Gaze or Glance?

Years ago someone taught me this important prayer principle:

“When you pray, Gaze on God and Glance on your Request.”

All too often, I realized, we reverse this order when we pray. We gaze on our needs and barely glance at God. Consequently, we shrink God to the size of our needs. Our prayers become little more than worrying out loud.

Instead, as we learn to fix our gaze on God, our needs do not seem quite so overwhelming after all. When we focus on God’s greatness, God’s love, God’s faithfulness, and God’s power, our needs shrink to the size of our God. We can bring them to him with confidence and faith.

This is why the first half of the Lord’s Prayer is so important. Its words of adoration and worship are not merely preamble to petition and confession. No. By gazing on God in this way, our needs assume their proper place in relation to his majesty. For example ….

We say, “Our Father,” and we realize that we belong to him not because of our performance but by his gracious act of adoption. He loves us even as he loves Jesus. We are not merely tenants. We are dearly loved children. He is our Father.

When we say, “Hallowed be thy name,” what we mean is this: “may you receive the reverence that is rightly yours.” Suddenly our priorities begin to adjust. Setting aside our petty idols, we start to think about the things that matter to God, not just the things that matter to us.

“May your will be done on earth,” we continue, and soon we find ourselves moving beyond a myopic preoccupation with our own needs. We start to think about God’s larger objectives for the world. What would it be like for God’s will to be done in my life, my family, my neighborhood, my country?

Now, having gazed intently upon God, and begun to see life from his perspective, we are far better prepared to bring to him both our petition (“daily bread”) and our confession (“forgive us”). We have an enlarged view of God: certainly he can be trusted to meet our needs, to forgive our sins, and to deliver us from evil. We can’t help but be moved toward praise as we close our prayer (“Thine is the kingdom…”).

This is why it is so important that the Lord's Prayer begins with a focus on God and his majesty. For prayer is not so much orienting God toward our objectives; it is, rather, learning to orient our lives to the rhythm of God’s work in the world.