“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
It happened again. The man opening the worship service in prayer said very sincerely, “Lord, please be with us today … ” I cringed a little.
Okay, so what’s wrong with this prayer? A lot of people pray, “Lord, be with us today as we meet …” But is that necessary?
Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) This was a promise. And Jesus keeps his promises.
I wonder how that man would feel if he were leaving for the day and his wife said to him, “Good-bye, honey. Please be faithful to me today.”
I imagine he’d stop in his tracks and say something like, “What?! Honey, I promised you the day we were married that I’d always be faithful to you, til death do us part. I’ve kept that promise up until now, and I have no intention of breaking it, today or any other day!” I’m also guessing he’d be a little hurt by the request.
On the other hand, if she were to look into his eyes and say, “Honey, you have always been faithful to me, and I want you to know I don’t take that for granted. I’m so thankful you’re my husband!” – followed by a hug – he would probably leave the house smiling.
Have you ever been to the funeral of a godly saint and heard the pastor or priest petition God to receive this person’s soul into heaven and grant him or her eternal life?
How many times in our prayers do we, out of ignorance or habit, ask God for things He has already promised or has already done? How many of our petitions would be more appropriately offered as prayers of thanks? A better Sunday morning opening prayer might be, “Lord, thank You so much for Your presence today. We welcome you with open hearts!”
The funeral prayer could be, “Lord, thank You for Your promise of eternal life for those who trust in You. As we say goodbye to ________ today, we thank You that (s)he will never again have sickness, grief, or any other kind of pain. We look forward to seeing him/her again in glory when we all go to be with You.” What a comforting thought!
The more I study God’s Word and experience the answers to my prayers, the less time I spend asking Him for things. This hasn’t shortened my prayer time any, though. I want to honor the Lord with faith as I thank Him for things I can’t yet see, even things He hasn’t yet done but has promised to do. When times are hard, I can thank Him that “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
When hurting physically, instead of begging him to heal me, I can put it in His hands and say, “I know that You have the power to heal me, and I hope You will. But if not, I trust that You are working out an even better plan. Thank You for Your promise that someday I will have a brand new body, resurrected and glorified.” (I Corinthians 15: 35-57)
When I don’t feel His presence, I can thank Him that I know He’s there anyway, since He promised never to leave me or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6) Sometimes after praying in this way – preferably out loud – I do start to feel His presence. But if not, I can still take Him at His word, whether I feel it or not. Truth is truth.
When I feel harassed by the enemy of my soul, I can thank the Lord that “Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4) and that someday “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” [italics mine] (Philippians 2: 10-11) By the way, I’m pretty sure the devil hates that one!
When I’m listening to the news and it seems the world is plunging toward destruction, I can thank Jesus for telling us in advance that we would have trouble in the world, but that He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
It’s not that God needs me to remind Him what He’s promised. But it does me good to remind myself of how secure I am in His love. Whenever I remember to do this, a lot more of my prayer time is joy-filled, confident, and victorious.
Of course, thanking Him for what we have been promised involves knowing what we’ve been promised, and that’s another great reason to read His Word, study it, hide it in our hearts, meditate on it in times of discouragement, and thank Him for it at every opportunity.
After all the LORD has done for me and promised me, I don’t want to insult Him, do you?