[Praying Aloud - Part 3]
Jesus taught us to put praise in the first position: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” With these simple words, He modelled an attitude in prayer where we seek to give glory and adoration to God.
In fact, the entire first half of his Prayer is oriented around adoration. Because his name is worthy, we ask God to exalt himself in everything. Because his kingdom is glorious, we ask God to advance it in power. Because God’s will is wise, we ask that his will be done. If the Lord’s prayer is any indication, then it is only right that our own prayers be saturated with awe for God.
In this series, we’ve been linking personal prayers with those we offer in communal settings, whether in the home, at school, at church, the classroom, or elsewhere. Here too, our private praise flows into public praise. ‘Leading in prayer’ is an exercise of ‘leading in worship,’ as we adore God together. As others join in our prayers, we can set before them the glory of God.
Jeffrey Arthurs describes the encouragement of a public prayer which is deliberately God-centered. By doxological praying, “We can draw worshipers from the undertow of the world to breathe again life-giving truths about God even as we address God in prayer” (143).
When Jesus prioritized praise in the Lord’s Prayer, He wasn’t inventing a new approach to prayer. Many of the Bible’s prayers speak worshipfully about God at the same time as humbly making supplication to him.
As one example, in 1 Chronicles 29 David offers a beautiful prayer about the preparations for building the temple. Notably, it is a prayer that he makes “before all the assembly” (v. 10), including many of the nation’s leaders.
All these leading men ‘listen in’ as David prays. It is a striking example of adoration: “Blessed are you, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head over all” (v. 11). David will make requests regarding the temple, his son, and the Israelites, but the entire prayer is framed by deep reverence for God. Before he says anything else, David gives God his due honour.
This is a good reminder when we pray both silently and aloud, for we can easily become side-tracked. Our minds are ever inclined to wander, and our thoughts stubbornly return to our big catalog of personal concerns. Yet Scripture says that true prayer is communing with God.
This means that we must keep reorienting our prayers in the proper direction, even as we mention our concerns: God-ward! As the Psalmist says in Psalm 147:1, “It is good to sing praises to our God.” Not just in song but in prayer too, it is fitting that we let the attention fall on God. So we ought to pray with praise.
From Perfections to Petitions
How can this be done? One way is to link God’s attributes directly to our requests. As we praise God for his perfections, we can naturally transition to the things we are praying about. We might say something like:
“Lord, you are almighty—unlimited in your power, the God for whom nothing is impossible. Almighty God, we rely on your great power to overcome this present challenge…”
“Father in heaven, you are unfailing in mercy and amazing in grace. So we plead with you to forgive our many sins…”
In a similar way, our prayers can use the many names by which God has revealed himself. There is a richness in beseeching God as our Shield, our King, Rock or Helper. Leading in prayer, we might say:
“You are the Good Shepherd who always watches over his sheep in love. And so we ask you to care for our struggling brother…”
“Heavenly God, as the righteous Judge of all the earth, we pray that you would defend your persecuted church…”
Rooting our prayers in God’s attributes and names glorifies God for who He is, and it also invites those who are praying to trust in him. It’s a reminder that God is so much greater than anything we know here on earth: He is better than all our idols, bigger than our obstacles, and stronger than all our foes and fears. This great God is worthy of his people’s trust and obedience.
From his Works to our Words
God’s people have always loved to recount his wonderful works. Think of how Moses reminds Israel of the LORD’s saving activity since the days of Egypt (Deut 1-3), or how the Psalms (Pss 104-108) offer praise-filled accounts of God’s mighty deeds in creation and history.
This Scriptural pattern shows that it is fitting to prayerfully review some of God’s great accomplishments. At the beginning of a prayer, we praise God for creating and sustaining all things, for redeeming sinners through the gift of his Son, for initiating our renewal through the Spirit, and for promising us everlasting glory. We devote a few moments to remembering aloud what God has done, which both glorifies him and reassures his people . Think of how this is David’s theme in Psalm 9:1,
I will tell of all your marvellous works.
When we recount the Lord’s amazing deeds, we place our tiny lives into a bigger and more meaningful context. God has been at work, and He remains at work, among us and for our good. By retelling God’s saving works in public prayer, we remind the body of Christ about who God is and who they have become in him.
Besides God’s creating and saving works, He remains busy in our lives daily. And so prayer can also acknowledge his gifts of that particular moment. Take time at the beginning, end, or middle of a prayer to adore God for the many blessings of a new day (or a day that is now passed), thanking him for health, food and drink, work, family, sun or rain, freedom and security. Thank God for “every good and perfect gift” (Jas 1:17). An attentive child of God will find much to fill a prayer of praise.
Through our leading in worship-filled prayer, we remind our family, the congregation, the class, gathered believers and others about the precious truths on which our lives are firmly established. Such prayers of adoration are to God’s glory.
Next time, we hope to consider a few aspects of making petitions in the prayers that we offer aloud.
Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Preaching as Reminding (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2017).