There are as many answers to this question as there are people who practice the
discipline. But, most suggest 4 things to prepare our hearts to live our lives mindful of
the presence of God and the love of God for us. These include: daily devotions,
solitude, prayer and community.
“Devotions” are a time each day, or each part of the day, for coming into the
presence of God. It is a time alone with God spent reading and reflecting upon
reading. Devotions can include Bible reading, readings from Christian writers,
prayer, even simply being still and quiet for a time. A quiet spot where interruptions
are unlikely is best. Time can range from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Consistency and
faithfulness are key components of daily devotions.
“Solitude” is a time of silence, away from everyday happenings of our lives. But it
is more than simple silence. Solitude includes time alone—alone with God. Solitude
can be a time of reflection on the happenings of our lives and, depending upon the
circumstances of our lives, can be experienced as peaceful or distressing. Solitude
can be a quiet time of wonderment on the gift of life given to us. Solitude can be a
time of reflection on God and the Kingdom of God. However experienced, solitude
involves silence in the presence of God without any special purpose or reason
except the desire to be with God.
The obvious question is: how are we able to find solitude in our busy lives filled
with work, things to do, and people who need us? The answer to this question is
to intentionally choose to make time and to create circumstances for solitude to
occur. When traveling in the car, turn off the radio. When in the house, turn off the
television, stereo, or other "background noises". Be intentional about creating
situations where quietude is possible and solitude may result. For many of us, that
involves an intentional choice to limit or filter what we will see in terms of movies, life’
s happenings, or even news of world events. The intentional choice involves
discipline—one of the fruits of which can be found time to be alone with oneself and
with God. It is the intentional choice to create space for God by not filling our senses
and our minds with “things” that would otherwise occupy us!
For me, living a life filled with lists to help organize myself, the thought of solitude was
scary—and seemed an unnecessary waste of life’s most precious commodity: time.
In the beginning, it wasn’t easy! Solitude cut against a lifetime of routines and
values—all aimed at endeavoring to accomplish the most that can be done and to be
productive in the ways of the world. Over time, by practicing solitude more
frequently, I came to recognize that “being” as opposed to “doing” has even greater
fruits. The times of silence and solitude—or simply “being”—created opportunities
to listen for God in my life and to see God in my life!
“Prayer” is the third essential that embodies the practice of living in the presence of
God. Prayer is quite simply communion with God—speaking to God either by
words or by inclining of one’s heart toward the heart of God. Prayer becomes the
heart of “Living in the presence of God” because instead of carrying the burdens of
life alone, we take them to God in prayer. Not only at times of devotions, or in fixed
time of prayer, but as often as we are able! Richard Foster calls them “breathe
prayers” and Paul says that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
(Note: All Biblical references in this website are from The New Oxford Annotated
Bible, Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version.) For an outstanding sermon on
this verse and the practice of Living in the Presence of God, please go to the April
30, 2006 sermon at http://www.libertycorner.org/home/resources/sermonsonline/
These prayers are regular and frequent visits to the presence of God to express a
word, a thought, a request, a blessing or concern, and anything and everything in life
that is worthy of sharing with our God who created us, loves us and wants our love
first and foremost, and wants us to respond by going forth to give this love to others!
Such times of prayer are for me an opportunity to express gratitude to God for the
blessings of life, to pray for those in all parts of my life, and to reflect upon what I can
and should be doing in life. Most importantly, these times provide an opportunity to
listen quietly for God's Will and Word to me and for me.
It is ironic that this is so--but experience and tradition show that living in Christian
community where the love of Christ is expressed and experienced is essential to this
spiritual discipline. The truth is that we need to recognize that God loves us all with
the same unconditional, unending love and we are called to share life in community to
experience the presence of God and to experience the love of God! Stated another
way, living in the presence of God is best experienced and most authentic when it is
lived in community. For more on this, I recommend Henri Nouwen’s books “Making
All Things New” and “Return of the Prodigal.” Both books paint a glorious picture
of our loving God, who seeks us out, bids us to be in relationship, and calls upon us
to share that love and joy with the rest of God’s children!!!
How are we able to find
solitude in our busy lives
filled with work, things to
do, and people who need