November 2023 Prayer Devotional Blog

Praying the Good Stuff

The rhythmic flow of ocean waves. The majesty of a mountain vista. The first waft of lilacs in the spring. Warm sand underfoot and sunshine on your face. The lilt of a baby’s laugh. A loved one’s face lighting up with a smile. The first time someone you liked held your hand. A blanket warm from the dryer on a cold day. Unexpected gifts. A gentle breeze on your cheek. The starry expanse across the heavens. The warmth and crackle of a cheery fire. A special treat baking in the oven.

All these experiences naturally bring up an emotional response. We could call it many things, but we can also make it pretty simple—they make us feel good. There is goodness in the world, because our good God put it there. God’s creation is called good six times in Genesis 1, and it is proclaimed very good upon its completion. God could have opted to make creation gray and bleak, utilitarian, merely functional. Instead, He opted to craft it with goodness and beauty. This is part of what theologians call common grace, which refers to God’s grace displayed through blessings available to all humanity. For us everyday folk, we can just call it by its much more obvious name: the good stuff.

The good stuff is evidence of Himself that God wove throughout creation (Psalm 19:1-6). This includes nature itself, alongside how God designed things to operate and the plans He has been working since the beginning of it all. Every person, even those who do not walk with God, has a natural response to the good stuff (Romans 1:20). However, only those who know the Lord recognize the true source of goodness and respond appropriately. We see that borne out in the lyrics of the classic hymn How Great Thou Art:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze
 
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
As Christians, we understand there is no substitute for knowing the one true, living God whose purpose, work and character are explicitly and uniquely described in the Bible. We cherish study of Scripture and meditating on its truths. It is a critical source of knowledge about God, that we might recognize and celebrate the reality of who He is. Yet in His infinite wisdom, He also poured His goodness into creation, that we might deepen our understanding of Him through bearing witness with awe and wonder to His masterful work.

Scientists have found that awe is uniquely human. No other creature experiences awe as a response to the goodness of the world. Notice in the hymn above what naturally flows from awe—praising God! Praise is simply recognition and celebration of who God is. The good stuff leads us into deeper understanding of God’s goodness and love for us. This recognition and celebration draws us closer to Him and deepens our trust. Praying the good stuff means to talk to God about the good we have experienced and how it has pointed us back to Him.

We must reckon with the fact that our world is broken, and that the effects of human sin and selfishness are wreaking havoc. Much about our lives entails pain, suffering, sorrow, and sitting in the troubling consequences of our own actions. We bear the brunt of wounds others have brought into our lives and the sting of knowing we have wounded others. This knowledge can drag us down like quicksand into depths of despair, despondency, and shame. It can also cause us to drift toward apathy, neither feeling especially bad nor notably good. Everything becomes just sort of meh as we go through the motions. Neither of these states lends itself well to the practice of praise. As we saw above, praying the good stuff is an antidote to that. Praise flows from our hearts when we allow the good stuff to elicit awe. To see the good is not to deny the difficulties, the troubles, the hurts, or the problems. Rather, it is cultivation of our ability to continue to praise God even in the midst of it all.

If you are like me, there are times when you are just way too adept at convincing yourself there is no good in the world or in you. I have a friend that refers to that mindset as “toilet bowling,” and honestly, that’s precisely the correct term for it. The longer I ruminate on the bad, the more it sucks me down. Turning my eyes toward the good stuff is sometimes easy and natural, and sometimes it is a fight to get my head above water so I can see it again. (Paints a useful, vivid mental picture, doesn’t it?) Yet in mirror image of God’s own faithfulness, the good is always reliably still there.

So how can you pray the good stuff?

  • If praying the good stuff comes easy, find a way to document that for yourself. Create a tangible reminder you can turn to for light when a darker season descends.
  • If seeing the good stuff is hard right now, consider starting small. Find just one thing that about the world that you think is good, and focus on it. For example, during one particularly dark period in my own life, I used to purposely drive past the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis (where I was living at the time), because I loved the beauty of the architecture. Having one point of light amidst the darkness helped get me through. There is no need for the good thing you pick to be profound—it can be as simple as “I like this rock because it is shiny.”
  • Research has shown that humans have an innate response that draws us to a flame. Try lighting a candle or getting a fire going in your fireplace and observe how it makes you feel as you sit beside it. Talk to God about what comes up as you do.
  • Enlist your five senses to help you out. Write in your prayer journal five things you have seen that looked good, four things you have touched that felt good, three things you have heard that sounded good, two scents that smelled good, and one thing that tasted good. Follow up by writing out statements that affirm each bit of goodness is from God (e.g., “I know that God is good because he made my favorite purple flowers”).
  • Go to where you feel good. The good stuff is part of creation, which means it is in nature, other people, productive activities, and even rest. If God had a hand in creating it, there is goodness in it. Give yourself permission to experience it.
  • If you would like a Scriptural guide for where to look for God’s goodness, Psalm 104 and Psalm 145 are great places to start.
  • When you experience good, your corresponding prayer does not have to be complicated. A simple, “God, this thing is good, and that reminds me that You are good” will suffice. The point is to draw your heart to focus on the good stuff and the God it points to.

Lord, guide our eyes toward goodness, that we might see and marvel at how what You have done demonstrates who You are. Allow that to permeate our prayer with praise for who You truly are. Thank You that You are a good God, who is also working in all things for our good. In You our trust is well-placed.  
This prayer devotional was written by Brandy Eldridge. Brandy is a wife, mother, sister, friend, and willing shenanigans participant who values relationship with God and with others above all else. In her moments of spare time, you’ll likely find her nerding out over biblical Hebrew, debating the merits of various fantasy world characters, or sharing a hearty belly laugh with anyone willing to join in. Brandy has served on the GCC Women’s Ministry Leadership Team since 2021. 
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