Jim Hamilton has written an excellent book of biblical theology that has encouraged and confronted me in how I read the Bible. He’s shown me things I never saw before and rewired lots of misunderstandings I’ve collected through years of surface-level reading. Here though, from the final pages, is how he applies his thesis (God’s ultimate purpose is his glory in salvation through judgment) to prayer:
Prayer is motivated by the knowledge of God. If we know God as he is, we will cry out to him. If we know him to be holy, we will cry out to him for justice. If we know him to be forgiving because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we will cry out to him for mercy. If we know that he delights to glorify himself by giving victory to the weak and humble while defeating the proud and strong, we will rejoice in our weakness as we cry out to him for deliverance. We will expect him to act as he always has and exalt the lowly while humbling the proud. We will pray for him to do so, and we will rejoice that only he can take credit for his triumphs. We will pray for him to triumph, and we will ascribe glory to him when he does.
When we know God in his justice and his mercy, we will not shrink from praying the imprecatory psalms against those who are enemies of God and the gospel. We can pray that God would be glorified in salvation that comes through judgment. We can pray that God would either save his enemies or do whatever necessary to thwart their efforts to stop the advance of the gospel. We should pray that God would either convert those who purvey smut or destroy all their efforts to ruin lives, destroy families, exploit women, ensnare the young, and enslave the souls they lure into filth. We should pray that God would save them through judgment for his glory as they hear the gospel and repent, and we should pray that if they are not going to repent, his judgment would fall swiftly on them and stop their program of defilement.
God is glorified when we pray and the godly in the Bible often appeal to God’s concern for his own glory. So should we. We should pray to God because his name is at stake in our churches. His gospel is at stake in our marriages. His reputation is at stake in the purity of our pastors. His renown is on the line when we open the Bible and seek to explain it. We should call on him to act for the sake of his name–to visit us with such an outpouring of his Spirit that we might see a great awakening in our day to the glory of his justice and mercy in Christ. May the Lord fill our churches and raise up a great testimony to his name.