You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 ESV
The singular truth about prayer that can most revolutionize a person’s prayer life is this – the primary purpose of prayer is be in God’s presence. When we make that our aim, first and foremost, simply to enter into and experience God’s presence, our understanding of prayer takes on transformative meaning. Prayer becomes a relationship more than a responsibility, a place more than a process, a delight more than a drudgery and an end more than a means.
The prayer life of Jesus and the way in which He related to His disciples illustrates this priority in prayer. In His own personal life Jesus frequently sought a solitary place in which He could commune with His Father in prayer. On occasion He brought some of His disciples with Him and the divine encounters He had with the Heavenly Father so impressed them that they finally asked Him to teach them to pray. (Luke 11:1) His response is noteworthy. He began by encouraging them to seek out a relationship with the heavenly Father themselves instructing them to pray “Father, hallowed be Thy name. . . .”
When Jesus chose the twelve He established this same priority emphasizing that relationship precedes responsibility. We are told “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” (Mark 3:14 NIV) One cannot help but notice that His first concern and purpose was that they simply “be with him.” That is Jesus’ desire for each of us with regard to prayer – simply to spend time with Him.
One of the best verses in the Bible that embodies God’s ultimate purpose for and intended blessings from prayer is found in Psalm 16:11. It was penned by David who is singularly described as a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The promise embedded in this verse is that out of God’s presence flows not only joy but also the revelation of His will, i.e. “the path of life.” The wonder of this priority in prayer is that in God’s presence, His perspective and will are revealed, thus enabling us to pray by revelation for the things that are upon His heart. That in turn releases faith because “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15 NIV)
Practically then, what does prayer look like when finding joy in the presence of Lord becomes our overarching desire? Here are several things that can help the pray-er seeking God’s presence.
1. Recognize the unique pathway God has provided for you to commune with Him and follow it. Each person has an innate preferred way in which to enter into and become aware of the presence of the Lord. It may be through worship music, or study of the Bible, or nature, or liturgy, or activism, or contemplation etc. It may be related to a specific time of day that works best for you such as early morning or late at night. It may be related to a specific place, indoors or out where you find an intimate place to meet with Him. For more on this topic check out the book “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas.
2. Begin with thanksgiving and praise. Nothing ushers us into the presence of the Lord more powerfully and releases His perspective more readily than thanksgiving. That is why we are frequently exhorted in the Bible to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4 NIV) It is good to recount the faithfulness of God in our lives and rehearse back to Him our thankfulness for that faithfulness.
3. Be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and quick to acknowledge and repent of any sin. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness and gives us bold confidence to enter into His presence. (1 John 1:7, Hebrews 10:19) With open arms the waiting Father is always standing ready to welcome the prodigal home into His loving embrace.
4. Ask for and yield to the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity, is the manifestation of God’s presence on earth. Welcoming the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, is also welcoming them. It is He, the Comforter and Counselor, who takes what they are saying and doing and reveals them to us. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 ESV)
5. Seek to silence the voice of self and Satan so that you can hear the voice of God. Distractive thoughts are often enemy number one whenever a person sets their heart to be in God’s presence. There are ways to be proactive in silencing all the other interruptive and usurping voices. First take time to cast all the burdens you are carrying upon the Lord. He invites us to let Him be our burden bearer. (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7) Second, take authority over every demonic voice, silencing it in the mighty name of Jesus, believing “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17) Third, keep a notepad nearby in which you can write down things you want to remember that come to mind and tend to pull you off track from seeking God. Finally, as you begin to delight yourself in the presence of the Lord and you begin to hear His voice, use that same means or a journal to capture the things He is revealing to you.
What have you learned about seeking God’s presence in prayer? Please share how becoming aware of the presence of God has transformed your prayer life.
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