Practicing the presence of God

Recently I worked my way through a bible plan called “Practicing the Presence of God“. It just sounded so so apt for something I have struggled with a lot. You see, since I have found God I have enjoyed many joyful moments with Him and with others who follow Him. However, I have often compartmentalized Him into certain areas of my life, and sort of left Him out of other parts, which I will explain in more detail below. But as I was perusing the plans in the app and stumbled across this one, I immediately thought that that was something I wanted to learn. I read into the title that it would teach me how to have God with me always, and it does. So I will take you along into my application of som of the practices described. (The plan entails more than what I describe here, so please check out the link above if you want more information)

Brother Lawrence

The plan is based on a book by Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in France in the 1600’s. Brother Lawrence was a lay brother, meaning that he wasn’t an ordained priest. He was also not an amazing scholarly monk; but a cook. That is what makes him so interesting and relatable to me; he had a normal job, but turned it into something religious (in the best sense of the word).

He said and write some very wise words;

We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and when that’s done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king.

The plan outlines three main practices to engage with the presence of God:

  • Recognize that He is already present
  • Naming our pots and pans
  • Speaking to God continually throughout the day

For me all three of these practices show in a very similar way. But I do want to address them separately, as they emphasize different things.

Recognize that God is already present

I think this is one of the first things I actually learned as I came to faith. My first real encounter with God was that I could physically feel His presence when I was sitting in a room talking to people about Him. So intellectually this has not been as hard for me to recognize, as it may have been for some. As soon as I knew that God was always with me, I actually reveled in it. It meant that I was never alone, and that I could talk to Him whenever I wanted or needed to. And to someone who had been lonely like me, that was a huge relief.

However, even though I knew it meant I could talk to Him whenever, I found I didn’t. Some places just did not belong to God. My work, for example, I never really thought of as being in God’s purview. After all, I work in the corporate office of an insurance company in one of the most secular countries in the world. To my newly Christian mind, God was deeply deeply personal to me, and my work was not. My work I did for other people; people who often couldn’t care less whether or not I enjoyed it, or was really engaged in it; as long as I delivered. I had some trying times at the office, with high demands and lots of frustration. So often in the evenings, when I was home reading my bible or praying, I would think “Why did I not pray about this in the moment itself?.”

I am getting better at this; I now send up prayers on almost any occasion, with silent words of gratitude, requests of strength, patience, clarity and perseverance, or words of repentance and apologies.

Naming our pots and pans – Claiming our work for God

Brother Lawrence was a cook, and worked all day with pots and pans. He cooked the food, served it out and cleaned up afterwards. He was not a great abbot, or scholarly monk. Yet he wrote one of the most inspiring and eye-opening prayers:

O Lord of pots and pans and things, Since I have no time to be a great saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee, or dreaming in the dawn light, or storming Heaven’s gates, Make me a saint by getting meals, and washing up the plates.

….

Accept the service that I do; I do it unto Thee.

I think we have all fallen prey to the trap of comparing our own actions and faith to those of others, and found ourselves coming short (if you have, please also read this [LINK] post). Brother Lawrence recognizes his limitations here. He recognizes that his job in the monastery left very little time for other service. He is simply not able to to great things. So he wishes to be great (saintly even), through ordinary things. “Make me a saint by getting meals, and washing up the plates. …. Accept the service that I do. I do it unto Thee.”

So in other words, any work I do, or task I perform, I can do it for God. As I said earlier, I have often failed at including God in my work. They seemed so far removed from one another. But I’m starting to realize that God has given me my job, that He has a purpose for me in this job. So for me, performing it to the best of my ability is a show of gratitude. And this approach does not need to merely apply to your day-job, though. Any task I perform can become a show of gratitude towards God for allowing me to do it, for being alive to do it. I have started to pray during the more automatic household tasks, such as vacuuming, folding the laundry, ironing etc.

As I am writing this, I have come to realize that this is exactly what Ecclesiastes 9:10, Ephesians 6:6 and Colossians 3:23 tell us. That we should do whatever job is in front of us as if it were for God, because He rewards all good works we do.

Speak to God continually throughout the day

Like I said in the introduction, all three practices show in a very similar way for me, and that is prayer. But you probably knew that already from all that has gone before. Prayer is my main form of communication with God. I try to tell Him how I’m feeling, especially when I’m feeling an extreme emotion; be it joy, pain, sadness, fear or any other. When I’m faced with a tough decision I try to ask for guidance, but I also often forget to, so I definitely need to practice that. I try to thank Him at least daily for anything that has happened that day, for having been allowed to live it, for being alive and having the life I do. And when I realize I have made a mistake; or when I have done something I know I shouldn’t have done (or vice versa for that matter) I ask for forgiveness. All of these things I try to do in the moment that it happens, but if I forget, I try to pray each night in bed before I go to sleep. And then I always use the Thank You, Sorry, Please (link) method.

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