Written by Pastor Bryan Niebanck
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Luke 12:34
I am in awe of God. I am often more in awe of God after I have come back from an experience of witnessing God’s goodness. I witness God’s creation and the beauty that goes into the curve of every mountain. I am definitely a mountain person. As I was hiking in Denali National Park last week, I realized how much I missed hiking. There is not a lot of hiking around northwest Ohio. I love it when I can go somewhere and find that love again. And when I am able to do that, I can praise God for the opportunity as well as the scenery all around.
When our small group went to Denali, it rained most of the time. But the rain gave an opportunity for a beautiful rainbow among the clouds. We were planning on going on an evening hike; the rain had already hampered one hike that day and it was threatening another. But the rain stopped around 9:00pm, and, thanks to the midnight sun up north, we were able to embark up the mountain at 9:00 in the evening. We hiked up until about 11:00 and then started heading down. We still made it down the mountain before the sun had gone behind the hills. We could praise God for the beautiful mountain vistas we could take pictures of and then just take in, even at that late hour. God still gave us the opportunity to appreciate the mountain. And though we never did see the top of Denali while we were at the park, we had seen the peak from two hours’ drive north of the location, as viewed from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. The guides said that only about 20-30 percent of visitors to the park see the peak of Denali. Usually, it is hidden among the clouds.
I praise God for the relationships that are formed among strangers as well. I did not know what the size of the group would be, or who would be in the group, before I met them at the Cleveland Airport. I just knew that I had been offered a spot that someone declined and one of my connections at Ashland University knew that I liked to travel to new places and do mission. And, just like any other group living together in the same place for a week, and traveling mostly together, we formed a bond. I think that the bond was strengthened over the communion and worship that we shared, and it also was represented well in a few of the moments that we shared the same feeling of awe. One of those moments was on the mountain. Another of those was the next day at a restaurant. One of our team had lost her wallet; she was calling places and looking everywhere for it and eventually another person decided to bring it to prayer. About five seconds after the prayer that she would find the wallet had ended, she lifted up her purse and there it was, right in her lap. That was a magical moment and a moment of awe, like God had answered that prayer right then and there, in that moment.
There are many other moments of awe that I could share with you, and I hope that you can take a moment to think about what brings you awe as well. Do you allow yourself to experience awe enough? Do you give yourself opportunities to create that awe? If I kept myself from seeing the mountains, I would be depriving myself the opportunity of feeling the awe of God over nature. You must create the context for experiencing awe. If we do not create context, then a lack of awe will eventually wash over us, we will not be in awe of God, and we will not be fully devoted to God.
Some of us reach challenges holding an awe-ness over God. Just look at the world. But yes, look at the world. When you look at the world, try to see the goodness in it. Look for the helpers. Look for the beauty. Look for the opportunities to see people and see new places, especially if you have been dreaming of seeing it or them. I will give you a challenge that we gave ourselves in book group to try to help you find the correct attitude towards prayer. First, make your list of requests to God. Pray them consistently and persistently. But always end your prayer with a praise for God. And to do that, make yourself a list of reasons you have to praise God. When you do not feel in the mood to praise God, all you need to do is look at your list.
In the next five weeks, we will be looking at the five main types of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and Lament. A lot of Christians focus too highly on the supplication; that is, making requests of God. Some do not feel that it is their place to lament, and many forget to give God any thanksgiving with their hearts. It is important to realize that to have a balanced prayer, or a balanced series of prayers, we should regularly visit all five of the major types of prayer. The exception may be that you do not have anything to lament, or complain to God, about, but many do and we need to know that it is okay to complain to God. Yet perhaps the most important of all of these prayer types is that of adoration. When we do not regularly have moments that we adore God, and adore what God has done, then we will be attacked with ideas that tell us that God is not worth all the effort we put into following Him. We need to combat these attacks by putting efforts into renewing our adoration of God whenever possible. These efforts of adoration come in worship, prayer, and divine mindfulness (that is, we are thinking of God unceasingly by incorporating God into every part of our lives and by seeking to know God more deeply in everything that we do).
The first type of prayer is adoration. Does the beauty of nature give reason for adoration? Does the complexity of life? Does the fact that you wake up every morning cause you to keep praising God? God is the one who breathed breath into our lungs and sustains us by giving us something to hope for. We hope for good things to come. We hope for the next adventure. We hope for Jesus to come and make things right.
First, we practice adoration through worship. When we sing songs to God, we are worshiping. When we sing songs about God, we are often adoring God. We are looking up to God. We sing, “How great thou art, God!” “Be Thou My Vision!” “They are weak but he is strong!” When we practice communion, we are adoring God because we are choosing to eat at the table that he laid out for us. We are accepting His invitation to eat with Him. Expressing our adoration makes us want to come to God. It makes us believe in God. It puts us in the right mindset so that we can come to God with full faith and confidence when we pray. We have reminded ourselves of all the good things about God so that we believe in the power of God to make things right. We need to believe in God as our Savior in order to pray for Jesus to save us. Adoration is a prerequisite for confident prayer. When we praise God in worship, we have set the scene for deeply connecting with God.
We also practice adoration when we engage in prayer. In addition to singing and talking about God in worship, we can adore God privately. We can pray prayers such as this: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things” (1 Chron. 29:11). When we build adoration into our prayer, it not only helps us expand our confidence; it helps to pray with positivity. Our prayers can, and should, include things that we feel that God has not responded to. We should keep praying with persistence for those things. If we stop at our requests, however, we may be left wanting. If we do not start and/or end with praise, we will probably not be satisfied. Adoration in prayer helps us meet our wants, because we realize that God is all we need. The author of Psalm 50 expresses adoration in his prayer, as God is all he needs: “The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Psalm 50:1).
Lastly, adoration of God helps create divine mindfulness. We were created to give God the glory, so that others might hear and believe in the Lord (Isa. 43:7). When we give God adoration for every good thing that we see, and we make it a habit, we are connecting with God in so many separate moments. We are helping our lives to revolve around God, and bring God to the center of our attention more than we have before. Furthermore, it causes us to look at the world in which we live in a bit more positive light. It helps us to focus on the good and not on the bad. Thinking of God unceasingly creates a positive mindset and a constant reminder of God’s caring presence.
As I write, I love to play praise music in the background. I also love to play it as I drive. Every moment of our lives is another moment that we can spend loving and praising the Lord. Adoration is the most important form of prayer. If you have remembered that your most important conversation is prayer, remember that the most important type of prayer is adoration. Adoration gives us the confidence in a good God that we need to faithfully ask for our supplications. It helps us realize that God is all we need. It helps us to be mindful of God all the time. Whether it is fulfilling your spirit of adventure, praising God for the gifts of nature, or simply adoring God with what God has given you, be sure that your prayer life adores your God. May all honor and glory be to God! Thanks be to God! Amen.
Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
50:1 The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
50:3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
50:4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
50:5 “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
50:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah
50:7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.
50:8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.
50:22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
50:23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
11:2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.
11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.
11:9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
11:10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11:11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old–and Sarah herself was barren–because he considered him faithful who had promised.
11:12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
11:13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,
11:14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
11:15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.
11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
12:35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;
12:36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
12:37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.
12:38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
12:39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.
12:40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”