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Undoing "Be With" Prayers

Sat, 12/22/2012 - 1:36pm -- Rob

Do you know what I often hear prayed?  Prayers that contain, "Lord, be with ________."

You may hear it prayed too, or maybe it is something you commonly pray.

I hear it often from Christians at church, on the street, and in other places I pray. But what does it mean? Why is it prayed? How Biblical is this type of request? Let's take a look.

In the Western world, we're highly individualistic. Whenever possible, we like to handle circumstances and matters on our own. Simply, we're fix-it people! But when circumstances extend beyond our control, it's often at this point when we'll reach out to God in prayer. Maybe a friend is suffering from cancer, Leukemia, AIDS, or a difficult or incurable form of some kind of disease. Maybe we hear about mass-genocide of Christians in another country. Maybe we're reminded to pray for soldiers serving in harm's way. Or, maybe some other situation or circumstance is shared that nobody can immediately do anything directly about- except pray.

Often times, when fear settles in, we go to prayer and all we can seem to ask God is, "Lord, be with _________." It's the prayer that's prayed out of deep love or concern for somebody whose circumstances are beyond one's ability to directly, or tangibly, help or assist. But is it Biblical? Here are some verses where the Lord promises that "I am with you."

  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
  • "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 1:8
  • "Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him," declares the LORD, "for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands." Jeremiah 42:11
  • "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20
  • "When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present," 1 Corinthians 5:4


The promise,"I am with you," is written 21 times in the NIV Bible, with many more variations of the wording of that promise throughout.

As I read verses where God promises to be with us always (His presence, Jesus' presence, and/or through the presence of His Spirit), I notice that He makes this reminder in the presence of fear, disobedience, or uncertainty.

Aren't those the same places/sources where the prayer, "Lord, be with ________" eminates? 

May I suggest, instead of praying a prayer that's founded upon fear, or already fulfilled before it's asked (since He's already with them/us), ask the Lord to "minister to this person's or these peoples' hearts where they're at."  This acknowledges that He is already in control, and always has been.  It also invites Him to minister out of His perfect wisdom, grace, mercy, truth, provision, etc.  It also can center our hearts on the truth of who He is- and this will turn our hearts toward worshiping Him for who He is!  If we stop to think, He knows each person we pray for far more intimately than we do.  We can yield our fear, our desire to control an outcome, and our worry fully to Him.  I believe when we do, He is freed up to minister more effectively in the lives of those we pray for- as well as our own!

Lord, A.W. Tozer once stated that You are closer to us than we are to our own souls! We acknowledge your presence and believe that you are always with us- in good times and bad.  You are faithful to stand by your children in all circumstances.  You lavish your love continually upon us.  You are so generous!  We confess that we don't always look for you, think about you, or invite you into the circumstances of our day- or into those of others we love.  When this happens, circumstances can begin to appear they are bigger than You.  But You are Lord of all.  Always have been and always will be.  Help us to seek your heart and learn how to pray so that our prayers reflect your heart- and gently lead others how to effectively pray.  In Jesus' name, Amen.