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Devotions > Seeking His face His presence

12 Dec 2014


If we consider the pattern for prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples we may find some important perspectives to instruct us as we pray.   We might also consider the instructions that God gave to Solomon in II Chronicles 7:14.   In fact it may be interesting to compare these two instructions each given to us directly from God.  

The first was given by Jesus in answer to the request ….. “ teach us to pray.”   The second was given to instruct the people of God regarding how to return to God, returning from His discipline to His blessing.    Arguably we are now moving rapidly toward a time of God’s severe discipline here in the USA.

2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (KJV)
13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

God speaking to Solomon spoke of His discipline in three categories:  destructive weather destroying food production, pests that would devour the land, and plagues that would bring mass destruction to human life.   When we consider these particular consequences of the judgment of God it seems fair to assume that we have not yet arrived at the full level of this described judgment.   However on balance the full extent of God’s judgment could arrive at any time and it may look quite different in our day. 

It seems there is a subtle but prevalent attitude of arrogance that we can keep these threats under control with our supposedly superior scientific technology.   This subtle arrogance especially on the part of the people of God may be an invitation for the inauguration of the full blown discipline of God upon our land.   Notice that the beginning phrase of God’s instruction to return to Him is that we humble ourselves.   

When we look at Jesus’ pattern prayer we see a similar instruction in the positive voice.   We are instructed to address God as our Father Who is in heaven and keep His Name holy.   This is only authentically possible when we first humble ourselves.   Proud individuals cannot lift up or honor God as God.

In our current culture humility is very lightly valued in most arenas.  But humility is a critical requirement for effective prayer.   Prayer in its simplest form is simply asking or begging for help.  I trust that you agree …. the foundation for effective prayer is a heart attitude of humility, lowering ourselves, and lifting up our God.

Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB95)
9 "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11 'Give us this day our daily bread.
12 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'

Perhaps an extension of the idea of humility is the instructed attitude to consider first the plans and purposes of God.  Jesus instructed that before we pray for our own needs (give us, forgive us, and lead us) we should pray for the will of God to be done and the Kingdom of God to come.   Is not this God-first focus birthed in the womb of humility?    Today we live in a world of me first.  Yet Jesus instructed us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

God instructed Solomon that after His people humble themselves and pray that they should seek His face.  The idea of seeking and praying for God’s will to be done and for His kingdom to come seems in some ways similar to the idea of seeking His face.   The Hebrew word for face is often translated God’s presence.  When we humbly seek to come into His presence we are naturally and usually at the same time seeking to fit into His plans. 

 For example imagine for a moment that you are granted an audience with the most powerful king on earth.   In fact this King has invited you to come into his presence.   Since you are not sure the nature of what this audience may include, your preparation includes research related to all you can discover regarding this King’s purposes, goals and stated agenda.  When you actually come into the presence of His unmitigated power, magnificent majesty, and indescribable holiness, your mind is likely not holding desperately to the desires of a selfish heart, but rather you surely will be waiting and listening to what your King desires to address.   In a similar way coming into the presence of God provides the power for a complete overhaul of our perspectives.

Perhaps it would be helpful to be informed by an actual eye witness account from the beloved disciple John.   Read this passage below slowly and consider what it must have been like to be in the place of John, the disciple who enjoyed an intimate love relationship with Jesus.   Here we see a man who was invited by God into His presence.

Revelation 1:10-18 (NASB95)
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,
11 saying, "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;
13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.
14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.
15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.
16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,
18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Notice that John reported that before this encounter with God he was in the Spirit.   This strongly implies that John was all in.   He was totally sold out.  He likely had surrendered his will and his plans to the will and desires of his Lord.   Then God invited him into His presence.   At the point of seeing Jesus, John reports: When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man”.

Half hearted seeking the face, the presence of God, will not likely bring us into His presence.  God looks on our hearts and He knows the intensity and authenticity of our seeking.  Perhaps we have good instruction in II Chronicles 7:14 where God tells us that we must first humble ourselves, and then pray, before we seek His face, before we attempt to enter into His presence.

But surely there is no human devised formula for authentically seeking God, since this kind of seeking must come forth from a hungry and desperate heart.   And even such a heart must come to us from the hand of our God.   Yet He will always grant us everything we ask that is according to His will.

Our one last comparison:  Prayer for revival.   It is often and generally accepted that the instruction from II Chronicles 7:14 is a pattern for prayer for revival.   Real revival is when God works in extra ordinary ways to bring many backsliding believers into full submission and obedience to Him and at the same time working powerfully in the hearts of many unbelievers to bring powerful conviction and the sense that they must surrender and give their lives to God because their sin is so drastically apparent due to the powerful convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

In the instruction, the model prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples, there is a similarity to the instruction above.  Jesus said that we should pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.   In the heaven we see from brief peeks throughout the Word we notice that there is unified obedience, unified worship, and a unified desire to bring glory and honor to God.   This is without doubt similar to the work of the Holy Spirit in authentic revival on earth.   Jesus in His own words instructs us to pray for the unusual work of God’s Spirit in our midst.  Over the history of the Church we have called this revival.

This leaves us with this question …..  will we intently and fervently obey the direct instruction of God?

Jeff Williams