For my devotional reading I am now reading Tim Keller's book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. It is one of the best books on prayer that I have ever read. In my reading today I came across some thoughts on beholding the glory of God in our prayers. In part of this section he refers to the writing of John Owen, a Puritan theologian.
To behold the glory of Jesus means that we begin to find Christ beautiful for who he is in himself. It means a kind of prayer in which we are not simply coming to him to get his forgiveness, his help for our needs, his favor and blessing. Rather, the consideration of his character, words, and work on our behalf becomes inherently satisfying, enjoyable, comforting, and strengthening. Owen insisted that it was crucial that Christians be enabled to do this. He reasoned that if the beauty and glory of Christ do not capture our imaginations, dominate our waking thought, and fill our hearts with longing and desire - then something else will.
How much of our prayer life focuses entirely on the character, words, and work of Christ? I must admit that most of my prayers do not, nor do I hear this in the majority of prayers I hear prayed by others. Such prayer takes time. It takes time to read and meditate upon Scripture. It takes time to get our focus off our needs and desires and upon nothing but the glory of God. It takes time to still our hearts enough that God's glory bursts through all the noise that makes up so much of our lives. And who has that kind of time?
Life is lived at great speed today. We rush from one activity to another, and if we pray at all we offer up brief snippets asking God to bless whatever is the next item on our agenda. Scripture does tell us to pray without ceasing, and I find it helpful to pray brief sentence prayers as I go throughout the day. But, it is not enough. We must also take the time to behold the glory of God. We must take the time to align our thoughts upon his word and to reflect upon his character.
A shallow faith that gives God one hour on Sunday mornings, when we can spare it, is not sufficient to behold his glory. A faith that leaves our Bibles in the back seat of our cars so we'll know where to find them next Sunday will not help us behold the glory of God.
I have been a Christian for nearly 40 years, and I feel I am still very much a student of prayer. I wish I could report that I have mastered this concept of beholding the glory of God through my prayer life, but I cannot. There are occasional breakthroughs when it seems the heavens open up and I see the Lord "high and lifted up." Those are holy moments, but they are too rare.
This passage from Keller's book really spoke to me this morning, and I felt it needed to be shared with my readers. Perhaps God will speak to some of you as powerfully as he spoke to me, and he will use it to enrich your prayer life and your walk with him.