Being in the presence of God is what every Christian wants, but somehow few learn how to do it consistently. Occasionally we stumble into him, and we are delighted, but we don't know how to get back. This frustrated me for years, and so I made a study of it. This paper is the result of the books I have read, the churches I have attended, the deep Christians I have fellowshipped with, and my own experiences with God. I am indebted to all of the above. I pray that this helps you to draw closer to God and spend more and more time in his presence. Consider this an introduction; I am no expert. But these are the principles that have helped me the most in my walk with God. If this topic intrigues you, as I hope and pray it will, you will find a bibliography of sorts at the end of the article.
This article may be copied, in its entirety, and freely distributed by any means in order to be shared with members of the Body of Christ.
c. H. Wright, February 1996.
THE SUPERNATURAL REALM
When we delve into the supernatural, we must be aware that there are two kingdoms there. We seek the kingdom of light, but the kingdom of darkness is always eager to deceive and delay us. We need to ask God to keep us safe on our journey, to guide us, to keep us from all darkness. And we need to be wary lest we be deceived. Wear your armor! See Ephesians chapter 6.
All revelation should always be tested against the scriptures first. Anything that disagrees with the Word of God must immediately be discarded. God will never contradict his written canon and of course neither must we.
The more time we spend in the scriptures the better we will be tuned to God's voice. The scriptures are like a tuning fork; if we are on that same frequency, we will hear God's voice clearly. Without immersing ourselves in God's word, we run the grave risk of being misled by the darkness and going astray from God's truth, and worse, leading others astray. If we receive a revelation and we do not know whether it contradicts God's word or not, we must bring it to someone who can help us; a pastor, or a mature believer with a solid understanding of the entire scriptures.
If we are still unsure whether a word is from God or not, it is better to "Put it on a shelf", and wait for God to make it clear. Ask God-- "Is this from you?" Be willing for the answer to take months or years. It is far better to do nothing than to do damage!
"Closer is He than breathing, Nearer than hands or feet." (from a small red book, read years ago in an Episcopal home)
God is near. He fills the room around you where you are sitting or standing. He is in the air above you; he is in the ground below your feet. His presence is everywhere. He fills the highest heavens, the deepest seas, down to the center of the planet and out beyond the farthest-flung reaches of this galaxy, past myriads of other galaxies, to the edge of the universe, and beyond that... Up, down, east, west, out to infinity. And yet he stands beside you, now, hearing each breath you take, noting every motion and every thought that comes from you.
He knows how many hairs are on your head; and how many hairs are on your parents' heads, and your uncles' and your aunts; he knows the hair count of every man, woman, and child all over this green-and-blue globe, all five- billion of us, at this instant. He could give us each individual count or the sum of them all. He knows everybody's white-blood-cell count, how many nerves everyone has.
He knows everyone's thoughts, all five billion of us. Every thought we ever had, every thought we are having right now, and every thought we ever will have, are known to him, now, this very instant. Every hurt we ever experienced, every bruise, every scrape, every scar, every tear, he knows and remembers. All five billion of us. But most importantly to you, he remembers every tear of yours. He knows every thought you ever had or will have, and he knows all of your thoughts right now. And he loves you.
He loves you despite everything bad-- or good-- that you ever have done, everything that you ever will do, and everything that you are doing right now. His love for you is with full knowledge of who you are, and what you are.
He loves you infinitely, for he is an infinite God. How many times can you divide infinity? Divide infinity by two, and what do you have? Infinity. Divide infinity by father, brother, friend, helper, commander, and you have infinity still. Divide that by five billion, and you have the love of God for you: still, amazingly, infinite. Infinity divided by five billion, you see, is still infinity. Your God loves you infinitely as your father, infinitely as your brother, infinitely as your friend, infinitely as your helper, infinitely as your commander; and more. For he is also your Shepherd, your Counselor, your Savior, your Healer, your Righteousness... infinitely. If you have given yourself to him, then this infinite God is also infinitely yours.
And if you have given yourself to him, then this infinite God also dwells In Your Heart. Closer than close! He is closer to you than you are to yourself, for you are only aware of a few things about yourself at any given moment, but God knows all about you at every moment. He knows what you will think next, what your next move will be; he knows when you will sneeze next, when you will speak next, when you will sleep or stand.
He has searched you and He knows you. He knows every struggle, every question, every desire, every need, every want that you have, whether you are aware of them or not.
And the thing that he wants most from you is very simple. What is the first and greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God, with everything in you that you can muster. He wants your love. Why else would he choose, as his dwelling place, your heart?
He wants you to love him. Since he loves you, as we have seen, infinitely, and in multiple ways, this sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
Why shouldn't we love him back, gladly, with all of our hearts? What could possibly hold us back?
First, our sin; --but he paid for our sins!! He died, as all believers should thoroughly understand, that we might live, freed from the penalty of our sin. All he requires of us is that we repent and trust in Jesus.
If it is so simple (and it is simple enough for a child) what hinders us? Why do we not repent immediately?
I think because we do not see Him clearly, do not know him well enough, do not understand his awesome love for us. I think the more we spend time in his presence, the more we understand his love for us, and the more we know how long and wide and high and deep is God's love for us, how strong, how like an ocean his forgiveness is, I think we would run to him immediately, without a second thought. I think that the more clearly that we see him with the eyes of our heart, we will fear to be anywhere except at the center of his will for us. I think we will plead with him to keep us in his will, to help us to please him, to help us to serve him. Why? Because no one else loves us infinitely. No one else cares for us infinitely. No one else knows us inside and out and still wants to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
All the other reasons for not loving God as we should-- like being encumbered by much serving, being distracted from our first love by ministry-- will also pale and fade away when we learn to see God and understand His love for us. So how do we learn to see God like this? How do we learn to know him? How do we understand him? How do we gain the revelation of how high, how wide, and how deep his love for us is? By spending time in his presence. That is what this paper is about. I am very far from having all the answers, but this is a beginning, and I ask the Lord to bless this in your heart. The first step, since He does love us so much and knows how to give us good gifts, is simply this--
(You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray UNTIL you have prayed.)
We need to tell God that we want to know him. We want to love him. We want to learn more of him. But what if we can't honestly say that? What if our hearts are stone-cold? Then we can ask him to soften our hearts and give us the desire to love God more! He loves us so much, he is perfectly willing to help us to love him in return. In fact, without his help, we can't love him anyway, much less know that he is there! So we still need to ask him. And we should never stop asking him. Asking him for his help is the foundation of knowing him, and we always want to know him more, so we should always ask him to let us know him more. I do not think he will ever tire of hearing us say, "Help me to love you more. " As strange as it sounds, we need to ask him for help in pursuing him till we find him, and having found him, to pursue him again. For although he is infinitely ours, our mind is far from infinite, and we cannot hope to hold infinity in our fragile brains; so we must settle for a tiny little glimpse, and keep seeking for one more tiny little glimpse, until we begin to assemble a panorama of His glory in our hearts. And then having assembled what we know of Knowing God, we will find it makes us even hungrier to know him more. I believe that this is our highest calling while we are on earth: that we would each of us seek God, and in finding Him, and knowing him, seek him again, and again, to learn more of him, until we see him finally in heaven face to face. "Lord, please help us to know our need for you, and to desire to know you, and to seek you, and to find you, and see your glory. And having seen a taste of your glory, let that give us such a hunger for more, that we will never cease to seek you. You are enthroned above the Cherubim, and fill the universe, yet you dwell in our hearts! Let us know your love, so that we will love you more. Open our hearts to you, so that we may in turn, open them again to you, for they are yours by right; let us make them yours in deed, in reality, completely."
There are many different forms of worship. In Pentecostal or charismatic circles, we tend to bundle all our music together and call it worship, and let that be that. All our songs, whether they be songs of praise, encouragement, warfare, victory, intercession, thanksgiving, teaching; it all gets filed under "worship." Worship can be without music, and music can be without worship. Many of our songs are songs of encouragement, songs of teaching, or songs of warfare. They are not bad songs; far from it. Songs that we sing to each other as believers, or songs that we sing to drive back the darkness, are good and necessary songs, but we need real worship songs as well. Worship songs bring us into the presence of God. In a worship song, we tell the Lord that we love him, that we need him, that we are grateful that he saved us and loves us. Worship is a time of humbling ourselves before the Lord and enjoying his presence, getting as close to Him as we can; letting him fill us with himself, and telling him over and over again that we love him, that we are grateful to him for saving us, and that we need him. It's not a time to talk to other Christians; it's a time to draw near to God and seek His face. You may worship with no music at all. You may worship the Lord, telling him how much you love him and are grateful to him, in silence, in the stillness, where it is quiet and you are all alone. Or you may find yourself worshipping the Lord in your heart in the middle of a busy day. Worship, real, gentle, adoring, humble worship of our God, is why we were created. That is why the first and greatest commandment is, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul, all thy mind, and all thy strength." Worship is loving God. If this seems strange to you, consider that in heaven, the redeemed worship before God's throne night and day. "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." Certainly in heaven God's perfect will is done, and we see the result; constant, fervent, heartfelt, devoted, dedicated adoration of Jesus the Lamb that was slain, and God the Father. Should we do less while we are on earth? "Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness." You may ask, then what about the great commission? If we are called to worship, why evangelize? Because everybody else is called to worship too, and many of them aren't doing it because they are not saved. Only by preaching the gospel can we bring others into their destiny, which is to Love the Lord their God, with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And if we want power to evangelize, how else will we find it but by spending time with our God, worshipping him? Intercession is vital, and without it the lost will stay lost; but we are changed, empowered, humbled and strengthened by beholding God in worship.
WAITING ON GOD
Anytime that you find something, a scripture or a song or a prayer or an exercise, that helps you to bring your mind into the presence of God, use it. Return to it as long as there is still revelation left in it. Sometimes we feel that we should move on to other things, when in reality God wants us to park somewhere for a while and stay there. Meditate on revelation as long as there is still life flowing from it. When all the life is drawn from it, move on, and seek God anew. For instance, if a verse of scripture speaks to you, and you sense God's presence, don't feel that you have to rush on and read the rest of your chapter for the day. Stop there. Feed on the revelation that flows from those words; let them draw you to God. Once in His presence, stay there. Let God use the scripture to fill your mind, fill your heart, fill your being. Let God use it to fill whatever it is God wants to fill!! Remember the object of all this is for you to be with God. It makes no sense for you to plow ahead and read six chapters, if God wants you to focus on one simple verse and draw life from it, and from Him. Sometimes it is a song that helps us into the presence of God. Don't get tired of that song until you have drawn every last drop of anointing from it that you can. Then, when you have received all the revelation that it has to offer and you have basked in the presence of God until his presence just begins to fade, Then, and only then, move on and ask him what's next. (In company, you can sing a song in the silence of your heart; no need to drive your companions nuts.) Sometimes childhood prayers have this effect. If suddenly you find that a line or two from the Our Father, or from the twenty-third psalm, brings you into God's presence, don't resist that anointing by twisting the scripture in which Jesus warns against meaningless repetitions. The Our Father is NOT meaningless!! Don't be deceived. So often the workings of God are so simple that we bypass them and reject them while looking for something "Deep." Simple things ARE deep!
When Jesus was warning against meaningless repetitions, I believe he was talking about such things as prayer wheels and other mechanical devices, or, rote memorization without thought. These things have no spiritual profit. But to dwell on a simple truth, letting it permeate our mind, our heart, our soul and our spirit until it becomes part of us-- this is not what Jesus condemned. Be free to meditate on simple things for hours or even days at a time. Meditation on God's word is scriptural. And so is meditating on good, simple things: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things." Phil 4:8.
God is with us always. Everywhere we go, He is there. But how easy it is for us to forget him! I read a plaque once in a friend's house. I can't quote the words exactly but they went something like this:
Christ is a member of this household
The invisible Guest at every meal
The silent Listener to every conversation
How differently we act and think, when we are aware of His presence near us. How can we be more aware of his presence? There are many ways.
Have you ever had such a good devotional time that you didn't want it to end? Ask the Lord to come with you wherever you are going next. Make it a specific invitation. "Lord, I have to get ready for work now. Would you please come with me?" Of course, He will anyway, but I think it delights him to be asked. And it helps us to be conscious that he is with us during the daily grind just as much as he is during our devotional time.
There is another way that I find simple but extremely effective. It may sound silly to you, but there are times when I put a chair beside me for Jesus to sit in. When I am driving the car, sometimes I clear the passenger seat for him. When I am walking, I invite him to come along with me. I hold the door for him to go through. He does not need me to do this, but it helps me to remember that he is here. Some may condemn this as silly make- believe; and certainly, if I forgot to hold the door, He would come with me anyway. He lives in my heart, so wherever I go, He goes! But these little exercises are for softening my heart, not his. And I do not think He is offended by it. In some cultures, I have read that they set a place at the dinner table for the Lord on certain holidays. I knew a pastor once, who, when he was first saved, would go for walks; and he would hold up his hand over his head, like a little child reaching for his Father's hand. He believed that God held his hand, and they walked together, father and son. Silly make-believe? I don't think so; I think God was delighted to walk with his new, young son.
Some people put plaques on the walls; some people wear special jewelry or carry little reminders on their person. The Jews used to put Scriptures on their door posts, and even in little boxes worn on their foreheads. I find that no one method works all the time. I may wear a cross around my neck, but in time, I become accustomed to it and forget why I put it there. Then I need something else to remind me. I often pray that God will put a song in my heart and remind me that way.
How else can we remember that God is near us? It's not important how we do it, but it is very important that we remember his presence. He is the most important person in our lives. If we have to tie a string around our finger to remind us about him, let's do it. Above all, let's ask him for help in remembering His presence with us.
God loves us. He is truly with us; he surrounds us; and he dwells in our hearts. He never leaves us alone. He cares for us as his children, for that we are. He knows our every wish, need, and fear, and he will walk beside us through every joy and trial we ever face. He stands beside you now. He surrounds you. More than that, he is in your heart. Are you aware of him? Have you welcomed him? Do not condemn yourself if you have not; simply take the time, put this paper down, and tell him that you love him and you're glad he's here. No need to rush back! Spend time with him. This paper will still be here later.
How do we enter in to God's presence? There are many ways; you may find that the way you come to God varies with the seasons of your life. Be open to change.
One way is just to start talking to him. Another is to meditate on a scripture that puts you in mind of God's presence. Another is to sing a song to the Lord. Another is to picture him near you, beside you, and tell him that you love him. Another is to reach quietly down inside your heart, where he dwells, and love him there. Sometimes praying in the Spirit will bring us into his presence. Sometimes praying a childhood prayer, like the Our Father. Or we may bring to mind a scene from scripture, where Jesus ministered to the people, and place ourselves in that scene. Or we may imagine a scene from revelation, and worship before God's throne. Perhaps we are inspired by nature, his lovely creation.
The important thing is not so much how you get into God's presence. The important thing is to get there, and once you're there, stay as long as you can. Love him, and listen to him. There is no greater destiny on earth than to be called into the presence of God to worship him; yet this is the privilege all his children have.
PRACTISING GOD'S PRESENCE
In the beginning, and still even now, there were and are times when I am afraid to be in the presence of God; and when I discover that I am in God's presence, I actually shy away from him. This is perfectly human, and normal, but it does rob us of our birthright in our King. Most of the old Testament prophets reacted with terror when they realized that they were in God's presence. But he always purified them, comforted them, and encouraged them. We need to ask God for courage to come to him, to be cleansed, and to remain in his presence, gazing at him with the eyes of our heart. There is nothing better for us, anywhere in the universe. Our highest calling is to behold God! For the more we behold him the more we love him, and worship him, which is what we are created to do. In beholding, loving, and worshipping God, we are fulfilling our destiny! So we must ask him to help us look at him. We must ask him to give us courage to come, and be cleansed, and to gaze at him forever. Everything else that we do is secondary to this. Everything else that we do should flow from our beholding God. If we love, it is because He loves and we follow. If we give, it is because He gives and we follow. If we go, it is because He sends us. Let us listen well to our master and learn to go exactly where he wants us to go and do exactly what he wants us to do. Entering into God's presence can be difficult at first if we are afraid. Some of us have been taught to fear God's presence. We should be awe-struck; but we should not let fear keep us from our Father. Come boldly before him, to find mercy-- even mercy to be unafraid to come to him!
"Lord, sometimes when I draw near to you I am afraid. Help me to stay near you. Help me to hold my heart in your presence. Help me to stay close to you, and let your very nearness purify me and strengthen me. I need you; help me come to you and be filled, and gaze at you steadily."
How do you get to know someone? Let's say you have met someone you want to befriend. You will listen to them, and learn what they like and dislike, and you will watch their expressions; when you're listening to them, you will probably look into their eyes. You will watch the expressions on their face, the way they stand, the way they move about. This will tell you what kind of person they are.
You may find that you absorb some of their characteristics. We want to apply the same principles to God. How do we do that? How do we see him? How do we listen to him? It is written that "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." It is also written, "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And, " When you said unto me, 'Seek ye my face', my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek." Ps 27
"And I-- in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness." Ps 17
"Look to the Lord and his strength; Seek his face always." Ps 105
And in 2 Cor 4 we read: "For God, who said, "let light shine out of darkness", made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."
2 Cor 4:6 "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
So therefore we are to see what is unseen-- the face of God. How do we do this? How do we do anything that is spiritual? By asking God!! Once again we return to the fact that we can do nothing without him, nothing that will last or have any spiritual value. We ask him.
"Lord, I do not know how to see you, yet your word says, Seek His face. How do I do this? Show me your face. I want to see you; I want to see what is unseen and eternal. But I do not know how. In your mercy, teach me. Show me. Open the eyes of my heart so that I can see your face." Persist in this. Persist knowing that He who gives good gifts will surely show you! He wants you to see him. He wants you to know him. The only stumbling blocks are these: our pride, our reason, and our inexperience.
Once again, we return to our Helper. He wants to purify you; and it is written, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Let God purify the pride out of you. Isn't is worth losing your pride in order that you learn to see God? And we also want to lose our unbelief, disguised as reason. For our mind will tell us that there is no way to see what is unseen. And indeed, without God, that is true, but with God all things are possible; and, we can do nothing without him. "Lord, I do not want my pride to keep me from seeing you. Please take it out of the way. And I do not want my scholastic mind to convince myself that you were only kidding when you wrote those scriptures. The darkness does not want me to see you. I choose to believe; help thou mine unbelief. And since I have no experience in seeing you, please help me gain experience in seeing you, and learn as I go. Teach me, Lord, I want to learn."
Once again, persist. (And when you do see God, even a little glimpse of Him, with the eyes of your heart, do not be proud of it; thank God for having mercy on you and showing himself to you. )
What will you see?
You may see a vision. Visions are scriptural. There are different kinds. You may see pictures in your minds eye, as if it were your imagination. Do not discount this. God can use the screen of your imagination, and paint pictures there for you to see. When pictures come unbidden to your mind's eye, they may be from God. Test them against scripture. If they contradict scripture dismiss them at once. If they line up with scripture, watch what is unfolding in your minds' eye. If you don't understand, ask God to show you more. If there are people in the picture in your mind, you can ask them what is going on; the apostle John did this in Revelation. (Be careful not to worship anyone except God. )
You may see a vision with your eyes open, although this is very rare. There is another kind of "Seeing with your heart." It is a kind of knowing. It is receiving truth, directly into your heart. While this may seem less exciting than seeing a vision, it can change you more deeply in the long run. It can mean more to your whole being. It may not involve a picture, and you may not really be aware of it while it is happening, but it will change you nonetheless.
I attended a seminar about a decade ago on being in the presence of God, which heavily emphasized keeping a notebook while we dialog with God. I find this extremely effective. While we are learning to distinguish between our thoughts and God's thoughts in our hearts, it is extremely helpful to write down the flow of thoughts and look at it. You may be surprised to see how much God has to say to you. Sit down with your notebook in a comfortable place such as a desk or table, make sure your heart is right before God and that you are wearing your armor, clear your mind, seek God's heart, and begin to write. A question- and- answer format is very effective. "Lord, what is your will about Such-and such?" and then write down the thoughts that follow in your heart. In reading the dialog later, you can easily compare the responses to God's word and throw out anything that conflicts with the scriptures. The rest, you can judge yourself or submit to someone you trust. In time you will grow more and more accustomed to discerning God's voice. Like any other method of entering the supernatural realm, you need to ask for God's protection and his anointing, and thoroughly test what you receive, and be sure that it is from the Lord.
It is a good idea to write down what you see, so as to test it all against scripture. But remember to humble yourself before God, and do not get puffed up about what you see! We are all human, we can all be wrong, and if we get mixed up with pride, we are guaranteed a fall. Remember that a wise man loves a rebuke, while a fool scoffs at instruction.
A humble person sees himself accurately in God's sight. A humble person knows that they can do nothing apart from God, and that everything that they can do, God has done in them and through them. The more that you see God himself, the more humble you will become, because you will see yourself in proportion to him, and He is infinite, and you are not.. Humility is not belittling yourself. You are a child of the King, and that makes you a prince or a princess. But humility does mean understanding that you did not earn that position; God gave it to you, as he gave you every other spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He is everything; He is our source of light and life; it is not about us, it is about Him.
So humble yourself beneath the mighty hand of God. And if you do not know how to do this? Ask him, and He will teach you. "Lord, I want to see what you have to show me. And I want to learn and grow spiritually. But I do not want to become puffed up by what I see, and so fall into pride, and go the devil's way. Please teach me to humble myself beneath your mighty hand, faithfully, regularly. Show me the difference between true humility and false humility. And please do not let me grow proud; rebuke and chasten me first."
WATCH AT THE RAMPART
Once you have learned to see in the Spirit, you may find God is calling you to watch in the spirit. There are many things that you may see. This is now a means of communication between you and your Lord. In natural, earthly warfare, commanders post guards to watch the horizon while those in the city or in the citadel sleep, or carry on their business. These warriors watch for signs of enemy activity; they will also see approaching storms, or the arrival of allies and friends. Whatever these watchmen see, they report to their commander. If you are called to be a watchman, develop that relationship between you and your pastor. Report what you see to him. It is our duty to report what we see, but we are not the commanders, and we must remember that. Read the passage in Ezekiel 33 in which God calls him to be a watchman, and read Habakkuk.
PRAYING WITHOUT CEASING
A common method of coming into God's presence is simply to begin a conversation with him. This conversation can begin anywhere, anytime. And God wants us to speak with him. Many of us wish that God would speak back to us. We remember that verse, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me," and we long to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us, and we listen, but do not know how to hear. The voice of God speaks most often in our hearts. It is unusual to hear an audible voice, although it does happen. But mostly God speaks to us in the quiet of our hearts. This brings up two points.
First, God is using our own thought patterns to speak to us. We often assume that the thoughts in our mind are ours alone. But God is speaking into our heart. If we are tuned in to him, if we have spent time reading the scriptures and worshipping, and if we desire to hear him speak to us, he will speak into the peace of our heart. We can learn to distinguish his thoughts from our thoughts, and we can hold conversation with him.
Second, if God speaks in the peace of our hearts, we will have a hard time hearing him if our heart is noisy all the time! So we must learn to quiet our hearts. "Be still and know that I am God." "I have quieted my soul like a weaned child."
Quieting our hearts involves several layers. Quieting our hearts involves rejecting any violent emotions like anger, jealousy, and any other works of the flesh as listed in the scripture. (Galatians 5:19). If you are not cleansed of these, you will not be able to trust the impressions in your heart. If you struggle with violent emotions, I am sure that you have asked the Lord for help with them. But now here is a new reason; that you can hear his voice more clearly. (If you do struggle with violent emotions, I believe your best avenue is to lock your eyes on God. The more you behold him, the more you will want to be like him; the more you will love him; and as you love God, his Spirit will flow through you, changing you. If you try and change yourself, odds are the change won't last. But if you remain in God's presence, and ask Him to change you, you will be changed from the inside out, and the changes will last. Spend as much time as you can in God's presence, loving and worshipping him, and ask him to heal you of the things that you struggle with. You may also want to ask the Lord for people to pray for you, for healing from these emotions.) Quieting our hearts also involves stilling our own wants. We all have wants, needs, wishes, desires. They are not all bad or unreasonable. I do not believe that ignoring or quenching these wants is the answer. This is not the time to "Deny self". Instead, ask the Lord for what you want, no matter how big, how small, how reasonable or how unreasonable. If it is welling up in your heart that you want this thing, ask your Father for it! If it is a good request, you can rest assured that he will answer it. If it is not, then as you are asking for it, you will either gently understand that he loves you too much to give you such a thing; or, you will at least be able to place the desire in his hands so that he can deal with it. In this way, we can still the clamor in our hearts-- by knowing that our Provider will give us everything we truly need, and as for our wants and wishes, he has been asked, and the wish list is now up to him.
The third part of quieting our hearts is just that our hearts are human and have a tendency to wander. This is an area in which we will grow with time and grace. If your mind wanders, just gently call out to the Lord again and return to him lovingly and gently. Don't beat yourself up; just come back home to God. Hold your heart in God's presence as best you can. Since being in God's presence involves your heart more than anything, you will learn in time to hold your heart in God's presence while your mind deals with the daily grind. This, I believe, is one method of praying without ceasing. Deep in your heart, you have God, and you love him, gently and quietly, as the day flurries by. Often we try to have peace, we try to love, we try to be gentle, but the world spins us up. But if we hold our hearts in God's presence, if our hearts are full not of peace only, but of the God of peace and of love and of gentleness, the result will be different.
"Lord, help me to get in the habit of keeping my heart quiet, so that I can hear you more often than not. Help me to hold my heart in your presence, to love you as the day goes by. I want you to be with me, all the time. I love you."
PURIFYING OUR HEARTS
If we have sin in our hearts we need to confess it right away. Sin will keep us from enjoying the Lord. If we sin in His presence we will want to leave his presence; and if we are away from him and we sin, we won't want to return to him because coming to the light reveals our sin, of which we are ashamed. But we must overcome this fear, and accept the sacrifice Jesus made for us. "If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Don't let sin stay in your heart. Get it washed away as quickly as possible; why would you want to be away from your Lord, your life and your love and your hope and your destiny, any longer than you had to? Hurry back to Jesus. Come boldly before His throne of grace, to find mercy and help in time of need. When is our greatest time of need? When we are steeped in sin. So it is when we are drenched in sin, covered with evil, that we most need to run to the Lord. This goes against all our instincts because we know that he hates sin. But, bless the Lord, he loves us, even when we are covered in sin, and he wants to wash it if of us so that we can enjoy him and draw close to him again.
"Lord, help me to run to you in time of sickness and in health; when I am clean and when I am unclean; when I have done well, and when I have done badly. For you are the answer to all my needs. You heal my wounds, you wash away my sins, you make me stronger in you. No matter what I have done or not done, I need to run to you. Here I am, Lord, and here are all my needs."
WE MUST DECREASE
The more we want God to use us, to work through us, the more we desire to be completely submitted to his will, the more we want to decrease that He might increase. This is a whole topic for another paper... Suffice it to say for now, that if we are serious about God, he will crucify our sin nature, and it will be well with us if we cooperate with him and let him. I am not saying we should try to crucify ourselves; leave that work to God. But when we feel unbearable suffering and pain, and we think that we cannot bear it one second more, that is probably the cross we are to bear; try to accept it as best you can. One man's unbearable cross may seem trivial to another, so we ought not to judge each other. What is unbearable to your eighbor, you could bear; but what you cannot bear, he could. God tailors the cross to each heart, to humble us and decrease us, so that he might increase.
How do we tell the difference between the attacks of the devil and the cross sent by God? That's a difficult question, but if the "attack" is hurting our pride, our self-importance, our "dignity", or striking at an idol in our hearts, we can guess the answer. The devil comes to hurt, to steal and to destroy; Jesus comes that we might have life, and that more abundantly. Will submitting to the pain bring glory to God? This is a part of learning to discern, too. A difficult person, a difficult situation may not be the enemy at all, but our very best friend in disguise. We need to pray for wisdom, and see. If we try to dodge the cross, it will come back around, and we will have to face it again; because he who began a good work in us will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Sometimes the cross is unrecognizable and all seems hopeless. When all seems dark, hold onto God, and choose to believe in Him whether you can feel his presence or not. Stand in faith. He will never leave you or forsake you, even if the trial makes it seem as though he has.
"Lord, help me to discern the difference between the enemy's attacks and your cross. Help me, as much as I can, not to dodge your hand; but let me resist the devil as I should. Deliver me from the evil one; and give me wisdom, and patience, to submit to your workings in my heart and soul."
WE ARE EACH A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We have already mentioned that Jesus dwells in the heart of the believer. Hence, he is always, especially Now, available to us. God has chosen to make his home in us. He tells us in his word that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Is He at home there? Ask yourself, Is God comfortable dwelling inside my heart? Have I given him truly free access to every corner, every room, every window and door? Or have I relegated him to a corner or two?
Does He like the decorations? Does he like the daydreams that float past him? Does he like the conversations that he hears? Does he enjoy the music? Does he enjoy my other guests? Are there deep dark places that I'd just as soon he stay out of? How can we make the most important guest in the universe feel at home and welcome in our heart?
I believe the most important thing I can do is to go to him right away and tell him I WANT him to feel welcome, and ask him to cleanse and decorate the temple-- my heart-- as he sees fit. I want him to be in charge because He knows my needs, and he knows my destiny, and he loves me completely; and only He can guide me to fulfill my destiny. So why not turn over to him my appointment calendar, my video and music collection, my library, my collection of "treasures and memories", and ask him to place it all in order-- while I, like Mary and not like Martha, sit at his feet and be with him.
Jesus came to our heart the same reason he came to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus's home: to be with them because he loved them. He wants to be with us, too, because He loves us. No serious Christian seeks to displease the Lord. But like Martha, we aim to please-- at the wrong target. He wants our hearts, and we give him works. These works may range from bible studies to charity work to missions to evangelism, whatever. None of these things are bad if they spring from sitting at his feet, but if we neglect to sit at the feet of Jesus, we will be like Martha-- well meaning, and gently chastened by our Lord.
"Lord, I want you to feel at home in my heart. Purify my heart; arrange it the way you want it to be. And I will sit here, at your feet, and listen to you, and look up into your eyes. I have wanted to be with you deep inside, but instead I have run after other things. Please forgive me. Please help me to stay here, at your feet, and keep me from wandering off; and when I do wander, please draw me back, to sit at your feet again."
Here, Oh Lord, have I prepared for you a home;
Long have I desired for you to dwell
Here, Oh Lord, have I prepared a resting place
Here, Oh Lord, I wait for you alone.
-- Vineyard worship song
Books that have helped me tremendously, besides the Bible:
The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer
--An excellent book, very challenging, very deep.
Experiencing The Depths Of Jesus Christ, by Madame Guyon.
--Another phenomenal book that I can't recommend highly enough. Mme. Guyon was imprisoned numerous times by Louis the 14th for sharing her deep, simple, life-changing method of prayer. Try to find the modern translation, published by Christian Books, ISBN 0-940232-00-6 .
Practising the Presence of God; the dialogs and letters of Brother Lawrence.
--You can find this one on the Internet, at Wheaton's Library of Christian Classics, or you can buy it; again, look for a good modern translation. The one on the internet uses somewhat archaic language.
(I wish that the above three books could be on every Christian's shelf... I think the world would be a different place. Please seriously consider getting them.)
Other books of interest:
The Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee
Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians by James Gilchrist Lawson, ISBN 0-87162-069-3, Warner Press
My Heart, Christ's Home (a tract, check your local bookstore)
The Soul Afire: Revelations of the Mystics, edited by H. A. Reinhold, c. 1944 by Pantheon Books.
--This book came from my grandmother, and I suspect it's out of print. Try the Library, which is a great source for the early Mystics in general.
Another place to look for the Mystics is the excellent collection at Wheaton's Library of Christian Classics, on the internet.
You can also learn a lot from the Vineyard sites on the internet; there is a wealth of good material about worship and hearing God in the Vineyard as a whole, and some of it is available online. One link that will get you there is: http://groke.beckman.uiuc.edu/AVC/
Titles of books I found at a university Library, years ago, for which I unfortunately did not get the Author's name:
The Meditative Poem
The Notable Prayers Of Christian History
The Golden Sequence
The English Mystical Tradition
...Check the card catalog under Mystic, and Prayer.
One last note before I close.
While these books are a great help, it is easy to spend all our time reading books, and forget or neglect the One we are reading about. Reading is no substitute for spending time with Him. Seek His face; sit at His feet; wait in His presence.
Lord, please bless this work, and let there be a hunger and a fire in the heart of each one who reads it, lit by You. Draw us to yourself, Lord. Teach us to know you, to seek you, to worship you; to hold you as most precious in our hearts. Let us prepare a sanctuary for you in our hearts so that you will be at home there, always. And lead us always closer to you, always nearer to you.
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love Thee more dearly
Follow Thee more nearly, day by day