Sometimes we try to get out of this bind by praying a generic, “Lord, I praise you for who you are!” That’s pretty lame, isn’t it? Try that with your spouse if you’re married: “Honey, I praise you for who you are.” You’ll probably get a strange look in response, or a “What’s that supposed to mean?”

If we want to praise God for who he is we must expand our knowledge of the attributes and titles by which he goes in Scripture. Over the years I have gradually compiled a list of almost 250 of these descriptions. This A to Z list includes attributes such as patient, wise, angry, just, radiant, generous, exalted, sovereign, unchanging, zealous, and righteous. The titles range from King to Rock, Shepherd, Shield, Way, Trap and Snare, Living Water, Refining Fire, Brother, Refuge, Warrior, Song, and Morning Star. There is a lot to meditate on here and much to stimulate our praise.

This topic deserves additional treatment, so I will return to it later and provide some practical suggestions for turning this list of God’s attributes and titles (see Appendix) into praise. But before we leave this prayer buster let me offer one final word of explanation as to why our neglect of praise tends to diminish our praying in general.

Imagine this. You have a neighbor to whom you are always appealing for help. Whenever you speak with him it’s always to ask for a favor—to lend you a tool, or to watch your kids, or to give you a hand with a household project.

One day it dawns on you that this is the nature of every conversation you have with him. You wonder if he notices this as well. You reason (and rightly so), “He must get tired of seeing me coming.” How do you remedy this situation? There are two ways to go about it. You could either correct the imbalance in your conversations (by talking to him about more than just your personal needs) or you could speak less frequently with your neighbor so that you don’t wear him out with your requests.

Many of us take the latter approach in our relationship with God. Aware of the fact that all our prayers seem to be appeals for help, our tendency is to scale back these conversations so as not to be a bother to God. (Even we get tired of our self-centeredness.)

How much better it would be, instead, if we introduced some balance to our praying. Beginning our prayers with praise acknowledges that, “This is not all about me—God, too, will be blessed by these prayers.” Such a realization encourages us to converse with him with greater regularity.

No Pattern

I like ruts. That’s a strange thing to admit, but it’s true. I have found that familiar ruts (maybe a more positive expression would be “routines”) help me get started on tasks that I might otherwise put off because of simple inertia.

And when something breaks up one of my routines? I can be paralyzed with indecision. Happened not too long ago. My teenage son had a day off of school. I decided to bag my agenda for the day and do something with him. “What would you like to do?” I asked.

“I dunno,” he shrugged. “Go to a movie?” I suggested. “I dunno.” “Bowling?” “I dunno.” Take the train into the city?” “I dunno.”

We were both stuck. The absence of routine had stopped us cold. In fact, we probably would have sat there indefinitely in indecision if my wife had not shown up and threatened to put us both to housework if we couldn’t find something to do. That got us going.

I’m a big fan of ruts, routines, and patterns. When I exercise each day, for example, I know exactly what I am going to do. I know how many sets of push-ups I’ll attempt and how far I’ll run (3.1 miles exactly—not 3.2 or 3.0). I don’t make up my workout as I go. I do it the same way, every time. And that’s one of the reasons I don’t hesitate to get started. I jump right in.