We are by nature selfish people. I hate to say that because I would rather not think of myself as selfish, but there is a very natural bent in all of humanity that can lead us to a self-centered life. Thankfully, our relationship with Jesus and the fruit of the Spirit (agape love) helps to overcome this natural tendency in us. This natural move toward self is evidenced many times by the content of our prayer life. If we could somehow sift through all of our prayers, I believe we would find that many Christians spend the vast majority of their prayer time in asking for help, deliverance, provision, or victory over a struggle. Though there is no way for me to know for sure, I think we might find that most of our prayer life focuses upon ourselves instead of upon God. Do you think that is true?
First of all, we must come to the conclusion that prayer is not ultimately about us. God did not provide for us the wonderful avenue of personal conversation with God just so we would have a means to get our needs met and our happiness quotient filled. For one thing, prayer is the means by which God accomplishes His work on earth. Remember in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” There is one type of prayer that is so overlooked by many Christians that will help us get our prayer life into proper perspective. It is called the prayer of praise.
The prayer of praise is a prayer that simply focuses upon the character of God. We are quite familiar with prayers of thanksgiving, which thanks God for what He has done. Prayers of praise declare who God is. Praise causes us to focus our attention upon the nature of God and remove our gaze from ourselves. Consider the opening words of Psalm 90: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Do you see how the focus of this prayer it totally upon God? It is not a prayer asking God for anything, not that asking is wrong (we’re actually commanded to ask in Matthew 7:7). This prayer does not focus on any personal benefit we receive from knowing God. It is a prayer that declares God’s nature.
As you pray this week, read through the Bible (especially the Psalms) and find examples of prayers of praise. Pray them back to God as your own declaration of His nature. I think we will find that the more we focus upon God, the more we realize His greatness and power. This leads to greater trust and deeper love. It moves us to more consistent obedience and total dependence. Try spending some time in prayer where you only praise God. You may find it difficult but ultimately refreshing.