In his book This is Living, Leonard Griffith provides us a wonderful perspective on prayer and where to begin. He writes, “Too often we start to pray at the wrong place. Prayer should begin not with ourselves but with God – a conscious awareness that we stand before Him as creatures before the Creator, subjects before the King, servants before the Master, children before the Heavenly Father. A university student, burdened by a personal problem, spent an hour with Phillips Brooks, the great Boston preacher. When he returned to the college, a friend asked him, ‘What did Dr. Brooks say about your problem?’ The student looked surprised. ‘I forgot to mention it,’ he said. ‘It didn’t seem to matter anyway when I talked with Phillips Brooks.’ That should be the effect of prayer and it will be the effect if we come consciously into the presence of God. Before ever becoming a recital of our own problems, prayer is a devotional exercise whereby we lose ourselves in God and rise from our mortality to His eternity, our smallness to His greatness, our weakness to His power.”
That is a good word! Prayer should always begin with God not ourselves. In teaching His disciples about how to pray, Jesus begins with a focus on God (Matt. 6:9-13). God should be at the top of our prayer list. In this model prayer, Jesus prioritizes the hallowing of God’s name, the coming of God’s kingdom, and the doing of God’s will (Matt. 6:9-10). Before ever becoming a recital of our needs, prayer must be a devotional exercise wherein we are lost in wonder, love, and praise regarding God’s divine person and glorious works. Prayer must begin in heaven with God, if it is to have heaven’s blessing from God. To read and study the model prayer of Jesus is to see that it is half done before the focus shifts to man and his needs. The best of prayers begins with worshipping God as our creator, redeemer, and friend. As with man, the chief end of prayer is to glorify God. This is the right and proper way to pray.
But to begin with God is not only the right way to pray, it is as Leonard Griffith demonstrates, the best way to pray. Prayer infused with a spirit of worship, prayer that is shipwrecked on God’s omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, is prayer that enables us to “rise from our mortality to His eternity, our smallness to His greatness, our weakness to His power.” Focusing on God, the glory of His person, the mystery of His providence, the perfection of His works, the greatness of His promises, and the beauty of His Son allows, as the songwriter noted, for the things of this world to become strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Simply put, prayer brings us before God and when a man or woman finds themselves caught up in the presence of the Most High God, like the psalmist in Psalm 91, their worries will melt, their fears will crumble, their faith will grow, and their problems will shrink.
In the midst of your problems remember to pray, and in praying remember to begin with God, because beginning with God puts an end to self-reliance and unnecessary worry.
The reason our lives feel upside down is because our prayers are back to front.