The Presence of God

FFF 14:3 (March 1968)

The Presence of God

Richard Burson

My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up (Psa. 5:3).

It was George Mueller who said, “Before I go into the presence of fellow-men, I must get into the presence of God.” The faithful life of Mueller should be the average life of faith and it is to our shame that he is so outstanding. The simple faith of George Mueller should be the general mean of Christian experience instead of the outstanding case. Every Christian should be a George Mueller so far as prayer is concerned.

Our Psalmist had learned that while the dew was still on the grass, while the day was fresh and new, before the cares of life and decisions of the day had dulled his spiritual appetite, was the time to come into the presence of God. The very routine of life tends to lessen the sensitiveness of the soul of the believer. The temptations of the day loom large in our thinking as the day wears on. Before routine and temptations we can come to God seeking inspiration and strength. Coming fresh to God before the cares of life have weakened or puzzled us gives opportunity to pour out the heart in prayer in unfettered freedom. It is this early morning liberty in prayer to which the missionary-poet Amy Carmichael referred when she wrote: “Let me not sink to be a clod: Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.” Wm. MacDonald has caught this very truth in one of his most lucid paragraphs: “God seems to place a special value on prayer when it costs us something. Those who rise early in the morning enjoy fellowship with the One who likewise arose early to receive His instructions for the day from His Father… . Prayer that costs nothing is worth nothing; it is simply a by-product of a cheap Christianity.”

The manner in which the believer may come into the presence of God is stated: In the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee.” Prayer must be specific. It is astonishing that some true Christians believe that prayer is something that simply happens to believers. Christ directly taught His disciples to pray. The disciples were aware that prayer is something we need to learn for they asked the Lord Jesus to teach them to pray. The consciousness that they did not know how to pray is the very first step in learning to pray. Paul says that believers know not how they ought to pray. The dependence of the disciples in coming to Christ with their request that He teach them the art of prayer is the attitude of heart necessary to become a scholar in the school of prayer.

When the Psalmist speaks of directing his prayer to the Lord, he was thinking of order and aim in prayer.

As one would organize his thoughts, analyze his need, decide what was essential to the occasion, and then make a reasonable presentation when coming before an earthly potentate, so the believer must be orderly in coming to God. This in no way overrules the Holy Spirit of God leading a believer in prayer. It is sadly true that some believers appear to accept that a careless, off-hand attitude in coming before God in prayer is indicative of relying on the Holy Spirit to lead us in prayer. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The more the believer considers his need before coming into the presence of God, the more his mind will be ordered and the more certainly may he depend upon the assistance of the Holy Spirit in praying. Only such organizing of my thoughts can be called directing my prayer unto Thee.

There is such a thing as ejaculatory prayer — simply calling out of necessity and urgency as a child calls its parent when sinking in fear. This is not the type of prayer on which the true believer thrives. Prayers during emergencies are unorganized by the very urgency of the moment. Such praying is genuine and must not be minimized but is outside the present consideration.

We should notice the attitude of the man who let God hear his voice in the morning and who directed his prayer to Him. The attitude is a heavenward gaze, a hope in God: “I will look up.” The Revised Version puts it: “I will keep watch.” This watchful attitude is the result of the early morning watch and the directed prayer. As the believer comes from his early morning trysting-place with God, he is consciously looking up. “I will keep watch.” Everything throughout the day takes on a different perspective if God heard the voice in the morning. A careful watch is set for the entire day — all its activities and decisions — when prayer has been directed to Him. Aware of a fresh contact with Heaven, the believer approaches the day’s work with renewed zeal and with a desire to make this day count for God. Believers who spend time with God in the morning are those who work best with other people under trying circumstances throughout the day. I will look up all day long. As I look up I begin to see things as God sees them. Some things previously thought important lose their importance. Some things of little importance become of great moment because of that upward look. When the soul has been in the presence of God, the sweet submissiveness of that hour carries the believer through a world filled with trials and heartaches.

God help us daily to join the Psalmist in the experience of getting into the presence of God.