As you’ve figured out by now, my favorite orientation to prayer is Ole Hallesby’s Prayer. I promise this is my last post on this classic.*
* Not a guarantee
I once took a vacation to Switzerland to pay a visit to the old patriarch, Samuel Zeller, in Männedorf. He ran a “spiritual sanatorium” on the shores of Lake Zurich for people who desired rest, not only for their bodies, but also for their souls. Zeller was an unusually gifted man, both my nature as well as by spiritual endowment. Yet my strongest impression was that of Zeller in prayer.
I have never heard anyone pray as he did, although I have heard many who were more emotional and more fervent when they prayed. Zeller, on the contrary, was quiet and confident while he prayed. He knew God well, and for that reason he was confident. I have never hear anyone expect so much of God and so little of his own prayers as he did.
Every day he prayed for many people and for many things. But as I listened to these prayers of his, I realized that he prayed only one prayer: namely, that the name of God might be glorified.
Oftentimes he would pray for miracles, but never without adding, “If it will glorify Your name.” Nor was he afraid to pray for instantaneous healing, but always with this provision. He made no attempt to dictate to God or to force Him by His own promises. Miracle-working prayer was not to Zeller a means of escaping tribulation; it was only a means of glorifying the name of God. For that reason he would often say, “If it will glorify Your name more, then let them remain sick; but, if that be Your will, give them power to glorify Your name through their illness.”
He did not only pray that way for others. While he had been so instrumental in healing others, Zeller himself was affiliated with a dangerous inner ailment, which might at any time cause his own painful death. But he knew that he was called to glorify God through his ailment.
Here I was privileged to see more clearly the purpose of prayer: to glorify the name of God. If we will make use of prayer, not to wrest from God advantages for ourselves or our dear ones, or to escape from tribulations and difficulties, but to call down upon ourselves and others those things which will glorify the name of God, then we shall see the strongest and boldest promises of the Bible about prayer fulfilled also in our weak, little prayer life.
Therefore, whether you pray for big things or for little things, say to God, “If it will glorify Your name, then grant my prayer and help me. But if it will not glorify Your name, then let me remain in my predicament. And give me power to glorify Your name in the situation in which I find myself.”
Some may think this will weaken the power and the intensity of our prayers. But this is due to a misunderstanding of prayer as a whole. To pray is to let Jesus come into our need. And only by praying in this way will we succeed in opening our hearts to Jesus. This will give Him the opportunity to exercise His power on our behalf, not only as He wills but also when He wills.
We should not be afraid when praying to God to express a definite desire, even though we are in doubt whether it is really the right thing to pray for or not. We should pray for definite things, for those which we feel a strong desire to speak to our heavenly Father. But at the same time we should do as Jesus did and add, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
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