I’ve been staying with prayer this week. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the spiritual discipline of staying with a message. You can check it our here. The idea is that we might be better served by keeping our focus on something that God is saying to us rather than rushing to the next bible study, the next message or the next idea. If we let God drive a message deeper into our hearts, we might find that it does more good than bouncing to something different.
Last week, I wrote about praying differently. You can catch up on that here. The basic idea was that our prayers are normally consumed with our physical and material wants and needs. The prayers of the Bible tend to have a different focus. Those prayers are spiritually focused. Now, it’s fine to pray for your needs and whatever is weighing heavily on you. God encourages that we pray about everything. Go for it. Philippians 4:6,7 is a good proof text for that idea. But, there are weightier prayers that focus on our spiritual life that address our greater needs.
I focused on praying along the lines of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 this week. The thing that really impacted me was the simple commitment to give praise and thanks to God. When I go to prayer, I find that I usually rush the praise to get to the important business of asking God for what I need. I switched that around this week and lingered on praise and thanksgiving. I discovered something pretty amazing.
Praising God diminishes my sense of need.
Here is how it worked for me. I didn’t give God some quick thanks and then move on. I chose to work at giving thanks. That might not sound very spiritual, but if you are like me, you blow by things without deliberate intent. Growing in Christ takes deliberate intent. That is why most people don’t grow much. They expect it to just happen because they walk through the doors of a church once a week. It doesn’t work that way. Choose it. I chose to stay with praise and thanksgiving in my prayer time. All I did was start naming things that I know about God and titles given to God in the Bible. It went like this:
You are the Rock
You are the Redeemer
You are all powerful
You know everything
You are surprised by nothing
You are the giver of salvation
You are generous
You are love
You are perfectly wise
You are the Good Shepherd
You are greater than all others
You are a warrior
You fight for me and none can defeat you
You know me
You care for me
You are concerned for me
You are the Prince of Peace
You are the Mighty God
You are the Ever Lasting Father
You have all power
And obviously, you could go on and on. Two things happened as I began listing and praising God for these types of things. People and situations would come to mind that connected with the various attributes that I was mentioning. For example, as I praised God for being the Prince of Peace, I might think of someone who is really wrestling with a stressful situation and ask God to bring them the peace that only he can offer. It creates a wonderful time of prayer.
The other thing that happened that really blew me away was that as I praised God and reminded myself of who God is, my own sense of need diminished. The worry that I often carry over the details of my life was replaced with that peace that transcends all understanding because God’s ability dwarfs any need that I possess. Read through the list that I made or just begin making your own and then realize this: that God is your God…that God lives in you…that God is on your side…that God is deeply devoted to you…that God is greater.
I always love the fact that God is so generous that he turns everything into something for our benefit. We thank God because He deserves it. We do it as an act of worship because he commands it, yet God is so lavish with his love that he returns our blessing with his blessing. Spend some devoted time to praising God this week. Force yourself to linger in thanksgiving and see what God does with it.