Given the times in which we now live with breaking news daily on the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the accompanying social and economic uncertainty, this verse is a healing balm for the soul.
presence of God
“These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.” Isaiah 56:7 (NIV)
There is something captivating about the promise of joy as a desired end of prayer. Joy is typically not something that we freely associate with prayer – solemnity yes, sobriety, stamina, even anguish, but not joy. But contrary to conventional wisdom, God is saying in this verse that an accompanying and abiding experience in prayer is meant to be joy.
Practically how does that happen? David who continually spent time in God’s house of prayer gives us some insight. “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 NIV)
From this verse we discover three primary reasons for experiencing joy when we pray.
1) God shares His secrets with us when we pray by giving us a “path of life” revelation. One of the great sources of joy in the place of prayer is the revelation we receive for ourselves, others and the direction in which to pray. Jeremiah puts it this way “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV)
2) God’s promises His presence when we pray and the “fullness of joy” that accompanies His presence. The essence of that joy is simply spending time with Him. It is in getting to know Him, His nature and character and learning His ways. Moses, who experienced God’s presence as few men, cried out to God “Now if you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” (Exodus 33:13)
3) We have the “pleasure” and privilege of exercising Kingdom authority when we pray. The right hand of God is where Christ is seated in heavenly places, far above all rule and authority; and it is there in the Spirit we are seated with Him. (Ephesians 2:6) From a place of prayer we enter into the non-stop intercession with Jesus – that “His name be hallowed, His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I believe that “the pleasures forevermore” at the Father’s right hand are the sense of purpose and accomplishment we feel when we are making a difference in the world through our intercession with Jesus.
Like many people, I can personally confirm for the reasons just given that there is a remarkable release of joy when entering into a season of concentrated prayer. Such joy is typically not attendant to the casual or intermittent pray-er, but reserved for those who with diligence set their hearts to seek the Lord with regularity and over extended periods of time. That is not to say the God will not break in with His joy upon anyone who prays, under any condition, for God is sovereign, but the abiding experience of joy comes most readily to those who abide in His presence.
As I think about the times in prayer when I have been overcome with joy, it has invariably been a result of one or a combination of the three causes of joy listed above. God has given me joy in His house of prayer when I’ve heard His voice, sensed His manifest presence and/or felt the anointing to make a throne room proclamation of His will. In those times, I have felt what motivated Joshua to choose to stay in the Lord’s presence, rather than accompany Moses back to the camp. (Exodus 33:11)
Please share your joy-filled experiences in prayer. Under what circumstance has the Lord given you joy in His house of prayer?
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Those of you who read this blog with any regularity have probably noticed that most of my posts over the past months have been on the same topic. You may have been wondering what happened to Tom? His blogs used to be more interesting, now all he talks about is prayer. . . . boring!
Well back on March 16, nearly five months ago now, something did happen. That morning when I was meditating on Jesus’ words “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17) I felt the Lord speak to me as clearly as I have ever heard Him. From deep within my spirit the Holy Spirit gave me this simple repetitive prayer for myself: “Make me a house of prayer. Make me a house of prayer. Make me a house of prayer . . . .”
Since the Bible calls each individual believer in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit I had a stark realization. Before the Church, big “C”, and churches, little “c”, can become a house of prayer, each believer must first become a house of prayer. And that includes me! I have been praying this prayer daily ever since.
It has had a marked effect upon my life. The more I have prayed it, the more the desire to pray has grown within me leading to a more consistent and deeper prayer life than I have ever experienced. In the process I am discovering that my perspective and understanding of prayer are undergoing a subtle transformation.
Here are four things I am seeing with greater clarity:
There is a Christmas sentimentality about the Immanuel – “God with us” promise that often belies or misrepresents its true meaning. The concept of God’s presence in our lives is both a complex and expansive topic. Doctrinal differences about God’s presence have spawned all the world’s religions and hundreds of different Christian denominations.
As we celebrate the birth of Immanuel it is imperative for us to understand what this promise of His presence really means. For clarity’s sake let us first consider two types of God’s presence that the Immanuel presence is NOT.
First thanks to all of you for your prayers, words of encouragement and support. The surgery to remove my thyroid a week ago today went very well! Jesus, the Great Physician, was faithful in guiding the hands of the two surgeons and everything went as planned with no complications. I ended up being hospitalized two nights and was released last Wednesday afternoon.