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“Father, I ask that You be with us today as we …” 

“Lord, please be with …” 

I don’t know why I used to pray like this.  Perhaps it is because I heard others use similar language in their prayers.  But, regardless how I got started, I routinely asked God to “be with” me, my family, my shepherds, my fellow ministers, our missionaries, the sick, and the sorrowing without really considering the implications of my request.  Did I think God was absent and needed to show up?  Was I afraid that He might check out and abandon those about whom I had care and concern?

In recent months, I have ceased asking for God’s presence and just started thanking Him for it. 

We serve a God who has promised, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  Among our Savior’s parting words to His disciples was an affirmation that “I am with you always”  (Matthew 28:20).  Jesus said that another Helper, the Spirit of Truth, would be sent by the Father and “He will be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).  Our bodies have become sanctuaries of the Holy Spirit who lives within us (I Corinthians 6:19).  Where we go, He goes!

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there.  If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

I think I sometimes used “be with” as a kind of generic prayer language shorthand.  I would say “be with” when I really meant strengthen, comfort, heal, grant wisdom, or some other needed Divine blessing.  So, I have tried to become more specific about what I am asking of the Lord, without needlessly questioning His presence.

I love the final verse of the hymn Father and Friend! Thy Light, Thy Love written by John Bowring in 1825:

Thy children shall not faint nor fear,
Sustained by this delightful thought;
Since Thou, their God, art everywhere,
They cannot be where Thou art not.

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July 2010