There Is No ‘I’ in Prayer

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Even though we have permission to be familiar with God, we should never forget to whom we are speaking.

(Excerpted from 40 Days of Discovery, a devotional series written for Fellowship Community Church in Centennial, Colo.)

I went to see a really bad movie recently. It was so bad, in fact, that I am embarrassed to mention what it was. So, it will heretofore be known as “that nameless move” or “TNM.”

In TNM, there was a very unpleasant man who set himself up as king, As most real kings do, the pseudo-king had a right-hand man (RHM). And, as is standard for most RHMs, this guy was getting a little too big for his britches. At one point in TNM, the RHM contradicted the king on a decision, and then spoke about what “we” should do with the kingdom. Apparently that made the faux king very unhappy, as evidenced by the quick draw of his sword. “We?” he said. “There is no ‘we,’ there is only ‘me.’ Never, ever forget who it is you are talking to!” The king then proceeded to do various swordy things to the RHM that best remain unspoken.

Now, I understand that writing about unspoken acts carried out by anonymous characters in a nameless movie might seem somewhat vague to a few of you. But, believe it or not, there is a point. God wants us to speak to Him, and in a familiar way. Paul even grants us permission to call our Lord “Abba”—Daddy. (Romans 8:15) What a privilege to approach the throne with the confidence of being a kid of the King!

However, even though we have permission to be familiar with God, we should never forget to whom we are speaking. And this is one of the great benefits of incorporating worship into our prayer time. When you start out praising God for His majesty, His creation, His love, His justice and His sovereignty, it’s a great reminder that while you may be speaking to your heavenly Father, you are also speaking to the Almighty God.

So, practically speaking, how do you speak words of worship in your times of prayer? One suggestion is what I have just mentioned. Pray through God’s attributes. Thank Him for His grace, then take some time to think through what His grace means to you. Thank Him for His mercy, then take time to think through the ramifications of His mercy on our world. Thank Him for His justice, then take time to bask in the encouragement that even though it sometimes seems like the bad guys are winning, God will someday put things to right. That meditation on God’s characteristics takes our worship out of the realm of just the mouth and puts it into our hearts.

A second suggestion is to pray Scripture. Bob Sorge in his excellent book Secrets of the Secret Place strongly advocates this method of personal worship. Take a passage of Scripture (the Psalms work great) and slowly read it through, phrase by phrase. After each phrase, stop and think through what you’ve just read and verbalize to God whatever comes upon your heart. Sorge says that in giving us His Word, God has “given us a way to bypass the self-centered, human-based, pity-filled praying toward which our souls want to gravitate. We can step into His mind, His thoughts, His expressions, His priorities and pray according to His will from His Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is the promise of 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”

A good rule of thumb in our quiet times is to begin our prayers with the words “You are” instead of “I am” or “Will You.” This will make sure we never forget that it’s God we’re talking to.

List five qualities of God and thank Him for each one, telling Him what it means to you.

Using the method described above, pray through Psalm 8.

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. 3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5You made Him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned Him with glory and honor. 6You made Him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under His feet: 7all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, 8the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 9O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

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