How should we start a prayer? For as long as I can remember, I’ve started prayers with “Dear Heavenly Father…”, but why? Now that I think about it, it sounds like I’m writing a letter or something. In Matthew 6:9-10, when Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, His model prayer starts with:
"Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven..."
It starts with PRAISE! Why? Because we are praying to God. In the NKJV, Philippians 4:6 says to “let your requests be made known to God,” and Acts 12:5 says “constant prayer was offered to God.” The KJV says “unto God” in these verses. Well, aren’t all prayers unto God? It can be hard to admit, but many prayers are not unto God; they are unto self. It’s so easy to be caught in the act of “getting” from God by being too quick to lay out our list of needs and petitions, rather than recognizing who we are speaking to in the first place.
In Nehemiah 1:5-6, Nehemiah is grieved by his brothers’ situation in Jerusalem and brings his desperate prayer to God, starting with:
“I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now…”
Nehemiah praised God for His power, sovereignty, faithfulness, and mercy. He approached God in humility as His servant, in awe that the God of the universe lends an attentive ear and has open eyes to his prayers.
In another powerful prayer found in Acts 4:24, when the apostles had been threatened not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus, they prayed together:
"Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them…”
How we address God is important. Think about it -- we get to communicate with our Creator, the King of all Kings. How grateful are you that God, by giving His only Son, tore that veil in two so we can have direct access to God anytime, anywhere? Did you hear that? WE HAVE DIRECT ACCESS TO GOD HIMSELF! There are 7.5 billion people in the world, and God loves each of us the same and is capable of lending an attentive ear to each one of us and answering each and every prayer.
When we take the time to recognize God for who He is and what He’s done for us, before we get to our own requests, we put our hearts and minds in a place of humility. Our problems that seem so big to us, along with the chaos, confusion, and anxiety that accompany them, begin to melt away as we gain the perspective that we are talking to the God of the universe, who is sovereign over everything. This perspective of God’s greatness, protection, mercy, and love for us starts to cover any needs and concerns we lay at His feet which, in turn, gives us the peace, thanksgiving, and joy He promises. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing is too big for Him!
An address of praise doesn’t have to be long. In fact, most prayers in the Bible aren’t lengthy. Honor Him for who He is -- the God of the universe, your Creator, and heavenly Father. Also, make it personal! “Our Father in heaven” speaks to relationship. He is our Abba Father, and He loves YOU. Just praise Him! He is worthy!