Are you a list maker? A few weeks ago, I conducted a Twitter poll to see how many people habitually make lists. I was astounded at the comments it generated. Many people said they included tasks they’d already done just so they could feel good about crossing something off their list.
Lists help me keep things straight with my dual writing career. I also make grocery lists. (Hey, I want to walk out of the store with everything I need.)
That’s also how we often approach prayer. Here’s my list, God. Please give me everything I need right now.
I did that big time recently when I trekked to an eye specialist north of St. Paul. Up at 5 a.m., I navigated ridiculous stretches of highway construction then hit 7 a.m. stop-and-go traffic through downtown St. Paul. For the first half of my trip, I prayed in practical terms for guidance and protection. “Show me which of the six lanes I should be in when I need to exit.” “Set a hedge of protection around my car.” “Grant the eye doctor Your wisdom and discernment.”
While all that was needful (and God is gracious with those requests), I was praying my perspective, not God’s.
Judaism defines prayer as “the work of the heart,” which shifts prayer from entreating God to act to adoring God for Who He is.
Pray for a divine appointment
With apologies to God, I shifted gears. I asked God to step in to my appointment. To create a divine opportunity to bring Him glory, whatever form that might take.
And it happened in the optical department.
I saw the same optician who’d helped me two years ago. Back then he was dating a gal he seemed serious about. He was amazed that I remembered those details. But he was thrilled that I noticed the band on his finger. He beamed as he told me about his honeymoon, even with his car breaking down on the way home.
Then he asked me if I’d published my book! How could he have remembered that from two years ago? As we chatted about the book industry, I mentioned my author website. When I said something about my Esther blogs, his eyes lit up. He punched my URL into his computer, scanned the blog titles, said he would read them all and share them with his wife. Then we had a great conversation about the Bible and history. (!!)
I’m not sure who was encouraged more by that exchange. It was a God-blessed time.
That shouldn’t surprise me. When we pray God’s will, He answers. Every time.
Master the fundamentals of prayer
If you’re a football fan, you likely know that legendary coach Vince Lombardi started each training camp with, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” In other words, “Mastering football fundamentals is your first and foremost responsibility.” Our time on earth is God’s training camp for us, and we need to master the fundamentals of our walk with Him.
Especially prayer. The disciples knew Jesus’ ministry and theirs hinged on something more powerful than traditional Jewish prayers. When they asked Jesus how to pray (Luke 11:1-4), He taught them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer—then He included it in His Sermon on the Mount so everyone would learn how God wanted them to pray (Matthew 6:5-14). Not with loads of words, but with the right focus. Not with a God-to-do list in one fist but with an open hand and heart to adore the great I AM.
The first half of the Lord’s Prayer reveres and honors God. The last half talks about being in right relationship with God and others. Sandwiched between those halves is one simple sentence asking God to give us whatever we need today.
God knows our needs, and He yearns for us to talk with Him about them. In His grace, God accepts our grocery-list prayers. But we skip a prayer fundamental if we start with our list. Prayers lack power unless we put His priorities first—like David did in Psalm 29: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.” Amen!
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Verses (Notice how each psalm starts …)
- “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145:1)
- “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. (Psalm 34:1)
- “It is good to praise the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High, to proclaim Your loving devotion in the morning and Your faithfulness at night (Psalm 92:1-2)
Songs that capture the wonder of entering God’s presence: