Practicing the Presence of God

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
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.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Psalm 139: 1-18 ESV

We like to think we understand the idea that God is everywhere; that, as the Psalmist says, there is no place where God is not present with us, even when it might seem as though God is either distant or absent.

However, Fred Craddock warns us that “everywhere” seems a way of saying “nowhere.”  (Reflections on My Call to Preach)  We have to exercise some care lest, in our “spiritual maturity,” we fail to see God in our lives at all. So, how do we become aware of God’s presence in everything we do; everywhere we go?

In the late 1600s, a monk named Brother Lawrence, wrote a series of letters that have been compiled into a book called “Practice of the Presence of God.”  In it he writes that “At any moment and in any circumstance, the soul that seeks God may find [God], and practice the presence of God.”

So, it seems to be, at first, a matter of seeking and observing.  We need to get in the habit of looking for God in all the twists and turns of life; expecting God to be present and actively looking to see where and how God shows God’s self.

I don’t pretend to be very good at this.  It’s something that I’ll work on all my life and still only barely scratch the surface.  “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

Still, it is something to truly strive for.  If I can begin to see God’s presence in all the stuff of life, then life itself becomes a window into God’s actions.  Then, no matter if we’re describing a wonderful worship service or a trip to the grocery; whether we’re talking about a time of deep prayer or a conversation with a neighbor, we might be able to begin it with the same phrase that Jesus used to describe the ways of life: “The realm of God is like this…”

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