Have you ever found your prayers to be consumed with all things YOU? According to a LifeWay survey, many people have that same focus. I want to share two things that will help our prayers! And I am sure you are wondering what the guys in the picture have to do with prayers. Trust me, I’ll get to that!
Prayers and the Center
There are several things about ourselves we don’t like to admit. Two of them are:
- I am a fallen, sinful creature
- My world revolves around me
Number 2 flows from number 1. This is one reason God gave us a ‘formula’ for worship! In Psalm 100, God’s instructions provide invaluable insight:
- Come into His gates with thanksgiving
- Into His courts with praise
In Old Testament worship practice, the first thing people encountered at the Tabernacle or the Temple was the outer gate. That’s the beginning point of the worship God prescribed. Worship begins with giving thanks. There’s a real good reason for that!
When people passed through the gate, they came into the outer court. Of course, the very center was the Holy of Holies and only the High Priest could enter there. But there was a progression and it holds insight for our prayers as well as our worship.
To be thankful, one must turn attention away from self. By doing so, the focus then becomes the One Who is the Giver of the things for which we express thanks. When we properly and humbly recognize Him for Who and What He is, then praise of Him is the next logical step. My worship is no longer centered on myself but on Him.
Prayers Turned Outward
Ever find that prayer doesn’t seem exciting or inviting? The reason could be an out-of-line focus on self. We can and should take our personal concerns to our Father. But the focus of our prayers should go far beyond ourselves. When that doesn’t happen, we can easily become disinterested. And every parent has seen/heard a ready-made example of this!
As Christmas is approaching, children can recite their ‘want lists’ at the drop of a hat. And as the days go by, reciting the list seems a little less exciting. Is there an example there for our prayer life? I think there is. Our prayers can easily sound like their Christmas lists. Isn’t that what we sound like when every petition in our prayers is:
Lord, give me…Father, provide for me…Lord, grant me…
One more time, those prayers are OK. Don’t misunderstand. But those prayers should be accompanied by prayers for God’s Kingdom purposes (Your Kingdom come, Your will be done), for others (the lost), discipleship (new Christians who need to grow), your nation and culture (leaders, gov’t), and your church.
Prayers and the Picture
The post image is from last week’s Pastor Training School in Barahona. That was the morning section and the picture was taken on the last day of class. Let me offer a suggestion. If you want to shift the focus of your prayers, try praying for these guys. And let me tell you something that may surprise you. They pray for you! How do I know that? I asked them to! Why would I do that?
These pastors and their churches are doing a phenomenal job of implementing what we teach them. They are hungry to learn and eager to practice. They know our work with them depends on the people who support this ministry. And furthermore, they are grateful for that and they pray for it to continue. But it has now gone beyond that.
One of the younger pastors came to me last week with an astounding request/idea. He is very glad to pray for you and our ministry with pastors. But he wanted to do more. He asked how he and his church could give financial support for our teaching ministry.
Just to be clear, that is something we NEVER talk about with them or suggest to them. From their viewpoint, help is freely available. But they also know we can’t do what we do without expending a great deal of time, effort, and dollars. I was at a loss. This was a beautiful request from someone who is poor in earthly things, but rich in grace. There is a lesson there for all of us! His prayers and desires were not limited to himself.
It will bless you to not limit your prayers to yourself. So, pray big, pray beyond, and be sure to ask for those things that only God can do! Why? Because He delights in doing far above what we can ask or imagine. Take Him up on it. I dare you!