God is always inviting us into His presence (the first post). As we learn to accept that invitation, His presence shapes us into true men (the second post). But the practical question is upon us. How do we stay in His presence? How do we attune to Him in the helter-skelter of daily life? We do it by practicing the presence. What do I mean by that? It is somewhat like practicing the piano or the pole vault or the dance move. It is a skill, albeit an intuitive one, that we can learn over time if we keep at it and don’t give up.
But first we need to remember a critical truth. When a man comes to Christ, God comes to take up permanent residence in his heart. God’s living presence is forever a part of his daily existence. So practicing the presence is not trying to create something that is not there. It is owning something that is already true. When we feel separated from God, it is not God who has left. Somehow we have left the home of our heart through sin, neglect, or distraction. And He is always inviting us back there.
So how can a man stay at home in his heart? How can he learn to practice God’s presence? Here are some ideas I have found helpful over the years:
- Notice places and times you sense God’s nearness. Then ask Him to help you understand why this is so. Keep entering those places and times and ask God for more — more of His felt presence, more of His nearness to you as a son.
- Notice places and times during the day when God feels far away. Ask Him to help you understand what is happening here.
- Keep a journal, noting when you feel God’s presence and when you don’t. Look for patterns and ask for wisdom to know how to grow in His presence.
- Starting out the morning with some kind of structured silence is so important to this process. The amount of time isn’t as important as consistency. Use the Scriptures, reading a short passage and then praying through it. If you need more structure, there are many wonderful devotional books out there. I was recently the editor of Stand Firm, LifeWay’s devotional magazine for men. The writers for it are so good at leading a man into God’s presence. Or try the Pray As You Go app offered by the Jesuits in England. It’s a 10-15 guided time of prayer using Scripture and music.
- Use your imagination in prayer. As you pray through your upcoming day, imagine Jesus with you at different points of time. You are not creating something that’s untrue. He really is with you. You are just using your imagination to attune to that reality.
- Find another man with whom you can share your experience of practicing the presence. I have a friend with whom we share weekly about what God is doing and our own struggles to practice the presence.
- Spiritual direction is the ministry of helping someone become more aware of God’s presence. It is one of the great joys of my life to be able to offer this to men. Click here to read more about it.
Finally, however you seek to practice the presence, let go of the pass/fail framework. As men, we are so performance driven. We often think of our relationship with God this way, but at some point it brings us to deep frustration. Instead of pass/fail framework, what about a father/son relationship with the Lord as your personal teacher and coach? He knows your flaws and weaknesses — and delights in you anyway. Let Him guide you on the adventure of practicing His presence.
It’s the greatest adventure a man can live.