Adoring prayer

It was 37 years ago in the Whitsun Holiday of 1973 that God first revealed just how great He is to me. I was away on the school camp in Borrowdale. I had got up in the middle of the night. It was very dark – I don’t remember seeing any moon. All I could hear was Stonethwaite Beck bubbling alongside the camp and the occasional sounds of insects and birds. The hills each side cut the valley off from any other civilisation. And I remember looking up and seeing the night sky. Full of stars. There were no clouds. And we were so far away from any cities that there was no reflection of streetlights. The sky was darker and the stars were brighter than I had ever seen them before.
This was just a couple of weeks before I became a Christian. But I was still overwhelmed by the beauty of Creation and for the first time in my life I found myself praising the God I didn’t yet really believe in. God brought me to a place where I could be humbled by His greatness and His glory. For maybe half an hour I stood there lost for words at how great God must be to have created all those stars and galaxies, so many and so far away and so beautiful! That was my first experience of our subject for this morning, Adoring Prayer.
God often uses His creation to bring us to that place of adoration.
Psalm 8 1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise … 3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Whatever brings us to that point, true heartfelt adoration is always pleasing to God. Remember Mary’s scandalous intimate worship, washing Jesus’s feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, and the lavish extravagance of anointing his head with precious perfume. Going totally “over the top” in her love for her Lord. And that was pleasing to God!
But adoration is nothing to do with buttering God up so that we get what we ask for when we get on to the asking kinds of prayers! Adoration is expressing our love for God, our appreciation for all He is and all He means to us, and that is vital! Adoration focuses our lives on God, expresses our relationship with God and deepens that relationship.
“You awaken us to delight in your praise; for you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430)
Adoring prayer has three aspects. The first is thanksgiving. The second is praise. The third is what Richard Foster calls “The Prayer of Rest” and we will come to that in a while. We must begin with thanksgiving and praise. What’s the difference between them?
“In thanksgiving we give glory to God for what He has done for us; in praise we give glory to God for who He is in Himself.” “When I give thanks my thoughts still circle around myself to some extent. But in praise my soul ascends to self-forgetting adoration, seeing and praising only the majesty and power of God, His grace and redemption.”
Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name
Give thanks in all circumstances (1Thess 5:18) We have so much to thank God for!
Give thanks for God’s blessings given to everyone
Thank God for the BIRTH of Jesus; for the TEACHING of Jesus; for the MIRACLES of Jesus; for Jesus’s SUFFERING and TRIALS; for Jesus’s DEATH on the CROSS; for Jesus’s glorious RESURRECTION ; for the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT;
Give thanks for God’s blessings to ME individually
Psalm 103 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Thank God for food and drink and family and friends. for answered prayers. for the hope of heaven. for the Bible and the fellowship of the church. for His peace and protection. for the wonderful joy He gives us. for His guidance and strengthening.
William Law, in his Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life writes,
“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.”
G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936) “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
There’s one thing every parent learns very early on. You don’t need to teach children how to ask for things. But you do need to teach them to say thank you. We are not always good at remembering to thank God. Think about the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers. 10 were healed. But only one came back to Jesus to say thank you! We need to WORK at prayers of thanksgiving!
Then we should PRAISE GOD
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise! (Psalm 48:1)
1 Chron 23:5 David: Four thousand (Levites) are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.”
The Westminster Catechism declares that ,`The chief end of man (the most important destiny of human beings) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’
Rev 5:13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen”, and the elders fell down and worshipped.
Since we are going to spend eternity praising God we may as well start practising now!
CS Lewis: “God (deserves) to be praised! Admiration is the correct, adequate, appropriate response. If we do not admire we will be stupid, insensible and great losers, we shall have missed something.”
We give God our praise for who He is
Psalms 145:1 I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. 2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no-one can fathom.
Praise God our CREATOR Praise God our LIBERATOR Praise God our LORD Praise God our REDEEMER Praise God the JUDGE OF ALL Praise God our FATHER Praise GOD our FRIEND
We give God our praise for all he Has done for us
Psalms 117:1 Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. 2 For great is his love towards us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Praise the LORD.
Praise God for His LOVE; for His FAITHFULNESS; for His ALMIGHTY POWER; for His COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE; for His HOLINESS; for His GRACE and FORGIVENESS; for His PRESENCE everywhere;
Praise isnt an optional extra for Christians! But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light 1 Peter 2:9
C.S.Lewis also identified a variety of things which keep us from true adoration.
1) Greed – instead of savouring what God reveals to us we demand more. We are in such a hurry to move on to the next blessing we fail to appreciate this one.
2) Inattention – we fail to see God’s greatness and glory – due to our busyness and noise.
3) The wrong kind of attention – analysis instead of doxology. Instead of responding to God with love and adoration in our hearts, our minds get in the way. Sometimes we don’t see God because we are looking for the wrong things. “We ignore the Smell of Deity”. When we see distractions, we often fail to recognise God’s messengers.
Richard Foster points us to several Stepping Stones to adoration.
Paying attention to things – birds, squirrels, butterflies. The coolness of a brook the taste of our food. Don’t analyse, don’t look for profound revelations. Just enjoy the experience. Experience the sensations, don’t scrutinise them! Allow the Wonders of Creation to reveal the creator to you. At certain times of year I will often find myself stopping in the middle of a journey or even taking a detour just to get a good view of the beauty of a sunset.
Psalm 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Then we can relive the encounters we have had with God in the past. Remember them. Reflect on them. Use them as a way to enter into God’s presence afresh.
And we must practise gratitude. Work hard at being grateful! Grateful for all the little things in life as well as for the big things! Finally, magnify God. Tell God how great he is. Shout to the world how great God is! Music can help. So can celebration. Sing and celebrate God’s greatness! Psalm 95:-
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
There are times in life WHEN WE FIND PRAISE DIFFICULT
Empty words, pious sentences and songs aren’t praise. God doesn’t want to hear words we don’t mean!
“Make us to be what we profess to be; let prayer be prayer and praise be heartfelt praise;”
There are times when praise is VERY difficult – when life is hard, when we are angry with God, when God seems far away. At such times saying or singing `I love you Lord’ would be a hypocritical lie. We can’t even say `thank you Lord’ and mean it because we aren’t in the least grateful to God. We are resentful, bitter, or hurting.
In those time we should remember that ADORATION and THANKSGIVING are subjective – they express of our feelings.
But PRAISE – declaring how great God is and what wonderful things He’s done, is OBJECTIVE – it’s all about facts!!
We may not feel like offering God our thanks – we may not feel any trace of adoration – but we CAN and SHOULD offer God our praise, acknowledging the FACTS of who God is and what He has done for us. This duty of praise is our SACRIFICE of praise –
Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Joni Eareckson Tada “A sacrifice of praise will always cost you something. It will be a difficult thing to do. It requires trading in our pride, our anger, and most valued of all, our human logic. We will be compelled to voice our words of praise firmly and precisely, even as our logic screams that God has no idea what he’s doing. Most of the verses written about praise in God’s Word were penned by men and women who faced crushing heartaches, injustice, treachery, slander, and scores of other intolerable situations.”
So you don’t have to START with prayers of adoration you don’t mean. Start in praise with FACTS about who God is and what He has done for us. A sacrifice of praise leads us on to true thanksgiving, and that opens us to adoration and intimacy with God again.
Adoration, Thanksgiving, Praise. And these can sometimes lead us on to a place which Richard Foster calls the Prayer of Rest. A place where we can simply be still in God’s presence. Where our adoration and devotion needs no words of thanksgiving or praise. A place where we can rest in God’s love and soak in his peace. Where the only work we are required to do is to give our most intense attention to His still small voice of calm within us. Listen to Jesus’s invitation:-
Matt 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
After working at creating the world in six days, on the seventh day God rested. And God invites us to rest. To enter into His rest. To receive His peace, even while we are praying.
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)
You may ask what can we possibly do to experience this peace and enter into this rest God promises? The answer is very simple: we need solitude and silence.
Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
If Jesus needed to search out solitude for prayer in the midst of the busyness of life, how much more do we need to do so. Through the ages there have been monks and mystics who have retreated into deserts in order to meet with God. We need solitude.
And in that solitude we can practice silence. Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) Not just shutting out all the noises which so easily distract us. But stilling ourselves, becoming quiet and still and motionless, letting go of all the thoughts and pressures and worries which so easily take our minds away from God.
Francois Fenelon wrote, “We must silence every creature, we must silence ourselves, to hear in the deep hush of the whole soul the ineffable voice of God. We must bend the ear, because it is a gentle and delicate voice, only heard by those who no longer hear anything else.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote
“Silence is the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God …. But everybody knows that this is something that needs to be practised and learned, in these days when talkativeness prevails.”
“Real silence, real stillness, really holding one’s tongue comes only as the sober consequence of spiritual stillness ….” “The silence of the Christian is listening silence, humble stillness.”
So pay attention to this wonderful Creation and it will reveal the Creator to you. Remember and relive times you have met with God in the past. Practise gratitude. Magnify God. Bring Him your sacrifice of praise. Make some time this week for Adoring prayer. Make space for solitude and silence. Thank God for all He has done for you. Praise God for who He is. Because He’s worth it! And you too can enter into the prayer of rest.

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