Four-part series: Pursuing an Effective Personal Prayer Life. Our foundational goal here at Sweet Selah Ministries is to encourage daily quiet times with God. We are all about the sweetness that comes when we selah (stop) and simply choose to be with God for a short while—or a long while. Our time alone with Him fuels us for the rest of the day. We meet God through the pages of His living Word, the Bible. We read and meditate and write to Him about what He says to us in the pages of the Book of books. And then we pray. In this series on pursuing an effective personal prayer life, we are going to look at three different types of prayer and help you incorporate all three into your personal prayer life: God-focused prayer (look up), self-focused prayer (look within), and other-focused prayer (look around). The fourth lesson looks at those times when it seems impossible to pray. We hope this revolutionizes your prayer life and makes you eager to meet with Him in prayer each day.
Today, we look at self-focused prayer. Let’s Look Within!
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is
any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. —Psalm 139:23-24 NIV
Prayer for one’s self is perhaps the most challenging. When we look up, we are filled with joy as we reflect on all God’s mighty attributes, and we are filled with gratitude as we purposefully thank Him for all He has done for us. When we look around, we bless others with our prayers and our intercession on their behalf. But when we look within, we become vulnerable. We dare to ask God to know our hearts, to examine our thoughts, and to point out offensiveness. Looking within is a time of humbling and surrender. It’s a precious act of trust in the God who truly loves us and who already knows us, whether we invite Him to or not.
When I was a little girl, I was taught to tell Jesus I was sorry for my sins. I faithfully did this each night at prayer time. I’d kneel and thank God for my day, ask Him for good sleep, pray for those on my mind, and then conclude with: “And forgive me for my sins. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” Sadly, it became a little ritual without much thought given to those sins, whatever-they-were.
Years later when I joined a Moms in Prayer group, I participated in a time of silent confession each week. It was then I realized what I had missed by not truly asking God to show me my sins so I could genuinely confess them and ask forgiveness. As I prayed with my group week after week, sitting in stillness during the time of confession, God gently and firmly revealed to me my pride, my critical spirit, my penchant for comparison and competition, and many, many other faults that I had conveniently “overlooked” in my general prayers. When I actually began naming these offenses to the Lord and asking for His forgiveness, I was able to begin turning from them and changing.
Looking within means being willing to quiet our thoughts and allow the Holy Spirit to show us the sins we have committed that grieve the God who loves us and who desires us to walk in purity and truth. It’s not as scary as it sounds, because we belong to the One who forgives without limit, who hurls our sins into the sea (Micah 7:19), and who washes us as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). We don’t serve a God who beats us up because we have sinned. No, we serve a God who took the beating for us and simply wants us to receive the priceless gift of His forgiveness.
Looking within includes more than confession, it also includes a prayer of submission. When we acknowledge in words that we desire His will and not our own, a release occurs in our hearts that is overwhelmingly sweet. We lay before Him all that we think is best, but then we follow Jesus’ example and conclude with a prayer of surrender: “not my will, but Thy will be done.”
Do we truly believe that God knows best how to plan our days and how to use us in His kingdom work? Do we trust that He is the good Shepherd who loves and cares for His sheep and not some evil god who wishes us harm? Have we embraced that He has given us gifts and that He has a purpose for us that will fulfill both His plans and our greatest needs? If yes, then we can surrender all to Him in great confidence and excitement. There’s no safer place to be than at the center of God’s will for our lives.
I encourage you to look within when you pray. Confess sin quickly and receive His gracious mercy and forgiveness. Surrender each day to Him, eagerly looking forward to His assignments for the day.
One of my favorite prayers of surrender was found in the diary of a great man of faith many years ago and is still relevant for us today:
Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Thy service and to Thy heart. (David Livingstone, Scottish Missionary and doctor, who explored much of Africa)
Father God, help us to quickly come to You and confess sin, knowing You are willing to forgive and cleanse us. Give us the faith to surrender ourselves to You each and every day, knowing You know best how we should spend the day. Lord, Help us come to You in trust. You know our inmost thoughts anyway, and You love us. In Jesus’ Name, by whose blood we are healed, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)
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