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How to Pray
/ Part
January 23, 2022
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Challenge Follow up

How was your quiet time with God this week? Did you find a particular scripture verse on which to meditate?  Did you find the world’s volume turned down a little bit? Share how God is increasing your listening skills.

The Joy of Worship

In 1986 I was leading worship at a youth camp in Illinois. It was billed as a discipleship camp and nearly all the students attending had a real hunger for God. That made leading worship like starting a fire with newspaper and gasoline. The building vibrated with praise.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

At one point I was at a keyboard singing a wonderful song titled “Majesty”. The chorus went “…So exalt, lift up on high, the name of Jesus. Magnify, come glorify, Christ Jesus the King.” Students flooded the front of the auditorium and nearly every hand was raised. I had tears streaming down my face. I stopped playing and the drums, bass, and lead guitar all stopped at the same moment as the crowd lifted up the song as one voice.

I don’t know how to describe that moment. It seemed to me there was a bright white haze that covered the whole room. My mind was on hold as my spirit soared and heaven came down. I could think of nothing else but Jesus and at that moment I knew – I mean I knew down in my bones – that He was real and that I was His. Even as I write these tears are flowing. Although I have strayed and often failed and scrabbled to get my own way, from that moment I have never doubted that I am His.

To worship and reverence our Father is a powerful gift. It brings joy and it somehow completes us in ways that our mind cannot fully grasp. So, our path to a life of prayer continues from pausing and reflecting to worshiping and adoring.

Viewing Our Father

Jesus opens His prayer with “our Father” to show our connection and intimacy with God. He often referred to God in very intimate terms as His Father.  If you have been around the church this doesn’t sound shocking, but it was certainly shocking to the religious leaders of the day. In John 5:18 they were so incensed at His claim of God as His Father they made plans to kill Him. Jesus continually pointed out the Fathership of God – referring to God as Father over 100 times in the gospel of John alone.

 The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Westminster Shorter Catechism

God as Father is our starting point for Rejoicing! But sometimes our cultural view – or perhaps our personal experiences – stand in our way. Too many of us do not see God as a Father who loves and rejoices with us. Instead we see a Father who is, in Greig’s lively phrase, “A scowling, perpetually disapproving, [God] invariably disappointed and needing to be placated or persuaded in prayer.”

Know this. Let it sink into your bones. God is for you, and you are His! He wants to meet you in worship and adoration. As you rejoice in Him, He rejoices in you. He is the creator, and you can know Him and be known by Him. Put your mind on hold and let your Spirit soar at the thought.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Psalms 103:1

The Act of Praise

In Psalms 103 David starts worshiping by using his active will. “Praise the Lord, my soul, all my inmost being, praise His holy name.” David knew that praise does not always begin with feeling. It begins when we decide to praise. He determined to wake up his inmost being and participate in the act of worship. That’s right – worship is an act. We start with deciding to praise and then we offer our praise – even if it is a sacrifice.

David continues his psalm with a list of the many blessings and attributes of God. He mentions love, healing, compassion, good things, youth, righteousness and justice, past miracles, grace, forgiveness for sins and the list goes on. You can almost sense, having determined to praise the Lord, his inmost being is coming alive as he recalls the faithfulness and worthiness of God.

Here’s a tip: when you don’t feel like worshiping, but you are determined to do it, open up the Psalms and pray through some of them. Repeatedly you will discover genuine, heart-felt worship comes alive as you pray through the Psalms. Eventually some of them might even be written on your heart so you can just declare them without even reading.


How can we talk about praise and worship without mentioning Music? There are so many great men and women of God who have devoted their talents to writing worship music. A few minutes searching Alexa or Pandora can call up a continuous stream of fantastic worship music. Listening to worship can be a rich addition to a life of prayer and you should definitely make music a part of your worship. But I have a few tips for you:

• Worship Music is as old as the church. It comes in infinite varieties. Try listening to some different worship experiences. I particularly love south African worship music. If you want something off the beaten path that will blow you away, check out sacred harp worship.  

• Music without words is also a very intimate experience if you are willing to sit quietly and let it wash over you. Try Gabriel’s oboe from the movie “the Mission”. It always brings me to tears.

• Music is something you can do. Don’t just listen, sing! If you are distracted by your singing voice because you don’t think it’s very good, then you have stumbled into the trap of thinking about yourself. Focus on adoring Him and sing. With apologies to Elsa, let it go!

• Sing a new song. You don’t need any music playing at all. You can open up and sing your song to God. Find your own path to worship!

Worship Together

You might notice that Jesus gave the Lord’s prayer to a group of disciples. He did not teach them to pray “My Father”, He taught them to pray “Our Father.” You need to worship God in your own unique way and within your prayer closet. But of course there are times when you also need to be with others in worship. This is the primary purpose of our gathering together – to exalt His name and lift Him up as the body of Christ.


I was raised Pentecostal and our worship was quite lively. We sang loudly, prayed loudly, clapped our hands, and stomped our feet. During prayer times we all prayed out loud simultaneously. Often a voice would rise above the rest and lead us. Sometimes folks would prophecy or speak in tongues. It was a unique and often powerful experience. Like a lot of folks though, we thought our experience was somehow a notch above others. We were not chained to that dry lifeless religion of the mainline denominations. We were moved and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

But as we became convinced of our rightness in worship, we discovered in turn the grip of tradition. When folks came along waving banners or dancing or using new instruments like a drum kit, we turned up our noses. We knew (or thought we knew) how the Holy Spirit intended to move. Having discovered the spontaneous move of the Spirit we insisted on consistency in spontaneity.  In college I became more and more convinced that much of what I believed about worship was simply groupish – more about loyalty to a tradition than about what God actually cared about.

In 1989, in my first year of marriage, I went to a Lutheran service with my wife and her family. It was my first experience with a liturgical service. We followed a carefully choreographed service order. We stood at certain points, sang in a call and response way to words from a hymnal, and listened to a homily (a short sermon). We prayed and responded in prayer using written prayers in the program.  When we left, my wife Ann, an on fire charismatic (seriously – I was afraid she would burst into flames sometimes), mentioned how painful it was for her. She had grown up in that tradition and when she was filled with the Holy Spirit she felt she had come out of something that was holding her back. To her it felt like shackles.  

But with no history or memory of tradition I had a different experience. Instead of frustration, I was deeply moved. I enjoyed the act of reading and singing and responding and I felt God’s presence. When Greig says that the key to Liturgy is that every word seems to matter, I get it. There was substance there. It was not spontaneous, and yet it was deeply spiritual and rich for me.

So, my caution is simple – enjoy the worship you love, but don’t discount the 2000 year history of worship. God moves on all of us in an infinite variety of ways. When we think of heaven we sometimes think it will be filled with people like us – a replication of Lifegate church. But Heaven will be filled with people from every nation and even every denomination. We are just as likely to be reciting prayers around the throne as we are to be dancing and shouting – and why not? I will love doing that with all of you. :)

Discussion Questions

1. Read Psalms 103 out loud together. Go around your circle and identify which verses – which attributes or acts of God – stood out to you.

2. Talk about your faith tradition. What does effective worship look like for you now. What moves you? What did it used to look like? Has anything that used to move you receded into tradition?

3. Talk about your view of God as Father. Does your view of earthly fathers sometimes get in the way?


Find a favorite psalm. It should be something you choose to remember. Pray and read through it each day. Be prepared to share next week.