Lately I have been frustrated with my prayer life. I really want to see it go to another level and not just routine or ineffective. I have been asking the Lord to do a work in this area, and prayer is always the best way to start when we need help. God’s sovereignty has led me to two different studies and sermon series on prayer and I’m seeing God do a work already.
The first point that really struck me was a teaching that talked about the Lord’s prayer. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” - Luke 11:1-4
In the teaching, the preacher said, “Don’t start asking.” Is that how I begin any of my prayer times, asking? How much of our prayer time does that consume, our asking? It’s not how Jesus started; He started with praise. When we start with asking, the focus is on us, on what concerns us, either for ourselves or even for those we care about, but it’s still earthly matters. And God wants to transform our hearts in prayer to go from thinking of us first, which is our default, to thinking about God first and His kingdom.
Why do we need to refocus our minds and hearts in the beginning of prayer? Because we need to remember who it is we are praying to, the Almighty God. He is the one who created the universe and earth by His word. The One who is righteous, Holy and above all things. We need our perspectives changed first, to realize afresh that our God is bigger and more powerful than any of the issues, problems, obstacles or mountains we are about to ask Him to intervene on our behalf. If we don’t do this first, we will doubt and worry and the peace we seek as we cast our burdens upon the Lord will elude us. It’s also to remind us who’s in charge – Him, not us.
I struggle with giving praise in my prayer time. I run out of things to say. I even struggle with giving compliments to people; it’s not natural for me to come up with a bunch of different things to say to someone about their character, which is what praise is. I’m not talking about thanksgiving, where we acknowledge and thank God for doing this and that – but praising Him for who He is or His mighty deeds in the world.
So my prayer was, “Lord help me to praise you.” God is so good; He reminded me of a book I had read last year called, To Him who sits on the throne, Praising God with the Scriptures, by Mike Thomas. The entire book is just a list of scriptures praising God separated into different categories. The author put this book together after being convicted that he could rattle off the verses on different promises, but couldn’t rattle off any verses of praise. He said it was because promises are for him, praises are for God, but he was all about him.
This was so helpful to me in so many ways because where I am weakest, God provides such a practical way through His word for me to be able to praise Him in my prayer time. God’s word teaches us how to praise Him for who He is. And the connection to love the Lord with all my heart and to know Him better is also answered through praise. In the intro of the book, it said, “Praising God, knowing God, loving God, are all one and the same.“ The first chapter title even said, “Preparation in prayer and meditation.” I love when God so specifically answers my prayers. And each time He does, I see and know Him and love Him more and intimacy continues to grow.
May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” – Psalm 70:4
Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! – Psalm 66:20
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. – Isaiah 25:1
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! – Psalm 115:1
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. – Psalm 63:3
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10
And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.
- Ephesians 1:19-22
Those are just a few verses that we can meditate upon and give praise to our God. Every time we come into prayer, let us begin not with asking but with praise and acknowledgement of the God we come to ask, trusting that as we put the Lord first, He will already take care of the burdens upon our hearts. Use His word, through the Psalms or books like this to help and spend time meditating on the Lord and who He is. His word can teach us what to say and how to praise our God. And this will be the first step in powerful, transformational, mountain moving prayer and that’s ultimately what I want to see in my life.