After looking at our tendency to be self-centered in worship music, I think it is best to re-examine another part of our worship: prayer.
We are given the best guide of how to pray in Matthew 6 with this example:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
Half of the prayer is spent on God and His will. The other half is spent on us, but only one line is spent on our needs in this world – our daily bread. Two lines are spent on our forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. Two lines ask for deliverance from temptation and sin. Considering that Jesus considers this the best example of prayer, it seems that the allocation of focus should be our ideal. Although we do not have to use only these specific words, we should be praying in a similar way.
Last week, I got together twice with different friends to pray together. During these prayers, I noticed that very little time was spent praising God, while most of the time was spent praying for various needs. Although I consciously made the effort to spend more time on God, I certainly did not spend half of my prayer focusing on Him. Instead, I prayed a lot for my needs and the needs of other people.
We should not sin against each other by not praying for each other, but we should also not get so focused on each other and ourselves that we lose sight of God. This is another area where it is easy to become so self-centered that we forget about God’s will, character, and plan.
Many people like to pray through the psalms when they are unclear of what to say. Some of the psalms, like Psalm 69, focus a lot on what David is facing and does not address God’s character as much. So I think it is acceptable to spend some prayers focusing more on our needs than on God. Yet the self-centered prayers are balanced by those that speak of nothing but God. So my question is: how often do we really pray like Psalm 150?
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
How often do we think of nothing but God’s praise? Are we balancing our prayers between glorifying God and asking for our needs? If not, it will be easy to forget who God is and why he is worthy of our worship. It will be easy to wander into the realms of a very solipsistic Christianity that serves us more than it serves God.