Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©


11. Prayer for the realisation of the presence of God

"One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after;
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."

The request for the realisation of the presence of God can be said to sum up all other prayers, and many prayers in the Bible explicitly ask for a deep sense of the presence of God, or for a greater realisation of his power and his glory. Moses prayed to know the unfailing presence of God with the people as he pleaded, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here." (Ex.33:15 and cf. 34:9). Moses' personal plea was that he might see the Lord's glory (Ex.33:18). The Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 was truly a prayer for the realisation of God's presence, by the experience of the light of "his countenance" on his people. The prayer of this blessing is echoed frequently in the Psalms as there is the request that the light of the face of God would shine on his people (e.g.Ps.4:6, 31:6, 67:1, 80:3,7,19, 119:135). In Solomon's prayer when the temple was dedicated, there was in particular the request, "The Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he not leave us or abandon us" (1 Kgs.8:57). We have the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10, "O that you would bless me ---! Let your hand be with me, and --- keep me from hurt and harm." The longing of the psalmist (in Ps.16:11) was to know "fullness of joy" in God's presence, at his right hand "pleasures for evermore" (cf.Ps.23:6).

In Old Testament prophecy and then in a fuller sense in the New Testament the prayer for the realisation of the presence of God is prayer for the Holy Spirit. In the vision of the valley of dry bones Ezekiel's being called to "prophesy to the breath" can be understood as prayer for the Spirit of God to come and bring new life to Israel (Ezek.37:9-10). When we come to the New Testament we have the great words of Jesus in Luke 11:13, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Prior to Pentecost the disciples had to wait prayerfully and expectantly for the Spirit (Acts 1). Now the Spirit is given, we ask for the realisation of his presence in all the ways that we have been considering in this chapter.

Prayer is thus rightly made not just for the fruit of the Spirit or for any of the qualities or gifts that the Spirit bestows, but for the realisation of the very presence of the Spirit. The promise of Luke 11:13 referred to is in effect claimed when prayer is made for the presence and power of the Spirit. We have such prayer for the Spirit in Acts 8:15-17, and in other cases teaching and prayer with the expectation of the coming of the Spirit (so Acts 9:17, 19:5-7). The request in 2 Corinthians 13:14, for "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" is best understood as prayer for the supporting presence of the Spirit. The desire for the "filling with all the fullness of God" in Ephesians 3:19 must similarly be considered as a prayer for the Holy Spirit, and similar to it is the prayer in Romans 15:13 that Christians "may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit".

Often the teaching of the Church down the centuries has referred to the paramount work of the Spirit in the lives of Christians as a sanctifying work. He sanctifies by bringing the fruit of the Spirit into the lives of Christians. In terms of consequences it is making their lives holy and righteous, and there are in the New Testament several prayers for just that. Paul' prayer for his readers in Philippians 1:10-11 is "that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God". So also Colossians 1:10 "that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God". Then again we have in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, "may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." Similarly 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this." The benediction of Hebrews 13:20-21 is a similar prayer, "may the God of peace --- make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever." In Colossians 4:12 Paul speaks of Epaphras as a man who "is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills."

The presence of God is always more than all the gifts of God. It is one of the simplest and most basic of prayers as in Romans 15:33, "The God of peace be with all of you." Or, "The Lord be with your spirit" (2 Tim.4:22). (Cf. 'The Grace' in 2 Cor.13:14.) In such a way the Christian can always pray for the realisation of the presence of God. It is a prayer for the presence of the Spirit in the whole community of those who believe. It is also a very personal prayer that can be made every day and hour of life and under all circumstances.