How to Become Aware of God’s Presence

How to Become Aware of God’s Presence

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Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
(Ps. 139:7–10 KJV)

Francis de Sales, along with many of the persons from whom, through their writings, we have received spiritual guidance through the centuries, provided personal guidance for particular persons. Much of this guidance was done through letters. These letters were either preserved and printed as originally written or edited by the author or some other person who wanted to make them available.

De Sales took the correspondence he had with Madame Louise de Charmoisy over a number of years, along with spiritual direction he had prepared for her and others, and organized it into the book Introduction to the Devout Life. This material was addressed to a lover of God, Philothea, who is to remain in the thick of secular life but would offer her life to God in that situation.1 He taught her (and us) how to be aware of God.

We begin by deliberately placing ourselves in the presence of God and imploring His assistance. De Sales sounded four principal means for doing this:

  1. Attention to the fact that God is present in all things: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Ps. 139:7–8 KJV). There is no place in which God is not.
  2. Not only is God in the place where you are, but He is present in a particular manner in the very center of your spirit.
  3. Consider our Savior in His humanity looking down from heaven on all mankind, but especially on Christians, who are His children, and more particular the ones who are praying, whose actions and behavior He minutely observes.
  4. Use your imagination to picture Jesus near you, as a friend with whom you delight in sharing.2

As I reflect on these principal means of de Sales, it is clear that he influenced my definition of spiritual formation—that dynamic process of receiving through faith and appropriating through commitment, discipline, and action the living Christ into our own life to the end that our life will conform to and manifest the reality of Christ’s presence in the world.

De Sales urged us to employ some of these four means of putting ourselves in the presence of God as we begin our prayer. As I have employed these principal means in relation to prayer, it has been transformative. I now seek to practice prayerful living. I do that, however falteringly and imperfectly, by recognizing, cultivating awareness of, and giving expression to the indwelling Christ. By recognizing, I mean more than affirming Christ’s presence. Through spiritual disciplines, living with Scripture, worship, meditation and reflection, and intentional conversation with other Christians, we make cultivating Christ’s presence within us an ongoing process.

Saints alive! . . . There is more. By giving expression to the indwelling Christ, I mean actually reflecting His life within us in our daily living; living out of His presence so that His Spirit will be expressed through us.

Reflective Moment: Read again the four principal ways we employ for claiming awareness of God. Are you practicing any of these?

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to see You more clearly, love You more dearly, and follow You more nearly this day. Amen.

This is an excerpt from Maxie Dunnam’s, Saints Alive: A Forty-Day Pilgrimmage with Heroes of Our Faith. Get your copy from our store here.

Readers will be drawn into the reflections of well-recognized voices such as Saint Francis of Assisi, John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas à Kempis, Martin Luther, John Knox, John Calvin, and Søren Kierkegaard.

A perfect companion to your morning spiritual discipline, this book will also serve as an introduction to a vast depository of writers and writings heretofore unknown to many.

1. Douglas V. Steere, Doors to God (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948), 59.
2. Francis de Sales, Selections from the Introduction to the Devout Life, arr. and ed. Thomas S. Kepler (Nashville, TN: The Upper Room, 1962), 7–9.


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