Prayer includes admiring God, appreciating what he has done, and asking for him to act in areas of need. Our wants and needs (or those of others) can serve as access ramps to praying God’s desires. Agreement with him is at the heart of our prayer authority. And when we want what he wants, that desire draws God’s well done!
A work can have the outward signs of success, but score zero with God if it’s driven by impure motives. God doesn’t measure the value of an action purely by its outcome; he is interested in the desire behind it. When what we want lines up with what pleases him, the Lord applauds our desire. So, we have his well done on our asking, even before we receive the answer. We might not actually be around to see the fruit of some of our asking, but we know that our desire for it draws praise from the Lord.
After seven years, Solomon’s temple-building project was done, and the king called for a massive dedication gathering in Jerusalem. The ark of the Lord’s covenant was brought into the Most Holy Place. The sound of cymbals, harps, lyres and 120 trumpets filled the city, while the large choir sang a favourite refrain: He is good; his love endures forever. Then the glory of God came, accompanied by cloud and fire. The weight of his presence filled the temple, interrupting the order of service and the priests’ work (2 Chron chap 5-7).
Here’s the most exciting thing about that event: it was pointing to the living temple that Jesus would build on earth through his death and resurrection! Redeemed lives would be God’s living house of prayer, filled with his presence and displaying his glory in the world.
Solomon built the Jerusalem temple, but it began as a desire in his dad’s heart. And what David wanted was shaped by what God wanted. On dedication day, Solomon made it clear how the Lord felt about David’s desire:
My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the name of the Lord. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my name.’ (1 Kings 8:17-18)
David didn’t build it or live to see it happen, but he carried a well done from the Lord because his heart hosted God’s desire for it. And by doing that, David was also serving a much larger desire of God: the future birth of his eternal, living temple-house.
The Lord has given us authority to ask him for big things, but not by routinely voicing a list of prayer points. He entrusts us with desire; this longing for what he wants is prayer’s central pillar. So, in praying for Israel’s salvation, Paul speaks of his heart’s desire and prayer to God (Rom 10:1).
Our praying serves the answer’s arrival, which might come immediately, or after our lifetime. But, even if we don’t get to celebrate the answer now, we carry the inner witness of his well done for desiring what he wants.
Desire for what God wants lifts prayer from the obligatory, I must pray and the dutiful, I will pray to the enjoyment of wanting to pray.
Ponder the value
Desire grows by pondering the value of the object of desire.
E.M. Bounds in The Necessity of Prayer writes: Desire must be made intensely personal, must be centered on God with an insatiable hungering and thirsting after Him and His righteousness. The indispensable requisite for all true praying is a deeply seated desire which seeks after God Himself.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Psm 42:1-2)
- Ponder the Lord, think about his worthiness. Focus on one thing about him you value, and pray your admiration of him.
- Let admiration overflow into hunger for the Lord. Desire to want him more – tell him of your longing to know him more, be closer to him, please him, hear his voice and see him more clearly.
Desire WITH him
- Highlight one prayer need – a personal or family issue, a local or global crisis or a missional breakthrough in a target nation.
- Don’t rush into asking the Lord to act. Instead, take time to ponder the value God places on the answer that you want to ask for. Our grasp of the value is imperfect, but let his Spirit and Word in you build up the weight of importance he places on that answer. That is, what it will mean to those prayed for, to those who witness it and, most of all, for his renown.
By pondering the value of the answer, we are drawn deeper into the Lord’s desire for it. Then, when we ask, we know that we are doing so to the sound of his well done.