In my opinion, the most important work Jonathan Edwards ever produced was a short, difficult and philosophically dense treatise called The End For Which God Created The World. I think many Christians who are aware of the Edwards/Piper stream of reformed theology have a vague impression that the basic thrust of the argument in this work is that God created the universe “for His glory,” but are nonetheless unaware of how specific and concrete the theological vision articulated here actually is. But that is for another time!
Here, I simply make mention of a brief observation made by Edwards in the second half of the book (focused on the biblical data, after a more philosophically-inspired look at “what reason teaches” in the first half of End). Among the hundreds of scriptural texts he assembles in defense of the idea that God creates, sustains, judges, and saves for His glory–and, with infinitely more importance, describes in painstaking detail what that means–Edwards offers an offhand insight about what motivates prayer among those who know God that I find to be breathtakingly practical.
First, here are some of the passages that Edwards points his readers to:
Psalm 30:8-10—“To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!”
Psalm 88:9-12—“My eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”
Psalm 115:17-18—“The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!”
Isaiah 38:17-20–“ Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness. The Lord will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the Lord.”
Psalm 106:47—“Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, so that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.”
Having noticed a recurring theme which appears throughout these prayers, Edwards concludes: “The argument seems to be this: Why should we perish? And how shall Thine end, for which Thou hast made us, be obtained in a state of destruction, in which Thy glory cannot be known or declared?” (Dissertation Concerning The End For Which God Created The World, p. 496; Yale version)
Countless other prayers in the Bible follow this basic pattern. This is the sort of prayer (when it is heartfelt and authentic) that appeals to the one true God, for it coheres both with His own character as well as the ultimate rationale behind our own existence. How often do we follow this sterling example in our own seeking after the Lord? A worthwhile compendium that contains many of them can be found in James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, pp. 352-53. Of course, another good source is the second half of Edwards’ brilliant End For Which God Created, which I hope to write much more about in the future.