How many times have you heard (or even said) the familiar lines as someone is closing out a prayer “Be with us…” and proceeds to ask God to be with them as they travel to wherever, take whatever test, or talk to whomever. This seemingly insignificant line acts as a catch all as we ask for God’s provision, safety, and guidance as we move through whatever situation presents itself next. While many times the phrase is uttered out of heartfelt desire, I cannot help but think of how many people speak this phrase as hollow words of repetition.
I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6 where He exhorts the crowd, when praying, not to “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (ESV). While most prayers that tack on the “Be With Me…” clause usually are not in danger of pontificating with their vast ramblings, I think that “empty phrases” resonates more with the mindless tradition we unknowingly slip into.
So how and why do our phrases become empty? What causes them to lose their meaning and void the expressions our hearts cry out?
There are a whole host of answers to these questions. They range from an overly busy life that places little emphasis on the spiritual aspect of our prayer life to not believing that God can answer requests of any size. Traditions where the heart behind the ritual is not properly explained or understood cause lapses in belief. There are too many reasons – or excuses – to even begin to address.
When it comes down to this phrase, I think the reason is fear.
If you look at the relationship we put God in when we pray this prayer it ends up looking like this: “God I have [insert event/situation] coming up, and although I may or may not have talked with you about it, it is going to happen anyway. Since I’m going to be continuing on this path, I would really appreciate it if you come along for the ride; even if it is something I know I should not necessarily be doing, just make sure that I’m safe. Okay?”
While that may be a slight exaggeration, it is – deep down – what our heart is telling God. It’s saying, “God, I have this thing figured out. I have it planned out. I have it under control, but just incase it does not go smoothly, I want you in the passenger’s seat.”
When we ask God to “Be With Me,” we are living out of fear by placing God in a box that we think He should be in so that we can feel safe. We think that as long as we ask God to come too, everything will be okay in the end.
We value our safety over God’s sovereignty. We become so concerned with God guiding our every step, hoping we do not stray from a pre-determined path that we begin to lose sight of God’s hand in every situation. We get so narrow-sighted about our specific situation that we become blinded to how God shows up in every situation.
Psalmist in Psalm 139 says that “if [he] ascends into heaven, [God] is there! If [he] make[s] [his] bed in Sheol (hell), You are there!” This simple statement highlights the omnipresence of God. He is everywhere. If that is the case, then why do we find it so imperative that God should “Be With Me?” If God is everywhere, in every situation, at all times, why are we limiting Him by asking Him to show up where we want him to?
I think, when it comes down to it, the “Be With Me” clause is a too small of prayer. While yes, we do want God’s favor and blessing, the phrase has turned into a safety net for all the little things that we “forget” to petition for divine intervention.
What if we decided to pray a bolder, bigger prayer. What if we asked God to make us more aware of how He’s moving? Why not ask Him to reveal His movements around us in a capacity that allows us to be reminded that He is always with us, will never leave us, nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31, Joshua 1).
So as you walk throughout the days that follow, never stop praying that God will show you His face in the situation you are in, but do not limit him to revealing Himself in ways that you want Him to. Allow your mind, heart, and soul to be expanded. Allow your eyes to broaden their scope. Constantly be scouring the situations of your daily life to see the hand of God at work.
Because He is. He is walking beside you. He is walking behind you. And He is walking before you.
Do not limit God to what you can only see, but be blown away by the mystery, beauty, and simplicity He orchestrates every day. If you start recognizing God in the little things, He may just blow your mind with something bigger.