Tuesday, March 28

Prayer and Praise

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all." --1st Chronicles 29:10-11

I grew up next door to my mom's parents, which meant that I was over at their house quite often. Just to be silly, my Grandma wouldn't always give in to our requests if all we said was "please". She wanted to hear us say "Please Grandma, you're thin and beautiful." This little trick worked for almost everything from asking for another cookie to requesting that the hem of a dress be taken up. Even though we both knew it was just a funny thing to say, I always liked the smile and hug that I received for praising her with the words she wanted to hear.

Lately I have been challenged to really think about prayer and how my attitude about God is reflected in the way I pray. The church I belong to uses the "A.C.T.S." method for directing congregational prayer. This stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. I generally try to apply this to my own prayer time. I have found myself settling into a habit of mostly just thanking God for things He has done, and then asking Him for other things. I hurry through the A, C, and T portions of my prayer so that I can get to the part that seems most important to me--supplication, i.e., asking God for things.

A meaningful relationship with God is one in which I am not the center of attention. For that reason, I think it would be a good idea to take a cue from some of God's people in the Old Testament, and see how they pray. Almost every time, their prayers begin with the phrase "Praise be to God" or "Praise to the Lord" and then continue to give lots of descriptions of God's attributes that are praiseworthy.

Sometimes it is easy to make our prayers consist primarily of thanking God things. As a friend of mine explained to the Sunday school class the other day, thanking God in prayer is not a bad thing, but it has the potential to keep us focused inward. By focusing on what God has done for us, we are only acknowledging His capabilities and not praising Him for His wonderful attributes.

I think that part of the reason we are prone to thanking God rather than praising God, is because we do not fully know the magnitude of his character. As one praise song says, He is beautiful beyond description. Too marvelous for words. Too wonderful for comprehension. He is all those things and more, and our understanding and knowledge of Him may be restricted to only those things we know about Him through the evidence of the things He does. Nevertheless, if we are to love Him, we are to praise Him for who He is, even if that means standing in speechless awe.

Praising God in our prayer must be sincere. God cannot be "buttered up" by superficial flattery. He won't grant our requests on the basis of how many lofty adjectives we use to describe Him. A prayer of praise is about adoration. When we earnestly seek to praise God and reflect on His awesome character, we are humbled to realize that He allows us to be in His holy presence. He is head over all. He is the holy One, exalted above all creation. He rules heaven and earth in righteousness. I cannot even begin to comprehend all of that.



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