Enter His Courts With Praise
Two summers ago, before our trip to Ghana, I was at our African partner church and a woman I'd never met before approached me. She began asking me, in her broken English, where we were going on our mission trip. I told her the region we would be visiting, and named the villages to which we would be going. Her face lit up! She exclaimed that one of the villages I had named was where her brother and his wife lived. She told me he was a pastor there, building a small church. She asked for my address, and a few days later I received a letter from her telling me her brother's name, and a picture of him standing next to the frame of the church they were building. I had no idea if I would be able to find him, and if I did, what exactly I was to do with this information, but I tucked the letter and picture into my journal and slid it into my backpack before we left.
My team worked in two main villages that week, and between the hectic pace, my son's sickness for part of the time, and the sheer volume of work we were trying to accomplish in such a short time, I didn't get to search out the man whose sister I had met weeks earlier. Our last day in the village, I pulled out that letter from my journal and prayed, "Lord, if you mean for me to meet this person, You will need to orchestrate it. I have no idea how to find him." I put the letter back in my journal and left for the day's work. Later that evening when we were back at the small hotel where we were staying, one of my kids came to me and said there was a woman there, looking for my husband. Thinking she was someone we had met earlier in the week, I went to find her, as he had not made it back to the hotel yet. A lovely woman approached me, with her warm Ghanaian smile, clutching an envelope with my husband's name on it, followed by the word, "missionary." That, in itself was enough to make me get tears in my eyes. It turns out, she was the wife of the man in the picture! She didn't know if we were still in the area, but she had walked about six miles from where they live to this small hotel, where she thought we might possibly be staying. She had no idea that this was our last day there! She had apparently gotten our name from her sister-in-law.
We sat under the shade of a hut-like structure and had a wonderful visit. She told of her husband's work trying to start a church in a nearby village. She described what God was doing in their lives, the miraculous provisions He had made, and the daunting work that lay ahead in this particular area dominated by tribal religions. She told me of their goal of starting an orphanage in the area, and told me wonderful stories of babies they had already received. It was an amazing time. She wanted to make contact with us in case we would ever be working in their area again and might be able to help or possible partner with them. I was thoroughly blessed by our conversation. But the blessing was about to be greater.
Before she left, I asked her if we might pray together. She exclaimed that yes, she would love that. Immediately she stood up, straightened her posture, and looked up. She paused, turned to me, and said in her wonderful accent, "I always eentah Heez cawts weeth praise!" at which time she began singing, loudly, a magificent song of praise in her own language. I praised right along with her, feeling very much like we were now officially, "in His courts!" We then prayed together, very much in the presence of the Heavenly Father. I don't know when I'd ever felt more "before the throne of grace." It was so, so powerful.
That moment changed the way I approach my personal prayer time. Like my Ghanaian sister, I always "enter His courts with praise." Now, that doesn't mean that I sing loudly before each prayer (that's a personal favor to anyone who might be near me at the time!) Our church has a separate bulletin each week with the worship lyrics printed, which I keep in the front of my Bible for my own "personal praise" time. Just looking at the lyrics jogs my memory and I can sing, either out loud or to myself as I begin my prayer time. I have my iPod nearby when I have my quiet times each morning, too. This morning, as I was making pancakes for my kids, I was still singing the wonderful strains of "O Worship the King" from "Hymns: Ancient and Modern" (Chris Tomlin and the Passion band.)
So often, after I have entered His courts with praise, I feel like I stay there long after I say "Amen." I encourage you to "enter His courts with praise" as you start your prayer times. That can take whatever form you want it to, from lingering in the psalms, to singing out loud. It will transform your time in prayer!
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4
"Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere;" Psalm 84:10