It’s easy to launch into prayer. We drop to our knees or bow our heads and off we go. The words roll off our tongues as we unburden ourselves before God like the stereotypical patient on the psychologist’s couch. Or, we might start ticking off our requests like a kid on Santa’s lap. Even our expressions of praise and thanks can seem hollow and rehearsed.
We can pray without giving attention to the One we are praying to. We pull up to the drive-through speaker to place our order and advance to the window to await the outcome of our requests.
Surely God has more for us in prayer than that!
He does indeed. It starts with focus. If you were to sit with a friend, you’d recognize that person as a friend and it would set the tone for your conversation. The same way if you were a student called into the principal’s office or a son out to breakfast with his father. Or, imagine if you sat opposite the President of the United States or your favorite sports star or celebrity. Awareness of the other would color the conversation.
Now, picture yourself coming before the God of all creation. He made all that is. He spread the stars in the heavens, determines their course, and calls them each by name. He holds the oceans in the hollow of His hand.
On top of that, this God is your Father in heaven. He paid for your sins through His Son, Jesus. He rescued you from the downward slope to hell you were on. He’s taken you to Himself as His adopted son or daughter. He has withheld no blessing from you that Jesus procured.
How would that change your prayer life? Praise and adoration would be natural, reflexive. Thanksgiving would pour spontaneously off your tongue. The struggles of your life would take on new character, perhaps not be as large. They would not be as oppressive in the face of the God for whom nothing is impossible. The things you want may not be as urgent or as unyielding in the presence of an all-wise Father who knows best. Silence would be sanctified as you lingered in the presence of the One who loves you and is present with you in grace.
Nowadays with the curtain of the temple torn from top to bottom, with the immediate access we have to the throne of grace, we can come before God rather nonchalantly, even cavalier. The priest of the Old Testament had to go through all sorts of ceremonial preparation to enter the holy of holies. We don’t. Jesus is our Mediator, our 24-7 access.
The first step to a transformed prayer life is to focus our gaze of faith on the One we are approaching in prayer. We must make eye contact with God.
How do we do that? We do that by reflecting on the character of God, reviewing His mercies, rehearsing the wonders of our salvation in Jesus that brings us to Him.
The Queen of England holds a multitude of titles. But just saying “Your Royal Majesty” sets the tone. God reveals Himself to us by a vast array of names, titles and descriptions. We can employ these in helping us make eye contact with Him.
For example, listen to how Jehoshaphat begins his prayer:
“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” 2 Chronicles 20:6
And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 2 Kings 19:15
The psalms provide us a repository of rich vocabulary to help us make eye contact with God in keeping with His glory and also our need. He is El Shaddai to the impotent. He is the Good Shepherd to the hurting and wandering.
Bring these expressions to your consciousness. Ponder them in your heart. Savor them in your spirit. And when you feel your eyes have met God’s, speak.