Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hunger for God's Presence

When I was a child I marveled at the stories in the Bible. There was something in my heart that longed to see the manifestation of God’s presence working intimately among His people. I wanted to experience the Lord’s presence in the same way as did those people in the Bible. I especially remember sitting in a revival meeting in our Baptist church and feeling such frustration at how complacent and satisfied the people seemed to be. The Lord was with us; I knew that. But I felt so strongly He wanted to do more and that He would surely come if we asked Him. I decided to do something about it.

When the pastor gave the invitation at the end of his message, I walked up to him and asked if I could say something to the congregation. He stopped the music, asked the congregation to be seated, and stepped back so I could speak. I am sure he thought it would be a good thing and “safe” to let a sixteen year old boy speak to the congregation.

Everyone listened intently. I looked over the crowd and said, “I don’t think we as a people are really praying and asking God to work among us. If each of us would actually take time talk to the Lord before we come to these meetings, and ask Him to visit us, God would surely be here revealing Himself in some special way. I don’t know what He would do, but I know He would do more than what we are seeing here now. As we sing another verse of the song, I want those of you who feel the same way to join me up front, and let’s all kneel down here and ask the Lord to visit us.” The worship leader resumed the music, I knelt on the front row to pray, and about twenty-five or 30 people joined me. My heart rejoiced. People were responding. Something wonderful was happening. "Surely there will be a change now," I thought. "The Lord may visit us in a special way tomorrow night." I naievely thought the people would all go home and take some time to pray, and that the pastor would be so happy about what I had done.

I was disappointed the next evening when I saw that everything was back to routine and nothing had changed. I thought, “Obviously not many, if any, are praying at home, and no one seems really hungry to see the Lord work among us beyond this ritual and routine.” So during the invitational song I once again went up to the pastor and asked if I could say something. He very politely declined and said, “I think it is best if you don’t say anything tonight.”

My heart sank. I realized then that he was satisfied with things the way they were. He was not interested in God's “showing up” beyond the usual, and he especially did not want the congregation at the altar praying on their knees. He was afraid of what might happen, and he was not about to allow a 16 year old boy to instigate such activity.

But something happened a few months later to highlight the issue in my mind once again. During another revival meeting, a very well-dressed military man walked into the back of the auditorium during the meeting. I saw him bend over and whisper to a gentleman on the back row, who then arose and walked over to one of the families in the church and led them out to speak with this visitor. The pastor followed them out, and after a few minutes, he returned to the meeting, and stood before the congregation to share the terrible news. “The C___ family has just received news that their son’s plane has been shot down in Viet Nam, and he is now missing in action. Let’s all come up to the front and pray for God to save this young man’s life.” I watched as almost the entire congregation gathered at the altar area to pray.

I asked the Lord, “If this is the thing to do now, to break the routine, to gather in prayer to lift our voices together to cry out for God’s help in an emergency, why then do we not do it all the time? Why is it not a way of life? The world is full of emergencies and needs. People are always suffering everywhere. People are groping about and in need of God. People need the Lord. Why do we not sincerely and passionately call upon Him as part of our daily routine? Why is this not a part of our daily spiritual life as a people?” It blessed me to see the church in agressive and passionate prayer during this time of need. But my question was, "Why do we not thirst like this every day? Why do we not thirst to know Him?" To seek to walk intimately with the Lord daily, will this not strengthen our faith when we call upon Him during our times of need?

“Arise, cry out in the night, At the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children…” Lamentations 2: 19

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens! That you would come down! That the mountains might shake at your presence…” Isaiah 64: 1

“Oh God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no waer. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.” Psalm 63: 1-2

1 comment:

Beth said...

Thanks, Billy! I needed that :)