SEEKING THE LORD

In the Old Testament the phrase 'seek the LORD' frequently refers to seeking God himself - not his will, not his gifts, not his salvation, but simply him – the God who has revealed himself as the I AM, the eternal One, the self-existent, self-sufficient One. It includes, but is not limited to, the opposite of rejecting the Lord. As a command, it is sometimes addressed to people who have rejected the LORD, and have already begun to worship idols.

'Seek the LORD' is thus a highly significant spiritual action. It identifies where our heart and mind are focused. It identifies whether we desire the one true God, whether we depend on him, whether we trust him. It is a vital, perhaps even the primary, aspect of prayer. If we are not seeking ‘the LORD’ then it is highly probably that the god to whom we are praying is actually not the God of the Bible at all.

To this fundamental seeking the LORD the Old Testament commands us:

‘Seek the LORD while he may be found, call on him while he is near’ [Isaiah 55:6]

‘Seek me and live ... seek the LORD and live’ [Amos 5:4,6]

‘... it is time to seek the LORD ...’ [Hosea 10:12]

‘Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always’ [Psalm 105:4]

And reports and commends the whole-hearted focus on God that is contained in this seeking the LORD:

‘O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you ...’ [Psalm 63:1]

‘Blessed are they who ... seek him with all their heart’ [Psalm 119:2]

‘I seek you with all my heart’ [Psalm 119:10]

‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ [Jeremiah 29:13]

Some might argue that this seeking the LORD is not prayer at all. But such an argument has made the mistake of regarding prayer as simply asking God for things. Such a minimal perception of prayer is headed for disappointment and disillusionment. Some comments of Harry Fosdick are helpful:

'Definite petition has its place ... But ... the thought of prayer as communion with God puts the centre of the matter where it ought to be. The great gift of God in prayer is Himself, and whatever else He gives is incidental and secondary. ... '

' ... the thought of prayer as communion with God makes praying an habitual attitude, and not simply an occasional act. It is continuous fellowship with God, not a spasmodic demand for His gifts. '

' ... prayer is not beggary, it is not soliloquy, it is communion with God.'

' ... the innermost nature of prayer (is) the search of the soul for God rather than for His gifts...'

'Recall St Augustine's entreaty in the fourth century, "Give me Thine own Self, without Whom, though Thou shouldest give me all that ever Thou hadst made, yet could not my desires be satisfied." Recall Thomas à Kempis ... praying "It is too small and unsatisfactory, whatsoever Thou bestowest on me, apart from Thyself." And then recall George Matheson ... : "Whether thou comest in sunshine or in rain, I would take Thee into my heart joyfully. Thou art Thyself more than the sunshine; Thou art Thyself compensation for the rain. It is Thee and not Thy gifts I crave." '         Harry Fosdick, The Meaning of Prayer, pp 32-35.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus made it clear where our number one priority should be: 'seek first his kingdom and his righteousness ... ' (6:33). To seek God's kingdom and God's righteousness is to seek God himself, to be wholly committed to him. As we see in the Lord's Prayer, the first priority in prayer is God's honour, God's kingdom and God's will. With God himself at the centre of our prayer, at the centre of our desire, everything else - our perceptions of our own righteousness (5:17-32), our desire to be believed (5:33-37), our desire for revenge and 'justice' (5:38-48), our perceived need to display our goodness and be thought well of (6:1-19), our earthly 'treasure' (6:19-24), and our anxieties about our physical survival (6:25-34) - all of these occupy a very distant second place to our dominant desire - the desire, the seeking, the reaching out and communing with God himself.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016