God Is

Day 16

Practicing His Presence

Read your Bible: Psalm 16:8–11

Spotlight Verse:

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence,
O Lord.Psalm 89:15

You might be thinking, “The omnipresence of God may be true in theory, but why don’t I feel God’s presence all the time?”

Well, it may be that you are sensing a spiritual alienation because of your sin. God longs to bridge that distance. You can simply receive His free, lavish, gracious gift of reconciliation through Christ.

But what about those moments when lifelong believers perceive a distance between themselves and God?

Some of the time I think God hides His presence from my feelings to develop my faith muscle. When I can’t see or feel Him, I need to have faith that He is there.

But much of time, I think God is longing for me to sense His presence. It’s just that I’m out of practice.

The Soldier Monk

Nicholas Herman was born around 1610 in France. He was a professional soldier, fighting in the Thirty Years War, where he was nearly killed and his sciatic nerve was severely injured. He was left disabled and in chronic pain for the rest of his life.

But after the war he decided to enter a monastery, changing his name to Brother Lawrence.

He had great visions of being an intellectual monk, or a Bible-copying monk, but was instead assigned to be the new monastery’s cook. A cook-monk. And then, after fifteen years, they promoted him to be… the sandal repair man. Initially he felt disappointed and insignificant, but it was while he performed these daily chores over those many years that he learned how to develop an awareness of God’s presence.

Another monk interviewed him and wrote a brilliant little book based on those conversations that is still a bestseller hundreds of years later: The Practice of the Presence of God. It’s long been in the public domain, so you can download a complete copy for free. It’s fascinating to me that the monk who was, technically, lowest on the ladder is the only one still remembered from that monastery to this day!

One of the things I love about Brother Lawrence is that he is very self-deprecating, and talks bluntly about how the “discipline” of daily devotions never worked for him: “He could never regulate his devotion by certain methods as some do. At first, he had practiced meditation but, after some time, that went off…”

Yet he meditated on God informally all the time. Here’s some of his advice:

We should feed and nourish our soul with high notions of God… [and] we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence by continually conversing with Him… we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs just as they happen.35

In these constant, almost casual conversations, Brother Lawrence had a sense of the nearness of God that has inspired millions of readers in the centuries since his book was first written.

That is something of what it means to “walk in the light of God’s presence,” to “learn to acclaim Him.”

There’s Presence and there’s Presence

When I was younger I was very judgmental of Christian songs and hymns that expressed a desire to be “in God’s presence.” I loved to correct people, “Don’t you know you are always in God’s presence?”

Now I understand what those songs are talking about: You could differentiate between God’s metaphysical presence and God’s manifest presence.

His metaphysical presence means He is essentially always with me. Nothing can ever change that. His manifest presence is what those songs are about. The Bible says God’s metaphysical presence is everywhere, even in the very depths of hell. But, as A.W. Tozer put it, “It is the manifest, conscious presence of God that makes heaven heaven.”36

Expressing a longing to be in the presence of God is really a request that God give you the blessing of awareness of His presence.

Tuning In To God

Like Brother Lawrence learned, you can discover this in every minor, even mundane, moment of your day.

He practiced an awareness of the presence of God in the monastery kitchen and cobbler’s shop, two places that for the monks were places of drudgery, as far removed from the meditative environment of their chapel as they could imagine.

Maybe for you, time spent in your car commuting to work, or from errand to errand, feels something like that. So imagine trying his method on the freeway:

See the leaves on the trees just over the sound wall? The sunlight is showing through them so they seem to be glowing. Just as God shines through His creation. Think of the complicated DNA woven by God even into these common things.

The birds on the power lines? God’s spectacular design of these creatures to enable them to fly is amazing.

The clouds overhead? The water vapor they contain is among the most precious substances in the universe.

Notice the people in the cars next to you? God loves them so much that He died for them.

Hear the joy expressed in the music you are listening to? The Bible says music is part of the fabric of creation; the angels sang before there was even an earth, so music is truly a deep, mysterious way to join with all that God made to sing to His glory.

Now see it all at once. Perceive it as a reminder that it’s all a gift, that God did not need to make any of this, but He did, and that the same God who made it all longs to know you, and is all around you revealing His glories even now.

It struck me one day that the sense of God’s manifest presence, that blend of serenity and joy and peace and purpose and love that flows into and out of you in those moments, is the exact opposite of feeling guilt and shame. Like the Bible says:

In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11b (NKJV)

What a gift from God!

But you can do your part. You can develop the habit of affirming that, wherever you are…

God is… here now.

Questions For Reflection

What are some helpful ways you have found to “practice the presence of God”?

In what area of your life do you need to focus on practicing the presence of God? How could this make a difference in your life?