For more information on the material in this session, read the Preface and chapter 1 of the book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.
Watch the video for session 1 now. After the video, work through the rest of this session.
One of the most frightening aspects of the Christian life is that we can actually become apathetic about speaking to God! This isn’t about getting bored while talking to an economics professor, an old friend, or even your spouse—we have the privilege of talking to God through prayer, and yet most of us pray regularly without thinking about what we’re doing. I’m convinced that our relationships with God would be absolutely transformed if we all took the simple step of considering who God is.
Even though you’re just beginning this session, stop right now. Take a few minutes to actually consider who it is you’re talking to. Then write down some thoughts in response to the two questions below.
Q1: What do you think would come out of your mouth the moment you first saw God? What would be the first words you would say?
Q2: How has your relationship with God and your prayer life been different as a result of reading chapter 1 and considering God’s glory? If your life hasn’t been different enough, how would you like to see it change?
Prayer is a unique privilege. We actually get to come before God, enjoy His presence, and ask Him to work in our lives. Yet I’m amazed at how quickly I forget the significance of prayer. I often approach prayer as a given and halfheartedly throw my requests at God without giving it (or God) a second thought.
Solomon has some heavy words for those of us who are quick to rush into God’s presence:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (Eccl. 5:1–2)
We have a tendency to rush into God’s presence irreverently—speaking our mind and rarely stopping to enjoy His presence or consider what He may want to say to us. I can’t say that I ever consciously developed my prayer life, but I can tell you that I didn’t build my prayer life around an appropriate view of God. I grew up praying because I was told to do so; my prayer habits were deeply entrenched before I stopped to consider what I was actually doing.
Take some time to pause and think through two things. First, spend some time meditating on Solomon’s words. What is he getting at? Why is he saying this? How would your life look different if you made these words fundamental to your approach to God? After you’ve thought this through for a bit, analyze the way you pray: when you pray, how often, what you ask for, how you address God, etc. When you’re ready, continue with the questions below.
Q3: Describe your prayer life. Do you find yourself talking at God, or do you take time to consider who you are talking to and enjoy being awed by His presence? Why do you think you tend to pray the way you do?
Inherent in Solomon’s argument is an incredibly high view of God. If God is exactly like us, then we may not see the need to approach Him with a sense of awe. But if God is who He says He is, then Solomon’s words are especially poignant: Only fools rush into the presence of God.
Q4: How often do you stop to consider how great God is and how insignificant you are by comparison? When you do, what leads you to this point? If you never do, why do you think you’ve never done this?
Perhaps you’re convinced at this point. Maybe all you needed was a reminder of God’s greatness, and everything you’ve been reading has reinspired you to view God in all His glory. Even if that’s the case, you still have many obstacles to overcome—not just now, but on an ongoing basis. It’s all but impossible to escape the incessant distractions in our lives. There are so many things—many of them good things—that keep us from thinking about that which is most important in life.
Take some time to think about your specific lifestyle and context. Think about what this sort of awareness of God’s greatness would look like as a part of your daily life.
Q5: How can you build these times of reflection into your lifestyle?
Q6: What things in your life distract you from loving and worshipping God the way He deserves to be loved and worshipped?
Q7: What can you do to overcome these obstacles?
In addition to the obstacles and distractions we all face, there is a more subtle and potent aspect of our lives that would keep us from living in light of God’s absolute greatness. Even if we believe that God is greater than we are, we all have to overcome our tendency to view God as an all-powerful genie. In other words, it’s possible to view God as powerful but to misunderstand His purpose, to believe that God exists to grant our wishes and make us happy.
This is an extremely important concept to explore. When you think about the whole point of the universe, do you see God at the center of everything? Or do you see yourself and your happiness as the ultimate goal? Try to move beyond your intellectual answer and analyze your emotions and core commitments. And don’t stop there. Examine your life and consider what your lifestyle might reveal about this. What do your priorities and actions say about the way you view God?
Q8: Which aspects of your priorities, thoughts, and actions declare that you exist for God’s service and glory?
Q9: Which aspects of your life declare that God exists for your benefit and service?
Q10: If there are aspects of your life that declare that God exists for your benefit and service, how can you begin to reorder these aspects of your life around the reality of God’s greatness and your dependence on Him?
I think the best way to end this session is to push you to stand in the presence of God. In just a minute, I’m going to ask you to read Revelation 4. In this passage, John finds himself standing in the throne room of heaven. His language and tone reveal that he is not prepared for what he sees. Everything about John’s vision is stunning: the physical layout of the throne room, the flashing lightning and roaring thunder, the bizarre creatures before the throne and their strong response to God’s glory, and especially the picture of God Himself seated on the throne.
Read this passage, and try to imagine yourself standing where John stood and watching this scene unfold. It may seem fanciful, but John is describing reality. As you place yourself in the midst of Revelation 4, allow yourself to experience all of the surprise and awe that John must have experienced. After you’ve spent some time reading and thinking about this passage, continue below.
Q11: Which details in this passage strike you the most? Why?
Recalling the scene in Revelation 4 would be a great place to start before you pray. But there are many other things you can do to remind yourself of God’s greatness. Maybe it’s stepping out under the stars and considering the immense size of God’s creation, or meditating on the greatness of God’s love for you, or considering the intricate design of the human body. Whatever it is, we should be reminded of God’s greatness on a regular basis. This is His world after all, and it is literally shouting about His greatness at every moment (see Psalm 19).
But even though reminders of God’s greatness are all around us, we still need to pay attention to them. We still need to develop a habit of noticing God’s glory and reminding ourselves of why He’s so great.
Q12: What can you do right now to ensure that you will pause before every prayer to consider the God you are praying to?
Q13: Spend some time in prayer. Before you begin speaking, however, put into practice some of the realities you’ve been considering. Take time to picture God on His throne. Consider the angels shouting about His holiness and the twenty-four elders throwing their crowns at His feet as they fall on their faces. After you’ve taken some time to remind yourself of who God is and to enjoy the greatness of His presence, then begin talking to Him. But even then, heed Solomon’s warning, and let your words be few.
Reflections on …
Q14: Stop Praying