Psalm 25:1; Psalm 123:1; Lamentations 3:41
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Prayer is the ascent of the soul to God. God must be eyed and the soul employed.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The chief thing ought not to be omitted, even to raise up the hearts to God―and he adds, “to God who is in heaven:” for it is necessary that men should rise up above the world, and to go out of themselves, so to speak, in order to come to God.
JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Cyprian saith, that in the primitive times the minister was wont to prepare the people’s minds to pray by [saying] “Lift up your hearts.”
THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): The great work of prayer is to lift up the heart to God. To withdraw the heart from all created things which we see and feel here below, that we may converse with God in heaven. Prayer doth not consist in a multitude and clatter of words, but in the getting up of the heart to God, that we may behave ourselves as if we were alone with God, in the midst of glorious saints and angels.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The first step in prayer, should always be the realization of the presence of the Lord. One of the greatest men of prayer was the saintly George Muller of Bristol. Here’s an expert in prayer, and He always taught that; that the first thing you do in prayer, is to realize the presence of God.You don’t start speaking immediately. You can utter lots of phrases, but you might as well not have done. You must realize the presence of God―and the realization is infinitely more important than anything you’ll say. So we realize this, and as we do so, we are filled with strength and power.
THOMAS MANTON: There is a double advantage which we have by this getting the soul into heaven in prayer. It is a means to free us from distractions and doubts. To free us from distractions: until we get our hearts out of the world, as if we were dead and shut up to all present things, how easily is the heart carried away with the thoughts of earthly concernments! Until we can separate and purge our spirits, how do we interline our prayers with many ridiculous thoughts!
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): One of the most difficult things in preparation for prayer is the restraining of loose and wandering thoughts―intruding thoughts surround us like a plague of flies: they are here, and there, and everywhere.
THOMAS GOODWIN (1600-1679): Take heed of encumbering thy mind with too much business, more than thou canst grasp. It made Martha forget that “one thing necessary,” being “cumbered about with many things;” Luke 10:40. This breeds cares, which distract the mind.
THOMAS MANTON: Therefore we should labour all that we can to get the heart above the world into the presence of God and the company of the blessed, that we may deal with Him as if we were by Him in heaven, and were wholly swallowed up of His glory. Though our bodies are on earth, yet our spirits should be with our Father in heaven. For want of practising this in prayer, these distractions increase upon us.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Realize that you are face to face with God. In this word ‘prayer’ the idea of being face to face is inherent in the very word itself. You come into the presence of God and you realize the presence and you recollect the presence―that is the first step always. Before you drop on your knees next time and begin to speak to God, try to remember His greatness and His majesty and His might, and then go on to remember that He is life, that He is holy, that He is righteous, that He is just, and that He is of such a pure countenance that He cannot even look upon evil. Remember that you are speaking to the Judge of the whole world.
THOMAS MANTON: So, as for doubts, when we look to things below, even the very manifestations of God to us upon earth, we have many discouragements, dangers without and difficulties within. Till we get above the mists of the lower world, we can see nothing of clearness and comfort; but when we can get God and our hearts together, then we can see there is much in the fountain, though nothing in the stream; and though little on earth, yet we have a God in heaven.
JOHN CALVIN: This the Prophet confirms by the verb lift up; which intimates, that although all worldly resources fail us, we must raise our eyes upward to heaven, where God remains unchangeably the same, despite the mad impetuosity of men in turning all things here below upside down.
JOHN GILL (1697-1771): “O thou that dwellest in the heavens.” He who has made them, dwells in them―which is a very great encouragement to faith in prayer, when it is considered that God is the Maker and possessor of heaven and earth; and that our help is in, and expected from Him, who made all these―and although the Lord is everywhere, and fills heaven and earth with His presence―yet here in the heaven of heavens, the third heaven, the seat of angels and glorified saints, is the more visible display of His glory; here He keeps His court; this is His palace, and here His throne is prepared, and on it He sits.
MATTHEW HENRY: Praying is lifting up the soul to God as to “our Father in heaven,” Matthew 6:9.
MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): “Our Father which art in heaven,” [is] a compellation speaking our faith both in the power and in the goodness of God; our eyeing Him as in heaven speaketh His power, Psalm 115:3; our considering Him as our Father speaks our faith in His goodness, Matthew 7:11.
THOMAS MANTON: The lifting up the eyes implies faith and confident persuasion that God is ready and willing to help us. The very lifting up of the bodily eyes towards heaven is an expression of this inward trust.
RICHARD HOLDSWORTH (1590-1649): It is the testimony of a heavenly heart. He that lifts up his eyes to heaven acknowledgeth that he is weary of the earth; his heart is not there; his hope and desire is above.
AUGUSTINE (354-430): Standing on earth thou art in heaven, if thou lovest God.
THOMAS MANTON: Let me especially press you to this: with an eye of faith to look within the veil, and whenever you come to pray, to see God in heaven, and Christ at His right hand.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Come on, thou indolent knave, down upon thy knees, up with thy hands and eyes to heaven.