You may have heard or read things about the presence of God. You may have experienced times yourself when God seemed very near and something special happened. Or you may think all this talk about the presence of God is just super-spiritualizing and meaningless for you, even though it may sound nice.
I’ve been there. I grew up experiencing a very intellectual Christianity. I’m forever grateful for the knowledge I had gained about the Bible, etc. But all that knowledge left me dry and empty when I faced some very difficult times as a young adult. The stuff I knew in my head wasn’t making any difference in the internal torment I was experiencing.
Everything changed when I began to experience the presence of God. It first happened in a large gathering of other hungry Christians, and then I started sensing God’s presence at other times even when I was alone. But not until more than ten years later did I begin to learn HOW to enter God’s presence without waiting for one of those ethereal moments of serendipity.
From my own experience and from Scripture I can tell you that God’s presence is real, it’s palpable, and it changes you. (2 Corinthians 3:18) While He is here with us every moment, sometimes He makes His presence known and felt to us humans in an extra dimension. It’s more than emotions. It’s deep. It’s real. And it’s priceless! Some people call these times the manifest presence of God.
Voluntarily Entering God’s Presence
What is almost beyond belief is that God has invited us to come into His presence voluntarily – to “come boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16) We don’t have to wait for Him to come to us, although He does that. In the Old Testament people had to come to the temple to enter God’s presence. Now, because of Jesus, you and I are invited to come into His presence any time we have need.
We don’t value that privilege nearly enough. Think of it; the God of the universe, who spoke the stars into existence and holds your very life in His hands, invites you into His throne room! The same God who descended as fire on Mount Sinai, who filled Solomon’s temple with such glory that the priests had to leave, and who in the person of Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead with a word, wants you to have a regular private audience with Him.
He is still the King!
Talking about voluntarily entering God’s presence can be dangerous. It can sound like you’re in control, that if you learn the right technique you can make God do what you want Him to do. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s presence is holy. When Isaiah saw Him he felt completely undone. (Isaiah 6:5) When John saw Him he fell down as though dead. (Revelation 1:17) And if you don’t have some measure of that type of response, you haven’t truly experienced the God of the universe.
Think of it like being married to the King (which in fact you are!) Think Esther, or Song of Solomon. You get to experience unsurpassed and complete intimacy with Him – but He’s still the King! Think Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, or the Shepherd in Hind’s Feet on High Places. And these are but a limited human idea of the personal experience you can have with the Father, with Jesus, and with His Holy Spirit. (1 John 1:3)
How Do You Do That?
That sounds awesome, you may say. But how do you do that?
Here are a few suggestions. It’s like any relationship; the more you learn about the other One, the easier and deeper and more personal that relationship becomes. These steps will help.
1. Be Intentional about the Environment.
For me, that begins with a cup of coffee in the morning and my Bible open. This is not reading the Bible for study; it’s ravishingly hungrily going after spiritual food. Sometimes it’s a few minutes; other times it’s an extended time, especially if I’m in great need. If I’m feeling upset about something my mind may not be able to concentrate, and I will need to take other measures, perhaps playing a meaningful worship song. (One of my favorites right now is Final Word.)
Alone time with God is important, but it’s not the only way to experience His presence. If you’re part of a church that values and nurtures God’s presence, worship time can help you do this. If you’re married, spending time praying and reading the Bible together is a vital part of a growing healthy marriage. A small group where you learn about God and His ways and do life together can be invaluable. And so can getting outdoors in nature, away from man-made noise and architecture and busyness.
A specific environment is no guarantee that you will experience God’s presence. And God is God; He is free to – and often does – show up wherever and whenever He wants to! But intentionally and often placing yourself in an environment where you are better able to sense His presence and hear His voice will make a huge difference in your spiritual life.
Pay attention to your environment. Note the elements that help you experience God’s presence, and do that more often.
2. Get Quiet.
God will not often raise His voice above the cacophony of sounds in your head. In today’s modern world the digital noise and constant busy activity make experiencing His presence even more challenging. He waits for you to be quiet. (1 Kings 19:12)
Being quiet means both external and internal stillness. Sometimes you will sense His presence when doing something active such as exercising, dealing with a difficult challenge at work, helping someone else, or leading worship. But the most consistent and reliable way to experience His presence most fully is when your body and your mind have become still.
You may need to dump your baggage before you can become still. That may mean getting all emotional, crying, begging, even screaming. But then you need to stay there. Don’t run away! Put your “junk” on display before God, and then let it go. Just sit there, or stand, or kneel, or raise your hands, or let the tears slowly run down your face. Just BE. Tweet that.
Listen is perhaps the best word we have in the English language, but it doesn’t adequately express the posture of the human soul when in the presence of God. Yes, you listen for His voice – usually not audibly, but more often a quiet message to your heart. But it’s so much more than that.
Your whole being becomes focused, aware only of Him. Whatever may be going on around you – noise, problems, people – becomes secondary or even forgotten. The innermost part of your soul becomes open to God even as it becomes closed to everyone and everything else. The experience becomes healing, calming, convicting, cleansing, refreshing, changing, or hopeful. You cannot leave God’s presence the same way you came in.
Your experience of entering God’s presence will not always be as dramatic as that last paragraph may have made it sound, although you will have those “dramatic” experiences with God if you keep coming back into His presence consistently. Sometimes you will feel a momentary sense of peace or guidance. Other times you will feel an overwhelming soul healing or change in direction.
The important thing is to keep coming back often enough. God will meet you, and He will change you. Tweet that.
I don’t know where I would be today if I had not learned how to enter the presence of God. There’s no other way to experience what He wants to do for you, with you, and through you.
I challenge you to regularly enter the presence of God – starting today.
Your Turn: How often do you take time to enter the presence of God? What have you found helpful in doing so? Leave a comment below.
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