“To what profit is it that we dwell in Jerusalem, if we do not see the King’s face?” – David Macintyre
Long has been my practice of prayer, whether it be in public settings, in the midst of family, or in the private places when GOD is my only partner.
Common to the vocation of pastor is the legitimate need to pray for the known and even unknown needs of the congregation, to offer thanks for GOD’s many blessings, to set the tone that enables others to enter into needed confession, to intercede on behalf of those facing heavy trials or who are in the midst of crisis, to comfort the ill and the hurting, to acknowledge the grief of those in mourning, to solemnize the joining of the newly married, and to pronounce blessings on GOD’s people just before they leave the sanctuary to reenter the fray of daily life.
Of course, I’ve attended many prayer meetings over the years, learning and practicing different prayer forms that have been part of the Church legacy for two millennia. And in my pastoral role, I have led these same meetings.
I’ve been asked, like most pastors, to pray at public events even when the sponsoring organizations or event purposes were not Christ-centered or oriented.
My wife and I pray together daily, and our children and grandchildren join with us whenever we’re together. From time-to-time, I’ve even been the unofficial, designated prayer-giver at extended family events.
Each occasion is a great privilege. My greatest joy, however, comes during those times when it’s just GOD and me. For me, these times remove the cliché aspect from “having a personal relationship with GOD” because each opportunity is deeply personal and relational.
Why do I do it? Because I want, like David Macintyre says, to see the King’s face. It’s not enough for me to know that He’s there; I want to experience communion with my Creator. I’m thankful for my rational mind and its ability to grasp enough of the reality of GOD to have faith in Him, but my mind is not the sum total of who I am, it is one part. I also have a heart, a soul. I desire that all of me know GOD…and that I hide nothing of myself from Him. I want the Holy Spirit to guide me through the interior castles of my heart and discover whatever GOD want to show me about Himself and about me (Interior Castle is a classic of Christian literature by Teresa of Avila, circa 1588).
In these times (usually in the early morning darkness or first light), I want to move beyond reasoning about GOD and enter into the mystery of the eternity He commands. I want to present myself to Him and wait for Him, in the same way my childhood self used to wait for my father to come home from work. I want to hear what He chooses to say, if He chooses to speak. And even if He chooses not to speak, to know that He is there and is content with me patiently waiting for Him. At times He has given me words of assurance, sometimes correction, and sometimes direction. He has even surprised me with an overwhelming sense of His presence so powerful that I wasn’t sure I could bear it. Every time He has revealed Himself, it has always been about some aspect of Himself I may have been inattentive to, my inner need, or the inner need of someone else.
Several days ago, I became acutely aware of being in the courts of heaven while I was praying. This certainly wasn’t a physical change because I was also aware of being seated in the same place I was when I first started praying. This change was more of an inner awareness of position and presence. I’ve never experienced this before, and I’m not sure how to better describe it. As soon as I realized what I was experiencing, passages of Scripture about our true citizenship being in heaven began racing through my mind. I’ve been tempted to speculate about why this happened, and perhaps GOD will make it clear some day. For now, I’m going to treat it as a love gift, and say “Thank you, Father.”
Psalm 130 is an ascent psalm, meaning that it was written as a song to be sung by the Jewish pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the great annual feasts. Verse 7 says, “Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” This same Lord is my GOD, the loving One whose redemption goes far deeper than I can think or imagine. So if I’m going to go to Jerusalem, it only makes sense to want to see His face. That’s why I pray.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved for text content.