Seek God’s face, not His hand

I’ve been involved with prayer summits since the first one was held in Japan in 1994. Not being much of a pray-er, I was initially attracted to prayer summits because they had been started by my seminary president in 1989 and one of the facilitators was from my home church in Oregon. But it was totally different from anything I had experienced before. I had no idea what a prayer summit was. The announcement said, “This is a four-day gathering with no set agenda other than to spend time with God,” but since it was a prayer summit, I wondered how I could pray for four days and what would I pray for all that time.

When I arrived at the summit, the facilitators were talking about a new concept to me—seeking God’s face. What does that mean and how is it connected to prayer?

What does it mean to seek God’s face?

As the title implies, seeking God’s face is juxtaposed with seeking God’s hand. We seek God’s hand when we ask Him to do something for us or give something to us. Of course, there is no problem with that. Our Lord Himself told us, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7 NASB).

To seek God’s face, on the other hand, is very different. It is turning away from our needs and problems and looking up to God. We seek His face when we look at who God is and what He does, not for our own purposes, but for worship, praise, and adoration of the only One who is worthy “to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11). I often tell people that if they want to seek God’s face, they should not use the word “please” when praying since “please” denotes a request. When we seek God’s face, we do not ask Him for anything—we sit at His feet and just drink in who He is.

Yes, I know that some people have the gift of intercession to pray for others. Those with that gift sometimes have a hard time at prayer summits because summits are deliberately unstructured. Yes, intercessory prayers are important; pastoral prayers offered from the pulpit are usually intercessory. But prayer is not just intercession. Philippians 4:6 talks of “prayer and supplication” to emphasize that prayer goes beyond just asking God for things—even good things.

The biblical perspective

We often call Psalm 27 “the summit psalm.” Verse four says “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were like David? What’s great is that we can be—right where we are, in our own homes! Verse eight says “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.’” God desires that we seek His face; may we respond as David did.

In other passages, we are told to “acknowledge [our] guilt and seek [His] face” (Hosea 5:15), to “humble [our]selves and pray and seek [His] face and turn from [our] wicked ways” (2 Chronicles 7:14), and to “seek His face continually” (Psalm 105:4).

Putting it into practice

I believe we all need to at least spend some time regularly seeking God’s face, whether alone or with others. For starters, I recommend making a list of God’s attributes and then seeking His face by praising Him for who He is. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to seek His hand, but we are often told to seek His face. May you get to know Him more and more as you seek His face. Only He is worthy!

Ken Reddington and his wife, Toshiko, are church-planting missionaries in Kochi-ken. Ken is an MK who returned to Japan as a missionary from the US in 1978.

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