You may recall on August 20, 2016 and August 28, 2016 I blogged on the Practice of the Presence; this is a way of recognizing that The God Who Is There is really here, at all times, in every situation, in all places. As David prayed in Psalm 139:7-12,
“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Peter Scazzero notes there are different approaches to God based on our emotional maturity. We begin by “talking at God.” This he describes as copying our parents prayers, such as mimicking a prayer over a meal. As we become more comfortable with prayer, we ‘grow’ into using our own words, “talking to God,” rather than simple recitals of memorized prayers, but these prayers are still very self-centered; requests for blessing, provision, answers that we want. And this, sadly, is where many of us get stuck, never growing up any more, and always coming to Him with our begging and whining, “gimme, gimme, gimme.” Like little children we have no goals nor ideas beyond our immediate needs for love, provision and comfort.
But there are other levels of communication with God. The next Scazzero addresses is “listening to God.” This is where we begin to recognize that prayer is a two-way communication. Yes, God speaks to us primarily through the Bible, and you can be certain nothing He “says” to you in prayer will contradict that. For example, if the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:23), He will not tell you in prayer to dump her or walk out on a marriage. But there are many details of life not addressed in the Bible where His particular guidance can be helpful and is available if we learn to listen (see October 2, 2016).
Finally Scazzero takes us to “being with God,” a place of emotional maturity which is not dependent on activity or disciplines of the Spirit-led life. This is a place of simply enjoying being together, the way lovers behave when they do not need to talk, but simply rest in each others’ arms. Make no mistake, the devotional practices of the disciplines of the Spirit-led life get us centered on who God is, how He interacts with us, and what His personality is like, so these lead us to a deeper understanding of what it is like to be in His presence, but it is the “being” there that matters.
Like a marriage, if a person thinks he or she can do anything they want and maintain a good relationship, theirs will be headed for serious problems. But when a man and woman are engaged in learning about how to please each other and how to provide for each others’ needs, theirs can become the most satisfying relationship apart from the inner practice of the Presence of Him whose love we are imitating.
In the same way, the relationship with Father requires attention to Him, time spent with Him and sharing of one’s life with Him. The life lived outside of that relationship becomes empty, pointless, and in the end deadly, with a deadness that must be understood in terms of spiritual death like Adam’s and Eve’s (see December 6, 2015 ). While they appeared to be “living” they had become “dead in [their] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), separated from the Source of Life. And when we have wandered into the wrong road, one that takes us further into death and away from Life, the fastest way back into that relationship that will ultimately satisfy us as no other, is to turn around and head back the way we have come. It is possible to get too far down that road that leads to death to recover much of what is lost, and it is even possible to get so far down that road that return of any sort becomes impossible.
But if one does return, like lovers separated as teenagers reunited in old age, who may be able to rekindle their love and find some satisfaction in “the remains of the day,” they must wonder at what has passed. How much time was lost, how many moments of love were missed, how much influence on others was destroyed, that can never be recovered because the time has passed them by? God can bring life to dead bones, but how much of life was missed by those one day resurrected, if they had continued in life all along? (See Ezekiel 37:1-14)
So do not wait for too long to find His presence in your life. He is always here, but where are we? Walking with Him or in a valley of dry bones? Do we Practice His Presence?