Christians today are obsessed with God’s presence. This is expressed in our worship. Many say we gather for worship in order to “experience His presence.” And we like to “invite” or “welcome” Him into our places of worship.
This trend also expresses itself in our prayers. It is common for us to ask God to be with us in one way or another.
A Biblical Prayer
This is, after all, a biblical prayer. Characters in the Bible often ask God to be with them. And He frequently promises to be with His people. Consider these examples:
- Jacob flees to his Aramean relatives to escape Esau’s wrath. God appears to him and promises, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go” (Genesis 28:15).
- Joseph is sold into slavery and arrested on false charges. Yet the Bible repeatedly affirms that in the midst of his hardships, “the LORD was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2, 21, 23).
- God threatens not to go with the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. But Moses requests, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).
- A cloud fills the temple after its completion. Solomon prays, “I have indeed built…a place for you to dwell forever.” He blesses the people, “May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers” (1 Kings 8:13, 57).
- God was with us in human form as Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew claims His birth fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy: “They will call him ‘Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).
God’s presence is a major theme in the Bible. Our hope as Christians is to be with Him forever in new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:3). So it seems natural to ask Him to be with us.
A Better Prayer
But asking God to be with us fails to consider what the New Testament says about His presence. Under the new covenant, this is not a request we need to make. In fact, it’s better not to! Here are two reasons you should stop asking God to be with you:
Asking God to be with you is pointless because He already is! But He isn’t just with you; He is within you by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
The language of the New Testament reflects this difference. Consider Stephen. He is called “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). Notice it doesn’t say God is with him as the Old Testament would. Rather, it says God is within him – he is full of the Spirit.
The same is true of us. Paul asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). He says, “In Christ you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).
Asking God to be with you is meaningless because you aren’t actually asking Him to do anything! It is a vague request that undermines the rich vocabulary of prayer the Bible affords us.
Ask yourself, “What do I mean by asking God to be with me?” Usually we mean that we want Him to bless us. So ask Him to bless you! Do you want Him to provide for you? Do you want Him to comfort, help, or guide you? Do you need Him to heal, strengthen, or encourage you? Then ask for it!
The same is also true in our prayers for others. Discern exactly what you want God to do for them, and make a specific request. Don’t tolerate laziness in your prayers. Make the effort to think about what you want Him to do.
Is there an appropriate way to ask God to “be with us”? Leave your thoughts with a comment below!
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