At YWAM Lancaster, seeking the presence of God is our top value. We love the Lord and being near to Him more than anything else. Like Moses said to the Lord in Exodus 33:15, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
Let’s define prayer and worship.
Worship is a tool the Lord has given us to express our love and affection to Him and honor Him in Spirit and truth. It can be expressed through music and singing, but our lives are also a living sacrifice of worship to Him (Romans 12:1).
Prayer is simply communication with God. It is our everyday conversation with Him. We can talk to Him at any time of the day, and He desires constant fellowship with us. There is never a moment that we have to live without Him. He loves it when we take little moments throughout the day to connect with Him.
Worship and prayer both play a significant role in drawing near to God. We desire worship and prayer to flow from a heart that loves Him and recognizes our need for more of Him. We do not strive to earn the presence of God; Jesus has already paid in full the price for fellowship and favor with Him.
Double dates are fun, but intimacy is marked by consistent one-on-one.
The Lord longs for quality time with us. Consider if you only met with a friend in a large group setting. You may not get to know that person in the same way that you could if you spent time with that person alone. In the same way, if we only worship the Lord in public settings but do not take time alone with Him, we may never get to know Him intimately. Listening to a fiery podcast or inspiring message are great ways to grow your understanding of God. However, if you are only getting stoked by another’s oil when that person leaves or fails you, your light may burn out. Likewise, learning about God through other people and platforms does not replace discovering Him for yourself.
Even Jesus continually left the crowds and went to places of wilderness to get away with His Father. If Jesus, who was God in the flesh, needed to spend time with God the Father alone, how much more do we need to prioritize time with Him? God is jealous of our affection, and He wants to share secrets with us, His friends. We can only know Him most fully when we get away with Him.
Time with the Lord may look different from sitting in a prayer closet and ritually going through devotions every morning. Let us not put the Creator in a box; time with Him should be refreshing, glorious, joyful, etc. It does not have to be quiet or loud. Maybe He will lead you to sing the Scriptures aloud while you are on a walk. Perhaps He may ask you to sit in silence, waiting on Him. He could highlight something in the Word that may lead you into a time of joyful repentance. We should welcome Him and the way that He desires to move; even His discipline is marked with loving-kindness and gentleness!
The Lord desires interaction with us, and we should lean into how He leads us to seek Him. We should not assume a formula for pursuing God, but we should be open to His leadership during our time with Him. This can look different for every individual and their season of life. But let us prioritize Him in every season.
Why is His presence so important?
Let’s examine the reasons why we seek the Lord, and why we value His presence above everything else.
1. He is worthy.
Revelations 4:8-11 describes John’s vision of the radiance of God in His majesty:
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
If there are creatures who continually gaze on the Lord and worship Him in heaven, does that not say something about His glorious nature? If the 24 elders fall on their faces every time the creatures cry out, can we even begin to imagine how beautiful and majestic He is? The one word that comes to the elders’ minds is “holy,” which means “all-together other-than.” Jesus is truly all-together, other than anything we can imagine.
Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Jesus chose to humble Himself as a man when He came to earth, but when He rose to life, the Father now exalted Him above every other name. Now every other name bows to Him (Phil 2:10).
2. We are inviting Him to dwell with us in every area of our lives.
Psalm 22:3 says that the Lord is enthroned on the praises of His people. The word enthroned here describes the circumstance of sitting, remaining, or dwelling somewhere. This Psalm is a prophetic declaration of Jesus when He was on the cross. Even though He was separated from the Father by the weight of the world’s sin, He displayed perfect trust in God the Father. He knew that God was working out His sovereign plan and creating a way for every person to enter into His presence. As a result of His death and resurrection, worship would arise from every place on the earth.
Worshiping the Lord with other believers does not simply mean singing songs in church. At any time, we can invite Him to come and receive all the glory. When we praise Him in our homes with our families, we are inviting Him to be Lord even when there appears to be disunity or dysfunction. When you pray with your Christian coworker in the lunchroom, you are inviting the Holy Spirit to move in a “secular” environment. You are declaring that the Enemy does not reign in this place, but Jesus does. You are changing the spiritual atmosphere of the place and inviting the Holy Spirit to begin working in people’s hearts. He takes our offering of praise, and He meets us with His perfect peace. Even though we may not physically see the change, we can trust that He is working and moving.
Examples of presence seekers
Let’s check out a few examples of persons in Scripture who modeled worship in their lifestyles. They recognized the worthiness of Jesus and gave up everything for Him.
In Luke 2:36-38, we read about a radical woman named Anna who dedicated her life to worshiping the Lord:
“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Imagine if your husband or wife died at a young age, and then you gave up the rest of your life to seek the Lord. Instead of getting married again or pursuing a lucrative career, Anna dedicated her life to prayer, worship, and fasting. Her life was dedicated to preparing the way for the Savior through constant adoration to the Lord in His house. She was spiritually alert and aware of the timing of the coming of Jesus and one of the first to recognize His coming to earth.
Now, let’s examine Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (not Mary, the mother of Jesus). Mary’s life is a portrait of a laid-down lover, a true worshiper of God. We know that Mary loved to sit at the feet of Jesus. When Martha was upset that she was not helping her with the household tasks, Jesus told her that only one thing was necessary and that Mary had chosen the good portion, which would not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42). Jesus was not saying it was wrong for Martha to be working. Instead, He recognized that there was nothing more beautiful than Mary’s undivided attention to the Lord. She valued time with Him more than anything else.
In John 12:1-7, we see another picture of how much Mary treasured Jesus:
“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray Him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor, you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Why did Mary do this? Mary recognized the value and beauty of Jesus. She gave a significant portion of her livelihood, perhaps her security and life savings, to exalt the King of Kings, who had come to earth in the form of a humble man. Instead of rebuking her like Judas, Jesus honored her. He knew her heart intentions were pure, unlike those of Judas. In an extravagant act of worship, she prophetically anointed Him for His burial before He died for the sins of the entire world.
The fruit of worship, prayer, and fasting
1. The Enemy is defeated.
The following two examples demonstrate that when we behold Jesus in worship and follow His voice, the enemy can no longer stand in His presence. In 2 Chronicles 20:21-23, the Lord instructed the Israelites to strategically place worshipers at the front of the battle line singing “Give thanks to the Lord, for His steadfast love endures forever.” As they began to praise the Lord, the Lord set an ambush against their enemies, who were then rerouted and destroyed by one another.
In Joshua 6:2-5, the Lord fights for the Israelites as they worship Him in one spirit and voice. To conquer the city of Jericho, He commands Joshua to march around the city for six days blowing rams’ horns. On the seventh day, He commanded them to march around the cities seven times. After the seventh time, as the Lord instructed, they made a loud shout and blew the trumpets. The city crumbled around them, and the people overtook the city. Not the typical military coup, but a clear demonstration that all the glory and power belong to the Lord!
2. We align our priorities with the Lord.
While worship and prayer are powerful weapons against the devil’s schemes, fasting is also a way of seeking the Lord. By setting aside the necessities of life for a time, we are declaring that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4). Fasting helps us to align ourselves with the Lord and His priorities. Fasting is a good idea when we need clarity or direction in a season or situation, but it can also be done at any time. Fasting keeps us in a place of dependence on the Lord, reminding us that it is not by might, nor by power but by the Holy Spirit that we can stand victorious in this world (Zech 4:6). It is not that our fasting can earn us favor before the Lord. However, fasting is modeled in the Bible as a way to humble yourself, empty yourself of your thoughts and comforts, and put yourself in a place to hear from the Lord.
3. We experience freedom.
Here is a testimony of one staff member from YWAM Lancaster who listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and gave up food for 21 days. She did not necessarily know why she was supposed to fast, only that she desired a greater hunger for the Lord and wanted Him more than anything else. But the Lord did some deep work in her heart during this time that she was not expecting, bringing her to a new level of freedom and authority as a daughter of God.
“Growing up I struggled a lot with fear. I remember before going to sleep at night I would always have to check the closet, windows, and even under my bed to make sure that everything was locked and that no one else was in the room. I carried this nightly fear with me throughout the years and into my adult life, whenever I was living alone.
More recently, I felt the Lord leading me to do a 21-day fast. During this fast, God showed me that I was walking in fear and that I did not have to choose that any longer! Since that day I have been going to sleep peacefully believing that He is with me and that I don’t have to do those things to feel safe anymore! I believe that when we fast, we are choosing to die to our thoughts, ways, and things of this world so that we can grow closer to God. I am so grateful for His revelation and that He always shows up when we seek Him!”
4. We get sent.
In Acts chapters 3 and 4, we see that Peter and John were going to pray. On the way, they preached the gospel, and 5,000 were saved. They prayed again with the church after they were threatened by the Jews and were told not to preach by the name of Jesus. Their prayer resulted in an earthquake. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly spoke God’s word.
In Acts 13:1-3, we see how the believers were united together in worship to the Lord and fasting. The Lord sets apart specific individuals during this time for kingdom purposes:
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
So let’s not waste a moment.
We have the opportunity every moment of our lives to draw near to the Lord. There is no one like Him in all of the earth. None can compare to Him. And yet, we get to fellowship with Him in prayer, worship, and fasting. There is always the invitation to go deeper with Him and discover more of His character. There is nothing like the joy of partnering with Him in preparing the way for His coming and raising up workers for the harvest field.
We invite you to come and take your next step in your journey here at YWAM Lancaster! Come do a Discipleship Training School (DTS) that will inspire you to live a life of hearing the Lord, obeying His commands, and making His presence a priority.