Absence

Living, as we do, locked into the dimensions of time and space, we cannot imagine the life of our Lord who is everywhere all at once and all the time. We must deal in now-and-then and someday-will-be. Many people we would love to be here with us are absent. Some will return from wherever it is they have gone; others will wait for us to join them where they have gone.

Right now the result is the same—absence—a gaping hole in our hearts.

Tell It to Jesus
Morning prayer is a good time to deal with absences. We can pray for those who are away from us, and in a strange way, draw them nearer. It has been well said and often repeated that there is no distance in prayer. There is, however, distance in absence, a distance we want with all our hearts to close. As the years pile up, the list of those who were once close by but who are now absent grows longer. Affection and admiration still abide in our hearts for them, but miles and mountain ranges, rivers and rolling hills, and perhaps even oceans have come between us. Because the Lord is present with us and with them, lifting their names to Him closes those immense intervals and invokes God’s love, care, and provision on those we love who are absent from us.

Spiritual Absence
Some have left us in other ways—they have departed from the faith we once shared. Morning prayer is a good time to close that gap as well. Because there is no distance in prayer, we can intercede for them, inviting the Holy Spirit to send people their way to remind them of the wrong turn they have taken. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is more than a Comforter and Helper, He is One who convicts and convinces. The Spirit abiding with us also surrounds those who have left us spiritually. He can manipulate circumstances around them to melt their rebellious hearts and turn their deceived minds around. Remember, praying father or mother, prodigals do come home!

The Departed
We also know that there is another degree of absence—those who have graduated from this life to the next. The Bible refers to an ancient Christian belief theologians call “The Communion of the Saints.” In Hebrews chapter eleven we are inspired by the heroes of the faith gathered in a gallery of witnesses with the best seats in the house beholding the “One Who Sits upon the Throne.” The next chapter makes it clear that the Royal Grandstand isn’t reserved for the famous only—our departed loved ones are there as well! When we draw near to the Lord in praise and worship, we also draw near to them, “the spirits of just men made perfect.”

In prayer we effectively deal with the absences of our lives. Because the faithful ones are with the Lord, either here or there, and because the Lord is near the prodigals, we can face our day full of presence, not absence.

Scriptures:
1 Corinthians 5:3

Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment … just as if I were present. 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…
Hebrews 12:1-3; 22-24 NKJV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. … you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, although You are eternal, You entered into time and space. You know how it feels to be in one place at one time, just as we are. Sometimes the people we love are close by—how we treasure those moments—while at other times the people with us are not the ones we want near and those preferred ones are away, even far away, from us. You understand our discomfort with such an unmanageable thing as time and space. Now, Lord, You have entered back into Your natural, supernatural state in glory. We have loved ones near You there, embrace them for us. You are also with those who are absent from us in so many ways. Hold them close for us, Lord Jesus. You watch over the prodigal, the wayward, the troubled and confused. Whisper in their hearts, reminding them that You are close by, close enough to hear them call on You. In Your sweet and very present name, Amen.

Song:
Never Alone
Traditional

1. I’ve seen the lightning flashing, and heard the thunder roll;
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul;
I’ve heard the voice of my Savior, Telling me still to fight on;
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

Refrain:
No, never alone! No, never alone!
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.
No, never alone! No, never alone!
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

3. When in affliction’s valley I’m treading the road of care;
My Savior helps me to carry my cross when heavy to bear;
My feet, entangled with briars ready to cast me down,
My Savior whispers His promise, “I never will leave you alone.”

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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