When I was in my early twenties I was taught that one of the ways to develop spiritual sensitivity was to “practice the presence of God.” Although this statement may bring up images of someone sitting in the dark with a lone candle and incense burning, this is far from what it means. Over time I have come to learn that “practicing the presence of God” is more about a mindset, a way of thinking.
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Driving on auto-pilot
Everyday I make a drive of about ten minutes from my home to my office. Not only do I drive to work in morning, but I also go home for lunch many days, which means that I often do the same drive twice three a day. Although there are a few different ways to make the trip, I tend to go the same route because it is the fastest. The result of doing this trek day in and day out, week after week, is that I tend to go into a mental auto-pilot. I make the same stops, change lanes in the same place, and know where I can speed or and where I should slow down.
Practicing the presence of God
Unlike my trancelike driving habits, practicing the presence of God is a mindset where we are actively engaged with Him throughout our day. It is a mindset that causes you to stop, listen, ponder, reflect, and learn. It is actively looking for God to teach us and to show up in the people we are with and the situations we are in.
Engaged in life
Unfortunately life, like my driving to and from work, can become a series of routines and habits. The tires of a car on a well-worn dirt road will tend to fall into the ruts unless you actively steer it to stay out of them. Practicing the presence of God means that you must be actively engaged in your life, the things that are happening around you, and the people you are with. Below are a few of the ways I have learned to do to do that.
Develop “situational awareness”
The other day I was jolted back into reality as I suddenly saw a man standing a hundred feet in the road ahead of me, waving his arms as he stood next to his tow truck with flashing yellow lights. I was amazed, shocked even, that I hadn’t noticed him sooner but I had been in my mental auto-pilot mode. Practicing the presence of God requires that we are aware of what is happening around us, but also that we are on the lookout for God to teach us things from our environment. If you think about it, this seems to be what Jesus often did is he used examples from his physical environment, such as rocks, seeds, light, crops, and water, to teach the about the truths of God.
Sensing that God can teach me too from the world around me, I have made it a habit to take the time to reflect on life’s situations and then ask myself, “Is there a truth that God can reveal to me through this?” I am amazed at how often I get a deeper understanding of a spiritual reality, and also how much those teaching lessons stick for me, so much so that years later I can recall moments and the lessons God showed me.
Develop “people awareness”
God’s greatest possession is His people, and when we genuinely care for others God shows up in amazing ways. I practice the presence of God by developing the habit of asking God when I am with others, “Is there anything you want to say or do for this person?” God loves people greatly and my experience is that He doesn’t hold back revealing His heart to me when I treat others this way, seeking to love and serve them the way He desires to.
To grow spiritually we need to practice the presence of God, seeing Him in the situations and people around us throughout the day.
What else could we do to practice the presence of God? Let us know in the comments below.