Prayer for the Divine Presence and Influence
William Nicholson, 1862
"May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers!" 1 Kings 8:57-58
This chapter contains the sublime prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple. After which he proceeded to bless the people.
He pronounced the blessing standing, as one having authority. It is beautiful, appropriate, and very impressive. It consists of a solemn and earnest appeal to God to manifest his presence, and continue it with Israel, as his chosen people.
The same prayer is applicable to the Church now. Its necessities are great — nothing but the Divine presence can comfort and prosper her.
Solomon's prayer embraced the Divine presence — its continuance — its influence.
I. The Realization of the Divine Presence:"The Lord our God is with us."
He does not mean the essential presence of God, Jeremiah 23:24; Psalm 139:7.
It is God's gracious presence.
He is present with his people, in a way in which he is present with no other. The judge on the bench is present with the criminal at the bar; but in his own house he is present us a father with his family. What a difference between the two! God in his nature and essence is as near that wicked man, as he is near the righteous man, as near to his enemies as his friends — but how great the difference!
God is graciously present with his people as their Father. He is present with them by the operations of his grace and Spirit. See Psalm 5:11. God is in the sanctified soul as in his holy temple, 1 Corinthians 3:16. He is with them because he takes a particular interest in them — he delights in them. Beautifully expressed, Isaiah 62:3, 4. There is,
1. His guiding presence. It is not in man to direct his steps. God has promised to guide. Psalm 25:9; 143:10. And Asaph says, Psalm 73:23, 24.
2. His protecting and defending presence. Genesis 17:1; Psalm 5:11; 20:1; 7:l0; 59:9, 16, 17; 46, Isaiah 54:10, 17.
3. His strengthening presence. Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 84:11; Isaiah 40:29.
4. His comforting presence, John 14:16-18. He communes with them, 1 John 1:3. This they enjoy in prayer — in ordinances — in solitude- -in affliction — in death. Psalm 23:4.
God has ever been present with his people. "As he was with our fathers." See how he guided Israel, Exodus 13:21; Deuteronomy 32:10; Numbers 23:21-23.
II. The Continuance of the Divine Presence."Let him not leave us nor forsake us."
Hence the presence of God is essential your comfort, strength, happiness, and the consummation of salvation. Therefore leave us not,
1. To our own wisdom — or we shall fall into error and darkness.
2. To our own strength — for we are weak, and shall stumble, and fall, and perish.
3. Leave us not without your Holy Spirit. Let not our sins chase away the Holy One from our hearts. "Uphold us by your free Spirit."
If we have not the Divine presence, no earthly object can make up the deficiency. Neither wealth, honor, friends, etc. If we have it not, then perdition is our prospect.
III. The Influence of the Divine Presence."That He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments."
The language is expressive,
1. Of love. The heart is inclined to God. As the heart of a child to a parent. This must be the effect of the Divine presence. The more we feel of it, the more will our hearts be inclined to him. Without the heart in it, religion will avail us nothing.
2. Obedience. "To walk in all his way." "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." Faith has works; without them, it is dead. The ways of God are holy, safe, pleasant — and the heart of a Christian is inclined to them. He desires to walk as Christ walked.
3. Fidelity. "Keep his commandments," etc. Not merely to obey his statutes, etc., for a season — but to keep them perpetually. Love the truth, the precepts, the promises, the ordinances, and hold them fast. Your fathers observed them. So do you. Maintain your faith — maintain your obedience — maintain your hope.