We've become experts at multitasking. Our life is on speed dial, running from one activity to another. And then there's Sunday. The day of rest is anything but. We've got it all mapped out; what service we're going to attend, church clothes neatly dangling on a hanger, and we may even know where we are going for lunch and who might join us.
In our hectic, achievement-oriented world, we're moving all the time. We're good at donning a new hat and shifting to the next thing on our schedule with little forethought. Even worship and prayer. But do we take time to think about what that means?
This is not just any routine appointment. We are preparing to communicate with the Great I AM. There is only one God. The maker of Heaven and earth. God is faithful, alive, and active in our lives. Scripture confirms that our Savior is standing in our midst when two or more are gathered in His name (Matthew 18:20).
If we knew we would meet Him for dinner or even an aisle at Target, we would surely take time to prepare for the encounter. We would want to make a great first impression. Each day, that experience is awaiting us. We join corporate worship with fellow believers. The Holy Spirit eagerly waits to rain down on anybody who has prepared their heart to recognize and receive Him.
Andrew Murray, teacher, and Christian pastor, once said, "Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts." Here are some steps to shift your mindset from your me-centered existence to Christ-centered prayer that will open your willing heart to take in all He offers.
Quiet your mind.
Carve out a special prayer nook for yourself―a place where you will meet God every day. Before you can prepare your heart, it's essential to step away from the noise and empty your mind of earthly cares. Block out any distractions that will keep you from focusing on God. Jesus taught us the best time to start our day is in the morning before the world unfolds. "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." Mark 1:35
As you enter this holy ground, relax and breathe deeply. Step into the present moment. Imagine you are entering a safe place with the One who provides, protects, and takes pleasure in spending time with you. Ease yourself into a total state of surrender. Expect to meet God in this space. During your quiet time, you will become more mindful of God. As you fix your gaze on Jesus, you will hear God. "Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3.
Knowing that all fall short when it comes to sin, we would be nowhere without Jesus. His great gift of salvation can be taken for granted when we think we're doing it all "right" in His eyes. But we never really arrive. Honest reflection about who Jesus is and what He has done for us opens our hearts for compassion and forgiveness towards others. With a clean heart, we magnify God and invite him in. Praise is powerful.
Psalm 22:3 (KJV) says that God inhabits the praise of His people. Jesus praised His father. If Jesus could praise during the suffering and persecution, He endured. Indeed, we can and should glorify God. He is worthy of our praise (Psalm 150:2).
"At that moment, the Holy Spirit made Jesus extremely joyful, so Jesus said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from wise and intelligent people and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this is what was pleasing to you.'" Luke 10:21
"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all the wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God in gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Sometimes simply being in the presence of God makes your heart want to sing. Have you ever belted out a chorus of How Great Thou Art? You probably have an arsenal of songs that make your heart leap. Singing praise songs is the path to worship, and with it, we find comfort and joy. As our hearts connect to God, we disconnect from the world and the stress that can imprison us. Singing allows us to enter God's presence with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4). "Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises!" In Psalm 47:6, the Bible encourages songs of praise.
Praise and song make the enemy flee. What better way to start your worship? Rather than rush to the next worship service like an acrobat jumping through hoops, allow your preparation to become a spiritual encounter. Rejoice and reconnect with God privately. Empty yourself so that you will be filled when it is time to worship. Psalm 95:1 says, "Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song."
Give yourself a pep talk. Say true things to prepare your heart to come before a God who is truth. Remind yourself that you are a child of God, and He wants you to come before His presence boldly. Speak out how God is in control and working all things for your good. Saying them aloud allows your ears to hear and your heart to respond.
Jumping into the spiritual realm from this temporary one can be as comfortable as jumping into ice-cold water. Some people thrive on this refreshing shock, but most of us need more preparation. Without this preparation, our prayers can come off as cold and mere words. All of us want to connect with God from our hearts. By preparing ourselves for prayer, we're making room in our hearts to connect with God so He can hear us more clearly.