Early Will I Seek YouRejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Opening Prayer: Father, how best may I come into Your presence? Please open my eyes to see and understand.This lesson will explore the subject of WHEN to pray. As our lead Scripture indicates, we should "pray without ceasing." But there are many occasions when we pray:
- Before meals
- In Church services
- During home Bible studies and fellowship groups
- As part of certain civic prayer gatherings (rare)
- While commuting to/from work
All these occasions are appropriate and important. But they're not the most important prayers of the day.
Oh? What ARE the most important prayers of the day?
Your morning devotional time. Public prayers are effective only when based on your personal, private fellowship with God. Your bedtime devotions are important, but they are too late to empower you for the tasks you've already faced.
But teacher, there isn't time in the morning to have extensive devotions. And besides, I'm really not a morning person. Can't I get by with just my bedtime Bible reading and prayers?
Personally, I wish we could skip morning devotions -- because your teacher does not feel very functional for the first hour or two of each day. But when I skimp on morning prayer, I'm left unprotected and unprepared for the challenges of the day. My greatest embarrassments have come when I was not walking in submission to the Spirit of God, because I had not humbled myself in the morning to seek His guidance and fellowship.
Let's look at the daily pattern of devotions in Psalm 63, beginning in verses 1-2:O 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 no water is. 2 To see Your power and Your glory, so [as] I have seen Thee in the sanctuary.
Notice how King David starts out seeking God. Not just talking at the ceiling. David starts out actively seeking to come into the presence of God.
Notice also what David is seeking: "To see Your power and Your glory..." That should make you sit immediately upright in your chair and take notice. King David, with the confidence of actual experience with God, expects to encounter the power and glory of God early in the morning, before coffee. So should we.
If you have never experienced the presence of the Holy God, let me encourage you to seek Him fervently. However, if you have experienced that wonderful peace and joy, then you know just what I mean; and you know how that experience can fill you with courage (to overcome the enemy) and compassion (to help your fellow pilgrims).
Notice when King David starts out: "...early will I seek You." There's something very special about our first hour of consciousness. If you're like me, it's a vulnerable time. Maybe later in the day I can feel alert, athletic and self-assured. But before daybreak, your teacher is none of those things. It is an act of faith to praise God early in the morning. And I'm very aware of how much I NEED God's help, protection and guidance.
Notice also the context. At the time David was writing this, he and his men were under enemy attack. Instead of complaining about the unfairness of life, David chose to seek and to honor the Author of life. Seeking God was an essential part of David's armament and preparation for battle. We should do likewise to prepare for our daily challenges.
Verses 3 and 4 talk about our experiences AFTER our morning devotions:Because Thy lovingkindness [is] better than life, my lips shall praise You. 4 Thus will I bless You while I live: I will lift up my hands in Your name.
Once we've established that precious contact in the early morning, we are more aware of the Lord's working in our lives. We sense His protection and wise advice when the enemy attacks. We sense His graciousness and kindness in the beauty of creation. We sense His forgiveness when we stumble and repent. We're more aware of His loving hand, everywhere.
How will we feel at the end of the day? Verses 5-7 give a clue:My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips: 6 When I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the night watches. 7 Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice.
Yes, the day was difficult. Yes, my path was beset by enemies visible and invisible. But my Lord was faithful to His promises, and He gives me peace, satisfaction and a joyful heart.
Our Lord Himself sets the example in Mark 1:35And in the morning, a great while before day, He rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed.
Maybe you think you don't need much prayer, because you're a spiritual Superman or Wonder Woman. But if Jesus Himself felt that early prayer -- long prayer --was important, that's good enough for me.
By the way, let's look at the preceding verses of Mark chapter 1 to get a picture of what His typical days were like:14 Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel.
So He starts off preaching the gospel (literally "Good News") and calling people to repentence. Then...16 And passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they left the nets, and followed him.
So after preaching and calling people to repentance (a full Sunday's work for most pastors), He does some executive recruiting and leadership training. After that, we see Jesus on a different day, doing His Father's business.21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at His teaching: For He taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes.
Here we see Him in the synagogue, teaching the Scriptures. And we see that He taught with authority, being empowered by the same Spirit that spoke through the prophets and patriarchs. But then we see that no place is "safe" from the enemy:23 And straightway there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Nazarene? Art thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God. 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And the unclean spirit, tearing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
Please note that even in synagogue, even in Church, you sometimes encounter people possessed by evil spirits. So our Lord was plenty busy so far. But His day was far from over:32 And in the evening, when the sun did set, they brought unto Him all that were sick, and them that were possessed with demons. 33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34 And He healed many that were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.
Despite an intensely busy day of ministry, Jesus didn't sleep late the next day. Instead, He awoke early to prepare for another intensely busy day of ministry:35 And in the morning, a great while before day, He rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed.
OK, teacher, I'm convinced that early morning prayer is important. Got any suggestions?
First and foremost, remember that prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit operating through a willing vessel. So the rest of these hints are suggestions for preparing our hearts each day.
- When you wake up, get up. When you get up, bounce up and seek the Lord.
- Are you having trouble sleeping at 3:30 a.m.? Maybe it's a wake-up call from the Lord. Be like the prophets of the Bible who said, "Here am I." The Hebrew word here is hineni, which has a flavor of "Here I am, send me." Maybe the Lord wants to use you to do a mighty work in prayer, if you are willing. Get up and see what the Lord wants to tell you. Then you can go back to bed and get a restful nap before breakfast.
- Most days, we awaken to the alarm clock rather than a special nudge from the Lord. Most days, it's hard to even focus our eyes and minds on the Lord. For these days, remember the "gate" of prayer described in Psalm 100, verse 4:Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise: Give thanks unto Him, and bless His name.
Most people miss the obvious -- that prayer has a gate which opens to let us in. And when we sincerely praise and thank the Lord, our hearts become open to the Lord -- and the gates of prayer open to bring us into His presence.
If our hearts are open to the Spirit of God, He can help us know the will of God. Scripture tells the general revealed will or Word (logos) of God, but only the Holy Spirit can quicken a Scripture to our hearts to show us God's specific will or Word (rhema) for a specific situation.
Closing Prayer: Father, I've been guilty of trying to start the busy tasks of daily life without waiting for your empowering and guidance. Forgive me, and help me rediscover the joy of spending time in your presence, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.