In Jonathan Edwards’ book Religious Affections, he lobbies for the premise that Christians operate chiefly as pilgrims here on earth, with our hearts passionately enflamed from heaven (i.e. Religious Affections). Even further, Edwards argues that God supernaturally keeps “making up the difference” of our earthliness and his heavenliness. In speaking of this grace Edwards writes: “their grace is the dawn of glory; and God fits them for that world by conforming them to it.”
One of the ways in which Edwards suggests that God does this conforming is through the privilege of prayer. When we pray we are not to think that we are somehow informing God of his perfections, as if he was not aware of his prevailing holiness, goodness, justice, love, mercy, & all sufficiency! Nor are we telling God something he does not know in terms of our finiteness, dependence, and unworthiness that we might somehow convince God to do the things that we ask.
But rather, prayer is used by God in the lives of believers to mold, prepare and affect the hearts of his children “with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask.”
Edwards is connecting a pivotal dot here for us. So often we see in the Psalms, the Psalmists bemoaning their respective plights, only to meditate and extol God’s attributes, with the result being a worshipful recognition of divine goodness upon the receipt of answered prayer, whether or not the answer is ‘favorable’ to the petitioner (cf. Ps. 116; 118; 121; 123; etc..).
I love thinking about prayer in this way, as a spiritual cardio workout. When we pray we are massaging our hearts with the pressure of God’s eternal perfections and subsequently producing in us the enduring praise to the glory of his grace. Prayer both prepares and sustains affections. In preparing our hearts it works to mold our imperfections closer to the perfect image of Christ and in sustaining it ignites within us an enduring passionate appreciation and pursuit of the glory of God.
So then one might rightly say prayer is for us, but prayer is for God.
Enjoy prayer today, knowing that it is producing in you an affectionate longing for heaven, where heaven’s King reigns, and where one day all of his saints will be joined together before his indescribable throne to ascribe glory, honor and praise to the Lamb who sits exalted.