Before entering the world of women’s ministry, I served on staff at Willowbrook working with preteens. Preteens are just in a weird stage of life. They aren’t really children but they certainly aren’t teenagers. Hence, the label “Preteen.” Most preteens haven’t mastered the art of hiding yet. They say what they feel. A couple of common phrases I would hear as they talked to each other were, “You know they are telling the truth, because you can’t lie in church.” or “Don’t say that word, you’re in church.”
I always found such comments profound because out of the mouths of eleven year olds, I heard the heart of many Christians. Too many of us have categorized the presence of God. We have unwittingly accepted the belief that experiencing God’s presence happens primarily inside the walls of a church building. We know in our heads that recognizing God’s presence in our daily lives is possible and even preferable. Yet, most of us have become satisfied or at least accepted experiencing God’s presence only in a church building.
If you’ve been around a church very long or sat through very many sermons, you’ve heard that you should be experiencing God’s presence outside the walls of a the church. You should be aware of His presence throughout the day. You know what you should be doing and it even sounds like something you’d like to be doing. However, if you were honest, you’ve rationalized that experiencing God’s presence must be for other people. It must be for the preachers or the missionaries, because, quite frankly it isn’t happening for you.
You’re not alone in that line of thinking. But, understand, the awareness of God’s presence does not come naturally for anyone. Experiencing the presence of God in your daily life comes with practice. You have to know how to have a living, active relationship with Jesus that sensitizes you to an awareness of His presence
So, how is it done?
Encountering God and His presence in a real, regular way in your life won’t happen by accident. If you genuinely want to experience God’s presence as part of your daily life you must set you mind and heart on that goal.
In Exodus 33, God told the Israelites that He would keep His promise by allowing them to enter the Promised Land, but He would not go with them. Instead, He would send an angel. This wasn’t okay with Moses or the Israelites. In verse 15, Moses said,
“If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now.” (The Message)
Get determined. Grab God by the collar (so to speak) and say,
“I’m not fighting cancer without you, Lord.”
“I’m not going to raise these kids without your presence, Lord.”
“I’m not going to start this new job without your presence, Lord.”
“I’m not going to fight for this marriage without your presence, Lord.”
“I’m not going to deal with an empty nest without your presence, Lord.”
“I’m not going to learn to be on my own without your presence, Lord.”
“I”m not going to _________________ without your presence, Lord.”
The Bible tells us to prepare our heart to seek the Lord. There is a story in 2 Chronicles of two kings. One was an evil king and the Scripture clearly states,
“And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” NKJV(emphasis added)
You can read just a few chapters down and read of another king that God approved of. Scriptures says of this King,
“Nevertheless there are good things found in thee…in that thou hast prepared thy heart to seek God.” NKJV (emphasis added)
Preparation is important to God. If you want to practice the presence of God throughout your everyday, it must begin with preparation. It must begin with a whole-hearted desire to meet with God.
Every day, get away with God. Close a door, get a readable Bible and a notebook. Turn off your cell phone. Communicate to God that He is the priority. Preparing your heart is the only business you have to attend to at that moment.
Your time alone with God is not the only act of seeking God, but will help as you prepare to continue to seek Him throughout your everyday activities.
Determine not to casually approach God, but prepare to seek the conscious presence of God.
You need to get away alone with God—whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your responsibilities. God values time with you. God doesn’t take for granted the time you set aside to meet with Him.
For me, isolation is one of the hardest disciplines. It isn’t because I don’t want to be alone, but because there is so much demand for my presence. That makes me sound more important than I am. There are just lots of demand for my time.
But, please hear me, the best time you’ll spend for your children, your spouse, your boss, your parents, your ministry, whomever, is when you’re with God alone. Isolate yourself long enough to get alone with God. (In the coming posts on disciplines, we’ll look at what to do with that time alone)
I’m afraid that many of us live by the philosophy If I don’t expect anything, I won’t be disappointed. That mindset is popular, but unrealistic. We all have expectations. I expect every time I go into my favorite pizza place that I’m going to leave satisfied. In fact, I try to prepare for it by wearing my stretchy pants. We have expectations about visiting family for the holidays, whether positive or negative and we prepare for it.
What do you expect from God? When you meet with God, do you expect Him to give you something? We should open our Bibles with paper and pen right beside us, so we can record what God tells us. If you expect Him to give you something, be prepared to write it down. I’m a big fan of writing during my time with God. It is amazing what clarity comes as the pen touches the paper. And not only am I writing words on paper, God is writing His truths on my heart. If you approach God, expecting Him to give you something then be ready for God to give you something.
I’d love to tell you that if you checked all these boxes, you are guaranteed to experience God in a more tangible way. I do believe this method works but I must remind you this isn’t about going through the motions or checking off the boxes. This isn’t about marking things off your spiritual to-do list. This is about relationship. These are simply ways to approach God, to foster a healthy relationship with God and to get to know Him more intimately.
Matthew West has a song called “Motions” that speaks to my heart each time I hear it. Take a minute and let God speak to you through this video.
Question: What ways have you found that help you experience God’s presence in a real way? Share them in the comments so others can be blessed as well.