When you pray do you filter your thoughts so they are presented as clean and acceptable before God Almighty? The following article addresses this issue and will help you understand what’s acceptable to God and how to pray.
Through prayer we come face-to-face with God and do a work of self-examination. In God’s presence, we look at our thoughts, look at God, and consider how God looks back at us.
When you pray your thoughts, how do you imagine God looks back at you? Psalm 139:23 offers us a picture. As we approach God, he searches and knows our hearts, tests and knows our anxious thoughts. He sees the offensive ways that are in us, yet still he chooses to lead us in the way everlasting (v.24). In other words, God sees our true selves and loves us anyway.
As you pray your thoughts to God, he looks at you with love, mercy, and compassion. His love does not materialize because you just had a true, honorable, praiseworthy, or pure thought. It does not disappear because you sinned with your thoughts or can’t seem to escape thoughts filled with suffering. God’s love for you is present amid your unwanted thoughts. It’s not a reward for changing them.
Look at your unwanted thoughts, and you’ll likely see your suffering and sin. Look at God with faith, and you’ll see his love and acceptance. Look at how God looks at you in Christ, and you’ll see in yourself the righteousness of God (2 Cor.5:21). It’s when we see God accurately and see ourselves as God sees us that we find the power we need to change.
Our thoughts are transformed not through force and willpower but through relationship and connection. God’s presence is powerful because in it we encounter his character. We see who he is and what that means for our lives.
Encountering God’s holiness and grace is the motivation we need to move away from thoughts filled with error and sin. The stillness we find in his faithful presence calms our racing thoughts and worry. His compassion and love help us to believe the truth when it doesn’t seem to match our present reality. We leave behind thoughts of regret as we receive his forgiveness. We find help for thoughts of hopelessness as we meditate on his goodness. Telling ourselves to think something different is inadequate. Encountering God and experiencing who he is in our lives has the power to change everything.
Article reprint | The Gospel Coalition | Esther Smith-author | ©Copyright 2022