The Practice of the Presence of God is a book based on the teachings of Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in the 1600’s. One of the more famous passages points out that one can commune with God even in the washing of pots and pans, which was one of the friar’s daily duties. But this post is less a commentary on that little book, and more about that phrase:
Practicing God’s presence.
It’s a beautiful little phrase, and one that is packed with spiritual truth. The idea behind it, I believe, is that one can actually through a certain mindset and discipline not just have a set aside time to be with the Lord, but can actually walk with God throughout the day. We have been conditioned to think that the key to a vibrant and growing relationship with the Lord is a daily quiet time. And there is certainly truth in that. Each of us ought to have time set aside – specific and devoted time – in which we read the Scriptures, pray, sing, and a host of other things. And yet this set aside time should not be the exclusive time of day in which we do those things. This is what the phrase is getting at, or at least how I’m using it.
It is driving at the fact that though we might set aside a particular time, the way we want to live is in a constant relationship; that there is a way in which we can move through the ins and outs of daily life in which we are truly walking with the Lord the whole day through. Think of it like this:
I have spent the majority of the last 18 months working from home, and as a result, my dog and I have never been closer. And by closer, I mean closer. He goes everywhere with me, to an annoying extent actually. His presence is so constant that sometimes I forget he’s there. Every once in a while, he will bark, or scratch at the door, or whatever and I’m reminded that he’s there. So he is always present, but I am not always practicing his presence. If I were I would be constantly noticing him, talking to him, and walking him. So there is a difference between being present and actually practicing the presence.
So how might we do that in a spiritual sense? I suggest remembering at least these three truths in order to practice God’s presence:
1. Awareness rather than arrival.
The question of whether or not God is with us, as Christians, has been settled. Jesus Himself promised He would be with us always when He gave His great commission; the writer of Hebrews explicitly lets us know this truth as well:
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Indeed, according to him, the presence of God is so real and so powerful that it is all we need. It is God’s presence that frees us from materialism and other earthly comforts and places us into a state of contentment. So as a Christian, we do not have to wonder if God is with us. The question is just how aware we are of Him, not whether or not He is there. This is a basic truth, but in order to practice God’s presence, we should understand that we are not beckoning Him to come and be with us; what we are really doing is actively acknowledging the reality of His presence which is already there.
2. Sacred rather than secular.
The second truth we need to remember is that there really is no division between the sacred and the secular. Now I suppose we could argue that there certain aspects of life that are purely sacred, like the time of dedicated worship when we meet with the people of God. And yet we can not argue that any aspect of our lives is meant to be devoid of sacredness. Just one example:
Let’s say that you are a computer programmer. Your work is not for the church; it is not for a Christian ministry; and the websites you create are for various businesses. What’s sacred about that? Well, nothing on the surface, except for the fact that all work, when done for the good of society and the flourishing of humanity is good. In other words, work – in and of itself – is a sacred thing because our work is one of the ways God extends His common grace to the world. When we work hard, we work well, and we work with excellence we are not only honoring the Lord – we are actually participating with Him in providing for the world.
We must, then, in order to practice the presence of God break down the mental wall we have between that which is sacred and that which is secular.
3. Faith rather than feelings.
This is the third truth we need to believe – that practicing God’s presence is much more a matter of faith than of feelings. True enough, there are some moments when we actually feel the presence of God. Or at least we think we do. The problem comes when we don’t feel the presence of God. In those moments, we are at least likely to not actively remember God is with us, if not feel like He has left us altogether.
As long as we are dominated by our feelings, we will never really practice God’s presence. Instead, we will always be waiting for that perfect kind of feeling to come over us so that we know that God is really there. Faith is better. Faith is truer. Faith is much more trustworthy.
This is what we all want, isn’t it? Don’t we want to walk with God? Don’t we want to know He is near in the mundane as well as in the crisis? I believe it is. And thanks be to God that He is indeed with us. What is left for us is to actively grow in our awareness and faith so that all of life might become a sacred time.