Monday 11 July
Alain Emerson, leader in Emmanuel church, Lurgan and 24-7 prayer explained the theology and practice of prioritising the presence of God. Kerry Stewart summaries the seminar looking at what Scripture says about this and how to explore His presence in the culture of our local church.
“All throughout the Bible, with God is has always been about encounter. It has never not been about encounter. It is about seeking hearts where He can make His home.
The Message version of John, chapter 4 says,
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.
“God is not looking for worship, He is looking for worshippers”.
Presence is the paradigm:
God is love. He just doesn’t love but He is love. It’s a dance of the father, son and Holy Spirit; a perpetual, loving dance. In Himself, God is a community of self-giving, unfailing, perpetual love. We were created from love, and for love so the longings on Jesus’ heart are that we would join in the dance.
That is where Scripture begins, in the cool of the day. Man sins and he hides from God, feeling shame, but God comes looking for him. He said, “Adam, where are you?” This echoes through the Bible – God saying, we used to walk together, we used to hang out together but now you have chosen something else, you have chosen yourself above me.
The encounters continue with Abraham. God hears the cry of His children Israel, He feels their pain. He tells Moses, I don’t want to be the kind of God that stays in Heaven and shouts a few instructions down every so often. I want to dwell with my people, to meet with them, be amongst them,
The books of the prophets speak emotive language. In Habakkuk 3 it says, “His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth”
Then Jesus came to live among people, and shortly before the crucifixion, Jesus told His followers that they were not slaves, but friends.
We see another example of encounter in the temple when the veil is ripped in two. It wasn’t so much so we could get in but that He can get out.
The story will end in Revelation 21, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.”
Heaven is coming down to be with man. God Himself is coming to earth.
Presence is the point –
God is a God who is deeply impacted by the prayers of His people, the cries of His children.
Exodus 33: 12-13 says, “Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people’, but you do not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me’. If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people”. The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”.
God was angry and pretty much wanted to start again. He gave them the promise of the land, but without going with them. Here, we see more than this mighty, awesome, incredible God. We see an intimate side.
I think God is undone. It comes at a point when His sons and daughters just get it, as Moses did, and nothing gives the Father more joy than when we allow our hearts to be completely His.
We have been given an inheritance, but ultimately that’s not the promise. We’re so keen to get to the promise but during this time all the father wants is to be there, to be with us. The Hebrew word for presence is the same as the word for face. For some of us, we are cosy enough with Him, but we’re just not facing Him. As I try to live this out in my life, I’m realising that God is saying, ‘If you come to me, what needs to come to you, will come to you’.
Presence through practice –
Prayer should feed us inwardly but propel us outwardly. We have got to teach it, and believe it. Most churches are set-up to maintain. Ephesians 4 tells us the five gifts given to build up the body of Christ. They are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Most of our churches are well set-up with two of these - pastors and teachers. We’re missing the point that we are not here primarily to care for each other’s needs; we’re here to save the world. In my church, we weren’t giving time and attention to the apostolic and prophetic.
Acts 13 shows us that when apostles started to worship and seek the Lord, the Holy Spirit spoke with a seismic word that shaped the early church. When was that last time you made a decision in church because the Holy Spirit spoke? The five gifts are of the same value, one isn’t higher than the others but we should aim to get a flow of these things.
How to do this, in a practical way -
In our church, we have six values. The first one is prioritising the presence of God. We use consistent language to highlight this, with a light push.
Missionary Joy Dawson said, “Anything not born in prayer, is born in pride”.
As leaders need to model this posture. For example, our prayer room is right in the middle of our church. When we designed the new building we wanted to set this apart, even though God is no respecter of place, He can show up any way but we wanted to set it aside. It is reserved for prayer and no other groups or meetings. We looked at the church diary and how we could stream line it, because we don’t like excuses. We thought how to be practical about coming together to meet with God. Slowly and surely we have tried to build up our rhythm of prayer into our culture. This necessary rhythm then becomes a culture of prayer that is the lifeblood of the church.
It starts with desire that forms into discipline.
We started to see all sorts of supernatural favour released over our town. If praying needs to happen, it needs to happen before the face of God.
Do not be patronised by those people who play down prayer.
John Wesley said “Prayer is where the action is”.