‘Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.’ Psalm 80.7
This request for the Lord to make his face shine upon us is fascinating. Since God is constantly with us, he is not being asked to come or suddenly appear, but it’s more a request that our awareness of him might increase. It’s OK to ask for more of an awareness of him than we currently have!
The simple truth that God is with us is enough to change our perception of his presence – he is already here, regardless of whether we can sense him. It’s knowing this that can make all the difference. We don’t have to struggle with our uncertain feelings but can ask God to shine his face upon us. This isn’t just about us experiencing him but is also about the effect of his presence upon us. It is his face and his presence, shining on our lives and our circumstances, that bring change.
“Lord God Almighty, make your face shine upon me,” is a beautiful prayer that you might like to use at any time. You can even pray it over particular situations: “Make your face shine upon this situation.” Alternatively it can be a prayer to gently lead you into a deeper sense of God’s presence; as you breathe in use the words, “Lord God Almighty”, and as you breathe out, “make your face shine upon me”. What are you going to ask him right now?
‘…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ 1 Corinthians 1.24
On many occasions you may find yourself asking for God’s help, either silently or audibly. It may be that you don’t know what to do or that something has happened and you desperately need help – so you turn to God and ask him to intervene.
Before you begin to ask for things, it’s worth considering what he has already given to you – Jesus! This is the Jesus who said that he came that you might have abundant life, who gave his life for you and who promised to be with you always. In other words, you have been given so much already so why would he withhold other good things from you?
It’s interesting though, that as well as being the power of God, Christ is also the wisdom of God. He knows the best way to give you the things for which you pray, which might not always coincide with the way you think he should answer your prayers.
Part of our worship is to stand before Jesus with gratitude for what he has already done for us, with expectation for the way he will answer our prayers, and with surrender for the fact that he will bring about his glory in our lives.
‘Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.’ Psalm 73.23
When Asaph (the author of this psalm) wrote these words, he was not writing them in a moment of great joy and ecstasy when everything in the garden was rosy, but rather he admitted to being in a pretty dreadful state. The words he used to describe himself were grieved, embittered, senseless and ignorant. At times, most of us can probably relate to his feelings!
The trouble is that when we feel like this, we tend to think that we are somehow disqualified from enjoying the presence of God, as if we ought to be feeling a little more ‘holy’ or ‘upbeat’ to have a close awareness of him. It’s very easy to feel as though God has departed from us. So how wonderful that these words are written down for our encouragement!
No matter how you are feeling or what you have done, it is still true that you are with Jesus. He does not leave you just because you are having a hard time or because you have done something wrong. He is always there, and whether you feel it or not he holds you by the hand and guides you through the day.
‘So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”’ Matthew 28.8-10
It’s very reassuring that Jesus seemed to know the fears and feelings of those he encountered. He also knew exactly where they were heading which gave his words authority. He was not giving them a casual message to pass on at some point in the future, but specific words relevant for that occasion.
This is the Jesus who stands with you today. He knows the plans you have for the hours ahead. If you pray and feel he is speaking to you, either through the Bible or by some other means, it’s because he knows what is going to happen and the situations in which you will find yourself. He also knows how you are feeling, and he communicates as he does because he really does know everything about you.
This is the wonder of Jesus, the one who delights to stand with you and give you what you need for the day. Spend a little time committing your day to him and recognise that he already knows all the details and wants to walk through it with you.
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15.13
One description of hope is the ability to see your situation from a different perspective. If you can catch the wonderful truth that God is a God of hope, you are also likely to be able to catch a vision of him looking at your life and the things you are going through, and seeing them quite differently from how you do.
It is, of course, very misleading to think of God being above us and looking down, but this analogy serves to remind us that when God looks at our lives, he is not bound by the vision we have of them. He sees them through the perspective of what has been changed by the death of Jesus on the cross and his rising to new life. He also sees our lives shining with a clear presence of the Holy Spirit within us, and all the potential for change that such a living presence brings.
Our hope is to catch his hope, and to let the truths that are so evident to God touch us and deepen within us so that we can begin to see our lives through different eyes.
‘I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.’ Psalm 69.30
To glorify God is to pay attention to our image of him; to acknowledge him for who he really is and to try to catch a glimpse of him that is far, far greater than our usual image of him. It is about celebrating not just his intimacy, but also his majesty.
So why is this important? It’s not simply something we do for God’s benefit – perhaps a means of flattering him which he certainly doesn’t need! We glorify God for our benefit; to step back from the situations that crowd against us and to see ourselves before his wonder. The way we can begin to do this, the psalmist suggests, is by thanksgiving; to actively take a few moments to call to mind all that God has done for us. You might like to start by recalling the blessings that came your way yesterday, or focus on something specific such as the fact that you have been adopted as his child. You can give thanks for the gift of Jesus, as well as for the very breath that you breathe and the make-up of your body.
The more you can do this, the bigger your picture of God becomes and the more your faith in him increases – and at the same time he is glorified. It’s worth a try!
‘Our God is a God who saves;’ Psalm 68.20
This is a fundamental truth of our faith. The very name ‘Jesus’ means ‘God saves’, and yet it’s surprising how quickly we can forget this and settle for less. We can get used to the idea that God is the one who brings comfort and peace – and this is what we begin to pray for and expect. We can easily forget that whilst God’s peace and comfort are marvellous gifts, there may well be more he wants to bring to us and to our situations. If we could open the door to expectancy, then who knows what he might be able to do.
A challenging question to consider is what you are really expecting God to do in any given situation? Are you expecting him to comfort or save you? It’s probably true that your expectation frames your prayers, and whereas you might think you are being submissive in praying that his will be done – whatever his will is – it is interesting to note that Jesus never seemed to encourage those who came to him to pray in this way. He seemed to value honest needs being expressed.
As you approach God, what is it you would like to ask him to do? This is not what you think you ought to ask, but how would you like the God who saves to touch you?