Audience with a King
Many seek the face of a ruler (the ruler’s favor), but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. Proverbs 29:26. A proverb of King Solomon.
A high point in my life of travel happened while walking the streets in Kolkata, India, where we accidentally stumbled on the Missionaries of Charity Mother house. We were staying at a hostel nearby on our way from Hong Kong to Andhra Pradesh to volunteer at an orphanage. Knocking timidly at the door, we were welcomed in by the sisters for a tour and to attend mass and pray with Mother Teresa. Later, I was privileged to return for an “audience” with Mother. I sat waiting to see her with a Chinese Buddhist and an Indian Hindu and she spoke to each of us with love and care. Then it happened…she put her hand on top of my head and blessed me with her favor and I was changed.
Throughout history kings, queens, and spiritual leaders have been considered the Lord’s anointed and many have sought “an audience” with them to listen to their words of wisdom and gain favor from their good will. An audience in the presence of the king is both giving reverence and presence as well as receiving the favor and goodness the king has power and grace to grant.
My daily prayers are like an audience with the King, asking for “favor” or “blessings” for my family, friends, and the people and nations of the world. Is it self-centered, entitled, or arrogant to seek goodness from God? Our Sacred Word is full of descriptions of a God who loves with steadfast generosity and favor: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” Psalm 84:11
A Biblical example of a king well-respected and sought after is King Solomon, son of David, who ruled the Israelite empire for forty years in the 10th century BC: “The whole world sought an audience with Solomon (his presence) to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart.” (1 Kings 10:24) Although Solomon was one who sinned, like all of us, he worshipped and honored the one true God and was favored with leadership: “for it was his from the Lord.” God appeared to Solomon in a dream saying: “What can I give you…Ask!”
In a beautiful prayer he responds: “Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?” 1 Kings 3:9 MSG.
A God-listening heart! What an amazing prayer that opened the earthly king’s heart and mind to sit and listen in the presence of the heavenly King. As you lay your head down to dream tonight, what would you “ask” of the King of kings?
There is a King within, not raised upon a throne, that would have an audience with you my friend! A King seeking audience with me? Yes! When you are done seeking audiences with kings, give audience to the King!
Praying for Favor. Spiritual practices are pathways to the Divine, and one of my favorite ways of opening the gate and starting toward connection is praying “breath prayers.” They help me to quickly center into the presence of God throughout the day, while doing ordinary things like walking, cooking, or sitting in solitude. This breath prayer paraphrased from Psalm 119:58 is a good reminder that praying for favor is seeking God’s face, presence, and graciousness:
I seek the favor of your face…with all my heart. Be gracious to me…according to your promise.
Meditating on God’s Word. Psalm 119 is a treasured resource for prayer and meditation that is known as the Alphabet of Divine Love. It is an acrostic poem divided into twenty-two 8-verse groups beginning with the same Hebrew letter for which the group is named. The section including verses 57-64 is named Heth which means the steadfast love of the Lord God. Take time to read and meditate on this beautiful section in which we promise to keep God’s Word while asking at the same time for God’s favor according to his promises. Even though we will fail, he is steadfast.
HETH 57 The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words. 58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. 59 When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; 60 I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. 61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. 62 At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. 63 I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. 64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
Reflection and Prayer. Last week I wrote about my friend Winnie who was encouraged by the sign reading: “My heart’s pastoral life.” Searching online for “pastoral life,” I found an amazing book of meditations on the Psalms, by William Flewelling, ironically called, “Directions of a Pastoral Lifetime.” The meditations are his own meditative prayer addressed to God.
Here is his prayer on Psalm 119:57-58. Read it slowly as a prayer:
O Lord I know my portion in life, my part in the unfolding drama of your creation. My part is to keep your words. Like a word-hoard of old, I keep them, guard them, entwine them afresh in the energy of your visitant and creative Spirit. I keep them by stirring them, and in turn being stirred by them. I keep them as words must be kept: gently, deeply, thoroughly, so that in keeping them they might show their eagerness and their fresh energy for life.
As I cling in my eagerness to your apportioned word, I entreat from you the favor of your face. Lord God, Your face stirs the wildest longings of my heart, it is the favor for which I yearn. Your words have etched upon my soul the clean attractiveness of your holiness. In awe, my heart, my whole heart yearns toward your face. Grant me the favor of your face.
Grant grace O God, let your merciful grace be mine, that I might find my feet running to your holy urgency, and my soul surging in your favor, my heart enrapt in the favor of your face. At the impulse of my heart O Lord my God, I hasten. I run. I stumble in my headlong hurry toward you, my God.