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About this series
When We Pray
Developing Intimacy with God
If you are like most Christians, praying is often a confusing, mis-prioritized, and forgotten part of our faith journey. But in this series, guest teacher Ryan Ingram will guide us to a healthier, more beneficial view of prayer. He will debunk common misbeliefs about talking to God, how to practice stillness, and what we are to do when our prayers seemingly go unanswered. If you genuinely want to strengthen your prayer life, this teaching will help!More from this series
We are in a series called When We Pray. Not if we pray. Not, “Ah, you should pray.” But when we pray, because the natural human instinct is prayer. In some form, in some way at some time everybody prays. Everybody has some inkling or longing for something bigger than themselves to intervene and help or to be connected to.
Just as communication is the foundation for every relationship, prayer is the pathway to intimacy with God.
You know, one of the interesting things about the world, the way our world is designed, is the problem is it’s, is it’s designed so that we don’t pay attention to that which really matters.
Isn’t it true that our eyes get caught off and our lives get consumed with things that when you look back on life, you’re going, like, “Why was I so focused on that?” How do we pay attention to that which matters?
Psalm 46. It’s the context for the eight words that we are going to dive into. Eight simple words. “Be still and know that I am God.”
It’s as simple as that. It’s as difficult as that. Be still and know that I am God. Like, imagine what would happen in your life if you felt the permission to be still and redirect your attention and then recognize He is God.
Well, what does that look like? Let’s just break this down. “Be still.”
What does it mean to be still? The word means to put an end to a state or activity, to sink down deep, to relax into. What would it look like if you just began to relax into the presence of God, instead of rushing into the day, you relaxed into the presence of God?
Imagine how your day would shift and change and the pace and maybe your heart rate if you said today, “I just want to relax into Your presence before I head off into my day. And normally what I do is rush off into my day and I just kind of try to invite You into my rushing.”
Like, busyness. It’s a badge of honor. “How are you doing?” “Busy.” Dallas Willard said, “Hurry is the great enemy of the soul.”
“Being hurried,” listen to this, “is an inner condition, a condition of the soul. It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I’m unable to be fully present with God, with myself, and with other people. I’m unable to occupy the present moment. Busyness,” listen, “migrates to hurry when we let it squeeze God out of our lives.
And here’s what is fascinating. Psalm 23, I always found this curious. You know, it’s talking about God being our shepherd. And you know one of the lines that always is intriguing to me is it says, “The Lord is our shepherd; I shall not want.” And then notice what it says next. “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Like, there’s something about this internal striving of the human condition that we need help to do this. It was true three thousand years ago and it’s true today. And a shepherd with his sheep knows that he has to actually, at times, make the sheep enjoy and relax and take a break.
It goes on. “Be still,” hurry is the great enemy of the soul. And then, “…and know.”
This word “to know” means to notice, to be cognizant or aware of, of fact or specific piece of information, to be aware of or to understand or recognize, to observe or to see with our eyes, to perceive, to know by way of experience.
I need to be still so that I can know by way of experience that You are God. Stillness is part of the pathway to knowing God is God, by the way.
Shift your attention, shift your perspective, shift your eyes. I don’t know what the anxious thought of your day, in fact, I like the way John Ortberg talks about it. He calls it the troubling thoughts. We all have these troubling thoughts that are consuming us, that rob us of peace and produce anxiety.
The way he says it is simply a way of thinking that does not take God into account. It’s not the thought, it’s what that thought does is you begin to think that thought and go down that path as if God does not exist. And when you do that, it sucks you down into a spiral of anxious activity and it crushes the soul.
“Be still and know.” Which means I have to shift my attention and it’s a practice. It’s a practice. It’s something I just need to begin to put into practice of shifting my attention to knowing who God is.
“Be still and know” – what? “…that I – God.” Which means you and I are not God. And that’s a very good thing. That He is God and you are not. In fact, the word in Hebrew for God is right here is Elohim. It’s the supernatural being who originated and rules over the universe, God’s creative activity. “Be still and recognize the supernatural being who originated and rules over the universe, His creative activity. Like You are God and all that we know, see, and understand You spoke one word and it came into existence.” Can He handle what is going on in your world?
When we zoom out and begin to see who He is. And then when Moses encountered God, He gave him His covenant name: Yahweh. “I AM.” “I am ever-existing one, uncreated Creator, sovereign one.” Like, He is the great I AM, which means I am not. And what a relief. Because the source of so much of our striving, of so much of our worrying, of so much anxiety is the things that we are trying to do and be that is God’s alone to do and be. That’s His job and not ours.
J.I. Packer, when talking about the name of God says this, “The name is not a description of God but simply a declaration of His self-existence, His eternal changelessness, a reminder to mankind that He has life in Himself.” So, every other pursuit is not life. He alone has life and what He is now, He is eternally.
Now, the psalmist tells us, “Be still,” cease activity, relax into. “Know,” shift your attention from that troubling thought – that He is God, the I AM. Sigmund Mowinckel writes this about the Hebrew thought. He says, “To the Hebrew, to be does not mean to exist as all other beings and things do as well, but to be active, to express one’s self and active being so the God who acts, or I am the God who really acts.”
See, it’s the invitation of God to cease your activity, to see and recognize that God has already been acting and working. Like, be still, relax into – whoo. I’m not in control of my boss and I can’t change him, but God, You are in control. God, I don’t know how my kids are going to respond and this seems like they are making some really bad decisions, but every time I get in it, it seems like I’m messing it up. But here’s what I know is You’re a good Father and You love them more than me. And would You meet them because You’re God? God – the way this, like, economy is looking right now, it’s scaring me.
And I don’t know if I can get a job. Everywhere I’m going is they are doing these freezes and… but, God, You are in control. And You are sovereign and You will provide.
And I recognize that when I cease my activity I finally recognize Your activity and see how You are working and moving.
You know, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the names of God took on special form, special meaning as they saw His activity in their lives, as they saw Him work and move and so they had names like these: Yahweh Nissi – He is my banner. God declares that His banner over you is love. The banner is what you led out into the battlefield. He’s saying: You know what is leading you is My love. The protection ahead of you is My love. Like where you’re headed into is My love.
Yahweh Jireh – He is my provider. As we see, as we strive and struggle, God is going, like, “I want to provide for you. Would you step back and let Me? Let Me provide for you.”
Yahweh Raah – He is my shepherd. The tender, loving care of a shepherd to provide for the sheep what they need the most. Whether they want it in the moment or not. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they guard and protect me.”
Yahweh Tsidqenu – He is my righteousness. Like, some of our striving and some of our anxiety has to do with we are somehow trying to measure up, to become the right person, like somehow there’s this list of the perfect person and sometimes it’s in the religious realm and other times it’s just in human, like, everything. But we are just trying to be and somehow level up and get better. And the good news of the gospel is – get this – when God sees you, He sees Jesus.
He says you are covered. You are clothed in His righteousness. Like, you have the imputed, literally, placed-upon righteousness of Christ. You can’t earn it, there’s nothing you can do to deserve it, it’s not because you were a good boy or girl this day, it’s not because you did something bad so you lost it. It’s yours. You are covered in Christ so He sees Christ when He sees you. His righteousness is all over you. Man, what freedom we would walk in if we just realized, Man, I am covered in the righteousness of God.
Yahweh Rapha – He is my healer. He’s my healer. He meets me in the depths of my brokenness, my doubts, my worries, my concerns, my relationships, my physical needs. He’s my healer.
Yahweh Shalom – He is my peace. He’s my peace. He is wholeness and life. In fact, the apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 4 would say it this way, “Don’t be anxious about anything but with prayer and petition present your requests to God.” And then it says this, “And the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Like, God’s peace is not passive, it’s proactive. That word “guard” is the same word for a centurion. It's like His peace stands guard. When we are still, His peace guards your heart and your mind. We are then shifting our attention and His peace stands as, “I am going to guard you in this moment.”
“Be still and know that I am God.” What would it look like for you to practice this this week? Now, I’m not talking about thirty minutes. I’m not talking about twenty minutes. I’m talking about a moment. Like, set your phone. Maybe it’s at eight thirty a.m. Maybe it’s at twelve p.m. Maybe it’s at seven p.m. Just to go off and where you can be still and you would stop and you know He’s God. Where you shift from those troubling thoughts and then invite God into those thoughts and recognize who He is.
Just simply relax into His presence. Stillness is hard for us. Silence is hard for us. We like noise because it keeps us distracted. We like noise because then we don’t have to deal with the inner stuff going on. And that’s the reason silence is hard is because the minute we are silent, all the stuff that we have been ignoring bubbles up, doesn’t it? But silence gives space for our soul to speak, to know what is really going on inside.
I have found it helpful to kind of still myself with three kind of steps. One is just physical stillness where I just stop and I’m still. I’m a drummer and so drummers are naturally fidgety people. I’m always, like, I can barely sit still. But it’s like I literally get in a very comfortable, relaxed-into posture.
When I’m doing this at home, I have to have my phone in the other room, because this has trained me so well. If it’s sitting next to me, I just, my hand, it works without my mind. It just grabs it. It just goes. I’m like, “Why am I on Instagram? I don’t know.” So, I literally get technology out. Physical stillness. Breathe in, breathe out.
And then mental stillness. When I do this at home, I actually keep my to-do list because the minute I try to get still, all my to-do list shows up. And that’s okay. I just write it down so I don’t forget about it and it’s off my mind. But then the troubling thoughts are what begin to come in. And you identify them and then you just bring them to Jesus. You bring Him into the conversation.
And then there’s the emotional stillness, it’s the things that are going on in your heart. Because the minute we are silent, it does begin to bubble up, the internal. It might be fears or concerns, it might be anger or worry, discouragement, depression. And bring God into the middle of that. Would you just recognize that He is God, that He is in control, that He is a good, loving, heavenly Father?