The guest speaker was pointing out bad prayer habits. One, he said, was asking God to be with us or another Christian. God is with believers all the time; He has promised never to leave us forsake us. So we don’t need to ask Him to be with us.
That made sense to me. So I tried to eliminate the phrase “be with” from my prayers. I’d get a little irritated when someone else said it. (Isn’t it sad how easily self-righteousness creeps in?)
Then a few days ago, I read Exodus 3 about God’s call to Moses. Moses had tried to help his brethren, the Israelites, forty years earlier. But his efforts had not been received, and he ended up fleeing for his life from Egypt. No wonder he didn’t jump at the chance to go back. His first objection to God’s call was, “Who am I?”
God answered, “I will be with you.” The ESV Study Bible‘s notes on this verse say:
Moses’ initial question is surely sensible, and God does not reprove him for asking it (v. 11). However, God does not answer Moses’ question in the way that he asks it, but instead says, “I will be with you,” indicating that his presence with Moses is essential to the call (v. 12). When the OT says that God is “with” someone, it stresses God’s power that enables a person to carry out his calling” (p. 148, emphasis mine).
The thought of God being with us in our calling was totally new to me, but this note brought it out in a way I hadn’t thought about it before. I recalled how God expressed this same promise to others when He called them: Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Gideon, Jeremiah, Mary, Paul, and others.
I’ve often thought of God’s presence with us in terms of fellowship, comfort, and help. One of my favorite verses in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
And this passage from Exodus almost always brings me to tears. Israel had sinned in worshiping the golden calf, and God told Moses He would send the people on to the promised land, but He would not go with them (Exodus 33:1-3).
Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:12-16)
In another favorite passage, God promises to be with us when—not if, but when trouble comes:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)
Matthew shares in the first chapter of his gospel that an angel visited Joseph and told him that his betrothed was to be the mother of the Messiah, the one promised all through the Old Testament. The angel quoted a prophecy: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23). Though God has always been omniscient and omnipresent, He was going to be with His people in a special way through this promised child.
Then Matthew closed His book with that child grown, crucified, and risen again, promising His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Does that mean we don’t need to ask God to be with us or our loved ones? I’m still inclined to pray that God will help someone know or rest in His presence rather than just that he will be with them. But I am not going to fuss with anyone about the phrasing. As I studied this concept, I noticed that Paul closed many of his epistles with a phrase similar to Romans 15:33: “May the God of peace be with you all.” Did that mean God had not been with them, and Paul was praying that He would be? No, not in the context of all he had written before. I think he means it in the same sense as when he said “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings” in Philippians 3:8-11. Paul already knew Him. But He wanted to know Him better, to grow in his experience of Him. So when he says, “God be with you,” perhaps he is emphasizing that he hopes they know His presence in a fuller way.
The more I looked up passages about God being with us, the more I found—much more than will fit in one blog post. This would make for a rich study some day.
But as I considered them in light of our calling, I realized they are all bound up in our calling. When God calls us to Himself, He promises to take care of us. We have His fellowship, comfort, help, and whatever else we need.
Whatever God has called us to do—pick up and go to another location, teach our children at home, work in a busy office or store, or any other task—He has promised Himself. And with Him, we can do anything.
(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Hearth and Soul,
Scripture and a Snapshot, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Blogger Voices Network)