Question: should we actively seek to experience the presence of God on a daily basis?
Depending on your background, that question may send you into a freak-out spiral or cause you to long for God in a deeper way.
The reality is that when we talk about experiencing the presence of God, things can get real weird real fast. Suddenly, we’re in the realm of the subjective. Of feelings. Of supernatural experiences that go beyond the daily norm.
Or are we?
If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered at least some skin-crawling weirdness around the subject of experiencing the presence of God (see Benny Hinn, Toronto Revival, heavenly glitter, etc.).
But I don’t think it has to be this way. In fact, as I read Scripture, I’m convinced that God wants us to truly experience his presence on a daily basis. We just need to reshape the conversation regarding what it means to experience God’s presence.
With that mind, here are four simple, utterly ordinary, utterly profound ways we can enjoy the presence of God every day.
#1 – We Are Always In The Presence Of God
Let’s start with the most obvious one. Because God is omnipresent, we are always in his presence. Ponder that with me for a second and see if it doesn’t cause a shiver of delight to wrap around your spine. Every second of every day, we truly are in the presence of God.
We don’t need to do any special rituals or make a pilgrimage to a holy city. No need to handle relics or offer prayers to the saints.
We always live Coram Deo – before the face of God.
But because we are in Christ, this reality goes even deeper. We are not just in the presence of God in the same way that the rest of creation is. Rather, the presence of God has made his home in us. The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us, and we truly are temples of God.
This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
These are absolutely breathtaking words. God’s presence – the same presence that caused Isaiah to fall on his face in terror – is not out there somewhere. If we are in Christ, the presence of God truly is within us, and we have access to this glorious presence at all times through Christ our mediator.
Isn’t this staggeringly good news? The presence of God is not walled off by a massive curtain, not hidden away inside the Holy of Holies, accessible only by the High Priest once a year. The Holy Spirit has relocated and now dwells within. We can commune with God and experience his presence in the car, on the subway, in our cubicle, at small group, and anywhere else.
The sweet, holy presence of God is always available to us, and we don’t need to use any manipulative “revival” techniques to access it.
#2 – We Experience The Presence of God Through Scripture
Just as the presence of God hovered over the waters in Genesis 1, so the presence of God hovers over the pages of Scripture. The Bible is no ordinary book, no mere collection of words and pages.
Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that the Word of God is alive:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
When we open the pages of Scripture, we are encountering the living, active, speaking God. It is no safe thing to open up the Bible. You never know how God will meet you as you pore over the sacred text.
He may convict you of sin and move you to repentance.
He may strengthen and encourage you in the depths of your soul.
He may prompt you to pray for a struggling, straggling friend.
He may drive you to your knees in worship.
Every time we open the Bible, we are encountering the presence of God in a unique, powerful way. We are foolish to try to experience the presence of God elsewhere if we’re not consistently immersing ourselves in the word of God.
#3 – We Experience The Presence Of God Through Prayer
Consider, for a moment, the glorious nature of prayer. God, the creator of the universe, the King of Kings, the one who keeps planets in the proper orbit and atoms from splitting, wants us to request things of him.
It’s absolutely mind-boggling.
God wants us to open our hearts before him, to bring him our burdens, to request big, audacious things of him. And this is not a mere cathartic exercise, like journaling or talking through problems with friends. When we pray, God actually does stuff! The presence of God suddenly inhabits all the big and little details of our lives.
He lifts our burdens and gives us peace.
He empowers us to overcome our sin.
He heals the sick.
He saves the rebel and takes hold of the wanderer.
He provides for our needs.
When we pray, God takes action.
E.M. Bounds says:
Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account.
The reverse of that quote is also true. When we pray, God is brought into the account, and when that happens, there’s no such thing as impossible. When God enters the equation, the normal laws of nature go out the window.
If we want to experience the presence of God on a daily basis, it’s as simple as praying. Isn’t that glorious? Prayer is saying to God, “Please come and invade the details of my day. I’m not sufficient on my own for the day, but you are.”
#4 – We Experience The Presence Of God When We Fellowship With Christians
In Matthew 18:20, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
In other words, Jesus himself is uniquely present whenever Christians gather in his name.
Your small group meeting? Jesus is present.
The Sunday gathering? Jesus is present.
The women’s Bible study, youth group, corporate prayer night, or worship night? Jesus is present at those gatherings.
You and a friend getting coffee and then praying together? He’s there also.
I take Matthew 18:20 to mean that the presence of God manifests in a unique way when believers gather together. In other words, we experience the presence of God in a way that we simply can’t when we’re by ourselves.
God does something special when we pray and sing and serve together. I think this is partially why the author of Hebrews says:
…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The reason we shouldn’t neglect to meet together is that it is one of the ways God preserves us to the end. As we encourage one another, we experience the presence of God in a particular, preserving way.
Talk about motivation to stay close to other Christians!
The Presence of God Isn’t Weird
As I write this, I’m reminded that experiencing the presence of God is never “weird”. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when it will be staggeringly supernatural. When God answers prayers in ways that are humanly impossible. When He absolutely levels you through a particular passage of Scripture. When another Christian has profound insight into your life.
However, most of the time, our experience of God’s presence will be very “ordinary” (as if meeting with God is ordinary – you get the point).
This should be a profound encouragement to us. We don’t need to work ourselves up into an emotional state to experience God. We don’t need to go to a conference or travel to a special meeting (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that).
We can experience the beautiful, glorious presence of God every single day.
What a privilege.