“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I'll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
The music is probably an old Black plantation spiritual. We do not know who wrote those words, but some authorities say that “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” was the most popular gospel song of the 20th Century. It is a simple song, but it strikes a basic need of our lives.
Back in 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a book called A Theory of Human Motivation. In the book, Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs. He ranked human needs in a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid were things like breathing, food, water, sleep. The next level up included Jobs, health, property. The next level in the pyramid had friendship and family. Then Maslow had self esteem, confidence, respect from other people. The highest level had morality, creativity, problem-solving. Now Abraham Maslow was a distinguished American psychologist and his hierarchy of needs is mostly true. Certainly we need to breathe and eat. We need our health. We need friendship, we need confidence. But that is not all. And we know that is not all. We need God. There is a spiritual dimension in human life that must be satisfied. This was what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Now sometimes we may give this need different names. As Christians, we say we need Jesus, we need the HS. We are talking about the same thing. This need is the basis for all religion. A Moslem says we need Allah. A Hindu speaks of Brahman. Christians and Jews say God should be a living presence in our lives. We are all saying that we need a divine power. This power enables us to keep on keeping on. It gives us strength. It gives us meaning. It makes us fully human.
Now if you ask why we are this way, I have no answer except to say that this is the way we are. We are made this way. This is the theme that the gospel song I mentioned earlier is addressing.
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
We know that God is omnipresent, which means God is everywhere.
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
Proverbs 15:3 ESV
(3) The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
Since God is present everywhere, when we talk about the presence of God we are really talking about our realization of God's presence. We are saying that we perceive God, and we should live in a way that is ever conscious of that presence.
I would recommend to you a method developed by Brother Lawrence. He was born in France in the 1600's. Originally named Nicolas Herman, he was a soldier in the Thirty Years War. Eventually he entered a monastery, became Brother Lawrence, worked in the kitchen and later on repaired sandals.
He had a reputation for experiencing profound peace and visitors came to seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom he passed on to them, in conversations and in letters, became the basis for a small book, almost a pamphlet really. The name of the book is The Practice of the Presence of God.
Lawrence writes, "Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of God?"
For Lawrence anything we do, the most ordinary things, the most routine things, are a way to receive God's love and to express our love for God. Again, he says, "Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that 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. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God."
What Lawrence is saying is that it is all about attitude. We all have ordinary things to do. OK, what is your motive for doing those things? Some people sulk through life. Well, I have got to do this, Well I have got to do that. Life is such a burden woe is me. A lot of people live their lives as a constant pity party. Poor me. Pity me because I have got to do this and that and the other. Lawrence lived life bouncing with joy. What is the difference? He lived in the presence of God and his life was devoted to that presence. Now Lawrence, Nicholas Herman, from a worldy point of view was mostly unsuccessfdul. He did not make any money. He wasw not even successful in th emonestary, from a worldly point of view. He did not have much education and he was never elected to higher offices, if you want to call them that, in the monestary. He began in the monestary as a lay brother, which is entry level for a monk. He remained a lay brother for the rest of his life. But he was successful in the only think he cared about. Which was expressing the love of God in his daily life.
Brother Lawrence felt having a proper heart about tasks made every detail of his life possess an exercise in greatness. "I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world." Brother Lawrence felt that he cooked meals, ran errands, scrubbed pots, with God right beside him, with God helping and inspiring him along the way.
Now Lawrence admitted that this was not always easy. It is not always easy amidst the turmoil of everyday life to be aware that God is right there with you as friend and companion. "As often as I could, I placed myself as a worshiper before him, fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him. This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties."
It is not easy sometimes to see God in every situation, but God is there. And if we will make the effort, God will reveal himself to us.
God reveals Himself to a humble heart that is sincerely open to Him and a will that is surrendered to His will and ways. Our Father reveals Himself in all His love and truth through a private and continual conversation of mind, heart, and soul. This is the way God shapes us into His image and likeness according to His unique plan for each of us.
God makes Himself known to us. No one else can do it. I cannot enter your inmost mind and help you with this. Each of us must find the gate, enter, and walk the humble path accompanied by the certain guidance of the Holy Spirit. In this way we practice the presence of God. We approach the one whom scriptute calls “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2Cor1:3). God welcomes each of His children with open arms. He makes no exceptions. He has no exclusions. He welcomes all into his presence, and this is exactly what we need.
God is the One who is always there, the perfect friend and partner. God always has time for us and wants to hear everything we have to say. We are important to God. Sometimes we think that we are not important to anyone. Sometimes, we think that no one cares. Not so. God cares. As the gospel song says,
Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
"He embraces me with love. He makes me eat at His table. He serves me with His own hands and gives me the key to His treasures. He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways."
... Brother Lawrence
there is an essential insight of the Bible that we need to apply to our own lives. God is the god of the universe and the god of nations, but that is not primarily what interests us. God is my God who loves me, who dwells in my heart and soul and empowers my life. That is what interests me.
God never lets us down, never disappoints us. God never breaks a promise. God's love is everlasting. God picks us up when we fall, carries us when we are too sick or too tired to walk. If we have to go an extra mile, God walks with us. God gives us courage to step apart from the crowd, courage to take a stand, and courage to stand alone. God slows us down when we go too fast and hurries us along when we dawdle. With God we are never alone. God's presence is kind and gentle. God comforts us with tender care.
"God has infinite treasure to bestow. When He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favors plentifully. There they flow like a torrent, spreading with impetuosity and abundance." ... Brother Lawrence
there is an old Russian story that I have read in several versons. It goes like this: A woman was concerned about following God and pleasing God, but she had not had much opportunitiy in her life for spiritual training, and she sorely felt that lack and so she prayed to God for seven years for a spiritual director who could show her how to live in God's love. One day she felt that she was really connected to God, and God said to her, “The next person you meet will show you my way."
Sure enough there was a knock on her door and she rushed over all excited and opened the door, but she only saw this barefoot, ragged beggar standing there. She was a kind lady so she said to the beggar, "have a good day," then she looked around for the person God promised to send. The beggar said, "I shall have a good day. I have never been unhappy. In my whole life I have known nothing but happiness." The woman looked looked at him with some confusion. That was not what she was expecting. The beggar continued, "I have never had a bad day. Bad days come only when we do not employ them in loving God. If I am hungry and no one gives me anything to eat, I praise God. If I am exposed to rain, snow, and wind, I thank God. If others look upon my poverty with contempt, I praise God's glory. So, I am able to accept the bitter and the sweet with equal joy."
She asked, "Where have you found God?"
The beggar replied, "I found Him in every living thing; I found Him in my inmost heart. Wherever I am, I rejoice in the presence of God.”
That is what we need-- more rejoicing in the presence of God. We need less whining about how bad off we think we are and more praise and adoration for well off we actually are.
Brother Lawrence said that we are live like we are always in God's presence. He called that the holy habit. Like any other habit, that means we do some things in a specific way, in the way that is holy and pleasing to God.
For example, we should pray to God everyday, throughout the day. We should drop all ornate phrasing and speak simply and directly to God, offering all that we are, offering every moment that we have.
One of the gifts of the practice of the presence of God is a sense of relief. We finally figured it out. This is what life is about. This is what we are here for. There is this wonderful delight in enjoying God's love. And along with this delight and joy, there is a tremendous sense of gratitude.
All the searching, the seeking, the knocking and tapping; all the discontent, longing, and restlessness of the soul reaching out for sometimes we know not what; and, then, we finally get it. It is not about us. It is about God. Our Father draws us into the clear reality of His gentle presence. And we know how good that is. How good it is to know that God is not just some future goal but that God is with us right now. God is personal, God is real. God is right here. This is what we need. A conscious awareness of a power in our lives. And this makes prayer into a part of our ordinary life. Too often prayer is something we do apart from everything else. Not so. Prayer is part of our daily walk with God. We should live in prayer. We live with God as our constant companion.
To practice the presence of God is simply to walk the closer walk, to draw nearer to God every day and every moment.
As the song says,
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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