Martin Luther once said, “Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” What a paradigm shift! Even now, as you read these words, you may be thinking about all the things that you need to accomplish. The tasks of the day can be overwhelming for many of us. It was no different for Martin Luther. But he knew he couldn’t face the obstacles and challenges of the day without God’s hand guiding him. Just being in the presence of the Lord for a moment of solitude at the beginning of each day can ease your burdens, renew your vision, and replenish the spiritual stores of wisdom you need to make decisions through the day.
When I first began praying every morning, I found it difficult to pray for even 10 minutes; now, I often find myself in prayer for hours. And I’ve since found that my day is more productive and my mind is better prepared when I commit my morning to prayer. The Psalms offer ample evidence that King David understood this essential practice as well:
• “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psa 5:3).
• “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psa 59:16).
• “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You” (Psa 63:1 nkjv).
• “But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you” (Psa 88:13).
William Wilberforce also spoke of the importance of regular prayer, early and often: “Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the prayer closet. There is nothing more fatal to the life and power of religion. More solitude and earlier hours—pray three times a day, at least. How much better might I serve if I cultivated a closer communion with God!”1
If pleasing God is our only mission as we rise each morning, then pursuing Him in the morning shows respect and honor for the One who will direct our path throughout the day. If we start the day seeking God’s will for our lives, then the rest will fall in line. We may encounter conflicts and difficulties throughout the day, but it will be much easier to maintain a godly perspective and make wise decisions if we have started our day with our eyes fixed on Jesus. When we open our hearts to God in this way, we won’t be able to contain the outpouring of our affection and praise to Him.
Scripture calls praise the “fruit” of our lips (Heb 13:15). With our lips, we glorify God, praise Him, and honor Him. The Psalms often describe this form of audible expression and encourages it greatly. For example, Psalm 63:3–4 states, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live.” Similarly, Psalm 66:2 calls the people to “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious” (Psa 66:2 nkjv).
When David sang and danced before the Lord, his wife reprimanded him (2 Sam 6:12–23). But David was spot on; he didn’t need to be reserved in expressing his love for God and the works of His hands. David was so close to the Almighty, he was unable to contain his passion. In fact, he loved the Lord so much, he hired 4,000 worshipers to praise and worship God all day and all night (1 Chronicles 23:5).
If you pray in silence most of the time, I would encourage you to have a conversation aloud with God. Find a place where you can have some privacy—perhaps a hillside or a private room—and where you will be free to worship and pray without the fear of being seen or heard. You may be surprised to discover that verbalizing your prayers enables you to open up to God in a way you’ve never experienced. Later on, you may not be concerned about privacy, but for now, find a place where only you and the Father can converse without interruption. Then talk to Him, literally. Use the lips and the tongue He gave you. God wants to hear from you!
If you prefer praying in silence, He will hear those prayers as well. Silent prayer can be just as powerful and effective as audible prayer. The point I am making is this: if God has given you lips, use them for His kingdom.
And remember, praise starts with the heart; what proceeds from our lips is an expression of the soul. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” We can go through the motions of praising God with our lips but our hearts are cold and distant from God, our worship is only empty words. The Lord rebuked His people for this attitude, saying, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isa 29:13).
Robert Murray McCheyne, a 19th century Scottish preacher, wrote, “There is a constant tendency to omit adoration when I forget to whom I am speaking, when I rush heedlessly into the presence of Jehovah without thought of His awe-inspiring name and character. When I have little eyesight for His glory, and little admiration of His wonders, my heart has a native tendency to omit giving thanks, and yet it is especially commanded.” Even though Christ gave His life for us on the cross and calls us friends, and even His sons and daughters, we must remember that we are approaching a holy God who is receiving praise at this very moment from angels.
I’ve found that Revelation 4:5–11 and Ezekiel 1:26–28 also serve as regular reminders of where we are when we pray as they provide a breathtaking illustration of God’s throne and glory. Ezekiel describes his own response to God’s glory:
High above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezek 1:26–28).
When I read these passages, I cannot help but come into God’s presence with praise. In fact, worship welcomes in the presence of God and prepares our hearts to hear from Him, which is why Elisha wanted a harp before giving the prophecy of God in 2 Kings 3:15. I believe this is also why Jehoshaphat had worshipers lead the army of Israel into battle (2 Chronicles 20). So, it seems that prayer and worship go hand-in-hand.
We cannot determine our prayer walk by feelings alone. Thus, the Lord has given us the Psalms as foundational truths for expressing God-honoring worship in and through our lives as we strive to burn the altar of praise in His House of Prayer (Isa. 56:7).
- John Bornschein, Vice Chairman, National Day of Prayer Task Force