Posted by: pastortomvabeach | March 5, 2013

Thought for the Week March 10, 2013

When was the last time you prayed and didn’t ask for anything? I mean, literally didn’t ask the Lord to do, give, supply, provide, help, show, reveal, or perform whatever other act of His power would save the day? Yesterday morning when I went to pray, I told the Lord that I was not going to ask for anything, but within just a few short minutes I found myself asking.

That could tell me a couple of things about my view of God and prayer. First, it may indicate that I view God mainly as Someone who takes care of me and as the source of all that I need to be comfortable, satisfied, and happy. This is not a bad thing unless that is my only perception of my Father in heaven. Secondly, it could indicate that I view myself as absolutely dependent upon God, literally, for everything in life. Again, not a bad thing, and probably better than the extreme end of the first case.

Then, it could also indicate that I view prayer only as a way to ask and get answers from God so I can always have what I need and what He can give. Of course, that is one purpose of prayer. James says we have not because we ask not. Jesus says ask, seek, and knock, so we know that God wants us to bring our needs to Him. But is this the highest and best purpose of prayer?

The Psalmist, Asaph, wrote, for me it is good to be near God (Psalm 73:28). In the context, he talks about how God’s presence is so valuable to him. Isaiah 55:6 tells us, Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Notice the emphasis is not on what the Lord can give but on the Lord for Himself, His person and presence. Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33) This was in the context of telling us that God already knows everything that we need so if we will just seek Him, His rule over our lives, living out His righteous ways in our lives, then He’ll take care of all that stuff we need.

Is it possible that just being with God, just talking to Him and wanting to be in His presence is so much more what prayer is about than asking for things? When Paul was at Mars Hill in Acts 17, he engaged the idol worshippers telling about an unknown (to them) God who had made all humanity and distributed them over the earth so that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:27-28) If God supplies our life and vitality would it not be extremely beneficial just to want to be with Him and encounter His presence?

James, in the book we are studying now, said, Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8) This tells us that by spending time just wanting to be close to Him, He will come close to us. For me, the most important part of prayer is just being close to God, knowing that He listens to my voice and speaks to me. I don’t think there is any higher purpose to pray. After all, He is worthy to be sought after.

Now having said this, let me remind you that I began this note by saying I planned to do just that on Monday and found that it’s easier said than done. One way that I have found to draw near to God and avoid the sometimes imperceptible impulse to ask for things is to spend an extended time in worship and praise. I can read the Psalms, sing praise songs, rehearse all of God’s attributes and names while giving Him honor for all of them and, in doing that, the need to ask for things seems to grow less and less and God’s presence grows more and more evident. After all the Psalmist says, thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Psalm 22:3 KJV). The picture is of God enthroned in the place where His praises are offered. So if I am praising and giving glory to the Father, He comes to that place. Jesus said that God is seeking those who worship Him in spirit and truth. Worship makes a place for encountering God.

As we purpose to become a church that prays, let us remember that it’s not so much that we ask for things and have amazing answers to our prayers that show how great God is and everyone gets excited about the stuff God is doing. I think it will be even more valuable to us as a congregation if we all get to the place of valuing our time spent just talking to and listening to God. He is our Father and His great delight is to have His children sit in His lap and just enjoy Him. Now there’s a thought to get your head around! What do you think?

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