When I first started wrestling with why prayer was so important to God and why he said do it without ceasing I was really wondering how prayer from fickle humans impacted the big picture. Then I realized, even when our prayers seem unanswered, prayer brings us into God’s presence. Getting closer to God through prayer is a life changing benefit.
Prayer brings us into God’s Presence. Regardless of the outcome, speaking with him engages us with him.
Have you ever had an “Aha Moment” that really should have been an obvious “gimme”? This was one of those times. I felt like my wrestling was pretty silly after hearing such a quick, straightforward answer.
When we talk with God, whether it be joyful praise, contemplative thanksgiving or pleading our needs, we enter into his presence. This is the benefit of prayer. It takes us to him straightaway.
The bonus is that God doesn’t merely allow us into his presence, he welcomes us there!
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
I love this verse and the imagery it brings. I don’t picture a guarded throne and loyal subjects waiting for a glimpse of the majestic crown and scepter. I picture myself as Caroline or John John Kennedy playing beneath their daddy’s desk in the Oval Office. JFK allowed the children to enter at will and romp freely. I imagine a little me toddling about my Good Father’s feet just happy to be near him, exercising my privilege as his beloved child, never questioning whether or not I’m invited. Access is never denied. It is the most transparent of open door policies that ever was.
Getting Closer to God Through Prayer
Being in God’s presence is a benefit of prayer that completely changes us. We cannot be in the presence of our holy God, who was and is and is to come, without being transformed.
The Benefits of Prayer
1. Joy In All Things
“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)
Being with God gives us a taste of heaven here on earth. He makes known to us the path of living with him here so that as we make our pilgrimage home, we may find joy in all things.
At a New Year’s sermon a few years back, a pastor encouraged us to look at the fruits of the spirit and pick one to pray over in our lives for the year. Though there were several in need of the gardener’s touch, I chose joy. I’m a pretty happy girl, but the word joy had an unattainable aspect to it. I pictured joy in my childhood and the joy of my kids that seemed boundless and often had little to do with circumstance. It just was. Pure and simple. As an adult, I didn’t know how to experience joy in all things. Because seriously, it’s a lot of things we adults face.
But I prayed for God to teach me what his joy was all about and please gift me that experience. Wanna know where I was when I felt unspeakable joy for the first time? It was in church, hands lifted, singing his praises and a smile I could not contain took over my entire face. I cried. I laughed. It was not of me. It was gifted by my Father. It just was. Pure and simple.
Prayer brings us into God’s presence and his presence brings joy.
2. Spiritual Awareness of Needing God
“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:1-2
Once he meets with us, we realize how purifying his presence is to our hearts, to our priorities, to our agenda, to all that we are. We recognize our need for him. Sure we can do nice things, even marvelously generous things without God, but we cannot be holy without God. Crediting us with righteousness is his doing. Being in God’s presence makes me undeniably aware of just how badly we need him. There is an obvious gap we cannot fill.
It’s so good we would sacrifice a lot for the privilege of meeting with God.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:10-11
3. Priorities Change with Time
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
I love how Jesus used story telling and imagery to break big spiritual ideas into easy to understand concepts. While some of his parables were laden with cultural references and require a bit of a stepping back in time to understand context, this comparison of him to water needs no explanation.
Water is of supreme importance to survival. The woman at the well whom he was speaking to understood that just the same as we do now.
My husband loves Naked and Afraid so I’ve seen more than my fair share of the Discovery network show. Water is a huge priority. It determines the couple’s camp location. It often doubles as a source of food. It provides comfort and security. Water is life.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2
Being in the presence of God means our priorities change with time. We seek him above all other things. Whenever I get out of my routine and let other priorities whittle away at my time with God, I dry up. I’m not as patient with my kids. I rush my husband in conversation. I feel burnt out and hopeless in my tasks. When I put other things above him, as good as they may be, I become very aware I’ve disconnected from my life source.
4. Sets Us Apart
“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:14-16
Just prior to these verses, the text states that God would meet with Moses face to face and talk with him like a friend. We also read that God was ready to send Moses and the Israelites to the Promised Land but due to the stubborn unresponsiveness of the people, God’s presence would not be following them.
Moses presented a case to God for why he needed his presence. God saw Moses’s deep distress and due to his immense love for him, relented. He not only told Moses he would send his presence, but added that he would provide rest. Even after God assures him he’d be coming along, Moses went on to say they wouldn’t go without him – even if that meant staying in that desert forever.
Moses couldn’t imagine being anywhere without God, not even the Promised Land. He would forgo having his physical needs met in the land of milk and honey rather than experience a spiritual dehydration. He had met face to face with God and talked with him as a friend. This, the burning bush, the plagues on the Egyptians, the parting of the sea, the pillars of cloud and fire, the manna and quail, all of it, distinguished Moses and his people from everyone else. God’s presence set them apart and was where Moses found his identity.
Getting Closer to God Through Prayer
It is no different with me or you. We have an open invite to enter his courts and receive all the benefits his presence brings. The joy, our ready admittance of full dependence on him, the change in our priorities, it all evidences that we have met with God.
I believe all prayers are answered. In his time. In his way. “No” is an answer. “I want to show you something first” is an answer. It’s just that these are the answers we cannot know to pray for. As I grapple to understand why God would have us pray in all situations, knowing we would sometimes miss the big picture and request the wrong outcomes, I see the benefit.
Experiencing divine presence may be the one thing that meets every need we have.
“….I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!” John 10:10 (The Passion Translation)
Read what led up to this post here, Understanding the Power of Prayer & Uncovering the Benefits.