33 – How to Sense the Presence of God
One of the most frequent concerns we hear is, ” I don’t sense the presence of God in my life right now.” Indeed, I often feel that way myself.
Recently, I was sitting in our backyard before dawn, gazing into a sky arrayed with countless blinking stars, seeking a greater sense of God’s presence in my life. He seemed far, far away.
I concentrated on casting all earthly distractions and cares at the foot of the cross. I tried to quiet myself, thinking of the Psalmist: “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:2).
Soon I turned my attention to my immediate surroundings. The sleeping lawn chairs, the napping picnic table, the snoring trees, and the grass soaked in early morning dew all seemed somehow more “present”.
My mind swirled at the thought that in the silent cube of space right before me, all of the day’s news and sounds were traveling in waves from radio, television, and cellular phones. I was reminded that the Holy Spirit of God, too, was in that space. He is omnipresent.
Then, after 45 minutes, it happened. I could “feel” the presence of God. It was not that God came suddenly. No, it was clear He had been there all along. Rather, it was I who had suddenly become conscious of His presence.
Men love tasks. By this I mean that given the choice betwen “doing” something for God or simply “being” with God, most men will choose doing.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But we often see men who have for decades overemphasized their “doings”. Maybe they fulfilled their dream or maybe not, but they come to a point of losing their passion for God. One man described it like running into a wall of molasses.
Whenever something is overemphasized, something else is necessarily underemphasized. Because of the breakneck pace of our virtual reality, real time, on line culture many men today have a vacuun in their soul for beauty, peace, quiet, solitude, and rest.
Unfortunately, you can’t fill this vacuum in the same way you would quench your thirst. If it was that simple you could take a long drink of Jesus and be back to normal.
Instead, this deficiency is like a flabby body that is out of shape. One round of exercise does not a healthy body make. In the same way, to bring a flabby soul back into shape requires regular exercise over an extended time.
How can you and I gain a greater awareness of God?
First, do what you must to bring yourself consciously into the presence of God (He’s always there). If you want to feel closer to your wife, you don’t get there by dwelling on yourself. It’s the same with God.
Second, expand your knowledge and concept of God. Personally, I am always on the lookout for a book that can show me the nature and character of God in a more revealing way. Recently a friend recommended Beyond the Cosmos by Hugh Ross. It’s a great read.
Third, identify which spiritual activities and disciplines appeal most to how you are wired. My daughter is involved with a ministry that stresses “TAWG”- “time alone with God.” We don’t need to be ritualistic or leagalistic about our time with God, but we do need to spend time with God.
Eight Practical Ideas
Each of us are wired to sense God in many ways. Still, most men will especially identify with some of the following suggestions. As you read along, why not mark the ideas that most ring your bell. Then, pick one or two to try out.
1. Contemplation. Some men are contemplative. They experience a greater awareness of God when they think about who He is and what He has done. There are two ways to contemplate God.
a. In His works (general revelation)
b. In His word (special revelation)
Sit quietly in a quiet room at a quiet time of the day.
Become aware of everything in the room-the noises. the silence, the creaks, the wind or lack of it, the humidity, the temperature, your body, the furniture, the light, each chair, fabric, texture, color, and how these things make you feel.
Become aware of the Spirit of God in the room, in the same sense that He was always there even when you were not focused on Him.
Pray, “Jesus, I know that you are right here with me. (As appropriate) I do sense your presence.”
2. Beauty. God has made us to appreciate beauty. For some men, a blazing sunset or majestic, haze covered mountain will bring them into the conscious presence of God.
Sit quietly in the predawn hour gazing into the sky.
Go sit beside a stream.
Watch an ant hill.
Stare back at a heron.
Look at a mountain and think how long it would take one person to cart it away, or make one, or climb it.
Think about how difficult it would be to make a tree.
3. Study. Some men will most sense the presence of God as a result of study. This will primarily be the study of God’s word, but also through the ministry of Christian literature.
Suggested Application: Set asid some “TWAG” about five days a week–between five and 30 minutes–to read your Bible. Or, ask your Christian bookstore for a good book on the character of God.
4. Music. Some men are gifted with a good voice, or at least the appreciation of a good voice. These men will find that singing hymns of worship and praise will bring them quickly into the presence of Christ.
Suggested Application: Buy a hymnal or bring home music sheets when handed out for sing-a-longs. Then in the quiet hours of dawn or late night, sing of His amazing grace, how great He is, and how great is His faithfulness.
5. Prayer. Prayer is the act of speaking and listening to God. Some men find they most sense God when they are communicating with Him in prayer.
Suggested Application: Spend some time every day pouring out your heart to God. Then, intentionally quiet yourself to discern impressions from the Holy Spirit (that agree with God’s Word).
6. Service. For some men the presence of God is most felt by serving Him. In the faithful employment of their spiritual gifts they sense an inner joy that reminds them of God’s presence. This may be either through their vocation or in a ministry of the church.
Suggested Application: Ask you pastor for a service opportunity which utilizes your spiritual gifts. Concentrate on recalibrating your view of work to accommodate the truth of Colossians 3:23.
7. Fellowship. Some men are relationship oriented, and they most feel the presence of Christ in the bond of fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord. These men are the ones who are always the first to arrive and the last to leave Sunday school or a community Bible study.
Suggested Application: The next time you are with a group of believers ask one to tell you how they came to faith in Christ after the meeting is over.
8. Hearing the Word. Some men will best sense God through preaching. This is traditionally viewed as the predominant means of grace.
Suggested Application: Listen carefully for the biblical truth and principles in your pastor’s sermons. Then consider how God himself is speaking to you throug the pastor’s words. Talk with your wife or a friend about how you could apply his message to your life.
There is no doubt that it is difficult for us to take the time to enter into God’s presence. But, if we are honest, we have no choice. Without Him our lives are dry and dusty and we become empty husks. Yet, if we will come to Him we can find living water that satisfies for eternity.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1997. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.