THE VIEW FROM ABOVE
* * *
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:1, 3-4
INTRODUCTION (6 MINUTES)
DVD Introduction by Philip Yancey
Questions to Think About
How would you describe your experiences with prayer?
What do you understand the purpose of prayer to be?
What do you long to experience in your prayer life?
GROUP DISCOVERY (35 MINUTES)
DVD Teaching Notes
Lessons from the mountains
Catching a glimpse of the "God's eye View"
Prayer: realigning our perspectives
We are not in control
God is not our accomplice
Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God's point of view in
prayer I shift my point of view away from . the speck that is myself.
I gaze at the stars and recall what role I or any of us play in a universe
Prayer, p. 29
1. What is the God's eye View that Philip describes? (Memory Jogger:
How did the hikers appear to Philip and his wife as they looked down
from the summit ridge? What big impact did the lightning storm have
on Philip's perception of life? When it comes to God's work, who is the
2. The video segment provided several examples of how our human
perceptions of what is most important and how life ought to work stand
in opposition to the God's eye View of what is most important and how
life really works.
In what ways do the messages of the world's view of life contrast with
Jesus' message about what really matters in life?
What are some ways we might, as Philip suggests, correct the world's
messages with the God's eye View?
3. When we come face to face with the reality of how little control we
have over our future, many of us get a little nervous. What do you think
could happen in our prayer life and in our relationship with God if, in
the midst of our uncertain future, we intentionally chose to "be still and
know that [he is] God"?
Bible ExplorationBe Still and Know That I Am God
Every day my vision clouds over so that I perceive nothing but a
world of matter. It requires a daily act of will to remember what
Paul told the sophisticated crowd in Athens: "[God] is not far from
each one of us. `For in him we live and move and have our being'"
Prayer, p. 22
1. We tend to rely on our own sufficiency, but the Bible repeatedly exposes
the true nature of earthly life. What unmistakable message about the
God's eye View of life is communicated through Psalms 39:4; 90:12;
James 4:13-14; and 1 Peter 1:24?
2. Job's trials challenged his perspective and led him to reflect intensely on
his human condition and God's role in the world.
What did the Lord of the universe remind Job about when he was
wallowing in self-pity and demanding that God respond to his
theological queries? (See Job 38:4-11, and note that God's response
continues through Job 40:2.)
In his great discourse, God didn't provide even one specific answer
to Job's probing questions. But what did Job say in response to God's
thundering query, "Who is this that obscures my plans with words
without knowledge?" (Job 38:2), that shows he got God's message
loud and clear? (See Job 42:1-6.)
3. Philip encourages us to recognize the importance of God's command
in Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God." He helps us realize
that we are not in control of the world (or our futures) and that the
appropriate response to our condition is to be still before our powerful
and merciful God and turn over our concerns and problems to that
God. Let's deepen our understanding of what God means by this
command and explore how we might go about obeying it.
Consider what the command means. The Latin imperative for "be
still" is vacate (from which we get the word vacation), so God is
inviting us to take a break and allow him to be God in our daily
lives. In addition, the word translated "know" refers not only to
intellectual knowledge but also to knowing God through worship
and obedience. In your daily life, what might it look like to actually
put into practice these definitions of stillness and knowledge?
If we are honest, many of us don't find it easy to be still and "wait on
God." We keep taking on responsibilities and trying to accomplish
more and more in our own strength. Yet many faithful followers
of God who have gone before us learned to live life with a keen
awareness of God's perspective and our human frailty. What do you
learn about "waiting on God" from the following testimonies of those
who have gone before us?
The psalmist: "Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires
of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will
do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your
vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait
patiently for him." (Psalm 37:4-7)
The apostle Peter: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty
hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him
because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Jesus: "So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall
we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these
things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek
first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be
given to you as well." (Matthew 6:31-33)
The prophet Isaiah: "yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore
he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!" (Isaiah 30:18)
Closing Group Discovery Discussion
not all of us make a practice of climbing mountains that envelop us in
reminders of the God's eye View. Nevertheless, images of daily life can alert
us to the God's eye View that we otherwise might dismiss. A car racing
through an intersection against the light can remind us, in much the same
way a lightning bolt can, how much we don't control in our lives. A mass of
commuters crowded onto a subway platform during rush hour can remind
us, in much the same way a mountaintop view of distant hikers can, how
small we really are. Which images in your daily world remind you of God's
command: "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)?
WRAP-UP (14 MINUTES)
DVD Wrap-up by Philip Yancey
It occurs to me, thinking about prayer, that most of the time I get
the direction wrong. I start downstream with my own concerns and
bring them to God. I inform God, as if God did not already know. I
plead with God, as if hoping to change God's mind and overcome
divine reluctance. Instead, I should start upstream where the flow
When I shift direction, I realize that God already cares about my
concerns-my uncle's cancer, world peace, a broken family, a rebellious
teenager-more than I do. Grace, like water, descends to the
lowest part. Streams of mercy flow. I begin with God, who bears
primary responsibility for what happens on earth.
Prayer, p. 23
Using the image of trickling drops of water that collect and begin flowing
in an ever-widening stream down the mountains, Philip encourages us to
reflect on the God's eye View and use it as a starting point for prayer. During
this time of quiet, pray silently, using the following outline as a guide. This
exercise will help prepare you to pray together as a group at the close of this
* * *
Start at the top, the high snowfield where God is.
Reflect on who you are as a person of eternal destiny created in God's
image. Make necessary corrections and confession to renew an open
relationship with God.
Meditate on who God is. Thank and praise God for being the loving,
faithful Creator who continues to care for the vast, created universe.
Thank and praise God for what has been given to you.
Shift your image of God's love and blessing to the trickles of water that join
together and begin to form small pools and alpine ponds.
Realizing that God already cares about the people you know and
love, pray for those closest to you-your relatives, neighbors,
friends-and picture God's grace and blessing flowing down into
Imagine the flow of God's love and blessings growing wider and deeper, over-flowing
the pond and racing down the mountainside in a gurgling stream.
Pray for distant relatives, people in need, and national concerns
and issues that are important to you such as homelessness, genocide,
children of AIDS, impoverished people in your community, and
Turn your gaze to the image of a vast reservoir of water.
Imagine the whole scope of God's involvement in the world and
pray about the work God is doing everywhere. Join with others to
extend the widening circle of God's love to those who have not yet
experienced it. Pray about your place in accomplishing God's work
and, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5:44, pray for your enemies-those
who persecute you or make your life difficult.
When doubts creep in and I wonder whether prayer is a sanctified
form of talking to myself, I remind myself that the Son of God, who
had spoken worlds into being and sustains all that exists, felt a compelling
need to pray. He prayed as if it made a difference, as if the
time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time he
devoted to caring for people.
Prayer, p. 79
Begin by praying aloud verses 8-13 of Psalm 145:
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your
works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the
glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may
know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures
through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and
faithful in all he does.
Using the same images you used during your personal reflection time, continue
to pray about your concerns and God's work in the world. Focus on:
The trickles of your personal concerns
God's grace and blessing flowing into the lives of those close to you
The widening stream of needs in the world that are close to the heart
The vast reservoir of God's divine work in the universe
TO DO ON YOUR OWN
Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests
to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray
to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world,
and of me, through the eyes of God. In prayer I shift my point of view
away from my own natural selfishness. I climb above timberline and
look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall
what role I or any of us play in a universe beyond comprehension.
Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God's point of view.
Prayer, p. 29
As Philip shared in this session, prayer helps him regain sight of God's perspective
on things; it restores his vision of life to one that more resembles
God's. God longs to do the same for each of us. So take some time out from
the busy demands of your life and accept God's invitation to be still, to be
reminded of who God is, and to respond in light of God's perspective on
Read the following verses and meditate on what they say about God and
how that relates to your concerns and priorities. Feel free to jot down some
notes to help you remember how to focus on the God's eye View whenever
you approach God in prayer.
God as Creator
The faithful and compassionate heart of God
God's personal concern for individual people
2 Chronicles 16:9a
God's awareness of our personal needs
God's commitment to act on our behalf and for our benefit
Our response to God
SUPPLEMENTAL BIBLE DISCOVERY:
Praying for the Bigger Picture
Often the scope of our prayers is limited to what we want God to do for us.
yet God sees and acts in a realm far beyond our sight. Consider the following
passages about personal prayers offered to God that in some way (perhaps
unknown to the one who was praying) connected to the bigger picture of
what God was doing. How did God respond? in what ways do these examples
influence your desire to keep company with God through prayer?
1 Kings 18:22-24, 33-39
2 Kings 20:1-7; 2 chronicles 32:27-31
Nehemiah 1:5-11; 2:4-8
Daniel 9:4-5, 17-19; 10:1-13
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
MY PRAYER JOURNAL
Prayer invites us to rest in the fact that God is in control, and the
world's problems are ultimately God's, not ours. If I spend enough
time with God, I will inevitably begin to look at the world with a
point of view that more resembles God's own.
Prayer, p. 210
* * *
It's not easy to acknowledge God and, in Philip's words, "restore the truth of
the universe." each of us faces many distractions and the ongoing temptation
to try to be like God rather than being still, getting to know God better,
and trusting God to be God. Yet the practice of being still before God is the
best way to renew our perspective on life.
Use the following pages to write down your thoughts and observations
about prayer as well as the people, situations, concerns, aspirations, and
needs for which you want to pray. Keep the God's eye View in mind and
give some thought as to where your prayer concerns fit within that broader
Blessed are those who make the Lord their trust.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
Prayer helps correct myopia, calling to mind a perspective I daily
forget. I keep reversing roles, thinking of ways in which God should
serve me, rather than vice versa Prayer raises my sight beyond
the petty . circumstances of daily life to afford a glimpse of that
lofty perspective. I realize my tininess and God's vastness, and the
true relation of the two. In God's presence, I feel small because I am
Prayer, pp. 21-22