I think one of the weakest areas of the Christian life for many is prayer. We seldom spend significant time in prayer unless we find ourselves in a period of suffering or trial. Under such circumstances we might regularly engage in prayer. But if public prayers are any indication of our private prayers, I think one of the most deficient areas in a Christian’s prayer life is the absence of adoration in our prayers. If we use the common ACTS acrostic for a standard prayer, we know that a prayer should typically consist of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. If we liken our prayers to the architecture of a grand cathedral, then adoration is the narthex, or foyer, of the cathedral. I think we all too often race through the narthex and immediately to the front of the cathedral with our prayers of supplication.
Don’t get me wrong, supplication, or seeking God’s assistance in life or interceding on behalf of others, is a vital part of prayer. I don’t want to discourage anyone from crying out to our heavenly Father for our daily physical and spiritual needs, no matter how great or small. Moreover, interceding on the behalf of friends and loved ones is one of the key ligaments that joins the body of Christ together. As we lift one another up in prayer, we join people in their suffering, pain, and joys. We grow closer to one another and further cement the bond of our fellowship as we draw nigh to Christ in prayer. So by all means, linger at the front of the cathedral of prayer. But at the same time, how much do we linger in the narthex?
How much do we adore our triune God in prayer? How much do we praise him simply for who he is? The Bible is replete with prayers and statements of adoration. Think, for example, of the seraphim in Isaiah’s temple vision of the pre-incarnate Christ: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3; cf. John 12:41). The psalms, likewise, have many different acclamations of praise. Read, for example, the words of Psalm 33 and mediate upon the many different statements of praise. How often, therefore, do we linger in periods of praise for our triune Lord in our prayers? If bards and musicians have composed ballads extolling the beauty and worth of mere human beings, then what should redeemed sinners say about the mighty and merciful God who has deigned to save them from Satan, sin, and death?
I think one of the main reasons we do not know how to linger in the narthex of prayer is because we have a spiritually praise-starved diet. In simpler words, we don’t spend enough time reading, meditating on, and praying the psalms. How does a child learn how to speak to his father? He usually repeats his father’s words back to him. My daughter knows the word, “actually” (she pronounces it ash-kah-lee), because she’s heard my wife and I say it. Even though she’s three years old (never mind her mispronunciation), she uses the word correctly! The same should be said of us. If we regularly soak in the psalms, particularly, its words of praise and adoration for our triune Lord, I believe we will quickly learn how to linger in the narthex of prayer. Dare I say that on some occasions, you might even find yourself camping out in the narthex for the entirety of your prayer because you become overwhelmed with a sense of awe for the majesty, beauty, power, and holiness of the amazing God we serve.