I was a guest musician at a church in Winnipeg, engaged in the familiar liturgies of a pre-service prayer huddle. One person prayed for the congregation's safety in inclement weather, another for the technical aspects of the service, and a third kindly remembered my family back home.

When my turn came, I must have used a phrase like, "God, we invite you here among us." I clearly recall the minister's prayer, which followed mine: "We know we do not have to request your presence, because there is nowhere you are not. So we celebrate the fact you are already here with us now."

My head stayed bowed, but my face burned. This guy is correcting my theology with his prayer!

The service went as planned. But throughout the evening, I was mentally defending my choice of words. Of course I know God is everywhere—I've read Psalm 139! I was requesting an extra measure of his presence, an outpouring of his Spirit. Or, if you want to be more precise (and clearly you do), I was praying that God would help us to be open to him. Aren't we just arguing semantics?

I never articulated any of these thoughts to the minister. But the dialogue I've had with him in my head ever since has gradually refined my thinking—a case of iron sharpening particularly dull iron. I now believe that pastor's gentle correction was necessary.

If the psalmist is right—that there truly is nowhere we can go to flee God's presence—why do we act like his attendance is intermittent? And why do we assume it's dependent on us?

"Halfway through the retreat, God showed up," we say. As if he wasn't there before we were, drawing us to that time and place.

"Lord, we welcome you to come," we pray. As if he needs us to usher him into the world he created. As if ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Wrestling with Angels
Carolyn Arends
Singer/songwriter and author Carolyn Arends has written and released 9 albums and penned 2 books, including Wrestling With Angels (Harvest House/Conversantlife.com). A list of her blogs can be found at CarolynArends.com. Her bimonthly "Wrestling With Angels" column has appeared in Christianity Today since 2008.
Previous Wrestling with Angels Columns:
June
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Readers Write Subscriber Access Only
Your responses to the August 2009 issue of Christianity Today.
RecommendedThe Secret Religion of the Slaves
The Secret Religion of the Slaves
They often risked floggings to worship God.
TrendingISIS Kills 29 Christians on Church Bus Trip to Popular Monastery
ISIS Kills 29 Christians on Church Bus Trip to Popular Monastery
(UPDATED) Egypt cancels Ramadan’s opening celebration as Copts resist revenge.
Editor's PickDo This in Remembrance
Do This in Remembrance
Participating in the “high holy day” of American civil religion is beneficial for Christians, so long as we do so thoughtfully.
Christianity Today
Come, Lord Jesus
hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.