Prayer Meeting: I Will Be With You
Every Monday, each branch of L’Abri sets aside time to sing and pray together. From the beginning, prayer has been essential to the life and existence of L’Abri. We hope these abridged reflections from our prayer meetings can serve to encourage your own life of prayer.
Some Biblical truths are too well-known for their own good. I suspect that God’s promise, “I will be with you” is one of these. It appears many times in the Bible explicitly and still more times by implication, so its simplicity and familiarity can hide its importance from us. If we are a child of God, “the Lord of hosts is with us” no matter how much trouble we are in or whose fault it was. We are also told not to fear because “I am with you”. The Christian story starts with the birth of the one called Immanuel, “God with us” and Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels ends with the end of the Great Commission, “And surely I will be with you, to the very end of the age.”
How is God with us? As our shepherd. This sounds wonderful until we realize that it means we are sheep. It means that he will be “with us” not because we deserve it but by his mercy. In some of the most familiar words of the Bible, David wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” Why on earth would he say such a thing? “…for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
The Lord as our Shepherd has designs on our lives, purposes which will lead us toward becoming like Jesus. He transforms us from within through giving us encouragement, growth, response to our prayers, love of other people and life of the church. He also transforms us from within through our suffering, disappointments, failures and loss. This means that God is not only with us when our plans are working out and we feel like a success. He is also with us when our plans collapse and success feels far from us. If we can grasp that God is with us always, we will be less likely to take victory laps, patting ourselves on the back when things go well, and also less likely to conclude, “no one ever had it this hard, my life is hopeless” when things do not go well.
I can remember a time before I was a Christian, feeling afraid in a storm at sea in a sailboat. I was somehow surprised to realize that this sea which I had looked to for its beauty and refreshment, actually doesn’t care if it drowns me, nor does it care about anything I do, however irresponsible or cruel. It made me ask, “Does anyone care beyond family and friends? And is there any accountability?” I only came to believe later in the Good Shepherd who does care, enough to give up his life for his sheep. We should be inspired by the beauty and grandeur of the created world, but our help comes from the one who made it.
– Dick Keyes