There is an aspect to the life of every believer which needs constant attention and practice. It is something that can be a practiced blessing of the youngest Christ-follower or a source of frustration for the most seasoned saint. Christians are commanded, in no uncertain terms, to do it all the time, yet many of us struggle to understand its correct application. It is an absolute essential for a healthy relationship with the Lord, but to most of us it becomes a mundane, if not all together ignored, ritual.
Have I been cryptic enough? What’s this so very important practice of the Christian faith? I’ve been thinking about this essential action for quite some time and have come to the conclusion that, because of my own selfishness, it will always be a challenge in my life – and possibly yours as well.
It is prayer. This simple, yet not so simple, act is such a part of our Christian lives it is almost ubiquitous. We pray to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior; we pray to confess our sins; we’re even commanded to be in constant prayer.
pray without ceasing; 1 Thessalonians 5:17
And here is where the problems can start. Unless we are careful in how and why we pray, it is very easy to slip into the habit of treating God like a giant ATM in which we insert our prayer and expect Him to spit out whatever we request. We take a verse like John 14:14, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” and become mystified if not a little disappointed that God doesn’t just pop out that new job or fancy car we prayed for when we ignore the context of the verses around it and don’t even consider what would bring God glory in our situation.
So here’s where we come to the big challenge. The next time you set aside for concentrated prayer, try to pray the entire time without once asking for anything for yourself. In fact, try praying for just 10 minutes without asking for anything at all. If you find this difficult perhaps you have fallen into the “gimme” pattern of prayer.
You might say, “It’s not prayer if I don’t ask for something – and you’d be wrong. Prayer with no supplication (a fancy word for asking for stuff) is, in its simplest form, worship.
Let me suggest this exercise… a challenge if you will. Pray for 10 minutes just praising God for who He is. The easiest way to do this is by running down a list of His divine attributes – in other words, what makes Him, God. I go through the list of 12 characteristics of God, praising Him and standing in grateful awe of each. There are no requests here – just praise and worship.
Here’s my list… First spend 5 minutes in awe of what He is in His essence. These may be called His Natural Attributes because they reflect His divine nature.
- Triune – (3 in 1) Loving Father, Saving Son, Empowering Spirit
- Non-material – (Spirit) Although I can’t see Him, I worship Him and only Him
- Immutable – (Eternal and Unchanging) He is the same God of wonder now as He was in the Old and New Testaments.
- Omni-present – (Everywhere) I can’t hide from or be hidden from Him
- Omni-potent – (All Powerful) He can do anything and does all things (be careful here not to slip into asking Him for stuff) He is ALL-mighty
- Omniscient – (All Knowing) There’s nothing He doesn’t know and nothing He doesn’t know about me
Can you see where this praise for what God is like can take us… to thoughts of wonder and worship? He is God and worthy of our worship! Worship – without having our hands out in any kind of request.
Now, I spend the next 5 minutes thanking Him for what He’s like as a person. These are called His Moral Attributes.
In His relationship toward me, God is…
- Sovereign – (Freely & Independently in Control) He doesn’t have to ask permission or be limited by any other power
- Veracious – (True – Unable To Lie or Deceive) I can completely trust Him and His Word
- Holy – (Pure) His motivations and actions toward me are above reproach or blame
- Just & Righteous – (Right Acting) All His actions will be absolutely the correct and best thing
- Merciful – (Loving) For no other reason than His love, He always offers me a way to escape the punishment I deserve for my sins
- Gracious – (Providing) Because of that same love He offered me the free gift of grace that changed my life and brought me into fellowship with Him
This prayer will be a fast 10 minutes but you will be focused on the Lord and worshiping Him for what He is and what He’s like. It may be the best worship you’ve had for a while… quite literally prayer with a capital “P.”
Of course the difficulty and challenge is to not fall into the habit of just asking, asking, asking.
I’m not saying that asking the Lord for important things in your life is wrong. I am saying that we need to be careful not to only bring requests to the throne of God – requests for things we think we need or want. That’s an imbalanced view of “praying without ceasing.”
Will you accept the challenge and start treating your prayer time with the capital letter “P” and giving it the time and consideration Almighty God deserves?
Think about it…