Suppose a royal came to my house for a visit and I spent the entire time in front of my television set, barely acknowledging the visitor. Then I prepared my meal of steak and potatoes and green bean casserole, but shared only a piece of dry bread with my guest. I laid down in my comfortable queen size bed with warm blankets and gave him a small sheet to lay on the floor of the living room. In the morning I woke and went out the door without even noting that he was in the house, and that he had hoped to go to work with me.
Sadly this is how many Christians treat their King. He has come a long way to reach us, but we are too busy with other things to share with Him what we are doing. Now, don’t get me wrong: I do not advocate a monastic life or suggest we do nothing but spend hours in “devotions” or Bible study and prayer meetings. In fact, there are times “acts of devotion” become just that: an act, and not a real part of our lives.
In Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence noted: “I do not say we must put any violent constraint upon ourselves. No, we must serve God in a holy freedom. We must work faithfully without trouble or disquiet, recalling our mind to God mildly and with tranquility as often as we find it wandering from Him. It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in God. We must lay aside all other cares and even some forms of devotion, though very good in themselves, yet such as one often engages in routinely. Those devotions are only means to attain to the end. Once we have established a habit of the practice of the presence of God, we are then with Him who is our end. We have no need to return to the means.”
You see, Jesus was quite serious when He said, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) When you have accepted Jesus as your savior, He gives this assurance that you will never be alone . . . even when you would prefer to be! A friend recently noted that in order to sin, one has to divorce himself from the presence of God. This is not entirely true, as in its purest form, sin is simply “falling short of the glory of God,” and I find that even when I am trying my best to be obedient to God and walk with Him, I continually come up less than what I expect He would want me to be, or to what He created me to be.
However, to intentionally sin, which is to decide to do something that I know is against God’s will, my friend is correct. The only way I can do that is to get a divorce from God, so that I am not with Him. And if I go through my day pretending that God is not a part of my life, that He is not “visiting my house,” I easily fall into traps the enemy of human souls sets. I can sin without thinking about His presence, as though He is asleep on the living room floor when I go to work alone.
But that is not the way He wants it! He wants to be a Present Participant in everything we do. He wants us to be aware of Him when we watch television. He wants us to talk with Him about what we are watching, what we are cooking, when we are driving, when we are working. He wants us to recognize He is always at our elbow . . . even when we wish He was not! And if we realize He IS there, we will be more inclined to please Him rather than ourselves when choices need to be made.
The Practice of the Presence of God is not natural for us. It requires a holy imagination, but do not think that just because we are using our imagination, He is not really there! This is the exercise of our faith. The fact is He IS present. Our ignorance of Him bending over our shoulder when we are reading a magazine or newspaper does not mean He is not there. He is there when we brag about what we have accomplished, when we sit in our chairs and do nothing, when we fill out our taxes, when we envy someone else’s auto or jewelry, when we choose whether to get another doughnut, when we log onto the internet or walk by a swimming pool, when we blow up at a coworker or drive in our cars. He is always there! (For more insight into this list, see .)
When one begins to practice the presence of God it will seem unnatural, but by His grace, you will find He really is there, and there with grace. The first place you will see His grace active in your mind is in helping you to practice! And you will find Brother Lawrence’s “holy freedom,” a relaxing of rules and regulations, and a friendly communion with One who loves you more than your own mother!
When you practice the presence of God, you will find Him whispering in your ear much more that you realized before you started paying attention. And He is merciful and loving, so when you discover weaknesses and faults in your life, your practice of His presence that reveals these and troubles your mind, will put you at ease with His mercy. And you will find Him purifying you, first from belligerent sins, and then from some weaknesses that hurt others.
Do not become discouraged as you find more faults than you realized you had! When you bring a rough diamond under the jeweler’s lamp to work on it, you will see more faults than you saw before. His light may seem uncomfortable at first, but His grace will help you endure. And give Thanx for His view, that He that began the good work in you will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6) Next week, August 28, 2016, we will look at some practical tips for Practicing The Presence.