Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Before you pray, meditate on God. Before you pray, make sure you understand who God is. Focus on God Himself before you focus on your petitions, your hurts, your needs, and your feelings through prayer.
Our tendency is to pray first, then meditate (if meditate at all). When we pray before we meditate, we pray about our problems, our suffering, our anxiety, and our worries. When we pray before meditating, we put ourselves at the center of our prayers: “I’m in trouble! I’m in pain! I’m depressed! I need You to save me from my problems, God!”
We need to learn to put God at the center of our prayers. We need to meditate on the Scriptures that speak to us about God. We need to meditate on the nature of God, the person of God, the wonder of God, the activity of God in human history and in our own lives. Then when we pray, we can put God in the center of our prayers instead of ourselves. “God, You are the Lord of my life and my problems. You are holy and merciful. You are unchanging and dependable. You are all I want and all I ever need in life.”
Do you see how meditating on God completely changes the way we pray? Do you see how it shifts our focus away from ourselves, our problems, and our feelings? Do you see how it causes us to focus on who God is, what He is like, and what He can do? Do you see how meditating on God moves us out of our natural thinking and lifts us to a spiritual way of thinking?
Now perhaps you begin to see what Psalm 77 is all about. The psalmist begins by describing a natural view of his problems. He prays from a natural and self-centered mindset. He begins with the thought, “See how afflicted I am! See how I cry out and nothing happens!” When self is at the center, the heart takes over and the mind is governed by feelings.
But when the psalmist’s perspective changes at verse 11, his prayer changes as well. Instead of being focused on his own pain and self-pity, he focuses entirely on God. There is profound psychological insight contained in this account. Psalm 77 begins with a man who is a slave to his emotions. His anxiety and despair color his outlook on his problems as well as his outlook on God. His emotions have actually brought him to the brink of a total collapse of his faith. When the psalmist takes himself out of the center of his prayers and puts God there instead, his perspective is changed.
You and I are limited beings. If we begin by praying about ourselves, our problems, and our feelings, we are starting out with limited thinking. When we start with God, we start with the fact that God knows no limits. He is the Creator of the universe, the Author of life. All knowledge and all truth are His. By focusing on Him instead of ourselves, we remove all limitations from our thinking and our prayers. All things become possible when you begin with God.
Ray Stedman (1917-1992)