

And as we wrestle — as we show up and (as Sara puts it) “sing your way into the truth”—something happens. The very act of praising (even when we don’t feel like it in the midst of our pain) releases the power of God into our lives.

Fern Nichols, founder of Moms in Prayer International, understands this transformation. Praise, she writes, “changes our attitude; brings an awareness of God’s presence; defeats Satan; releases God’s power; brings a victorious perspective; provides peace; wards off the spirits of self-pity, depression, and discouragement; and produces strength in an anxious heart.”2

In short,

praise opens the door to hope.

When we look at our lives through the lens of God’s character, everything shifts. Problems that once loomed impossibly large start to shrink. Everything finds its place in light of God’s attributes: His perfect holiness reveals our flaws; His mercy allows us to confess them; His faithfulness emboldens us to come before Him with our every need… which sets the stage for His glory.

When we call on God, releasing His power through our prayers and our praise, our lives become places where He can perform. Our careers, our marriages, our finances, our friendships, our health — all of these venues, and more — are opportunities for God to showcase His splendor. That’s what Jesus is talking about in John 15:7-8 when He tells us to “ask.”

This is to My Father’s glory,  He says, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.

“The true purpose of prayer,” writes R. A. Torrey, “is that God may be glorified in the answer.”3

How fitting it is, then, for us to begin our petitions with that end in mind. How natural it is for us to come before God — to enter His courts — with praise.4 And how comforting it is to know that there is not a single need we will face that God is not able, through His very nature, to address. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are uncertain, He is omniscient. When we need guidance, He is wise. When we know we’ve blown it, He is redemption and grace.

In the prayer prompts to follow, you’ll find a collection of concerns — places where we need God to show up in the face of things like anxiety, loneliness, and grief — and Scriptures that reveal His presence there. If you don’t see your particular need in the mix, try working your way through the psalms. You’ll discover a God who is sovereign, powerful, omnipresent, faithful, full of wisdom, and more. Or use the alphabet as a praise prompt, thinking of words — Awesome, Beautiful, Counselor — that describe who God is. (I like to do this when worry and fear try to keep me awake during the night. I start naming God’s names — and I’m usually asleep again before I get beyond G or H!)

God longs to reveal Himself — His character, His attributes, His nature — to us. Our struggles are His entry points, places where we can witness His goodness, His comfort, His power.

Call on Me when you are in trouble, He says, and I will rescue you, and you will give Me glory.5

And you will give Me glory. In other words, it doesn’t matter where we are or what sort of trouble we face. My little old camp friend was right: it’s always time to praise the Lord.

Read

➢ Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)

➢Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

➢ Through the praise of children and infants You have established a stronghold against Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)

Reflect

➢ God wants to satisfy us with His presence. He longs to show us His goodness and let us know how much we are loved. As C. S. Lewis put it, “It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men… In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”6

➢What has been your experience with praise? Do you hold back, wondering, as Lewis once did, why an Almighty God would need, or crave, our worship “like a vain woman wanting compliments”?7 Do you wait to praise until you have a reason to rejoice? Or are you comfortable with the idea of “wrestling” in praise, worshiping God even in the midst of doubt, worry, or pain?

➢ Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into praise. Read the psalms; sing an old hymn or a new chorus; let your adoration spill onto the pages of a prayer journal, along with your questions or pain. God welcomes it all. “Come near to Me,” he says, “and I will come near to you.”8 Open your heart and enjoy God today.

Respond

Heavenly Father . . .
➢ You are my PROTECTOR. You are a SHIELD to those who put their trust in You. (Proverbs 30:5)

➢ You are WISE. Your UNDERSTANDING has no limit. (Psalm 147:5)

➢ You are ALL-POWERFUL. You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You. (Jeremiah 32:17)

➢ You are a FAITHFUL FRIEND. You will never leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5)

➢ You are my COMFORT. You bind up the brokenhearted and comfort all who mourn, giving us the oil of joy and a garment of praise in place of the spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1–3)

➢ You are my GUIDE. You will guide me along the best pathway for my life. You will advise me and watch over me. (Psalm 32:8 NLT)

You KNOW me. You know everything about me. You know my thoughts; You know everything I do; You know what I’m going to say even before I say it. You place your hand of blessing on my head. (Psalm 139:1-5 NLT)

➢ You are the God of HOPE. When I am weary or discouraged, You fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in You so that I will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

➢ You are my HEALER, physically and emotionally. You forgive all my sins and heal all my diseases. You heal my broken heart and bind up my wounds. (Psalm 103:2-3; 147:3)

Whatever I need, You are ABLE to bless me abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that I need, I will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

➢ You are MERCIFUL. Because of your great love I am not consumed, for Your compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

You are my STRENGTH. I do not need to be fearful or dismayed because You have promised to strengthen me and help me; You will uphold me with Your righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

You are TRUSTWORTHY. You are my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in You, and You help me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise You. (Psalm 28:7)

➢ You are my HELPER in my weakness. Even when I do not know how to pray, Your Holy Spirit intercedes for me. (Romans 8:26)

  1. Sara Hagerty, Adore: A Simple Practice for Experiencing God in the Middle Minutes of Your Day (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2020), 32, italics original.
  2. Fern Nichols, Every Child Needs a Praying Mom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 61.
  3. A. Torrey, How to Pray (Chicago: Moody, 1900), 75.
  4. Psalm 100:4.
  5. Psalm 50:15 NLT.
  6. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1958), 93, 97.
  7. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 93.
  8. James 4:8.

Excerpted with permission from Praying the Scriptures for Your Life by Jodie Berndt, copyright Jodie Berndt.

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Your Turn

Praising God through the anxious times takes resolve! We must, as believers, decide that we’ve decided! Praising Him when things are easy is easy! Praising Him and trusting when it’s chaotic and worrisome is a whole new level of spiritual maturity. Are you ready to level up, friends? Let’s do it! ~ Devotionals Daily

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a popular speaker and author of several books, including Celebration of Miracles and Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens. She is also a former writer and producer for The 700 Club, and she is cofounder of Changing Seasons (www.changingseasons.com), a speaker series that equips today’s women to lead lives marked by purpose, grace, and joy. She and her husband, Robbie, have four children. They live in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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