More Than a Mood

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth (Psalm 100:1).

In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King tells the story of his son Owen, who at the age of seven became enthralled with Clarence Clemmons – sax player for Bruce Springsteen’s ‘E Street Band.’

Owen decided he wanted to play the saxophone just like Clarence. King and his wife wanted to do whatever they could to encourage their son’s musical ambitions, so they got Owen a sax for Christmas and arranged for him to take lessons. After about seven months King went to his wife suggested it was time to discontinue the lessons if their son agreed. Not only did he agree he seemed relieved.

King explained that Owen was perfectly capable of playing the saxophone. He had mastered the scales; there was nothing wrong with his lungs, his memory or his hand-eye coordination. The problem was elsewhere.

King suspected that it was time to stop the sax lessons, not because Owen had quit practicing, but because he only practiced during the assigned practice times. He was checking the box, doing the required thirty minutes after school, four days a week. After those thirty minutes the sax went back in the case and it stayed there until the next practice time. King said he never saw Owen ‘bliss out’ with the sax. He explained further:

What this suggested to me was that when it came to the sax and my son, there was never going to be any real play-time; it was all going to be rehearsal. That’s no good. If there’s no joy in it, it’s just no good.

No Joy In It

Throughout the Bible praise is connected with various expressions of exuberant emotions. People who praise God are joyful people and their praises are offered with glad hearts. They delight in God, and their delight becomes a rising tide of praise to God. The behaviors and actions of praising people are equally exuberant. God is praised as we sing, shout, clap our hands, and make joyful noise.

Given the scriptural language that surrounds the praise of God, it’s not hard to understand why we may not be very adept at praise. For many, the ordinary demands of life leave them constantly fatigued and weary. Others wake up every day to some form of affliction or suffering, the hardship of physical pain and disease. Still others know the hurt of loss and disappointment, expectations dashed and dreams lost.

Maybe our biggest challenge when it comes to praising God isn’t a belief problem, but a joy problem. We believe in God. We even make a practice of worshiping God. But our walk with God is all rehearsal, checking the box.

Happy God, Happy People

But our walk with God, and especially a life of prayer, was meant to be more than that. There should be joy in our praying. Charles Spurgeon, the famed British Pastor of the 19th century, said that “our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people.” It seems that Spurgeon would have spoken a hearty ‘Amen’ to Stephen King’s words. “If there’s no joy in it, it’s just no good.”

If we end the discussion here we’re left to believe that unless we feel joyful our prayers are a waste of time and our praises are empty. We’ll conclude that we can’t truly praise God unless we feel like praising him. But we would be wrong.

Without question, our affections and emotions are a big part of praise. C. S. Lewis was right when he said that we naturally praise what we deeply enjoy. But our affections do not define our praises and they ought not confine our praises either. There’s more to praise than our ‘mood.’ Tomorrow we’ll look further at exactly what that is.

For today, what is it in your life that might make prayers of praise hard for you to offer? And on the other side, what is there in your life that brings you great joy these days, making your praises flow?


We acknowledge, O God that praise isn’t something we always feel. We also acknowledge that praise is always fitting, and you are forever worthy of our praises. We ask for your help today, seeking the gift of your Spirit that we might praise in you in all things. By your power make us a praising people, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

The ‘Emoji’ We Seldom Use

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! (Psalm 100:1)

Did you know there was a praise emoji? Until last week, neither did I.

Let’s take a step back. Some of you may have no idea what an emoji is to begin with. For those who make daily use of the text message and develop a nervous twitch when their phone isn’t in their hand, the emoji has become as indispensable to communication as the alphabet. Emojis (or ‘emoticons’) are a function of the keyboard on a phone, a series of various symbols that express emotion. A smiley face, a sad face, a red angry face are all on my phone to let others know how I feel.

But the menu of available emojis goes far beyond facial expressions. Just how far, I learned last week. I mentioned to my daughter that I was working on a message about praise. Somehow our conversation ended up on the praise emoji. I had no idea there was such a thing. She showed me what it was. The emoji expresses praise with two hands. I guess the idea is two lifted hands – but to me that emoji might as well have been a symbol for the number ‘ten.’

When it came to the praise emoji this much was clear: I didn’t know what it looked like and I seldom used it.

Can Presbyterians Do This?

For many people – and that includes many praying people – the same may be said of praise generally. We don’t know what it looks like, and we don’t do it as often as we should. Simply put, we’re not very good at praising God. Dwelling on God’s greatness and declaring to God his glories and perfections doesn’t seem to come easily to us.

A couple of years ago Lifeway Research conducted a survey of 1100 American adults to determine what it is that people most often pray about. Prayers for family members and friends were the primary focus of prayer for 82% of the respondents. Coming in second at 74% were prayers for difficulties or problems. Further down the list at 37% were prayers that focused on God’s greatness.

This isn’t surprising. Most of us would acknowledge that we easily pray for the people we love and care about. We also know that we direct a fair amount of our praying energies to the challenges we’re facing. But praise, well . . . not so much, not so often.

When we recognize this and make a deliberate effort to praise God, we often find we’re awkward and inarticulate. What do we do? Should we raise our hands? Is it ok for Presbyterians to do that in church? How do we praise God with words beyond the obvious “Praise God?”

Like the emoji we seldom use, praise is hard to recognize and not practiced as often as it should be. That’s why we’re thinking this week about praising God.

No One is Left Out

Awkwardness aside, let’s keep a couple of things in mind as we ponder the praise of God this week.

First, the invitation to make a joyful noise is extended to “all the earth.” No one is left out, exempted, excluded. Praise is not a skill practiced by those with a particular gift or temperament. We are made to praise God. All of us.

Second, whether we do it or not, the name of the Lord will be praised. Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was accompanied with shouts of acclamation and praise. Offended, the Pharisees demanded that Jesus rebuke his disciples and rein in their exuberance. Jesus’s answer is worth hearing when we feel awkward and self-conscious about our praise of God. “If [they] were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:39-40).

How is praise most often expressed in your life, and what seems to prompt it?

Make no mistake, the name of God will be praised. “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3). You can be a part of that, and you can begin right now.


Gracious God, you are worthy of our praise. The Psalm tells us to praise you with all that is within us, remembering all your benefits and blessings to us. Forgive our forgetfulness, and help us by your Spirit to praise you. Teach us what that means and make us eager to do it, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Our Wandering Children, Our Faithful God

Grant to my son Solomon a whole heart that he may keep your commandments . . . (1 Chron. 29:19 ESV).

When I was in seminary I had a philosophy of religion course with a teacher who took time to share his personal faith story with our class. To be honest, there’s not much about his testimony that I can recall in detail. One piece of his story, however, has stayed with me since I first heard him share it nearly thirty years ago.

He told us that he didn’t grow up in what I refer to as a ‘church-going family.’ His exposure to faith came about through other people in his life. My impression now is that church involvement was the product of his own initiative or the invitation of others, perhaps both.

Here was a Baptist pastor and professor sharing a faith journey that had very little to do with his parents. Such a story was very different from my own experience of growing up in the home of a Southern Baptist pastor. It was remarkable to me that my professor was a Christian at all, much less a minister of the gospel.

Far more often, however, I have marveled at stories that move in the opposite direction. Here and there I’ve come across people whose parents faithfully took them to church. They were exposed to songs and stories of Jesus from an early age. And yet as they came to adulthood, those songs and stories and parental influences found no root in their heart.

How does that happen?

The Rest of the Story

My last couple of posts have been looking at David’s prayer for his son Solomon. We’ve given specific attention to the first and basic request of David’s prayer – that God would give Solomon a ‘whole heart.’ With a heart fully devoted to God, Solomon would walk in God’s ways and accomplish God’s purposes for his life. But it all begins with the heart.

So how did things work out for Solomon?

Honestly, this is the part of Solomon’ story that gives me pause. He starts out well. Having assumed leadership of Israel, he begins not by asking God for power or wealth but for a wise and discerning heart. This prayer pleases God and God makes Solomon famous for his wisdom.

But the years go by and the passing of time seems to bring about soul erosion in Solomon’s life. David prayed that Solomon would have a whole heart, but in 1 Kings 11:9 we are told that Solomon’s heart had turned away from the Lord. David had prayed that Solomon would walk in God’s ways and keep God’s commandments, but we learn that Solomon didn’t do that either.

Solomon became a man with a divided heart, setting up shrines for other gods, pulled away from a singular commitment to the God of his father David.

The Perfect Son of David

Some of you know the peculiar pain of praying for a child who has wandered far from everything you hoped and dreamed for them. The prayers you’ve offered, as best you can tell right now, have come to nothing. What do you do?

For one thing, remember that there are limits to the role of parenting, even parenting that relies heavily on prayer. We can pray for our children, but we can never be the Holy Spirit for our children. We are called to pray, but let God be God and trust the Spirit to do what only the Spirit can do.

Second, let’s not forget that God used Solomon in significant ways. The book of Proverbs is largely attributed to Solomon. If we accept Solomon as the author of Ecclesiastes (and this is debated) we see a man genuinely struggling to understand what makes for a good life – a quest that leads him to God. And then, of course, there’s the building of the temple. Solomon might have turned from God, but God never turned from Solomon. Never give up on your children.

Finally, Solomon was never meant to be the perfect Son of David, king of Israel. That king would come much later. Our hearts are never perfectly whole, but Jesus would live his entire life with a whole heart. He would die for us and his perfections would become ours by faith. So, yes, we pray for our kids. But we trust in the grace and mercy that is ours in Jesus, not in our own worthy lives.

Prayer allows us to relinquish our children, not control them. Place your kids in God’s hands as you pray for them today.


Merciful God, we recognize that our children are not truly ours. They belong to you, and their hearts and lives are in your hand. With our prayer we entrust them to you and your grace, knowing that you are always faithful. Keep us faithful as we lead the next generation in the way of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

When Your Heart’s Not In It

Grant to my son Solomon a whole heart that he may keep your commandments . . . (1 Chron. 29:19 ESV).

There are days when your feet hit the floor and you begin to move through whatever it is that awaits you whether you want to or not.

Quite often what the day holds for you is familiar. You’ve done those things before, perhaps more times than you can count. The carpool routine, the commute to work, the stop for coffee, the meetings. You tend to the needs of your family. You tend to the needs of your clients and customers. Most of these things, on most days, are things you do because you want to do them. Your job may not be perfect, but you’re thankful for the work. Your family isn’t perfect (no one’s is) but you can’t imagine your life without them.

The hardest days are those days when your feet hit the floor, you move through what the day holds, but somehow your heart got left behind. As is typically said, “Your heart’s not in it.”

When your heart’s not in it you can smile and make conversation at a dinner party but you can’t wait to get home. When your heart’s not in it you can sing with perfect pitch but you find no pleasure in the song. When your heart’s not in it you endure the work just because you need the paycheck.

All of us have days like this, even seasons like this. But an absence of heart is no way to live your life.

Limping Along

At the end of his life David prayed for his son Solomon. The prayer is short – one sentence in a much longer prayer. But the brevity doesn’t compromise the power or significance of what David prays. David begins by asking God to give to Solomon a whole heart, a heart wholly devoted and entirely yielded to God. Everything else will flow out of that. Get the heart right, and the rest of life will follow. The heart is indeed “the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23).

We can pray no less for our children and grandchildren, our babies and our grown-up-out-of-the-house children, the children under our own roof and children in the neighborhood where we live. We pray this for them not simply for their benefit, but because God calls us to walk with him with a whole heart. God desires that we be completely his.

There is a scene in the life of the prophet Elijah in which he confronts the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Before confronting these false prophets, however, Elijah issues a challenge to Israel with these words: “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

Elijah spoke a blunt truth about how we live when our hearts are divided. We limp along. We drag through our days. A divided heart leaves us with a diminished life.

Ask God to Give It

Let’s be honest. A wholehearted walk with God is not something that comes to us easily and naturally. Our hearts are pulled in so many directions. Even when we earnestly desire to walk faithfully with God, there are days – perhaps long stretches of days – when our heart just isn’t in it.

In David’s prayer for Solomon the phrase ‘whole heart’ is the focus, but don’t miss an equally important idea in this prayer: Grant. Give. Wholehearted devotion to God isn’t something that David can pass onto Solomon. It can’t be written up in a will. God must give it. If I could give a wholehearted love for God to my son and daughter, I’d do it. But such a thing is beyond me. It is a work of the Spirit. That’s why we must pray for our children and grandchildren, no matter their age. We ask God to give what we can’t give.

If you’ve not already made a practice of this, start right now. Say the name of your child and ask God to give them a ‘whole heart.’ If you’re not a parent, no problem. You still know a child for whom to pray. In fact you can pray this prayer for anyone in your life. You might just begin by praying it for yourself.


Grant to us and to our children, O God, a heart that is wholly yours. Guard us from dragging through our days with half-hearted love for you. As we walk with you through this day, help us to do so not just with right beliefs and good behaviors – but with a whole heart. May everything we do be an expression of love for you, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

What Your Kid’s ACT Score Won’t Tell You

Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments . . . (1 Chron. 29:19)

 As I write this the third week of the school year is drawing to a close.

Three weeks ago Marnie and I entered a new phase of life when we left our son at college. We returned home and the very next day our daughter started her senior year. The clock is ticking. Of course, the clock is always ticking. Right now, however, the ticking is especially loud. In less than a year my wife and I will enter that season of life commonly referred to as the ‘empty-nest.’

But let’s not rush things. We’ve still got one at home and we’re repeating the drama and agony and excitement of getting into college. Very little has changed since we did this with our son last year.

Being Smart and Being Wise

As you might imagine, the energy and focus of the senior year is on how to get in to the number-one-choice school. There’s a mild anxiety (at times acute anxiety) among seniors about grades, AP classes, strength of schedule, test scores, crafting a killer essay to go with the application, and of course financial aid forms. Sometimes the parents share that anxiety, all the while trying hard to let the student “own the process.”

The standardized tests for college admissions will assign a score to the students’ proficiency with math and language skills. While the value of such tests is debated, they remain a big part of the admissions picture. Test scores are a factor when it comes to getting into a school. But there’s something about each and every student that will never show up on a test or on a transcript.

We give so much attention to getting admitted to college, we just might fail to ask and address whether our child, once admitted, is capable of navigating college. Getting into a school places all the emphasis on smarts. But actually thriving and doing well at a school requires wisdom.

There’s a big difference between being smart and being wise. You can have a Ph.D. in linguistics and still be careless and harsh with your words. Knowing how to live well requires more than mere knowledge. Living well requires wisdom. And nothing in the ACT can measure wisdom.

Praying at the Depths

In our series of reflections on ‘Big Prayers’ we turn our attention this week to praying for our children. That certainly isn’t limited to praying for children who are applying for college, or even younger children who are still in school. Parents pray for their adult children, grandparents pray for grandchildren. The question were’ asking is about what and how we should pray for our children, no matter their age.

The scripture text that will guide our thinking is David’s prayer for his son Solomon recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:19. In a brief prayer David asks God (a) to grant to Solomon a whole heart (b) that Solomon might live according to God’s commandments, and (c) build the temple. At the risk of oversimplifying, David prays for his son’s

  • Identity – that he would know who he is and to whom he belongs.
  • Way of life – that he would live his life according to God’s design and instruction
  • Vocation – that he would do a significant and meaningful work.

If our prayers for our children are dominated by the grades they make, the scores they earn, or the schools they attend, we pray surface prayers. If the highest aim of their lives is their income or career or resume, we fail to pursue the deepest and most enduring blessings they can know. Such concerns are not off-limits in prayer, but they can never be the limit of our praying.

Plainly stated, our best praying for our children happens when we seek from God what we could never provide for them on our own. We’ll be thinking about what that looks like this week.

What are you praying for you children today?


Keep us faithful, O God, in praying for our children. Not merely for their safety or their success, but for your purposes to be accomplished in their lives. In the manner of your Son Jesus, may they grow in wisdom, in stature and strength, and in their relationship with you and with others. Accomplish in their lives what we could never bring about if left to ourselves, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Don’t Forfeit Your Peace

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7)

A few summers ago my son and daughter were both on a church mission trip to Romania. The date of their flight home overlapped by a day or two the week we had scheduled for our vacation at Sea Island, Georgia. This meant that once the group had landed in Atlanta my kids would catch a short flight down to Jacksonville, Florida – about an hour drive from our vacation spot.

The Jacksonville airport is rather small and I was surprised to discover that at 10:00pm it was a ghost-town. There were no ticket agents on duty and the security check-points were entirely shut down. This presented me with a problem. My daughter was traveling at that time as an “unaccompanied minor.” I had received instruction and authorization from Delta Airlines to go and meet her at the gate where they would arrive.

At 10:00pm in the Jacksonville airport – at least on this night – there was no way to get to the gates. No way, except one.

A Perfectly Clear “No”

Off to one side of the expansive concourse was a wide hallway. This was obviously where arriving passengers exited on their way to baggage claim. A large sign hung above this hallway telling people like me that entry was prohibited. This was made perfectly clear with all caps.

Beneath the sign, posted at a pulpit-like structure, was a lone TSA agent. As I began to move toward him, he stood up. As I moved still closer, evidently ignoring the large sign in all caps, he began to move toward me. He seemed suspicious of my intentions, and understandably so.

I explained my predicament. Delta instructions . . . unaccompanied minor . . . need to get to gate.

He listened politely and patiently. And his response to me was simple and clear. “No.” That was it. Offered without a hint of apology or the slightest indication of a willingness to negotiate, the answer was firm. “No.” Rightly interpreted, he meant “no way . . . not a chance.” I took a seat in the concourse waiting area.

Before long, my kids who were old enough to deeply resent traveling as “unaccompanied minors” arrived and found their own way from the gate. The end of the story is uneventful, even forgettable. But I’ve not forgotten my brief conversation with the TSA agent.

The Peace You’ve Been Promised  

As Paul urges the Christian community in Philippi to fight worry and anxiety by bringing their requests to God in prayer, he includes a powerful promise. He’s not just telling them what to do, he’s showing them (and us) what will happen when they do it.

As you push back against your anxieties by taking them to God in prayer, “the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The word Paul uses for “guard” is a military word that evokes the picture of a sentry standing diligently at his post. The sentry is there to say “no” to anything that poses a threat to what has been placed in his care.

This is what happens as we pray. God’s peace stands watch over your heart and mind, over your thoughts and emotions. This is exactly what Jesus promised to give his followers in John 14:27. He promised to give them his peace, a peace different from the peace the world gives. Paul calls it a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”

This peace is not had by escaping your problems or eliminating the pressures that you might be dealing with right now. This peace – the peace that Jesus intends for us to have – is obtained as we pray, boldly making our requests known with thanksgiving.

In 1855 Joseph Scriven wrote words of comfort to his mother that became the text of a well-known hymn. “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

What needless pain are you carrying? Why not go to God in bold prayer and obtain the peace he stands ready to give to you?


Gracious God, you offer us a peace that can’t be found in this world – in money or safety or comfort or other people. We want this kind of peace to mark our lives, but too often we give it away by our neglect of prayer. By your Spirit, lead us to bring our anxieties to you, prayerfully leaving them in your hands, receiving the peace you have promised through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Closer Than You Think

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil. 4:6).

“Do not be anxious about anything.” Wouldn’t you love to live life that way?

That’s not to say that your life would be free of trouble or that you’d never have to deal with worrisome circumstances. But when the trouble came you’d be undisturbed in the midst of it. The circumstances might be worrisome, but you wouldn’t be worried. As a practiced worrier, I can honestly say that I aspire to such a life. I want to live out Paul’s words, but I have a hard time actually doing so.

The Lord Is Near

When it comes to our battles with worry, Paul provided us with a clear and concise strategy for the fight. Our primary defense against worry is prayer – boldly coming to God with our concerns and our fears. Asking for what we need. And giving thanks to God in confidence that he will act for our good.

But while worry might often be the impetus for our prayers, it cannot be the basis or foundation of our prayer life. We do not pray because life can be worrisome. What’s more, there are expressions of prayer that don’t have anything to do with our fears or troubles.

To grasp the solid and unmovable foundation of prayer we need to back up just bit in Paul’s counsel to the Philippian church. Before he urges them to pray as a way to combat anxiety, Paul reminds them of a simple truth, a truth without which we will not pray. Paul reminds them that “the Lord is near.”

Believing that God exists, and believing that God is near are very different. Knowing that God exists might get you out of bed to go to church on a Sunday. But knowing that God is near will move you to pray, and pray boldly at that.

The Perfect Presence

Years ago when my kids were very young, the pool in the neighborhood where we lived was less than a mile from our house. We went to the pool almost every day during the summer, and that meant piling into our minivan for the short drive.

Summers passed and suddenly (it felt sudden to me) my children decided that they wanted to ride their bikes to the pool. I resisted this at first, but I knew that riding a bike to the pool was as inevitable as getting a learner’s permit would be on their 15th birthday. Marnie and I said yes to the bike ride. But without their knowing it, once they were on their way I got in my car and followed them, keeping them in sight until they arrived safely at the pool. I wanted to stay close to help if needed.

It didn’t take long for me to stop doing that. I became comfortable with their bike rides to the pool. When they reached the age that allowed them to be at the pool without a parent, I became comfortable with that too. Now my son attends a school that’s 500 miles from where I live. I’m glad he’s there. What hasn’t changed at all is my intent to be near to them – responsive and ready and available when they call. That’s just what parents do, even if imperfectly.

What we do imperfectly, God does perfectly. John Ortberg wrote a book titled God Is Closer Than You Think. When we know this is true we are far more likely to pray. The Lord is near, and the troubling realities that surround you do not prove otherwise. So instead of waving a white flag and giving yourself to your anxieties, pray. Make your concerns and your requests known to God.

Can you recall a time in your life when you knew with certainty that God was near? Remember and give thanks – and know that the Lord is just as near to you right now.


Merciful God, the words of the hymn describe our lives well. “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Remind us today that you are near. And let your perfect and faithful presence move us to prayer rather than worry, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Prayers with Swagger

Our Father in Heaven . . . (Matt. 6:9).

Ever prayed for a parking place? I have. Ever made fun of people who pray for a parking place? I have.

Praying for a parking place isn’t wrong, but there are some problems with that kind of praying. It’s a genie-in-the-bottle way of a dealing with God. We rub the lamp with our ‘prayer’ and get our wish. It is, in a word, immature.

But our mockery of such prayers is equally problematic. With our dismissive laughter we are saying two troubling things about our understanding of prayer. We are saying that we don’t believe God actually cares about little things like parking places. And we are also saying that should a parking place open up for us it had no connection with the prayer we prayed.

Let’s forget about parking places for now. What we’re really talking about is our confidence in prayer. Does God care about what I care about? Is God concerned with what concerns me? And furthermore, does talking to God about it really make a difference? Does prayer do anything?

Praying the Fog Away

In his book I Will Lift Up My Eyes, Glenn Clark tells a story about George Muller, who was making a journey by sea from England to Quebec. The ship encountered a very dense fog. Muller informed the Captain that he had to be in Quebec by Saturday. The Captain informed Muller that they would never be able to reach their destination by that time. At this, Muller invited the Captain to join him in praying about their predicament.

After Muller had prayed the Captain was about to speak a prayer when Muller stopped him. Placing his hand on the Captain’s shoulder, Muller told him not to pray. “Firstly,” he said, “because you do not believe God will . . . and secondly, I believe God has and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.” When they stepped out of the cabin the fog was gone.

I’m impressed with Muller’s praying. I yearn to pray like that. But I suspect I often resemble the Captain – willing to pray but lacking confidence that it will matter. Because of this my prayers are more bland than bold.

God Cares, God Can

When Jesus gave us words to pray, he taught us to address “Our Father in heaven.” In doing so he was giving us more than mere words to speak. He was giving us confidence. That well-known and oft-repeated phrase holds the key to our confidence in prayer.

When we say “our Father” we are saying God cares. God our Father knows what we need and looks upon every need with tender compassion. Nothing escapes the notice of our heavenly Father. What concerns us concerns our Father. Knowing that God truly cares gives us confidence.

And when we say “in heaven” we are saying that God can. God is not bound as we are bound. Our limitations do not apply to our heavenly Father. As the Psalmist said, “whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth” (Psalm 135:6).

For the next few weeks these blog posts will consider what it means to pray boldly, to “come before the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16). This series of reflections will remind us that God is close, ever ready to hear us and more than sufficient for whatever it is we bring to him in prayer. Knowing that God cares and God can, we can pray with confidence.

When it comes to prayer, how’s your confidence? What’s going on in your life that would lead you to pray boldly today? Start there, and begin praying bold prayers.


O God, by the power of your Spirit, grant to me confidence in my praying and then let that confidence follow me through this day. Remind me moment by moment of these truths: You are our Father and you truly care about our lives. And you are in the heavens, able to do what we cannot do. We will rest in you, prayerfully, confidently, expectantly. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.