For whatever reason, I was really struggling to pray this evening. This seems to be happening more often as of late. Not because I don’t feel welcomed into fellowship with the Lord, but because I struggle to accept His invitation. I am very aware of my fleshly reactions lately, and I have never hated more than I hate my flesh. And it disgusts me so much, I feel like I am wearing ragged clothes into the presence of the King. Um … I don’t want to present myself to Him that way. So what do I do? Sadly, I just don’t present myself at all. I give Him like a shout out or a smile, or a look of longing, and then avoid His piercing gaze like the plague.
Then there’s the matter of all the prescribed ways to come into His presence. That’s the one that was really tripping me up this evening. I’ve read several books that tell you how to most effectively approach the throne room so that your prayers are definitely heard and then immediately answered. I’ve even done the hocus pocus described to procure favor from the King. But tonight, I just wanted to sit and talk with my Husband. Not tell Him how good He looked or how much I needed this or that, or flatter Him sufficiently to get His undivided attention. I just wanted to sit down with Him and talk. I wanted to express my heart, cry some maybe, listen to His voice of encouragement and gentle love. All the prescribed methods just weren’t in me tonight. I didn’t want to participate in the spiritual foreplay. But you know what? No book really deals with those nights when you just want to cuddle and talk … well, none that is, except the Bible.
As I was wrestling with my unwillingness to flatter God as a way of gaining His attention and favor before I could even pour my heart out to Him, my mind returned to this one phrase in the Bible repeated over and over throughout the first four books of the New Testament: “Jesus saw the crowds and He had compassion on them.”
Let me be honest here: The crowds always got on my nerves. I would read through the scriptures about how the crowds followed Jesus everywhere, begging for this and that. They didn’t want Him, or His companionship. They wanted His touch and then they’d be on their way. Like a jealous wife, I looked at the crowd as a major nuisance. I just wanted Jesus to step out of the boat into the crowd and say, “People, go home! Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something here?!” I mean, He couldn’t even mourn the loss of His beloved cousin John for too long before the crowd rushed on Him again. And you know what else perturbed me about the crowd? Their total lack of respect for Jesus. He had to hide out to get any sleep. Here I go again, all jealous-wifey about it. A man’s gotta sleep! Go home! They didn’t adore Him, or sing to Him to gain His favor. They pressed in around Him until He was backed into a boat or crammed into a house in the middle of town with no way out. And do you know what Jesus did? HE HAD COMPASSION ON THEM!
He and I are polar opposites. You can imagine my surprise tonight as I fought inwardly, both longing for Him and knowing I was not going to approach Him by way of a lie. There was no sincere worship in me. I just wanted to talk! So I sat here on my couch yearning for the Lord but unwilling to press in, and a song began to spill from my mouth: “Come just as you are. Hear the Spirit call. Come just as you are. Come and see. Come receive. Come and live forever. Come.” Come just as I am … skank clothes and all. Jesus was still willing to sit with me. Come to Him without a song … He was still willing to hear my prayer.
James scribed these words in 5:16, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” But Romans 3:10 quotes the Psalms that, “There is none who are righteous.” Do these two verses contradict one another? Seemingly so, until you take into account that this is the whole basis for the Gospel. Jesus became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)! Seems that when I struggle to approach God because of my filth, it is because I have forgotten that only because Christ’s blood covers me am I made perfect and welcomed into the Father’s presence! Welcomed! Not because of anything I do or fail to do, but because I am right with God because of Jesus.
The truth blinding me right now is this: I am one of the crowd. Sure, maybe tonight I just want to snuggle up and talk about life. But there are times I only approach Him in need, or other times when I’m watching for a miracle. Days when I just want to be fed, or even just acknowledged. And He’s always so patient with me, and full of compassion. The truth is – and He knows this, thank goodness- I’m incapable of even desiring Him without His Spirit coaxing me (John 6:44). So in truth, I am just one of the throng, pressing in to Him, begging Him daily to do something in me or through me. And for the throng He has compassion!
“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, ardent multitudes have been crowding toward the Kingdom of Heaven…(Matt. 11:12, TLB)