‘Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in union with him. Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving.’ Colossians 2:6-7
- Before you read on, please take a minute to stop. Thank Jesus that He is with you: He’s within you by His Spirit, He walks alongside you, He’s all around and He’s seated at the Father’s right hand. Acknowledge this truth and speak it out. Wait, and if it helps repeat this exercise a few times – you may want to put a hand on your heart.
As a Team, Jesus is leading us to dig deeper into what some call ‘Practising the Presence of God’, which is what you’ve just done. If you didn’t do it, stop now and give it a go.
Oswald Chambers referred to ‘Christ Consciousness’ and ‘abiding in Christ’ (John 15 – vine and branches). The verse above encourages us to ‘live in union’ with Jesus, keeping our ‘roots deep in him’, and exhorts us to ‘be filled with thanksgiving’. In our walk with people at Journey UK, and in our own lives, we see the important need for us to recover an awareness of the reality of God with us. Not just with us, but also within us and over us – all around and high and lifted up.
Leanne Payne says: ‘For many years I’ve emphasized Incarnational reality, the acknowledgement of God’s Presence with us and within us. There is nothing people need more than enablement to believe that God is with them and loves them‘ (‘The Healing Presence’).
To live without an awareness of God’s Presence is contrary to the Creation order. A consequence of the Fall was losing God-consciousness and falling into self-consciousness. To begin to Practice the Presence is to find ourselves being lifted from this dark pit.
It’s as though we’re living with 10% lung capacity, or even less. There are exercises to help increase our physical lung capacity and, likewise, Practising the Presence helps increase our ‘spiritual lung capacity’. In fact, when Practising the Presence, it usually helps if we breath slower and deeper.
This increased capacity has many benefits, the key ones being: we become less self-conscious and more God-conscious; we know we’re accompanied and not alone; and we learn that life isn’t up to us to figure out on our own. It gives rest to our souls and helps us to: ‘Set our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.’ Col. 3:2.
As we Practice the Presence, we help others too; ‘I am convinced that when we begin to faithfully acknowledge God’s Presence with us, we find that others around us begin to “see” Him as well.’ – L.Payne.
To Practice the Presence is a form of prayer which takes effort, hence the word ‘Practice’. It doesn’t come naturally at first, but the more we do it, the easier it becomes. C.S. Lewis said, ‘What is not concrete but immaterial can be kept in view only by painful effort.’
It’s like digging a well. It takes effort to get down to the water and secure the walls. But once the well has been dug, we can enjoy the life giving sustenance. We still need to maintain the well, but it’s there for us to return to each day and drink as needed.
The wonderful thing is, we can dig our well whatever our circumstances. In the book about Brother Lawrence, ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’, we see that because he couldn’t read or speak Latin, Lawrence was banished to the kitchen to perform menial tasks. At first he saw this as punishment for his sins and failures.
However, after some time, he started asking God for his help before completing each task and fulfilled his duties as an act of love to Him. At the same time he visualised God standing next to him. This practice was gradually developed and sometimes Lawrence was so overcome with joy in the kitchen that he cried out singing and dancing violently like a madman!
Brother Lawrence dug his ‘well’ in a monastery kitchen. He was able to say, ‘What comforts me in this life is that I now see my Lord by faith. In seeing Him by faith I actually see so well I sometimes say, “I believe no more, I see!” It took time but the fruit was profound influencing many people and his legacy still inspires 400 years later.
One thing that helped me dig my well, was joining long queues. At first this was in my local supermarket but then in my car too. I was the person jumping to the quickest queue or lane. I’d worked out that people at the supermarket checkout who had their own bags, or where there were two people together, were usually quicker packing and therefore I joined their queue. To join the longest queue intentionally was counterintuitive, but it gave me an opportunity to Practice the Presence.
So let’s dig and maintain our wells, but also heed the warning of C S Lewis who said the Presence of God is not the same as the sense of the Presence of God. He used the analogy of trying to conceive a baby. There is usually pleasure involved but it’s not the pleasure that makes the baby. There may be pleasure but no conception, or there may be no pleasure but conception. God’s Presence is real regardless and the sense of the Presence is a “super-added gift”, for which we give thanks when it comes.
Paul Beadle – Joint National Leader