1) Start with Praise
During the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus included instruction on how to pray. When we examine His lesson on prayer, we see that He introduces the principle of praise as the starting place for prayer.
Jesus said, start like this, “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).
Prayer that is meaningful, effective, and joyful is prayer that starts with praise of God. It begins with turning our eyes upon the God we are approaching in prayer and recognizing His character.
When we talk to someone, it’s considered good manners to look them in the eyes, so why should talking to God require any less? Now obviously we can’t look into God’s physical eyes, but we can focus on Him as we begin to pray. Looking someone in the eyes during a conversation is not only good manners it is showing respect and attentiveness to listening.
It is difficult to listen to someone if you’re preoccupied with yourself, dwelling on your problems, or worried about how you appear. When you have problems, turn to the One who can solve them.
The Lord’s Example
When Jesus prayed, His heart and mind was concentrated upon the One with whom He communicated. When the disciples approached the Savior as He was in prayer, they must have taken note of His undivided attention, and felt compelled to ask, “teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
Jesus told His disciples, “After this manner pray…” and following that introduction in Matthew 6, our Lord shared some insights for meaningful, effective, and life-changing prayer, that begin with turning our focus upon the One whom we are approaching.
Prayer that begins with praise of God’s character is meaningful, effective, and powerful. The dictionary uses the words value, approval, merit, adoration, commendation, admiration, and worship to define what praise means.
Starting with praise means that we begin by recognizing the God we are calling upon. We behold Him. We mentally approach Him and pause as we focus upon Him. We think before we speak, we fix our purpose upon Him before we open our mouth, and we praise before we petition.
Prayer that starts with praise is fruitful prayer. When we as sinful fallen humanity turn our eyes upon the attributes of the One who created us, died for us, saved us, and unconditionally loved us, our prayers will radically change us. As we consider His goodness, mercy, kindness, love, and righteousness, our prayers will become channels of His transforming power.
“Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8). Scripture beckons us to come to the Lord in praise and join with the Psalmist in exclaiming “my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5)!
The very first words Jesus taught us to use in approaching God is “Our Father.” He is actually asking us to call His Father, Our Father! What welcome we are given as members of the heavenly family! He assures us of our divine relationship with God.
We do not pray to a dumb idol, a mysterious god, or even an unimpressionable Deity. We pray to a paternal Deity. We pray to a Divine Father God who is neither aloof nor distant, but One who is personal and close. He is our Father. Jesus taught us to come to God and see Him as our Father!
When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we realize that God, our Father, then adopts us. We can call Him Father because He has adopted us. We have been born again into His heavenly family!
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” –John 1:12-13.
When we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior we are then given the right to be children of God!
Adopted by God
When Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father” He is also teaching us that prayer is for the children of God. Satan can not pray to God, because he is not a child of God. There can be no prayer for a person who rejects becoming a child of God.
I am a father of four children, and I can tell you that it is only those four children that my heart and mind has a lasting concern about. There is 16 years between my eldest and my youngest, and I can honestly say that not a day passes that their well-being doesn’t cross my thoughts.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become children of God. Through faith, we become born again into the family of God. We become adopted by God.
The Apostle Paul speaks of this spiritual adoption in this way: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” -Romans 8:14-15.
I happen to be an adopted child, who grew-up with four other adopted children in a family whose adopted father was an adoptee, and one of my four children is my adopted child.
When Scripture says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) I understand that it means that our Father in heaven is assuming responsibility for us and bequeathing every right of His upon us!
Believe in God
If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, then you haven’t been adopted by God, and your prayers are no more than solicitation attempts, telemarketing calls, or random calls to someone you do not know.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, then you have been adopted by God, and your prayers are received by your Father in heaven. He desires a relationship with you as a Father with a child.
Why not pause now and confess your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and know without a doubt that you are a son or daughter of God?
John 1:12 says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” and John 6:47 you have the assurance of Jesus Himself saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life” (ESV).
A Heavenly Father
We must realize that we are not praying to a father like the one we have known on this earth.
I learned later in life that my biological father abandoned my biological mother just after I was conceived. Providentially, I was given up for adoption to a family who instilled in me a passion for prayer.
Your earthly father may have been absent, or abusive, or short in his abilities to parent you, but don’t let your earthly father define your Heavenly Father.
Fathers on this earth are not always perfect. They are limited in their resources. Our children ask for things, and the truth is, if we could afford it, we’d buy it for them. God is not limited as we are.
We pray to the God who is in heaven. He is not on this earth, but in heaven. All the resources of the universe are at His side, at His use, under His control. He is not in need, in want, unable, inept, or handicapped in any way, like an earthly father may be.
It can be painful to watch your children in need. It is painful when a parent can not give their child what they need, because of funds or capability.
The paralytic parent is heart sick by their inability to play with their child. The poor parent is heart sick by their inability to pay for their child’s educational need. The ill parent is heart sick by their inability to earn a wage for his children’s food.
However, our God is above our world and His throne is a Heavenly throne. He is taking care of these issues of humanity in His plan of redemption, but on this side of eternity, know that your God is not limited in His ability to respond to your prayers.
A Name of Character
When my first child was born, I remember proudly standing outside the nursery window staring at my beautiful infant daughter Stephanie.
In my family, there was a tradition of naming children after parents or other family figures, so I was happy to bequeath my name upon my first born.
As I stood there a young mother and her friend approached the nursery glass window and her friend asked, “What did you name her?”
The young mother replied with a unique sounding name and her friend replied, “Why on earth did you name her that?”
To which the young mother said, “I thought it sounded good, it doesn’t mean anything, but I just like the way it sounds.”
Well, I quietly listened to their conversation knowing that my child’s name means something! In fact, God’s name means something.
“And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” -Psalms 9:10.
An individual’s name should mean something. It should have meaning to the one whose name it is. It should have meaning to those who know it. In Bible times, names expressed character. The Psalmist says that they who know the name of the Lord, those who know His true character will fully trust in Him.
Below, you will find eight Hebrew compound names of the Lord that teach us the dimensions of his character. These eight compound names are very beneficial for use in prayer when it comes to fixing our spiritual eyes in prayer on our God.
When you pray, it is not necessary to use the Hebrew pronunciation or even these exact biblical names. It is not the words or letters that matter, but it is His character and glory that matter.
Our Father’s Character
When you start to pray, pause to purpose your prayer upon the character of God. Be conscience of the God you are approaching and pause to consider His character, ability to answer, and authority over the very thing troubling you.
As sinful humans we know the need to approach the one in charge, he who has the authority, or the person that can get it done.
We are smart enough to determine that if we want to take a day off from work, we need to ask the boss, not a co-worker. If we have a medical issue we make a visit to the physician’s office, not the home improvement store. If we want to go ride our bike across town, we seek the permission of a parent, not our infant sibling.
When we pick up the phone to make a call, we consider the person we are calling, don’t we? We consider their position in the organization and their relationship to the reason for the call, their ability to respond on our behalf, and we probably pause to formulate how we will address the one who answers. So why not pause to consider how you will address the One who will answer your prayer?
Compound Names of God
In Scripture we find some names of God that are compound names, because they also reveal a character trait. Below are eight to consider that challenge us to praise the character of God in our practice of prayer.
In Genesis 22:14 we read that our God is Jehovah-Jirah, meaning He is the Lord our Provider: “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day,” In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.”
Are you praying for a physical, financial, or insufficiency need? Is a particular success needed? Is the prayer request regarding a concern for funds to cover the rent and the baby’s diapers? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – your Provider, Jehovah-jireh?
In Exodus 15:26 we read that our God is Jehovah-Rophe, meaning He is the Lord our Healer: “And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that health thee.”
Are you praying for a medical, health, or healing need? Is a particular restoration needed? Is the prayer request regarding the chemotherapy of a loved one? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – your Healer, Jehovah-rophe?
In Exodus 17:15 we read that our God is Jehovah-Nissi, meaning He is the Lord our Banner: “And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi.”
Are you praying for an issue of direction, confidence, or assertive need? Is a particular assurance needed? Is the prayer request regarding the confidence to do what is right when circumstances make it hard? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – your Banner, Jehovah-nissi?
The ‘banner’ spoken of here can be understood in terms of our Stars & Strips. When our American troops go into battle they go against the enemy under the authority of the United States of America. The flag is the banner under which a single soldier goes forth with the full backing of all the resources, protection, and support of the USA.
In Leviticus 20:8 we read that our God is Jehovah-M’kaddesh, meaning He is the Lord our Sancifier: “And ye shall keep my statues, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you.”
Are you praying for a spiritual, holiness, or obedience need? Is a particular commitment needed? Is the prayer request regarding fear of following Christ, because of expectancy to fail in the Christian life? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – your Sanctifier, Jehovah-m’kaddesh?
In Judges 6:24 we read that our God is Jehovah-Shalom, meaning He is the Lord our Peace: “Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”
Are you praying for peace of mind, contentment, or harmony? Is a particular emotional release needed? Is the prayer request regarding a struggle dealing with bereavement from death or divorce? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – your Peace, Jehovah-shalom?
In Psalms 23:1 we read that our God is Jehovah-Rohi, meaning He is the Lord our Shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Are you praying for an issue of guidance, submission, or leadership need? Is a particular nurturing needed? Is the prayer request regarding the want of wisdom? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – your Shepherd, Jehovah-rohi?
In Jeremiah 23:6 we read that our God is Jehovah-Tisdkenu, meaning He is the Lord our Righteousness: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.”
Are you praying for salvation, forgiveness, or spiritual security need? Is a particular deliverance needed? Is the prayer request regarding the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – your Righteousness, Jehovah-tisdkenu?
In Ezekiel 48:35 we read that our God is Jehovah-Shammah, meaning He is the Lord our Present God: “and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.“
Are you praying for an issue of aloneness, answer to prayer, or a divine presence need? Is a particular assurance or hope needed? Is the prayer request regarding an assurance of God’s involvement? Why not purpose your prayer toward your Lord – the Ever-Present One, Jehovah-shammah?
Seeking His Face
When a Christian prays, they are turning their heart, their life, their very face toward God. When we turn toward God and behold him, we can not turn toward wickedness, sinfulness, or godlessness at the same time.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:14.
When we come to God in prayer, we come to seek Him. Prayer is not to seek what we want, but to seek who He is. Prayer is to seek God’s face. In seeking God’s face we are seeking His very character. Prayer that is powerful, meaningful, and effective is prayer that seeks God’s face, not God’s mind, not God’s hand, but who He is! That’s the principle of praise.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2.
In fixing our mind, our thoughts, on Jesus and Him crucified, that becomes mentally paramount in our life. Every thought, consideration, and understanding is judged in our mind in light of Calvary’s cross.
Transformation begins with renewing our thinking. To rise above this world we must set our mind on things above. Prayer sets our mind upon Christ. What we set our mind upon is what we set our life upon.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” -Romans 12:1, 2.
Prayer is God’s ordained means of spiritual transformation. When we get face to face with God, we are not only getting eye to eye with Him, but we are aligning our thinking and our senses to be inline with His.
Seeking His Kingdom
Our kingdom, our way of doing things, our being the ruler of our own domain, is not God’s Kingdom. God’s kingdom is a domain in which He is ruler, He is Lord, He is the Awesome all wise God.
Jesus taught us to focus in prayer on God’s kingdom and to seek His kingdom. To seek His kingdom is not to wait for something far off in the distance or future, but to seek for something now in our lives.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” -Matthew 6:33.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of meat and drink; but of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” -Romans 14:17.
We seek the Kingdom of God for our lives today. In light of our day in prophecy, we must also remember that God’s Kingdom is future.
The prophecy of Daniel 2 assures us that “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdom, and it shall stand forever.”
We must receive the Kingdom of God through simple child-like belief. Remember these words from Jesus, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbade them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein,” -Mark 10:13-15.
His Kingdom, His Will
The Kingdom of God and the will of God are synonymous. God’s domain is a “Kingdom” not a government. He does not rule by the will of the people, but rather, the people live by the will of the King! When we speak of the Kingdom of God, we are speaking of the will of God for our lives.
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification,” -1 Thessalonians 4:3.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hearth us: And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” -1 John 5:14-15.
Praying in God’s will is to be congruent with God’s Kingdom. Petitions that are contrary to the principles of God’s Kingdom cannot be answered. God’s will is that we be in His Kingdom!
“For the kingdom of God is … righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). Is it God’s will? Is it righteousness? Does it give you peace? Is your joy regarding it from the Holy Spirit?
If God deems our request beneficially necessary to His Kingdom, He will deem it as His will. Seeking God’s will for our lives is not waiting for a sign as to whether we should wear blue or red. Seeking God’s will for our lives is asking, seeking, and searching for his leading.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8.
When considering God’s will for any particular decision, ask yourself these three simply questions: Is it contrary to God’s Word? Are the doors opening in that direction? Are key people affirming this decision?
On Earth as in Heaven
Prayer is much more than communication. Prayer, as Jesus taught, is communion. It is the deep sense of peace with God. It is a desire of harmony between heaven and earth, between the Lord and us, between our earthly life and our eternal life.
Prayer in its deepest experience is our want for His kingdom and His will to be our kingdom and our will.
Prayer is personalizing the beatitude, “Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” – Matthew 5:6.
Prayer is about “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
Summary of Principle Praise
Jesus taught that prayer begins with the focus of our heart and mind. It begins by changing gears and recognizing that we are approaching our Heavenly Father. It is in contemplating the attributes of God, it is in acknowledging His holy character, and it is in praising Him for His mighty works. Praise is the pause that empowers prayer. Prayer that begins with praise brings divine power to human efforts. Prayer that fixes its sights in praise of God’s character is prayer that moves the arm of the Omnipotent.