Prayer – First order: Praise God’s glory
November 17, 2022
The types of prayer can be broken down from three to many, depending on how picky we want to get. Thanks, confession, petition. Petition can be prayer for self and others (intercession). Thanksgiving can be praise and thanks; praise, adoration, and thanks … There is a number of ways that we could break it down. For now, we’ll go with three.
Basic types of prayer:
Upward: praise and thanksgiving.
Inward: confession with assurance of love.
Outward: petition for self and others.
We could expand and clarify. I see inward prayer as also seeking God’s Person, or exploring the truth of His word with Him. We are only classifying so we have a basis for learning. In practice, headings like this melt away, but we need to maintain them so that we can evaluate any weaknesses or missing elements of our prayer lives.
Praise and thanksgiving focus on God’s Person. Our inward prayer results in confession of sin as well as weaknesses and flaws, all for the purpose of overcoming and experiencing God’s grace to its highest in assurance of His love and forgiveness, and pursuance of His holiness. Outward prayer focuses on our needs and the needs of others in the world. These all increase in purity and effectiveness as we persevere in them over the rest of our lives, and often enough entail struggle that we must endure through.
We’ve already done some work on these. They deserve more. I have come to see that this study of prayer is more than the act of praying. It is also a study about ourselves. It is a study of what kind of people pray for the right reason and in the right manner. Much of this study includes our own view of God and what about ourselves we need to cultivate and what we need to discard.
We will take these three in turn in the next classes. The first is quite appropriate for the upcoming holidays.
Prayer of praise and thanksgiving should come first in all prayers.
In the Lord’s prayer, praise comes first (before confession).
“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 'Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.’”
After some practice of the structure of prayer that the Lord gave us, we easily see the genius in always praising God first.
If our own flaws are drawing us to prayer, attending to God’s perfect holiness will enable us to see our problem in the proper light. Then we can confess for the right reason while seeking the proper result.
We seek relief from the burden of sin and confession is that relief, but it isn’t just loss of pressure that we should be after.
We should also be after humility and submission to the holiness of God. We should be seeking the foundation of our actions as well, why did we do what we did. Along with humility, we will find the path of overcoming patterns of sin that would otherwise rule us for the rest of our lives if all we’re doing is hitting a relief valve. Pressure builds - we release - pressure builds up again - we release - and onward. We never find the means of removing the pressure.
And how easy is the means of doing it? Very. Praise God first, and once you have sufficiently done so, then confess. If you do this, you will see exactly what I mean. Do this day in and day out for the foreseeable future, and you will someday find that those once common pressure increases haven’t been around for a while.
And it’s not just confession that has to wait; everything does.
Our petition, supplication, intercession (all synonyms), if they wait until after we praise our Father in awe of Him, we will realize our dependence upon Him and that whatever we receive from Him must only be for His glory and not our own. It will alter your supplication in ways that correspond with God’s will.
In all kinds of prayer, we are after the glory of Christ in us.
Ask, “What good result will come if the request is granted?”
Sometimes, when we rush headlong into petition about our problems, as we go through them, we are burdened with anxiety and fear thinking solely about the problems. It’s the problem that is first in our minds. However, if we were to praise God to His glory first, we would see His goodness and wisdom and power – we would see His faithfulness to us in the past – then He would be first and the problem would be seen through Him. How does the problem look now? You realize that you can easily put the issue in His hands and know that on your end is simply to follow Him in obedience and love. The burden comes off of you and onto Him. We know it well:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Praise is the alpha prayer.
Praise and adoration (thanksgiving is included) are the necessary preconditions for the proper formulation and motivation of all the other kinds of prayer. This is the alpha prayer. It doesn’t mean that it is a sin to run right to confession or petition, but it does mean that in your overall prayer life, praise of the Lord to His glory must have first place.
What many have not figured out (including Pastor Joe):
Praise is the only way to a purely healthy life.
In a chapter in his excellent work, Reflections of the Psalms, C.S. Lewis admits that at the beginning of his Christianity he could not understand why people told him that he must praise God and that God indeed demanded it. He writes, “We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence, or delightfulness; we despise still the crowd of people round [them].”
Praise the Lord, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
2 For His lovingkindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the Lord is everlasting.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord;
Praise Him, O servants of the Lord,
2 You who stand in the house of the Lord,
In the courts of the house of our God!
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself,
Israel for His own possession.
5 For I know that the Lord is great,
And that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
7 He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain;
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.
When we say, “Our Father who is in heaven, sanctified be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” or some version of it that speaks the same, we are saying what these and all the praise psalms are saying. Pause in the midst of these words, or after them, and praise the Lord yourself, in your own words, with intensity, and if you don’t feel it, search for it, search the reason why or what is in the way, for the reality of all human life demands it and indeed depends upon it.
Lewis admits that he wondered, “What I most want is to be told that I am good and great,” and he wondered at the hideous nature of this. Worse, he saw the many psalms indicating that the saints will praise God because He has done something for them.
David writes after yet again escaping death in the wilderness:
Willingly I will sacrifice to You;
I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.
7 For He has delivered me from all trouble,
And my eye has looked with satisfaction upon my enemies.
Even the quantity of praise seems to count for something.
Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous ordinances.
We often say that it is right to praise Him. At first this doesn’t help much. But after some discovery about the essence of God, we come to understand how true it is, and in understanding it, we rejoice again and again, because we have found the reality of life in the midst of a whole world filled with the pseudo-life of existing.
Without truly praising God, one only has the pseudo-life of existing.
Still, ‘right’ is not the best way to express this. It is much more than a duty. It is an epiphany; a realization of the most magnificent and incredible thing the world has ever seen (or in too many cases, not seen).
This is more easily seen in inanimate objects.
“What do we mean when we say a picture is admirable? We certainly don’t mean that it is admired, for bad work is admired by thousands and good work may be ignored. Nor that it ‘deserves’ admiration in the sense in which a candidate ‘deserves’ a high mark from the examiners - i.e., that a human being will have suffered injustice if it is not awarded. The sense in which the picture ‘deserves’ or ‘demands’ admiration is rather this; that admiration is the correct, adequate, or appropriate response to it, that, if paid, admiration will not be thrown away, and that if we dod not admire we shall be stupid, insensible, and great losers, we shall have missed something. In that way many objects both in nature and in art may be said to deserve, or merit, or demand, admiration.” [Lewis]
To admire God is to be awake, to have entered into the real world.
Not to appreciate God is to be in the unreal, which means loss of experience, to have lost everything. The beautiful things in the world, that the sane people all claim should be admired, are all created by God, and are but faint images of His own beauty.
God is the great object of admiration behind all other beauties and magnificence, and so to praise and admire Him would be “simply to be awake, to have entered the real world,” while not doing so would be to become far more profoundly crippled than those who are blind, deaf, and bedridden.
There is something else as well. When you find anything great or enthralling, you have an almost visceral, instinctive need to praise it to others and get others to recognize it. “Listen to this!” you say to a friend. “I can’t wait for you to see this,” … or, “read this! Isn’t it great?”
Our joy in something we consider truly great and inspiring is not complete until we express our praise of it.
Why, when we have had our imaginations captured by something, do we unavoidably need to do this?
If lovers never told one another that they loved them, or that they were beautiful or valuable, even though they very much felt this way, their enjoyment of one another would be incomplete. We need to express what we find wonderful to complete our praise and happiness. To keep it bottled up inside is to lessen it, and I think, eventually destroy it. Even when we praise someone inadequately, which we often do, our delight is complete and our relationship is a reality of love and devotion. This is true of encouragement, forgiveness, comfort, etc., our service in the love of others is incomplete if it remains inside of us and is not expressed.
We must praise God to complete our happiness, or else live in unreality and poverty.
We cannot merely believe in our minds that He is loving or wise or great. We must praise Him for those things - and praise Him to others - if we are to move beyond abstract knowledge to heart-changing engagement.
Cranks praise God and others the least. The humble give out praise to others easily, and they praise God in prayer, and indeed openly and verbally when the occasion demands it, which is more often than we think.